✔ Solar panels require very little maintenance once they’re installed
✔ The cost of a solar PV system has dropped by almost 70% since 2010
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What’s on this page?
Head straight to a specific section by clicking the links below.
- 01 | Solar panel maintenance
- 02 | Best ways to maintain solar panels
- 03 | How long do solar panels last?
- 04 | Solar panel repairs
- 05 | Cost of solar panel repairs
With no need for complicated wiring or external power sources, solar panels are normally quick and easy to install, and generally require very little upkeep or maintenance.
A faulty solar panel needs swift attention – a solar panel is only cost-effective when it’s running properly, and, like all solar panel customers, you want to see the quickest return on your investment through energy bill savings.
If your solar panels aren’t kept clean, the amount of electricity they’ll be able to generate can fall by as much as 30%.
Solar panel maintenance
One of the reasons that solar panels are such a good investment is that they require very little maintenance. Most solar panel systems are fine with basic checks and cleaning 1-2 times a year.
Some companies even suggest that solar panels do not need to be cleaned as they have self-cleaning glass which removes any residue or debris when it rains. However, solar panels are only cost efficient when they are working at maximum output and, for that reason, it is best to get them checked and cleaned at least once a year.
The solar panels themselves require little to no maintenance. However, the other parts of the system, such as the inverter and the cables connecting the panels to the inverter, may require some upkeep to ensure maximum efficiency.
When you have an inverter installed, usually in the attic, you should ensure that it will not be subjected to damp conditions as this could lower its lifespan. The most important thing is to check that the input and output displayed on the inverter are an accurate representation of what your system is actually producing.
Some of these maintenance checks can be made yourself – however, if in doubt, it is always better to bring in a professional service. This is particularly important for dealing with electrical systems and working at heights. You’re (most likely) not an expert, remember!
These can be dangerous situations for those unqualified to carry them out safely. Some warranties or contracts state that checks and maintenance must be carried out by qualified professionals.
Best ways to maintain solar panels
After installation the panels should be fairly self sufficient, apart from an annual or biannual cleaning. Here are our tips for cleaning your solar panels:
✔ Solar panels can get very hot during the day. If you need to clean them you should do so in the morning or evening
✔ Start by just sweeping any leaves or debris off the surface of the panels
✔ You could then spray the panels with your garden hose
✔ If the panels need further cleaning, wipe them with warm water and a soft cloth
✔ Always refer to the manufacturer’s guide before using cleaning products on the panels, as some could damage the surface of the panels, and most are fine with warm water only
✔ As most panels are at quite a height, you should take precautions. If in doubt, always get a professional cleaner to do the job as they are used to working safely at heights
✔ Only clean the surface of the panels yourself – never touch the wiring underneath. If you are concerned that the underneath is dirty or rusting, use a solar panel cleaning service to get them back into top condition
How long do solar panels last?
The newer solar panel models in the market are expected to have 40-50 year lifespans and warranties to protect them for at least half that time. As solar panels come with such long warranties, usually 25 years, you are likely to be covered if the unexpected does happen.
The 40-50 year life expectancy goes for both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. Less is known about the lifespan of thin film panels at the moment but, as they also have 25 year warranties as standard, they are expected to match the long life of crystalline panels.
If you notice that your panels are working at a lower efficiency than promised, then you should contact your installer. Anything below 80% is typically a red flag!
Solar panels are built to endure harsh and unpredictable weather. This means that they are prepared for strong winds, snow, rain and even hail stones. In preparation for their life exposed to the elements, solar panels have become very durable and unlikely to crack or break.
If you do see any cracks or changes in the surface appearance of your panels, it is best to get a maintenance service to come and assess them.
What can I do to extend the life of my solar panels?
Solar panels are built to endure harsh and unpredictable weather conditions over a long period of time. For this reason, solar panels are very durable and there is little maintenance or repairs needed to expand their life. Generally, keeping the panels clean and in good condition should allow them to work at high efficiency for a very long time.
You should also regularly check the output of the panels, either from the inverter or on your monitoring system. Therefore, if the output is less than expected you can quickly find out why and get your panels back up to optimum efficiency.
Solar panel repairs
It is very unlikely that the solar panels will have to be repaired. It is more likely that the inverter or other parts of the system need to be repaired over time, due to the long life of the panels.
