can you clean solar panels with tap water

Can You Clean Solar Panels With Tap Water-Solar Panel Maintenance

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Yes, you can. Solar panels are a clean and sustainable way of energy production. With the cost of electricity increases and the price of solar panels decreasing, there is an influx of solar panel purchases. Simple things like cleaning solar panels will ensure longevity and reliability. So can you clean solar panels with tap water? Follow to find out.

Is Cleaning Solar Panels Necessary?

Maintaining solar panels is important to ensure their longevity. Of course, buying solar panels is the easy part. The hard work comes with maintenance.

Since solar panels are installed at a slant, rainwater washes off debris and dirt. However, in most cases, very dirty solar panels with stubborn grime, bird droppings, or heavy soiling require cleaning.

Washing solar panels can also ensure their performance remains at peak power year-round. When you clean solar panels, you expose all the photovoltaic cells to sunlight, where they can do their job. A layer of dust particles, especially in desert regions, will reduce the amount of light transmission and absorption.

Here is how you can clean solar panels with tap water yourself.

How to Clean Solar Panels with Tap Water

Solar panels are perfect for clean living in every situation since there are different types of panels, including the best flexible solar panels you may consider. However, before we move on, it is important to ensure you don’t have hard or mineral-rich water running through your piping. Even hard drinking water leaves mineral deposits on the panel’s surface, damaging that area over time. Therefore water quality is crucial.

Moreover, you must select the time of day you want to clean your solar panels. If it’s too hot and you try to wash the panels, the glass covering and transparent conductive layer will crack, especially in desert environments. This could permanently damage the vast majority of your panel’s solar cells. Additionally, washing your panels on a hot day will leave dirty water marks on the surface since the water dries too quickly.

It’s important to pick a cool day, early morning or late evening. When your solar panels feel cool to the touch, then you can successfully get them clean again. Here is how to clean solar panels with tap water:

1) Shut off the Solar Panels

Shutting off the entire solar panel system should be the first step. Of course, the solar panel manufacturers included a manual when you purchased the panels. If you need to learn how to shut the system off, refer to the manual and follow the instructions. The direct current system should be fully shut off.

Shut off the solar panels

Image Source: solvoltaic.com

You can use the main solar switch to shut it down on an AC system. If necessary, with a little research, you can successfully turn off your system and prevent any damage.

2) Disconnect the Gutters

How To Install Or Replace Gutters –

Image source: forbeshome.com

This step is for anyone who has rainwater collection tanks. Removing the gutters or blocking them off is important. This is, so that dirty run-off water doesn’t go into your clean water tanks. Unfortunately, solar panels accumulate dust and debris, which may make their way into the tanks.

3) Clean the Panels While Safely on the Ground

It is inherently safer to clean your panel’s surface while you are safe on the ground. Cleaning them while they are still on the roof does not take long; however, you have to worry about falling hazards. Even if you have two solar panels, washing them while you’re on the ground is safer. If you direct water onto the panels, use a hosepipe (even a garden hose will do).

Cleaning solar panels while safely on the ground

Image Source: angi.com

While water pressure is required to clean the panels adequately, the hose pipe should not have a nozzle that sprays water at more than 1500psi. Anything more than that will damage the panels.

4) Water, Soap, and a Soft Cloth

In this step, ensuring that water only goes on the panels is crucial. While the water might go to the PV modules at the back, try to ensure it isn’t much. Additionally, water should not make it between the gaps in your solar panels. If there is too much dirt and grime, you can use a soft bristle brush to sweep off the debris from the panels before using pure water. You can also use deionized water to get rid of the dirt.

Using a soft cloth to clean a solar panel

Image Source: bobvila.com

Of course, you can also use a soft brush, plastic blade, or a non-abrasive sponge for the job, you just have to lather them with soap first. Additionally, you can get a longer hose pipe extensionto reach your roof if your normal one can’t reach the roof.

5) Safety Equipment

Sometimes, solar panel cleaning doesn’t go well from the ground. You might not get everything and feel like you need to do a better job. Therefore, it might be time to climb up to the roof and wash the panels, especially if you live off-grid. In such instances, having a solar generator for off-grid living will be convenient since the solar panels don’t have to be mounted.

Safety equipment for high roofs

Image Source: checkatrade.com

When using water and soap, there will be an increased safety concern. Therefore, ensuring you have the appropriate safety gear when climbing the ladder is important. You could also use a step ladder to ensure you can reach the roof, but you are otherwise safe from a slippery surface. Alternatively, you can employ solar panel cleaning services to handle everything.

6) Turn Your System Back on

Turning your solar system back

Image Source: sunpower.com

After ensuring no water spots or moisture are on the panels, you can turn the system back on for maximized solar power. The solar panels should not have even the least amount of moisture, which could cause serious electric issues. Switch the system on at the inverter and confirm if everything is working.

What to Avoid When Cleaning Your Solar Panels

Since there have been advancements in the solar industry, trying any new cleaning method should be done carefully. Of course, there are things to avoid when getting your solar panels cleaned.Here are the top 3 things you should never attempt.

a) Abrasive Cleaning Supplies

As mentioned in the steps above, it is not recommended in the solar industry to use harsh cleaning chemicals on your solar panel arrays. For example, using an abrasive sponge or chemical will cause scratches and micro-cracks in the solar arrays or the best solar generator (check out our 2022 review). The electrodynamic screen will not look damaged at first, but even a few dust particles in the cracks could cause it to cease function.

It is also important to remember that harsh cleaning chemicals will corrode the screen and reduce efficiency very quickly.

b) Cleaning with Freezing Water

As we have previously mentioned, cleaning your solar panel on a hot day will cause cracks in the solar panels. However, do you know what freezing water does to solar panels? Freezing water causes thermal shock. Once your panel goes into thermal shock, there’s no bringing it back. So always use water at almost the same temperature as the solar panels to ensure this doesn’t happen. In addition, this should prevent any cracks and scratches.

c) Highly Pressurized Water

Water that’s at high pressure comes with a lot of force. The force of the water could cause even the best panels to break or crack. On the other hand, the right amount of pressure should not cause any damage to either panel. However, it is critical that you regulate the pressure of your nozzle, even on the garden hose.

Frequently Asked Questions

i) Can I Use Tap Water to Clean Solar Panels?

You can only use tap water if it has no mineral deposits. If you are unsure about the water from your taps, you can use de-ionized or distilled water to clean your panel and remove dust particles. You can purchase a hose attachment that filters out minerals if these options aren’t available.

ii) Can I Clean my Solar Panels Using Windex?

No, it is not recommended to use Windex to clean solar panels. Windex falls under cleaning supplies; however, using it will leave a cast on your panels that’s hard to get off. Not to mention, it reduces efficiency.

iii) Should I Get Professional Cleaners to Clean my Panels?

Yes. It is a good idea to call professional cleaners if your roof is too high or slippery, or it doesn’t make sense to buy all the equipment only to use them once in a while. You can also call the cleaners if it might be too much work and scrambling down a roof is too risky.

The Bottom Line

Regular checkups on your solar panels will ensure they stay in the best condition possible. Cleaning your solar panels is crucial to maintain efficiency. Furthermore, you never know what critters have built their nest in your panels. Therefore, it is always good to take a look and keep your panels free from any damage.

Featured Image Source: forbeshome.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.