How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned?

By Kami Turky

Last Updated:

Keeping your solar panels clean is super important if you want them to work at their best.

 But this might get you wondering, “How often should solar panels be cleaned?” 

Generally, you should aim to clean them at least once or twice a year. 

However, if you’re in a dusty place, you might need to do it more often.

In this article, I’ll break down why it’s crucial to keep those panels clean, how often you should be doing it, and the right way to go about it. 

Whether you’re new to solar or just looking to brush up on your maintenance skills, I’ve got you covered!

Key Takeaways

  • You should clean your panels at least once a year.
  • If you live in a dusty region, you may need to clean the panel more often.
  • The build-up of dust can lower the energy production of a solar panel annually by up to 7% in the United States and up to 50% in Middle Eastern countries.
  • Rain and wind aren’t enough to keep the solar panels clean.
  • You can clean the panels manually but it’d be better to hire a professional if you’re not on a budget.

Do I Need to Clean Solar Panels?

Of course, you need to clean your solar panels.

Here’s a simple way to think about it: if your car’s windshield is dirty, you can’t see well, and it’s tough to drive, right? 

Well, it’s pretty similar with solar panels. 

If they’re covered in dust and dirt, they can’t soak up as much sunlight, which means they won’t produce as much power.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), stuff like dust, soot, and other particles can cut down how much electricity your panels can make. 

In the U.S., you might lose about 7% of your solar energy production each year because of this buildup. 

But in places like the Middle East, where it’s super dusty, losses can skyrocket up to 50%.

Where you live plays a big role in how dirty your panels get. 

For instance, if you’re in a desert area like Nevada or Arizona, expect to clean your panels more often than someone in a humid place like Florida. 

I live in southeastern California, and I notice about a 7.4% drop in how efficient my solar panels are during the summer when the wind stirs up dust.

So, think of cleaning your solar panels as just another part of your regular maintenance routine, like changing your car’s oil or mowing your lawn.

How Often Should You Clean Solar Panels?

You should clean your solar panels at least once a year, but really, how often depends a lot on where you live and how dirty they get.

For example, if you’ve got a 10-megawatt solar farm near the coast, you might get away with just cleaning it once a year because it’s not that dusty. 

But if this same farm is in a dustier place, like California’s Central Valley, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves more often.

I live in California myself, and I find myself cleaning my panels about 3 times a year

But if we’ve had a windy season and the dunes start kicking up a lot of dust, I might do it even more often. 

So, it’s all about keeping those panels clear so they can catch as much sunlight as possible and keep your energy production up.

Is Rain Enough to Clean Solar Panels?

Rain and wind aren’t enough to keep your solar panels perfectly clean. 

Sure, they’ll knock off some of the dust and debris, but they don’t do the whole job. 

During the day, various particles accumulate on the panels, driven by the wind and other environmental factors. 

When it cools down at night, these particles stick to the surface—a process known as cementation, where the temperature changes cause particles to adhere more firmly.

Because of this, even the strongest winds or the heaviest rains can’t fully clean your panels. 

That’s why there are better strategies than relying solely on the weather for maintaining clean solar panels. 

I’ve learned this from experience and now make it a habit to check my panels every month. 

If I spot any dust buildup, I clean it off right away to keep it running at top efficiency.

How to Clean Solar Panels?

1. Use Robotics Technology

One cool and super-efficient way to keep your solar panels clean is by using robotics. 

Take the Washpanel Company, for example. 

They’ve come up with a robotic system that can tackle the cleaning of large solar setups in really dusty places without needing much help from us humans.

The robot has three different lines:

  • Manual: It’s a movable unit that requires a human operator as well as an external pipe that can be linked with a vehicle or another soaking system
  • Semi-automatic: It’s a fixed unit that doesn’t need a human operator or a soaking system. Instead, an automated system controls the washing cycles
  • Automatic: It’s a fixed unit that never needs human intervention. Instead, the robot will start washing cycles automatically according to a schedule

Over in the Middle East, another company called Ecoppia is also using robots to keep solar panels spotless. 

Their robots use a gentle combo of soft microfibers and air—no water or harsh soaps needed. 

This approach helps avoid any damage that high-pressure water might cause. 

Plus, these robots are self-sufficient; they have solar panels that charge up their batteries in between cleaning sessions.

2. Use Brushes & Sponges

You know, using soap or chemical cleaners on your solar panels can damage them and might even void your warranty. 

