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How to Clean Solar Panels on a Roof

Solar panels on your roof can help to reduce your home’s energy consumption by harnessing the sun’s energy rather than being totally reliant on the grid for electricity. But like many parts of your home, they require a certain amount of regular maintenance and upkeep. Whether you have the newer Tesla solar panels or regular photovoltaic panels, they can and should be cleaned from time to time. If you’re wondering how to clean solar panels on a roof, rest assured it’s a relatively quick and painless process. 

Do Solar Panels Need to be Cleaned? 

You’ll find conflicting advice on whether or not solar panels need to be cleaned regularly. But remember – allowing dirt, dust and other debris (like fallen branches or bird droppings) to build up can reduce the efficiency of your solar panels. In fact, a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed that dirty solar panels can reduce energy efficiency by about 7%. And that’s the last thing you probably want to deal with, especially since cleaning them is a relatively simple process. 

What are solar panels made of? 

Solar panels are made almost entirely of glass: 76% to be exact. The rest of the materials that make up solar panels are plastic polymers and other metals. That means that for the most part, solar panels can be cleaned in much the same way you’d clean your windows or mirrors. 

Since you’ve invested a great deal of money in your solar electric system, it’s best to keep them clean and maintained regularly. This can extend their lifespan and help you get the most bang for your buck. 

mop cleaning solar panels

How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned? 

Some sources indicate that solar panels should be cleaned about every six months, while others proclaim that they hardly ever need to be cleaned. If your solar panels are installed on a roof with a slight pitch to it, or if you reside in an area that sees a ton of rainfall, most things probably roll right off your solar panels. But, a regular cleaning – about every six months to a year – can keep your panels in good shape and functioning at maximum capacity. 

How to Clean Solar Panels on a Roof

The good news about cleaning solar panels is that it’s a relatively simple process. You’ll need a few tools to get started, like a ladder, a soft-bristled brush, dish soap or vinegar, a hose and handheld sprayer. Before you attempt to clean your own solar panels, be sure you feel comfortable climbing a ladder and working while standing on a ladder. If this seems daunting to you, or you feel unsteady, it’s best to have a professional clean your solar panels for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re wondering how to clean solar panels on a roof by yourself, we’ve included a step-by-step guide you can follow. 

  • Gather your supplies. Since you’ll be performing this cleaning task on a ladder, you’ll want to have everything at your disposal. Or, find a friend or family member to help out by handing you what you need. 
  • Set up the ladder. Ensure it’s on level ground and that its height allows you to easily access your solar panels. 
  • Mix the solution. The following are good options: a chemical-free outdoor glass cleaner suitable for solar panels, a homemade solution with equal parts dish soap and water, a homemade solution with one part white vinegar to eight parts warm water.
  • Spray solution onto panels and scrub gently. Using a handheld sprayer, apply the solution to your solar panels. Use a soft brush to gently clean the panels and remove debris. 
  • Rinse the panels. Rinse the solution off with water from the hose so as to get rid of any residue. 
contractor cleaning solar panels

Connect With Professionals

If you’re considering adding solar panels to your roof, check out our solar panel cost calculator. It’s best to consult with a roofing professional to have them do the work. So before getting started, try to find a roofer that can help you. Most roofers offer this service, and they have the specialized knowledge required to successfully complete this task. Remember – depending on where you live, you may need to obtain permits before installing a solar system on your property. 

What’s more, there are other regulations you may need to follow, and you may have questions about how to connect to your town’s power grid in order to obtain energy credits as you start building and storing solar energy. The right roofing professional can help you through the entire process, so that you’re getting the most out of your solar electric system. 

Fact Checked by Christin Perry 5/10/2024