Cleaning solar panels can feel like something of a daunting task. They produce enough electricity to power your house, and that’s definitely enough electricity to kill you outright if you get electrocuted. That combined with the fact that solar panels can’t ever really be turned off can make cleaning solar panels seem quite intimidating.
It is far more dangerous to clean your solar panels at night than it is to clean them during the day. Because of the way solar panels are installed, the biggest danger when it comes to cleaning them is falling off of the roof. This is especially likely at night when it is difficult to see.
Who knew? I did. And there’s actually a whole host of reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to clean your solar panels during the day while they’re still running just as long as you’re careful and you don’t suspect anything to be wrong with your system.
The Greatest Danger Of All
Because solar panels need to be cleaned or otherwise adjusted from time to time, they are designed so that as long as the system is set up correctly they will never shock you for touching it. The panels might get pretty hot, but that just means you shouldn’t touch them with your bare hands.
You’re also unlikely to burn yourself cleaning your solar panels, and even if you do you’ll probably be fine with a little aloe vera. However, most domestically used solar panels are placed on rooftops and those tend to be pretty high off the ground.
Your roof can be slippery! If they’re wet or if the shingles are made of a relatively smooth surface, it can be easy to lose your footing and fall. Even if they aren’t slippery, you still could trip and fall off of the roof if you aren’t careful.
in fact, falling is such a risk that in the roofing industry about three-quarters of all fatalities are the result of falls. If professionals can hurt themselves falling off of roofs, then so can you.
A statement which is supported by the fact that 97% of fall related hospital visits originate from home. It turns out that you need to be careful when standing on your roof.
That means that when you clean your solar panels, it’s extremely important to make sure that you have the best visibility that you possibly can to avoid falling down.
Night: A Low Visibility Time
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario recently put out a report on night roofing with some points relevant to the current discussion.
The association found that night roofing was an unacceptably dangerous practice for a variety of reasons, but night roofing is obviously a totally different beast than cleaning your solar panels, right?
Well, one of the associations points was that no amount of lamp power could possibly emulate daytime conditions, and that miles and miles of cables produced a tripping hazard that could lead to workers getting hurt. source
If that sounds like a familiar problem, it’s because it is exactly the same problem that you are likely to run into while trying to clean your solar panels at night.
The panels will be connected to your hoe through at least one cable, and whatever light or lights you use will not be enough to really show you where the hazards on your roof might be.
This puts you at risk for no particular reason, since the likely hood of your solar panels shocking you is cles to zero. Just clean them when you can see! It’ll be easier, and you’ll be less likely to die.
You Need To See What You’re Trying To Clean
That is all not to mention the fact that not being able to see properly also makes it much more difficult to actually thouroughly clean your solar panels. As stated before, no amount of man made lighting can act as an adequate replacement for natural light.
This means that no matter how hard you try, your solar panels are still likely to come away from the cleaning experience less polished than if you’d just cleaned them during the day.
As you probably know, leaving dirt and dust on your solar panels can be pretty bad for them, as in more polluted parts of the world it only takes a year for them to be operating a full 10% below capacity, a problem if you expect these solar panels to be powering your entire home year-round.
If you want your solar panels to work properly, you should probably clean them when they’re easiest to clean well.
What If Your Solar Panels Are Damaged
It is true that solar panels don’t produce electricity at night. If you believe that your solar panels are damaged in a way that could potentially cause someone a shock, then it may actually be a good idea to wait until night to go up on the roof and check.
However, if your solar panels are damaged in a way that could shock someone, your first priority should be to get them fixed and not to get them cleaned.
You also probably shouldn’t be checking the panels yourself. It’s probably best to have a trained electrician or another professional work with them to make sure that 1) they don’t get damaged and 2) they know how to safely get around on top of your roof.
Considering the dangers involved in fixing a solar panel that isn’t properly inulated, I would definitely not suggest that you try to do it yourself.
Do Your Solar Panels Even Need Cleaning?
They actually might not. A study in Spain found that after one year of not being cleaned most panels were only operating about 4.4% below their usual capacity. This is because in most temperate climates rain or snow will usually clean your solar panels before you even need to.
However, if the place you live happens to have a lot of pollution or be very dry, you still might need to clean your solar panels every once in a while. It all depends on how quickly the panels get dirty and how often the weather solves the problem for you.