If you're like me, you didn't give a second thought to your solar panels after the install. You put most of your attention on: finding the best deal, finding a quality product, research and anticipating the installation. Then the install happens, and boom, you're paying little to nothing on your electric bill. Not to mention, you're now contributing to a healthier planet. You're an amazing human. YES!
I Did The Research
Like most of you in San Diego, I noticed that my electric bill started to rise. I'd call SDG&E and they offered no explanation (with the exception of rising energy cost). It didn't explain how much I was paying. My curiosity overwhelmed me. So I turned to Google, like every self educating person would, and I found my solar panel warranty.
(this is where it gets interesting).
(b) The Limited Product Warranty and Limited Peak Power Warranty shall not apply to MODULES which have been subject to: Misuse, abuse, neglect, vandalism or accident;
"It's important to note, however, that your solar panel warranty may stipulate that your panels are only covered if they are properly maintained. For example, if you don't clean your solar panels regularly and built-up debris cuts their useful life short, then your warranty may not cover it."
Solar Panels are NOT Maintenance Free
What does "neglect" mean? Didn't they tell me "NO MAINTENANCE?"
This research taught me the importance of cleaning solar panels regularly. So I called the supplier and asked if they serviced my solar panels in this way. They told me the rain would take care of it (a frustrating topic we'll get into at another time). I was losing $100's in energy production by leaving my solar panels just like the photo you see below. I HAD NO CLUE!!
I'm not going to wait for the rain to help lower my electric bill!
I'm going to get up there and clean solar panels myself if I have to. Luckily, I have a 1 story home with shingles. The dangers of scaling my roof were minimal. Not so much for my friends and family with 2 story homes and delicate spanish tile. Who were they supposed to turn to? They were seeing the same issues with their electric bills rising.
Like me, no one educated you about what it takes to maintain your new solar panel investment. Your sales rep may have told you "Just set it and forget it." Don't worry, you're not the only one to believe this. I believed it, WELL, until I didn't.
Honestly, it's a huge misconception to set-and-forget. I've spent a tremendous amount of time educating independent solar panel installers of the facts about regular solar panel cleanings. During which I learned 3 important things.
Some Sales Reps are not educated about Solar Panel Cleaning.
They DO know about solar cleaning, but don't mention it in their sales pitch.
The Solar Panel Cleaning topic is avoided to ensure the sale without hesitation.
So I Need to Clean My Solar Panels, What Now?
You can do what I did, get up there and give it a go! I would first recommend doing some safety training research prior to starting. Different sized homes and roof styles have their own set of risks. (not recommended)
Wait for the rain. If you care less, this is your recommended option. (not recommended) lol.
Hire a Professional. The right professional will have the correct tools to clean your panels efficiently and safely. Most times, the cost to clean is much less than what you're losing in production. (avg. $134/ cleaning). Solar Cleanings timed properly will actually make your money back with dividends.
If you see a reduction in your solar power production, or notice that they are covered in dirt and debris. Be proactive. You'll be doing yourself a favor by cleaning them, or hiring a professional to clean them.