That’s why a lot of solar maintenance companies have switched to using deionized water. 

They pair it with a rolling brush or one that attaches to a vehicle. 

This way, they can clean the panels thoroughly without leaving any sticky residue like soap would.

But here’s a tip: your garden hose is strong enough to wash off any dirt and debris that’s collected on your solar panels. 

For a more gentle touch, you can use a soft bristle brush or sponge. 

Non-abrasive cloths or specially designed cleaning pads are also great for wiping down the panels without scratching them. 

This way, you keep them clean and efficient without any fuss.

3. Use Waterless Vibration Technique

No, there’s a neat trick for cleaning your solar panels without using water or chemicals: vibration! 

Researchers over at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University came up with this clever method. 

They use vibrations to shake the dust right off the panels. 

How does it work? 

They attach a DC motor to the back of a solar panel and secure the whole thing on all four edges. 

This setup creates what’s called an unbalanced mass, which makes the panel vibrate.

These vibrations are not just any shakes—they’re low-frequency or even ultrasonic waves that get things moving. 

And guess what? 

It turns out these vibrations are super effective at knocking the dirt loose from the panels. 

4. Use Nanoparticle Coatings

Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) in India have come up with something pretty cool for solar panels. 

They’ve developed a special nanoparticle coating that helps keep the panels clean. 

This coating is like a magic shield; it repels dirt and dust. 

So when it’s time to clean the panels, a simple splash of water can do the trick because the dirt just doesn’t stick.

What’s even better is that this coating is super clear. 

It doesn’t block any of the sunlight, so your solar panels can work at top efficiency without anything getting in the way. 

This means you get all the energy you’re supposed to, without any drop in performance because of dust or dirt buildup.

5. Clean Them Manually

Let’s keep it real—some of those high-tech cleaning methods for solar panels are awesome but can be pretty pricey. 

If you’re watching your budget, the best bet is to just roll up your sleeves and clean them yourself. 

To do this, you can follow these steps:

  • Pick the Right Time: Aim for early morning or late afternoon to clean your panels. Why? Because the sun isn’t as strong then, and you won’t have to worry about water evaporating too quickly and leaving behind streaks.
  • Brush Off the Dust: Start with a soft brush to gently sweep away any loose dust and debris. Be gentle though—you don’t want to scratch those panels.
  • Spray Them Down: Grab your garden hose and give the panels a good spray. Just remember to keep the pressure low to avoid any damage.
  • Dry Them Off: Use a soft cloth to dab and gently dry the panels. This helps avoid any leftover dirt turning into mud and sticking back onto the panels.
  • Rinse and Repeat: Give them another quick rinse with your hose, and follow up with the soft cloth again to make sure they’re totally clean.

Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned by a Professional?

Of course, it’s always a good idea to hire a professional solar panel cleaning company if you don’t feel comfortable cleaning your panels yourself.

Professionals have the necessary equipment and know-how to properly clean your solar panels without damaging them in any way.

If you also have a large system, you have to hire a professional to clean your panels as manual cleaning of large systems can be time-consuming and dangerous.

But if you’re on a budget and your system is not too big, you can clean your solar panels yourself by following the steps outlined above.

FAQs

Does Cleaning Your Solar Panels Make a Difference?

Cleaning your solar panels makes a great difference.
Dust, dirt, and other debris can prevent the panels from absorbing sunlight and reduce the amount of energy they produce.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Solar Panels?

If you don’t clean your solar panels, the dirt and debris can accumulate over time and reduce the amount of energy produced.

What Is the Best Way to Clean Solar Panels?

The best way to clean solar panels depends on your budget and the size of your system.
For small systems or if you’re on a budget, you can clean them manually by following the steps outlined above.

Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned Yearly?

Solar panels should be cleaned at least once a year, depending on the amount of dirt and debris in your area.

Conclusion

Just like we said, we’ve gone through how often you need to clean your solar panels, the different ways you can do it, and when it might be smart to call in the professionals. 

And here’s a little extra tip: If you’re up for a small DIY project, try installing a simple drip irrigation hose above your solar panels. 

Set it on a timer to gently spray water across the panels during the coolest part of the day. 

It’s an easy hack to keep them clean regularly without too much fuss.

I hope you found all this info helpful.

If there’s something you’re still wondering about, just pop your questions in the comments. 

I’m here to help out!

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products.He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations.When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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