Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, also known as 'solar PV systems' or 'solar power systems', provide clean and renewable electricity for homes and businesses. While solar power systems are generally very low maintenance, they do require the occasional check-up to ensure they are working properly. In this article, we answer the question, "Do solar panels need maintenance?" and provide tips to make sure your system is properly maintained.
Do solar systems need maintenance?
All solar systems will need some maintenance. Although we are referring here to scheduled maintenance rather than unscheduled maintenance. The difference between the two is explained below.
Scheduled solar maintenance
Scheduled maintenance for solar systems involves inspections of the system parts, and cleaning of the panels if required. Scheduled maintenance is 'scheduled' to occur at a given time interval. For example, once every 6 months, a visual inspection of the solar panels, panel mounting system, and electrical terminations might be planned to take place.
Unscheduled solar maintenance
This involves fixing an issue with the system that is causing a loss of electricity production. Unscheduled maintenance happens in response to something going wrong with the system. Unscheduled maintenance will usually be in response to either:
- an alert raised through the system monitoring
- a loss of power generation
- something that visibly needs fixing
Solar PV systems do not need a lot of maintenance when installed correctly. Most maintenance over the system life should come down to keeping an eye on the system.
Solar panel cleaning
One of the most obvious maintenance tasks for a solar power system is cleaning the panels. Dust, dirt, and other debris can accumulate on the panels over time. this can reduce their ability to absorb sunlight and generate electricity. Although most of the time this does not have a very large effect on electricity production. This is because most solar panels are mounted at an angle over 10 degrees, which will mean that regular rainfall should keep them fairly clean. However, where solar panels are mounted flat, or are in areas with high soiling or low rainfall, it is recommended to consider cleaning the panels at regular intervals.
Cleaning of solar panels should always be done in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. This will ensure that equipment warranties are not affected. Generally this is done using a soft cloth or brush and a mild, non-abrasive cleaner. Avoid using a pressure washer, as the high-pressure water can damage the panels.
Solar system inspections
Another important maintenance task is checking the mounting system, wiring, and electrical connections. Over time, bolts and connections can become loose or corroded, which can affect the performance or safety of the system. It is important to check the fixings and connections regularly and tighten or replace them as needed.
While system owners can perform visual inspections, it is important not to attempt any work on electrical wiring unless you hold an electrical licence. If you do notice any issues with wiring through regular visual checks, always contact your local solar installers before attempting any rectification work.
In addition to the regular maintenance tasks described above, it is also advisable to have your solar power system inspected by a professional solar installer at least once a year. A professional inspection can help identify any issues or problems that may not be noticeable to the average system owner.
The importance of solar monitoring
Another important aspect of solar power system maintenance is monitoring the performance of the system. Many solar power systems come with a monitoring system that allows you to track the electricity production of your panels in real-time. By monitoring the performance of your system, you can identify any issues or problems early on and take steps to address them.
It is also important to keep an eye on the inverter, which is the device that converts the electricity generated by the panels into a form that can be used by your home or business. If the inverter is not working properly, it can affect the performance of the entire system. Issues picked up by the inverter should register on your system monitoring as faults or alert notifications. Although visual inspection can also identify inverter issues through strange noises or excess heat production. If you suspect there may be an issue with your inverter, it is important to contact your local solar installers.
Solar maintenance - Take aways
Solar power systems are generally very low maintenance, but they should always be monitored to ensure that there are no issues affecting production. Solar panels and inverters should also be checked at regular intervals to ensure there are no visible signs of damage or degradation. Any maintenance tasks that are required should always be carried out by in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and with local legislation.
By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your solar power system continues to operate at its best for years to come.