Your panels are only as good their inverter. Traditional string inverters have a shorter lifespan than the solar system – usually only around 10-15 years. So keeping it up to date and in good condition will make a significant difference.
If there is an issue with the inverter, or you notice any cables are damaged, it would be classed as an electrical problem. As such, you should only allow a qualified electrician, with solar power experience, to assess and repair any damage.
Do not attempt to fix the problem yourself if you are not qualified to do so. Not only will it be potentially very dangerous, but you could also void your warranty agreement. Many warranties and solar panel contracts state that only qualified professionals should attempt to fix the system in order for you to remain within the terms and conditions.
Cost of solar panel repairs
The cost of maintaining solar panels is not high compared to their potential income from energy bill savings and Smart Export Guarantee payments.
The first thing to do is check with your installers, as they may offer a maintenance package at a discounted rate.
The next thing to do is shop around to find out which company offers the best deal for you. There are companies who offer annual cleaning and maintenance services from around £199. Others companies offer more expensive packages, but these may include all repairs.
To compare quotes from companies who repair solar panels, simply fill in this short form.
Solar panel cleaning
One of the many advantages of solar panels is their reliability. Their power source – sunlight – is available every day. As long as your panels are good quality and have been properly installed, there should be nothing to stop them working well for decades.
To work at their maximum efficiency, however, solar panels need to be kept clean. If you experience a decline in the amount of electricity your solar panels are producing, it’s probably due to a build-up of dirt and debris on their surface, such as dust, plant sap, lichen and bird droppings.
Why you should clean solar panels
Solar panels use the sun’s energy to create electricity. They will work whenever the sun is out, but the sunlight needs to be able to reach the photovoltaic cells inside the panels.
This is why you should not install solar panels in the shade – anything which blocks light from getting to part (or all) of the photovoltaic cells will massively reduce a solar panel’s efficiency (and how much electricity it can generate).
Because solar panels are installed on your home’s roof, they will get covered over time in debris like dust, sap, leaves, soot and yes, bird droppings. These will all obstruct the sunlight from reaching the photovoltaic cells inside the panels, and could have a big effect on their output.
With some types of solar panel, even a tiny obstruction can cause a large drop in electricity production, as the few cells that are in shadow can hugely drain the power that the rest of the cells are producing.
In fact, it’s been estimated that not cleaning your solar panels can reduce their performance by as much as 10% to 30%.
When should you clean your solar panels?
The obvious answer is when they look dirty.
But how often is that likely to be? Manufacturers often recommend cleaning your solar panels once or twice a year, but your installer should be able to give you guidance when they fit your panels.
However, if you do notice that your solar panels have become less efficient, this might be a sign that they need a good clean.
Solar panel warranties
Most reputable solar panel manufacturers in the UK offer a similar warranty of 25 years as standard. This is because solar panels are simple pieces of equipment, built to last. This warranty covers anything that may go wrong with the solar panels themselves and ensures that they perform at an acceptable efficiency rate for the full 25 years.
The installation of your panels is covered by a second warranty, known as the workmanship warranty. This warranty covers any problems that arise from the way in which the solar panels were installed. The workmanship warranty covers the manual installation of the panels onto the roof and any electrical work connecting the panels to the inverter.
This warranty is usually shorter than that of the solar panels themselves, typically 2-10 years. The reason for this is that most issues that derive from faulty workmanship will become apparent quite quickly after installation.
How will the UK weather impact your panels?
There is no need to worry about the often gloomy British weather affecting the efficiency of your solar panels. Solar panels still work efficiently in most weather conditions, unless it is extremely cloudy. What you do need to look out for is trees or other buildings shielding your solar panels from the sunlight, as this will directly reduce their efficiency.
If you live in an area of particularly low light, you could consider choosing thin film solar panels over traditional crystalline panels. Thin film panels have been known to work better in low light. However, you should check out all of the pros and cons of thin film vs crystalline panels before making your decision.
In general, British weather is very temperate, meaning that we don’t often see extreme weather conditions. This is good news for your solar panels, as average weather conditions should not negatively affect them. If you decide to install solar panels on your roof, you can be confident that the British weather will not prevent them from working well beyond their 25 year warranty.
Finding an installer
So what now? You need to find out how much it will cost you to make the switch to solar. That’s where The Eco Experts come in. Just fill in this short form with your details, and wait for our professional installers to get in touch.