Solar Panel Repair and Maintenance

solar panel repair and maintenance

Aside from the lower utility costs and the use of clean, renewable energy, one of the many benefits of solar panels is that they are very easy to maintain and repair. Another benefit is that they require minimal maintenance and rarely need to be repaired. The low maintenance of photovoltaic (PV) systems is one of their most appealing features.

While solar installations rarely need to be repaired, it does need to happen occasionally, and when it does, it should be done by professionals. The same goes for any type of electrical system and solar panels are no different. Fortunately, solar panel repair and maintenance does not have to be difficult or time-consuming provided adequate care is taken, or as long as the repair job is left to the professionals.

Maintenance and Cleaning of Solar Panels

The main aspect of solar panel maintenance is keeping the surface of the solar panels, namely the solar cells, as pristine as possible. Since the solar cells receive the sunlight that provides energy to the home, they need to be clean in order to absorb as much sunlight as possible. In some solar installation setups, if one panel is functioning at less than peak efficiency, it can bring the performance of the entire array down to its level.

If the efficiency of the panels start to fall and they begin to output less electricity, then dirty panels may be at fault. So, occasional cleaning is necessary in order to maintain the efficacy of each panel. The kinds of materials that can block solar panels tend to vary by the season, though some, like dust, are perennial. Pollution could also be a constant problem if the home is located close to a freeway or a factory. Sometimes rain can be effective in cleaning the panels but it should not be relied upon, especially if it is infrequent and if the panels have a shallow tilt.

Solar panels can lose up to 15% to 25% of their efficiency if they are dirty, which means that it will take much longer for them to earn back their investment costs. In fact, solar panels that have been in operation for over fifteen months doubled their output after being cleaned.

Summer Solar Panel Maintenance

This is the season when the solar panels are likely to receive the most amount of sun; also, since kids are likely to be out of school and at home, there will be more power used during the daytime. This is as opposed to the other seasons, when more power is used during the night and evening than during the day. If the home is located in a dry area, then dust is one of the possible obstructions to be wary of.

Other things that may occlude the panels include pollen and bird droppings. Cleaning dust and pollen buildup is rather simple; the only thing that is needed is a garden hose, it may not even be necessary to climb onto the roof in order to clean the panels if the water from the hose can reach them. However, cleaning bird droppings may necessitate climbing onto the roof if they have solidified, this should be done very carefully in order to avoid injury. Cleaning droppings from the panels is similar to cleaning them from glass:

  • Bird droppings should be cleaned as soon as possible because they harden over time and become harder to clean.
  • Use a sponge soaked with warm water to saturate the dirty areas of the panel. Wait a few minutes for the droppings to soften.
  • Rub the dirty area with a sponge that has been soaked in warm, soapy water. If some of the droppings persist, then a plastic scraper or a squeegee can be used to remove any stubborn remnants.

Note that the panels are likely to be hot during the summer days so they should be cleaned on cooler days, during the morning, or in evening after they have cooled down enough. Also, hard water should not be be used because it can cause corrosion after some time.

Fall Solar Panel Maintenance

This is the season when the leaves begin to fall, and if the leaves fall on the solar panels, then they could block the sunlight and lower the efficiency of the panels. Even if there are no trees in the immediate area, the wind could carry the leaves for some distance and deposit them on the panels.

Leaves are some of the easiest kinds of debris to clean from solar panels since the cleaning can be done by hand. It is necessary to get on the roof to do this so all appropriate safety measures taken when doing so.

Winter Solar Maintenance

In the areas of the country that receive snowfall, snow and ice should be removed if they build up too much. There will be less sunlight during the winter so the panels need to operate at maximum efficiency in order to absorb as much of it as possible. It is possible for ice and snow to melt on their own accord during the daytime when the sun is out; however, that is dependent on the ambient temperature of the environment.

If the temperature is not high enough, then removal needs to be done by hand, preferably using a broom or something with soft bristles. In these low temperatures, the ice and snow may not obstruct much of the sunlight since there will not be a lot of sunlight to obstruct; their weight might put some strain on the panels and even the roof, in which case they should be cleaned in order to maintain structural integrity. Ultimately, snow is not too much of a concern when it comes to solar panels.

Spring Solar Maintenance

Spring is the best season for the installer to conduct a full inspection of the solar array to ensure that it is operating to its full potential. The items that should be inspected include the following:

  • Exposed or loose wiring
  • Wear and tear on the inverter
  • Discoloration, breaks, or cracks on the solar panels
  • Signs of corrosion on the supports or the rack system

There are other tests of the wiring and connections that might need to be conducted, and they should all be as thorough as possible. They should also be left to the experts, as unprofessional examinations could result in damage to the installation or injury to the person conducting the test.

Solar Panel Repair

There are various different types of damage that can be done to solar panels, they can be repaired by the owner, but unless they have the skills, equipment, and experience necessary to perform such repairs, the job should be left to the professionals.

Solar panels rarely need extensive repairs, the only time they might need them is a result of an extreme weather event, like a hurricane or hailstorm. Large pieces of debris can also cause significant damage. These are some of the different kinds of damage that can be inflicted on solar panels and the steps needed to fix them:

Broken Glass

The glass used on solar panels is tempered, and as such can withstand a lot of damage; however, it is still the most fragile part of the system. If the glass gets damaged, then that could affect the panel’s waterproofing and overall effectiveness.

Repairs are only viable if the panels still generate energy even after being broken. Depending on the extent of the damage, broken glass can be repaired using epoxy or small pieces of stained-glass tape. If the crack or break is too large, then the panel will have to be discarded and replaced.

The Mounting Frame

Strong winds can cause damage to the frame holding the solar panels in place which prevents them from falling off the roof. The bolts and cables holding the mounting frame in place should be closely examined; loose bolts and cables can be tightened but broken ones need to be replaced.

Burnt Terminals

First, it is necessary to discover which terminals are burnt out, this is easily done by testing to see which terminals are no longer working and then replacing them.

Loose Connections

A soldering gun is needed to reconnect any loose wires or components in the solar cells. If a soldering gun is not available, or if the individual is not comfortable using one, then a silver epoxy adhesive can be used to restore the connections instead.

Maintenance and Repair Will Guarantee a Long Life For Your Solar Panels

A solar installation is one of the best ways to save money while helping the environment, but this is only possible if the PV system is operating to its fullest. Fortunately, solar panels are fairly low maintenance, the only time that any maintenance might be necessary is if the installation starts to generate less power than usual. In cases where minor troubleshooting is needed, the owner can perform simple cleaning procedures.

If extensive repairs are needed, then professionals should be consulted if the owner is not familiar with complex electrical systems. Most solar installations are connected to the power grid so their electrical systems should only be accessed by professionals in most cases. General cleaning can be done by the owner but professional services can be utilized if the owner wishes to use them instead.

Most solar installations can last for over twenty years and save their owners thousands of dollars in utility bills, but regular and thorough solar panel repair and maintenance is the key to them doing so.

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