Its spring, the daffodils are out, lambs are being born, and it’s finally starting to get a bit sunnier.
After the winter months your solar generation should start increasing. But how do you make sure your solar panels are working as well as when they were first installed?
A good spring clean is great for your solar panels. Many come with a protective coating to keep them clean but this only goes so far towards a dust and dirt free solar panel.
Because of this protective coating harsh chemicals and cleaning agents should be avoided. The best thing to use is a pure water cleaning system. These generally work straight from your tap and feed into a de-ionisation chamber, this removes impurities from the water, perfect for a streak-free finish. The systems we sell come with a long reach, lightweight pole so you can clean your solar panels from the ground. Our kits also come with a specially designed solar brush to ensure that the glass doesn’t get damaged at all.
Dirt and grime on solar panels can decrease your generation by up to 10%. We recommend cleaning (or having your panels cleaned for you) at least once a year, ideally twice; at the start of autumn, and during the spring.
We find that it’s best to do this in the morning, before the panels get hot from the sun and whilst any dirt is still soft if it has been a damp night. Cleaning you solar panels during very hot weather can potentially case damage from thermal shock, also as solar modules can get very warm the water will dry quickly and could leave a streaky finish.
Firstly start by isolating your solar array at the isolator, this will shut the system down making it safer to work on, but do bear in mind that the panels will still produce electricity in sunlight. Lightly spray off any loose dirt and dust off of your panels, don’t use a pressure washer though as this can cause damage. Using a long reach pole and water-fed brush you can then start cleaning, work up and down and side to side across your solar panels, one at a time, paying special attention to the corners and especially the bottom of each solar panel as this is where dirt commonly builds up by the frame, after brushing away any dirt use the pole and brush to give your panels a final rinse and leave to dry.
There are several things you should look for when caring for your solar array, firstly and most importantly any loose cables. Loose cables can easily get damaged on your roof tiles, if the protective covering gets damaged this can create a live wire on your roof, a dangerous situation, it could also cause your solar mounting to become live if an exposed cable touches the metal racking system. If you have a loose cable hanging down under or out of the array we recommend you contact the company who originally installed the system. If this isn’t possible then any solar installer should be able to help, this is something our solar engineers are more than happy to help with.
Pests/ bird nests is also something to look out for. Pests and birds under the array can cause a multitude of problems. Some will chew through wiring, something we have seen a couple of times, this can result in your array becoming unsafe or stop working. Bird nests can also cause damp, this can affect certain parts of the panel such as the junction boxes or wiring connections. They can also cause damage to your roof.
To get around this problem we sell pest exclusion kits, a wire mesh that simply clips to the solar module. This creates a physical barrier to stop any of the local wildlife from taking shelter under your solar panels without the use of traps or poisons.
Whilst you’re giving your solar array some attention its worth checking that it’s actually generating! Many people who have solar installed or have bought a property with solar already present forget to keep an eye on this. The amount of electricity that you are generating can be the first indication that there is a problem, if you’re not generating as much as you were on day one that it might be worth having a full service carried out. There are several ways to check this, the main one is by looking at your inverter and checking that it is on. You can then look at your total generation meter and record the figure over a period of time to make sure that it is consistent. Other ways, if you have them installed are through monitoring systems, this is often through the inverter and will be on a website or app. If you don’t have any monitoring then we have a range of solutions for this that are simple to install, contact one of our sales team for more information.
A final thing to check is if you have any shading on your array throughout the day. Don’t worry you don’t need to set up the lawn chair and watch it the whole time, just a quick look a few times throughout the day will do. If you have any solar panels that are shaded by trees or bushes that have grown up over the years then this can affect your generation. Sometimes this won’t have much of an impact but we have small optimisers that can be plugged into the shaded panels to make sure you still get the most from your panels.
If your array is over 5 years old we recommend you have a one off service (we usually say every two years your array should be serviced). One of our engineers will come out and make sure your panels are looking good and intact, they will check the mounting system where possible and have a look for any loose cables. Once the visual inspections have been done they will then check your inverter and other electrical systems to ensure that they are still safe and working, this includes an electrical resistance check. If needed they will also give the electrical components an internal clean. These electrical checks must be carried out by a qualified engineer. Finally they will check that all the safety labeling is in place and still readable. As part of our servicing we will provide you with a report to show that the solar array has been checked and given a good bill of health, as well including details and evidence of the checks we have undertaken.
We can also quote you for cleaning the panels, this is optional though and is an extra ‘add-on’ to the servicing.
Our engineers can also answer any questions on your solar array if you have them. We may also suggest some ways you can look after your renewables system or additional products that may help you save energy, don’t worry though, we’re not here to hard sell you anything!