Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular and is critical to how we generate electricity in the future. Though solar panels create renewable energy, they still require regular maintenance. So what maintenance do solar panels need and how often do they need it?
Solar panels rarely require maintenance, but when they do, the most common reason isn’t due to the panels themselves. Often times, the inverter needs maintenance or replacing . Most maintenance a solar panel requires in routine cleaning and inspection.
We will be going over more in-depth on what maintaining a solar panel entails and how often they need to be inspected. Read on if you’d like to learn more!
Do Solar Panels Need to Be Maintained?
The short answer is yes, they need to routine maintenance. But what maintenance do solar panels need? To answer that, we need to understand what solar panels are made out of.
Solar panels consist of multiple layers of glass, silicon, metals, and wiring. These materials combined together catch sunlight and convert it into electricity. Solar panels are quite sturdy since they are designed to withstand all types of weather. They’re also resistant to high winds, rain, and snow. They can even withstand extreme temperatures.
Also, the panels themselves very rarely ever fail. If they are correctly installed, there shouldn’t be any issues regarding quality. Just make sure that you bought them from a reputable solar energy company. They lose their efficiency over time. But that is expected and isn’t indicative of a faulty panel, unless it is losing its efficiency at a pace that isn’t normal (more on that later).
Putting all this together, solar panels rarely need maintenance. The panels are sturdy, aren’t too complex (meaning less chance for something to go wrong), and can operate for up to 35 years.
There are some cases where someone will have to come out to look at your panels or do a replacement. If you want more insight into this topic, we linked a short video down below discussing this very topic.
Weather Damage To Solar Panels
As we stated earlier, solar panels are sturdy and can take quite the beating, but that doesn’t mean they are completely immune to damage. Glass makes up most of a solar panel’s materials, and it covers the layers below it. Because the glass is always exposed, any impact that is strong enough will shatter it.
Hail can be a big problem with solar panels; while most hail won’t usually damage the panels, it’s the utmost extreme hail to make the glass give up. The panels are meant to withstand hail up to an inch in diameter, coming down at 50 mph. This would qualify on the more extreme end of the hail. To put it into perspective, that’s enough to damage cars.
Once you get over this threshold, that’s when problems can start to arise. Glass is brittle. And even the strongest glass is going to crack under enough impact. Large hail can still damage the panels, even though the solar panel glass is very strong.
The good news is that this is typically covered under your solar panel company’s insurance since this would qualify as an “Act of God.” Still, you should visually inspect your solar panels after every hail storm.
Cleaning Your Solar Panels
Solar panels will lost efficiency over time due to dirt and residue buildup. A routine cleaning schedule helps prevent the efficiency loss. You can do this yourself or hire a professional.
Rain cleans the slight build-up of dust since the panels themselves are slanted. This allows debris to slide off with the rain water. However, you should still clean the solar panels on a regular schedule.
But there can be instances where you have debris blocking sunlight from getting through. Many leaves can cover the panels in the fall; for example, then there is the issue of bird droppings if you are really unfortunate. If you ever need to remove some debris, you can use a long window wash to take off any leaves or clean debris blocking sunlight. The DocaPole Extension Pole helps you get to those hard to reach areas.
Maintain Panels, Batteries, Inverter, and Charge Controller
The panels themselves only make up part of how solar energy works. They do catch the sunlight, which then activates the solar cells, which generate electricity. However, the electricity generated is not usable yet. The reason is that solar cells generate direct current (DC) electricity.
Most homes can’t use this type of electricity. Instead, special equipment converts the electricity into alternating current (AC). This piece of equipment is called an inverter. It is arguably the most complex part of a solar system setup and it shows since you are more likely to have a problem with this part than the panels themselves.
Inverters last approximately half the lifetime of the solar panels, which means that you will need to get them swapped out at some point. Hence, in terms of maintenance, this one is an inevitable part of solar panel ownership.
Things can also go wrong with the inverter, it’s not necessarily common, but it is worth noting. Here are some of the issues that an inverter can face in its life.
Watch Out For Arc Faults
If there is a high discharge of electricity between conductors, it can start an electrical fire. This is called arc fault. Inverters are built to prevent this from happening by going into “fault mode.”
Fault mode happens when the inverter senses that there might be potential for an electrical fire to break out and shut down to prevent it from happening. When your inverter is in fault mode, the solar panels and batteries will stop providing electricity to your house. This happens because the inverter stops converting the electricity to alternating current.
Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI)
An electrical current can travel to the ground, which is dangerous. If this were ever to occur, the inverter will engage GFCI and shut down to prevent a tragic accident. You are at risk of ground fault short circuiting in the following scenarios:
- The solar panels break
- Damaged wiring
- Moisture in the junction box
When to Get Your Solar Panels Inspected
It’s always important to remember that your solar panels will usually be backed by a warranty. This warranty covers your system if something happens that isn’t your fault. Typically, the warranty covers most mechanical failure and weather damage. So don’t be afraid to call a technician if you notice issues.
You Aren’t Getting Enough Power Even in Direct Sunlight
If your panels are clean, less than 10 years old, and getting direct sunlight, they should be producing energy close to the originally scoped specifications. However, if you are not getting enough power from your solar panels, this could indicate a rapid drop in efficiency due to a hardware fault.
You See Noticeable Damage
You should get a professional to inspect the panels, even with damage to only one panel. If it is technically working, it’s probably not operating to its full potential. Plus, it likely looks unsightly. Your solar panel company should replace it without charge (or at least minimal charge) if it wasn’t your fault. It will be even less of a hassle if you report the damages as soon as possible. Especially if it is immediately after a hailstorm.
Solar panels are mostly a “set it and forget it” energy source. They rarely need maintenance. However, they will need routine cleaning. They will also need inspection if they are not producing enough power with direct sunlight. In this case, you are more likely to have issues with the inverter than the panels themselves since they are more complex. You will also need to replace the inverter after 10-15 years. This represents approximately half of a solar panel’s lifetime.
Even if something goes wrong, most solar panel companies will protect you from natural disasters and faulty units. So even if you need to call someone, it shouldn’t impact your bank account.