Photovoltaic system maintenance: useful information and expert advice

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Solar panel maintenance is essential to guarantee system efficiency. Minimal system care efforts will guarantee a correctly functioning system that does not waste energy, has a longer useful life and generates more clean energy for self-consumption by you and your energy community

Photovoltaic panels have a very long life cycle, making them one of the most durable technological assets. However, they still require some maintenance. Looking after them requires minimal effort, like any other typical home appliance or device, but this small amount of maintenance is important. There are two key reasons why maintenance is essential: to optimise the economic return on your initial investment, and above all to minimise the carbon footprint of our homes.

Maintenance is even more important for installations in geographic locations with critical or extreme climatic conditions. Consider mountain areas with frequent snowfall during winter or coastal regions with high levels of salt in the air all year round and frequent sand residues after rainfall. Of course, these are two extreme cases, but they underline how each geographic area has specific features that affect the lifespan of solar panels. Wherever you live, a minimal commitment to regular solar panel maintenance will improve energy performance and extend the system’s life.

 

Monitoring the system: the best preventive maintenance possible

After installing your system, perhaps also with a storage unit, the first step is to track its activity. A system to monitor consumption such as that enabled by the SNOCU unit from Regalgrid combined with an appropriate management programme will not only inform you of energy self-consumption levels, but will also indicate the yield of your system and monitor the status of any storage units you have installed. The Regalgrid® platform cloud allows recording of data day after day and creation of a log that simplifies assessment of system health. This means you can always be sure that your solar panels are working properly without going up onto the roof yourself to check them.

Monitoring is therefore a useful tool to understand the yield of your system and identify the best time to carry out routine maintenance, but also to understand when special maintenance actions are required, such as:

  • replacement of a component due to unexpected weather damage
  • the need to increase system power
  • installation or development of the storage system.

What does routine maintenance of solar panels involve?

Routine maintenance can be divided into two categories: checking components and cleaning. The checking phase is made easier by your system monitoring activity. Based on the data gathered, a qualified technician will verify:

  • the integrity of modules
  • anchorage of modules to the support structure
  • cabling, electrical panels and transformers
  • inverter operation
  • charging capacity of storage units
  • operation of the remote monitoring system.

Next, routine cleaning of the system will be performed.

Leaves, dust and micro-dusts, pollen and similar materials are periodically deposited on the panels, reducing their capacity to absorb light and in turn lowering optimum yield. Rain and wind can reduce these deposits, but they are not sufficient alone to eliminate all material. It is therefore generally recommended to perform cleaning at least once a year: before the sunny months or when the SNOCU reports a drop in yield. If your home is located in an area with a challenging climate or high levels of pollution, modules will need to be cleaned more frequently.

 

How are solar panels cleaned?

If the panels are in a safe and accessible location, you can perform a visual check of the modules yourself and then proceed with cleaning using water and a non-abrasive sponge to avoid scratching the glass plates. It is important to dry the modules to avoid water marks, as these can affect yield. If there is stubborn dirt, you can also use an antistatic detergent that creates a very thin protective film.

If you don’t feel confident about cleaning the panels yourself, or cannot access the installation, e.g. on a roof, you can use a specialised maintenance company. Often, the company that installed the panels will offer you a maintenance contract: if this is the case, ensure that it includes operating tests and annual cleaning by qualified technicians.

 

Routine maintenance costs

The cost of routine maintenance performed by a specialised company can vary from $150 to $200 in Australia or £100-200 in the UK, depending on the type of system, its size and the condition of panels. Whatever the cost, you should view maintenance as a small annual investment that will guarantee greater savings in the long term.

It seems clear that maintenance is essential for the health of your system, but it should not be viewed as an expensive burden: unlike traditional energy sources, photovoltaic energy is clean, meaning that routine maintenance is significantly less than that of your boiler, your car, and even your home appliances.

REGALGRID OPINION

Regalgrid® technology permits targeted or automatic monitoring of power generation levels compared to the rated values of the photovoltaic system, and allows you to perform optimised charging and discharging cycles of your storage system. These are just some examples of scheduled or diagnostic maintenance that allow optimisation of maintenance actions and a direct economic saving. And we should keep in mind that there are no other renewable-energy generation technologies that have such low maintenance requirements as appropriately sized and properly installed solar panels and storage units. In any case, Regalgrid helps to optimise these costs too.