The interest in solar power continues to grow. In fact, according to statistics provided by U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, total solar installations in the United States have grown from just 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an astounding 30 GW in just the last nine years. Much of this growth can be attributed to the development of better components and lower purchase and installation costs that has made green tech like solar more beneficial and affordable for homes, businesses, and commercial usage.
Home Solar Installations Differ From Commercial Projects
Large scale solar installations often have the benefit of using acres of specially cleared, leveled land or the flat surface of well-located commercial buildings to install scores of solar panels. Homeowners, however, are more likely to have to deal with obstacles such as trees and unaccommodating roof designs when installing solar energy panels. In addition to installation issues, these obstacles can make it more difficult for homeowners to properly maintain their home’s solar panels and maximize their effectiveness.
Inspect the Installation Area for Potential Problems
One of the best ways to protect and prolong the lifespan of home solar panels is to be proactive and try to prevent potential problems, before they occur. Trees, especially those that currently or will soon have growth that extends shade over the installation site can create multiple issues with solar panels.
In addition to the dangers of having a limb fall and crack or break the panels, common trees such as oak and maple can shed large amounts of catkins, acorns, and seeds that can accumulate on the surface of solar panels. When these droppings obscure the surface, the solar panel’s effectiveness will be reduced, along with the electrical power it can harness from the sun for the home’s power needs.
Having nearby trees trimmed periodically to lessen risks of falling limbs and reduce the amount of droppings is a good way to help keep solar panels safe and functioning at peak performance. Homeowners who have trees near their solar panels that cannot be trimmed frequently, or those with older trees that have become brittle with age or disease, should consider having them completely removed to lessen damage risks.
In addition to being alert for dangers from falling tree limbs, home solar panel owners should also look for and correct other potential damage issues. These might include loose roofing shingles or roof-mounted antennas and pipes that could come loose and impact solar panel surfaces, as well as weakened chimney structures that could topple or shed heavy bricks or chunks of mortar capable of causing breakage.
Cleaning Solar Panels
Grit, bird droppings, leaf litter, dust, pollen and many other minute substances that come into contact with the surface of a solar panel greatly affect their ability to function. Since there is little that homeowners can do to eliminate these substances from the environment, cleaning might be considered. Effective cleaning methods for panels that can be reached from ground level include:
- using a garden hose to rinse off loose dirt and dust
- using a long pole with a squeegee attachment to clean the surface
- using an air compressor with a long wand to gently blow away leaf litter and pollen
If the solar panels are mounted too high to reach from ground level or are located on a steep area of the roof, having them professionally cleaned is the safest option. Luckily, most residential panels are angled at a grade at which build-up of substances won’t occur, meaning rain will likely wash away any dust or particulates that accumulate. There’s a debate on how often homeowners should go about cleaning their solar panels, so it may help to consult with a professional to see what fits your personal situation.
Like any investment, solar panels are worth protecting. Thankfully, there isn’t all that much homeowners need to do in order to keep their panels safe and functioning. By spending just a little bit of time to make sure everything checks out, you can maximize your solar panels’ longevity and effectiveness.