I have been cleaning solar panels for years now and what I have found is that there is more to it than appears at first glimpse.
Beginning Solar Panel Cleaning
When I first started, I looked at solar panels as essentially a one-sided window. I cleaned them with a strip washer, squeegee and extension pole. This method produced an acceptable result but failed to provide adequate rinsing. It also tended to pack dirt into the solar panel frames.
When I dug deeper into the best method for cleaning solar panels, I read how deionized water removed the minerals like sodium, calcium, iron, copper, chloride and sulfates, which cause water spotting.
So I upgraded from using tap water to filtered water, which eliminates water spotting and scaling like you get on your shower doors. But, I was still faced with the inadequate rinsing issue of dirt being packed into the solar panel frames.
Although we are a pressure washing company, we DO NOT pressure wash solar panels because it will ruin them.
Solar panels are built to withstand normal weather conditions and heavy rain, but the seals on the edges cannot withstand the high pressures of any pressure washer. Sure, you can clean solar panels quickly with a pressure washer, but you will inject water into your solar panels, which ruins them.
Shock and Electrocution Hazards Exposed
Then an expert solar panel cleaner I consulted pointed out that the aluminum extension pole and ladder I was using were shock and electrocution hazards. He advised me that I should be using a fiberglass ladder and an electrician’s insulated high-voltage gloves to prevent shock and/or electrocution hazards when cleaning solar panels with an extension pole and/or ladder.
Early on, I asked local solar company employees at their offices how to avoid electrocution hazards when cleaning solar panels. They advised me that after you shut off the inverter(s) and emergency shut-off that connects to the grid, it would be safe to clean the panels.
This has turned out to be bad information because there are more than a dozen reasons solar panels can leak electricity, even AFTER the inverter and emergency shut-off switch are switched “Off”.
Solar panels continuously generate electricity when in the sun. So even when you turn off the inverter and emergency shut-off switch, you can still get shocked and burned from a DC arc from a leaking solar panel. Worse yet, you can be electrocuted depending on the strength of the current in the DC arc.
13 Known Sources of Electrical Leaks in Solar Panel Arrays
So what can cause a solar panel array to leak electricity?
1) Cracks and micro-cracks in the top glass.
2) Damage to or delaminations of the back sheet.
3) Cracks caused by hail, tree limbs, wind, improper installation, and/or walking on them.
4) Cleaning when it is too hot. The cold water on the hot glass can crack it.
5) Birds and rodents can loosen or damage the wiring on the back of the panels.
6) Browning is a condition, which is usually caused by pressure washing solar panels. Solar panels with browning leak electricity and should not be cleaned in any way until the panels damaged by browning are replaced.
7) Burnt cells are another shock and electrocution hazard when cleaning solar panels. Burnt cells are usually caused by water in the solar panel or hot-spotting. Hot-spotting is caused by part of a solar panel overheating due to hard or soft shading.
8) DC connectors or MC4 connectors are another potential shock and electrocution hazard. These wire connectors that are on the back of the panels can become loose or unclipped and leak electricity.
9) Delaminations are another potential shock and electrocution hazard. Delaminations happen when the EVA encapsulate becomes detached, even partially, from the top glass or the back sheet.
10) Junction boxes are another potential shock and electrocution hazard. When wires come loose or are damaged by birds or rodents at the junction box, they will leak electricity.
11) Moisture and water ingress are other frequently seen problems with solar panels. The water inside the solar panels leads to PV module degradation. Moisture in the EVA encapsulate can lead to metal grid corrosion, delaminations, discoloration of encapsulates, induced degradation, and optical and adhesion losses.
12) An RISO Error is an error message shown by an inverter that shows it has detected a ground fault in the solar array. If there is a ground fault, this poses a danger to life due to electric shock as high voltages could be leaking.
13) Snail trails on solar panels causes brownish lines of discoloration after long-term usage. Snail trails cause flow resistance in the solar panels resulting in hot-spots and a reduction in solar panel efficiency. Solar panels with snail trails should be replaced before cleaning because they can leak electricity.
Because of the 13 shock and electrocution hazards listed above, a thorough solar panel inspection should be conducted prior to any solar panel cleaning. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) must be used in the cleaning process to mitigate shock and electrocution hazards.
For a glossary of Solar Panel Terms and more information, go here.
Annual Solar Panel Cleaning and System Inspections
Regular maintenance and inspections should be conducted every 6 – 12 months to detect problems, create a condition and maintenance history for your warranty and extend the life of your solar investment. Regular inspections may allow you to become aware of issues while they are still under warranty, so you can get them fixed without additional cost.
Pahrump Pressure Washing includes a solar panel inspection with every cleaning to detect problems and create a maintenance history of the condition of your system should you ever need to rely on your warranty due to hail, wind, tree limb, debris damage, panel or installation failure.
Pahrump Pressure Washing will email you Before and After photos of the cleaning and a copy of the Inspection Report. Then we keep your results on file in our office should you ever need them. This keeps your solar panel investment saving you money on electricity as long as possible.
Our Free Solar Panel System Inspections are a $147.00 value!
Look Out for “Fly-by-Night” Solar Panel Cleaners Who:
- Do not have their business address shown on their business card, website or Facebook page. (Intentionally shady!)
Are not licensed to do business with both a Nevada State business license and a Pahrump City Business License as required by law. (Mine are on the Home page)
Does not have a website or their website is poorly ranked & underdeveloped. This indicates no long term vision for the shady business.
- Use a pressure washer to clean solar panels – This high pressure can inject water into the panels, and permanently damage the panels.
- Use a squeegee – This can scratch the EVA surface and cause permanent damage.
- Use a mop to scrub the panels – This is evidence they have not invested in the proper equipment.
- Show pictures cleaning solar panels while walking or standing on them.
- Use a dry method to clean your panels – It is much safer to scrub and rinse the panels with deionized water and a solar panel cleaning brush to reduce friction from potential scratching.
- Can only accept a check made out to them personally, not a business. This indicates a lack of proper licensing, insurance, and bank account.
- Requires Cash Payment – Pahrump Pressure Washing accepts cash, credit cards and checks for your convenience and security.
- Do not offer a paid receipt on every job.
Get Expert Solar Panel Cleaning in Pahrump
So when you are choosing an expert solar panel cleaning service in Pahrump, be sure to hire someone that understands how to properly clean solar panels without damaging them and has been trained in how to complete a pre-cleaning inspection to avoid the numerous electrical shock hazards.
Solar Panel Cleaning Near Me
Pahrump Pressure Washing safely cleans solar panels for maximum electrical production, and to extend the life of your solar system with regular inspections. You can trust in Pahrump Pressure Washing with more than 40 years personal experience in the cleaning industry to get the job done right the first time!
Call Larry Now at (775) 243-9550 to schedule your Free Friendly Estimate on your Professional Solar Panel Cleaning.