Friday, June 14, 2024
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Solar Panel Maintenance

Many solar customers are sold on the idea of installing a set-it-and-forget-it technology on their homes and businesses — with the promise of many decades of carbon offsets and lower utility bills.

However, although solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are incredibly durable, any number of problems can crop up over the next 25+ years (which is the industry standard for panel warranty protection).

As a result, solar customers initially sold on the idea of passively saving may be surprised to discover that there are occasional maintenance requirements needed to protect those savings. Even with the best solar system design built using high-quality, American-made components, maintenance costs are a common expense among PV system owners.

What Is Solar Power Maintenance?

It is a broad umbrella term to describe the upkeep, repairs and cleaning that go into improving (or restoring) a solar PV system’s power output. Even with 25 years of warranty protection and virtually zero moving parts, many issues can undercut your solar panels’ performance over the next few decades.

Common problems that require some type of solar panel maintenance include:

  • Falling hail or tree branches that can crack PV panels
  • Dust accumulation or pollen buildup that can block sunlight
  • Slipped or dislodged panels following major storms or tremors
  • Infestations — including birds, rats, squirrels and other pests
  • Faulty wiring, corroded bolts or shoddy installation workmanship

The list is truly endless. Whatever the underlying reason, these issues can cause your PV system to underperform or stop working entirely. As a result, you forfeit potential utility bill savings — while also indirectly increasing your home or business’s carbon footprint.

Worse still, tiny problems have a way of compounding when left unaddressed. Simple repairs today might end up costing you a lot more money if you intervene tomorrow.

How to Maintain Your Solar Panels

For starters, all maintenance tasks should be left to trained solar professionals. It may be tempting to intervene on your own. However, PV technology uses high-voltage electrical equipment. Plus, because most installations are on rooftops, you also need safety gear to avoid accidents and injuries.

That being said, solar panel maintenance is usually broken into two distinct categories: emergency and preventative.

1. Emergency Solar Maintenance

Emergency maintenance involves calling your solar installer or a dedicated repair team to fix a known issue. You’ll usually know that your PV system is underperforming because of an unusually high utility bill or because of solar monitoring (through an app or web browser).

Sometimes, the underlying problem is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. In these cases, you shouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket to replace a faulty panel or dysfunctional inverter. However, there may be labor costs involved with removing older components and installing free replacements.

Other times, the underlying problem will stem from acts of God or bad luck. If a winter storm causes a tree branch to crack one of your panels, this is technically outside the manufacturer’s warranty. Correcting this problem may be expensive since you’re paying for replacement parts and the labor.

Still other times, the problem might come from low-quality installation workmanship. Some installers offer performance guarantees (in which case, you’re covered). Others don’t. You may be better off looking for a more qualified installer or repair team to make the necessary fixes. Here again, you’ll have to pay for parts and labor almost entirely out-of-pocket.

The idea of paying more money (on top of what you already spent to go solar) probably isn’t appealing. However, when you run the numbers, these out-of-pocket costs are usually worth it. What you spend to repair a PV system pales in comparison to what that installation can save you over the next several decades. This is especially true as utility prices keep trending upward.

2. Preventative Solar Maintenance

This type of maintenance is more akin to yearly medical physicals or annual car inspections. It involves calling your installer or a solar technician to inspect your system, make routine repairs and clean it, if necessary.

Some installers offer this is a complementary annual service, while others offer it as a paid add-on. The good thing is that there is no shortage of third-party solar maintenance teams to handle the job.

Can I Clean My Solar Panels by Myself?

Solar panel cleaning is a relatively straightforward job that you can technically do with a garden hose. After pollen season or a heavy winter storm, it may be worth rinsing your PV system.

However, tap water tends to streak when it dries. Over the many years of your PV system’s warrantied lifetime, the forfeit savings from even the tiniest blotches can quickly compound. This is why solar maintenance jobs such as panel cleaning are still best left to the professionals. They use special solvents that dry without streaking so that your panels receive as much direct sunlight as possible.

Should I Invest in Solar Panel Maintenance?

If your PV system isn’t generating the solar power output you were expecting, you don’t really have a choice. Without intervening immediately, your installation won’t produce the highest potential utility bill savings or carbon offsets. Plus, if you wait too long, cheap repairs can quickly become expensive ones.

So, yes — you should invest in emergency solar panel maintenance when the occasion calls for it.

By contrast, preventative maintenance is more of a personal choice:

  • For some, it represents a wasted expense as long as their PV systems continue to generate predictable solar power and consistent utility bill savings.
  • For others, preventative solar maintenance is a worthwhile investment that gives them peace of mind over the many years their PV systems remain in operation.

Take Care of Your Investment

Utility prices keep trending upwards, and the environment continues to worsen. Investing in solar panel maintenance allows you to maximize your monthly utility bill savings while helping reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions your home or business sends into the air.

If you have the budget and wish to extract the most financial and environmental value from your clean power investment, solar panel maintenance is a wise choice.


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