The function of solar panels is to absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into usable electricity. This means the surface of the solar panels needs to be clean and clear to facilitate energy absorption.
The presence of dirt on the surface of solar panels will hinder this process. Depending on the quantity of dirt covering the surface, the efficiency and performance of the panels will be affected. Periodic cleaning of the panels is the only way to get the best out of your solar panel system.
If you are wondering how to manage this on your own, read on.
Vinegar is considered one of the best cleansing agents for domestic use. Can we use vinegar to clean solar panels? Will it harm or cause discoloration in the PV cells? You will find answers to your questions like how to clean or how often to clean your panels in this article. And also you can find out the harm in leaving your panels uncleaned.
Vinegar: The best cleaning agent for solar panels
When dirt accumulates on any surface for long, especially one like solar panels that are left exposed to the weather outside, you need a deep-penetrating cleansing agent to remove the dirt. Typically, strong chemicals are used for this purpose. These chemicals may be able to clean the dirt buildup but, in the process, may harm the PV cells.
So, what is the solution? How to remove the dirt without causing harm to the solar panels?
Vinegar is the answer you are looking for. This all-natural cleansing agent is your best bet. It does the job without damaging the panels because of the acetic acid present in it.
White vinegar consists of about 5% acetic acid and the rest is water. It is made by the fermentation of grain alcohol or ethanol. Yeast or phosphates are added to the ethanol to kickstart the fermentation process.
This colorless organic compound is safe enough to be used in foods. However, it can penetrate deep and dissolve unwanted deposits on the surface of panels such as dirt, grime, grease, and minerals.
Do not use soap!
Most people clean solar panels using soap and water without realizing the harm. Soap and water are ideal for removing the deposits formed on the solar panel surface. No doubt about that. However, this cleaning method leaves a fine layer of soap on the surface of panels. This can prevent the panels from functioning at their best, bringing down their efficiency.
Vinegar, on the other hand, doesn’t leave traces on the panel surface. All these make vinegar the ideal cleaner for solar panels.
However, it is important to know the do’s and don’ts of how to clean solar panels with vinegar.
Can vinegar really clean solar panels?
We need to pay attention to the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar used for cleaning. While the vinegar available for domestic use contains 4-8% of acetic acid, commercially-available vinegar is much stronger. It is recommended to use household vinegar for solar panel cleaning.
The vinegar you have at home is also too powerful for use directly. You need to dilute it to the right proportions. This is the proportion recommended for diluting vinegar for solar panel cleaning.
- Vinegar – 1 cup
- Distilled water – 8 cups
Vinegar needs to be diluted with distilled water in the ratio of 1:8. One part vinegar to 8 parts distilled water.
Though some people recommend adding small quantities of soap or detergent to this mix, it is not necessary. Detergents and soap may leave behind traces. In fact, this takes away the advantage that vinegar offers – a clean surface without stains.
Will any parts of the panel be damaged by vinegar?
The solar panel system is a huge investment for most people. This means you want to get the best out of it and make it last without damage for as long as possible. Avoiding solar panel cleaning will bring down its efficiency. But cleaning solar panels with the wrong cleaner may end up damaging them.
Before you apply any cleaning agent on the panel surface, you naturally want to know if it will harm any components of the solar system. Rest assured, household vinegar won’t harm your panels, their coating, or their components in any way.
The diluted domestic vinegar will have just enough cleaning capacity to remove the dirt but not enough to harm it. That is why it is important to use household vinegar and know the right proportion to water it down.
Does vinegar discolor the solar panels?
A diluted down household vinegar having a 4-8% concentration of acetic acid in the proportion described above is safe for solar panel cleaning. This will not result in discoloration of the panels.
Vinegar offers a huge advantage over soap while cleaning solar panels. They leave the panel surface sparkling clean. No trace of vinegar is left behind in the process as is the case with soap. This also helps in reducing the dirt buildup after cleaning. This means a longer interval between two cleanings.
How frequently do you need to clean PV panels?
It is highly recommended that you consult the cleaning schedule provided by the panel manufacturer. However, you also have to take into consideration the specific conditions of your location, such as weather conditions and pollution levels.
If you live in a drier or highly polluted area, there will be more dust and dirt in the air, which will settle down on the panels. In some instances, you may have to clean the panels as often as every week. In wetter locations, the rain will do most of the cleaning. So, you need to do less work.
How to use vinegar to clean solar panels?
Again, read and follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. If you have any doubt, contact their customer care for clarification.
Follow these general guidelines for cleaning solar panels with vinegar.
- Before cleaning solar panels inspect them for damage or cracks. Get them fixed before applying vinegar on them. Cleaning with vinegar on damaged panels may aggravate the damage.
- Dilute household vinegar with distilled water in the ratio of 1:8. Fill this solution in a clean spray bottle.
- Spray the solution on each panel. It is ideal to clean panel-by-panel. Wipe the panel surface clean using a soft cloth or sponge. Using a squeegee is recommended to wipe off the excess solution.
- Clean the rims of the panels with a lint-free microfiber cloth.
Following this routine will ensure that the dirt deposits are removed from the surface of the solar panels without leaving behind any additional deposits like lint or chemical traces. When the panel surface is free of any deposits, it can function at its maximum efficiency.
Chart out a cleaning schedule for the panels in such a way that they don’t get too dirty at any point in time. This will ensure its good performance. Also, this will make the cleaning process easier.
Can you avoid solar panel cleaning?
Will dirty solar panels continue to generate electricity?
You may naturally want to know the answer to this question. The simple answer is yes. It will definitely continue to produce electricity. However, its efficiency will keep deteriorating as the dirt deposit continues to pile up on the surface.
The performance of a solar panel is highly impacted when there is a dirt layer on its surface. This is understandable as this layer prevents the sunlight from reaching the PV cells below. It is vital for the optimal performance of the panels that the panel surface is squeaky clean.
If you are interested in value for money and getting the best from your solar panel system, you must clean the surface periodically.
Diluted domestic vinegar is any day a better choice as a cleaning agent than soap and water. This is more so in the case of solar panels as the cleanliness of their surface is vital for efficient functioning.
Using chemicals or soap may damage the panels or leave a trace on their surface, reducing their ability to absorb sunlight. Acetic acid present in vinegar will help you avoid both. The diluted vinegar is just strong enough to clean dirty solar panels without damaging the PV cells.
Using distilled water is recommended for a spot-free surface. Tap water may have minerals that can leave stains on the surface.
Use safety gear while cleaning rooftop panels. If you are not so sure, get help from professionals.