7 Tips To Make Your Solar Panels Last
Solar panels are incredibly strong and can resist enormous impact without cracking or being damaged. In fact, in terms of financial investments, they are one of the few things available for purchase that are so strong and generally reliable that you will not have to worry about replacing them for decades. That said, there are some things that can ruin the surface, erode the electrical connections, and decrease the overall efficiency of panels. Consequently, you will need to engage in some general maintenance and inspection to ensure they last as long as they can potentially last.
Following a storm, you should inspect the panels for damage. If your panels are part of a home solar farm and are installed at ground level, this inspection is a simple matter of walking around the panels and clearing debris from them while checking for cracks or scratches. If they have been installed on your roof, you will need to climb up and inspect them for branches, leaves, or dirt. For daily inspections between storms, you can install a camera nearby, which will enable you to maintain an eye on your panels from the comfort of your home.
2. Basic cleaning
If you have a small number of panels, you can clean them with a bottle of glass cleaner and a lint-free rag. However, if you have many of them, you can hook up a bottle of cleaner to your hose and spray them. Once you have cleaned them, you can squeegee them or allow the sun to do its work.
If birds have defecated on your panels, cleaning is a bit more important as bird droppings are acidic and will eventually eat through wires or paint. Of course, wind and rain can create banks of dirt and leaves. When cleaning general debris from the panels, you should not use a pressurized washer as it can damage connections. Instead, a water hose with a nozzle set to the lightest pressure will produce more than enough pressure to clear the dirt without endangering your investment.
3. Bird barbs
Bird droppings are so hazardous to paint, metal, and solar energy cables that many solar technicians recommend the installation of bird barbs to help dissuade birds from landing or nesting among your panels. The barbs protrude upwards, making landing and perching uncomfortable. That said, they are not dangerous to birds. They are merely uncomfortable enough to protect your solar panels.
For ground-level panels, a fence around your solar panels will keep out animals and people. Although animals like squirrels or birds will still be able to access your panels, other animals will not be able to access them.
Of course, solar panels are meant to be exposed because that is the only way they can harvest sunlight. However, when severe storms are on the horizon, it is worth your effort to cover them because hail can lead to damaged panels and lengthy insurance claims.
To cover them, you can use a wire mesh. Mesh, otherwise known as hail-guard netting, installed permanently over panels will create enough coverage over the panels that your overall electrical output might suffer. Consequently, guard netting is best used as temporary protection. For instance, for ground-level systems, you can build a portable awning system that you can roll out over the panels. Once the storm has passed, you can fold down the awning and roll it back into storage.
For rooftop systems, you might need to build a protective covering made of Plexiglas.
The Plexiglas can either be permanently installed, which might hamper light harvesting, or it can be part of a retractable system.
6. Proactive strategy
Being proactive requires you to hire a technician that can take a few precautions prior to installing the panels, and the following pre-installation considerations might save you hassle and money:
- protective coating, such as methyl methacrylate (MMA), that you can apply to the panels to protect them from minor impacts
- steep angle of installation to allow hail and snow to slide off the panels
- cleaning robots to automate maintenance
- monitor your usage reports for irregularities that might indicate damage you have missed
7. Professional assistance
The best way to ensure your solar panels are performing as they should is to hire a technician to provide an annual inspection. A technician will be able to identify potential problems before they become actual problems.