As fires rage through northern California and into Oregon, one of the most common questions we’re getting from our customers right now is this: Will this drastically affect my solar production and, if so, how can I go about cleaning my solar panels? With heavy air pollution and dust and ash settling at an alarming rate, we understand the need you have to keep your solar panels clean. Let’s talk about why regular cleaning is important, what you can do to keep your solar production up, and how to safely care for your solar panels during the fires.
Not Surprising: Fires are Bad for Solar Production
Living in northern California, we see first-hand that the air is thick with pollution. A wildfire releases a huge amount of soot and particles like carbon into the air. When these particles settle, they absorb the light which should be soaking into your solar cells. How much of a reduction in energy production could you expect to deal with?
Some sources estimate anywhere from 19% net loss to up to 30% or more. This can add up to a huge hit in your system’s value. At Synergy Power, we understand your need to keep your panels clean and operating at peak efficiency. So if you’re going to clean the panels, what should you NOT do?
Cleaning Solar Panels: Do Not Try This at Home
You may think to yourself, “I’ll just climb up on my roof, dump sudsy water over the panels, and give them a good scrub.” Not so fast. First, cleaning solar panels involves a good deal of risk: falling from the roof, electrical shock, and more. So be extremely careful, and use proper safety equipment – or stay on the ground.
Also, you should never use brushes or rags when cleaning your solar energy system. If you’re not using cleaning tools that are specially designed for solar panel cleaning, or if you use them improperly, you can damage the optic surface of the panel with hundreds of scratches. Note too, that window cleaning products leave solar panels shiny; this lowers their ability to capture sunlight because the panel starts reflecting the light instead of capturing it.
We recommend that our customers have professional maintenance scheduled to keep their panels in top shape. But with the amount of pollution in the air during the fires, it’s usually not possible to keep up with the professional cleaning required to keep your panels clear. (As of the date of publication of this article, we are currently booked for scheduled cleaning and maintenance appointments through the end of 2020.)
Fiery Times Call For Careful DIY
Especially during the California wildfires, it’s important to keep monitoring your solar production. Because we value our customers, we have provided them with a helpful app to do this. As you monitor your system’s production through the Synergy Power app, if you notice a significant drop in electricity production, it may be time to give your panels a gentle cleaning. Here’s what you can do:
First, obtain the necessary protective equipment, and plan the cleaning process with your personal safety in mind. Secure your ladder properly, wear the necessary personal protective equipment, and always exercise due caution.
Once you are able to safely reach your panels, simply spray them down with clean water at medium to low pressure from your garden hose. Pressure washing is not recommended. Do not scrub them, squeegee them, polish them, or use chemicals.
We also encourage you to schedule a time for a professional cleaning. When our trained professionals clean your system, we perform a safety inspection first, then clean the gutters near your panels so the water we use drains off of your roof and through your yard properly. Our professional service protects your warranty and provides you with optimal results.
Think About the Future
For years, Californians have dealt with ‘fire season”, and PG&E shutoffs have become the new normal. If you’d like to take your power back from the electric company, we can offer a great solution: pair your solar energy system with a battery backup. We can design a setup that meets your energy needs so you can say goodbye to blackouts.
Reach out to us to talk about scheduling a professional cleaning or finding the right battery backup for your family’s needs. Feel free to call, or fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.