- Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity while remaining fixed in place, and their maintenance needs are simpler as a result.
- Portable power stations with batteries charged by solar energy also have this advantage, compared with traditional power stations that use fuel engines.
In this article, we discuss the maintenance requirements of solar panels and portable power stations.
What Type of Maintenance Do Solar Panels Need?
Solar power systems can generate electricity for decades, as long as you meet the following requirements:
- Cleaning the surface of solar panels regularly. Dust and other particles block sunlight, reducing electricity production over time.
- Replacing system components that reach the end of their service life before solar panels.
- Replacing any solar panels that fail prematurely (the warranty covers you in this case).
How often should I clean my solar panels? As a rule of thumb, solar panels should be cleaned at least once every six months, but they perform even better if cleaned more frequently. If dust and objects such as leaves are allowed to accumulate on the surface of solar panels, they block part of the sunlight that would normally be converted into electricity. There is no doubt that regular cleaning of the solar generator will help it work better, learn ways to improve the efficiency of the solar panel we have studied before.
Keep in mind that solar panels are just one part of a complete solar energy system. They are combined with other devices that have a shorter service life, which must be replaced eventually:
- The inverter is the device that converts the direct current generated by solar panelsinto the alternating current required by home appliances. Solar inverters have a typical service life of 10-12 years, and you will need a replacement once you reach this point.
- If you use batteries to store the electricity output of solar panels, you also need to plan a replacement. Lead-acid batteries normally last for 2-3 years, while lithium-ion batteries can last for around 5-10 years (depending on the manufacturer and brand).
There is also a small probability that one or more of your solar panels may fail before the end of their service life, but this is not a problem if you have a solid warranty. If this happens during the warranty period, the malfunctioning panels will normally be replaced by the provider.
Solar panel systems are often provided with monitoring tools that keep track of their daily electricity production, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). If you notice that the electricity output has dropped suddenly, it may indicate that one or more panels are having issues.
- Keep in mind that lower productivity is normal during winter and cloudy days since there is less sunshine available.
- However, if your solar energy system is less productive than normal on a sunny summer day, you probably have a technical issue that needs attention.
You can clean solar panels on your own, but a professional cleaning service is recommended for larger rooftop installations. They operate at much higher voltages than portable systems, and they also involve work at height.
What Is the Best Way to Clean Solar Panels?
When cleaning solar panels, you must avoid using any tools and methods that can cause damage. If solar panels are damaged by incorrect cleaning procedures, you can also void their warranty.
Solar panel maintenance is relatively simple when you use the right tools. The following are some suitable cleaning methods, and you can use them without fear of causing damage:
- Washing solar panels with a hose
- Cleaning them with a soft brush
- Wiping their surface with a squeegee
- Using a leaf blower
Solar panels should never be cleaned with tools that can scrape their surfaces, such as roof rakes and snow brushes. You should also avoid using hot water, especially during winter, since the sudden temperature change can damage your solar panels. Chemical cleaning agents can also damage solar modules, and they should be avoided.
While solar panels are being cleaned, you can also conduct a visual inspection. Search for cracks or any other signs of damage, and you can also make sure there are no loose connections or mechanical parts. If you have a fixed solar installation, you should also inspect the racking system that keeps the PV modules in place, and make sure there are no loose parts.
Solar Panel Maintenance: Additional Recommendations
Solar panels are much less productive when placed under the shade of other objects, which can have the same effect as dust accumulation. Since the sun’s position in the sky is constantly changing, shadows move during the day and throughout the seasons. Vegetation and new constructions can also create shadows that were not present when your solar panels were first installed.
Shadows are not an issue for portable solar panels since they can be simply moved out of the way. They can be a problem for rooftop solar systems, which are fixed in place.
- Tree branches that cast shadows on your solar panels should be trimmed.
- When installing other types of rooftop equipment such as Internet dishes and air conditioning units, make sure they don’t cast a shadow on your solar panels.
Solar panels are designed for a wide range of weather conditions, and this includes high ambient temperatures. According to EnergySage, solar panels can reach temperatures as high as 65°C (149°F) without being damaged. However, you should avoid cleaning solar panels when they are hot for safety. You should also avoid washing solar panels while they are hot since the sudden temperature drop caused by cold water can damage them.
If you own portable solar panels, you should follow the same instructions provided for fixed modules: avoid using any cleaning tools that can damage their surface, and also chemical agents. However, portable solar panels are different from rooftop photovoltaics, please strictly follow the manufacturer's manual. Portable solar panels have an additional advantage: they can be stored when not in use, so you can reduce exposure to dust and dirt. This is not possible with roof-mounted solar panels since they are fixed in place.
Portable Power Station Maintenance
Solar panels are often used as part of a portable power station. Unlike a diesel generator, which depends on a fuel supply, a solar generator uses an energy input that is free and available everywhere. In this case, there are some additional maintenance requirements you need to keep in mind.
- Don’t use a portable power station near flammable and explosive materials.Even a small spark of electricity can start a fire or cause an explosion.
- Portable power stations should be stored in a clean and dry location.Otherwise, dust and moisture may leak into the device and damage internal components. Portable power stations should also be protected from dust and water while being used.
- Avoid charging and discharging your power station frequently,since this can shorten the service life of its batteries. If the power station is allowed to reach full charge before each use, it can last longer.
- Don’t overload a portable power station.Check the rated power output specified by the manufacturer, and make sure you don’t exceed this wattage when connecting multiple devices to a power station.
- You should read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and follow them carefully. This way, you can avoid electrical faults and conserve the product warranty.
Portable power stations should be kept covered when not in use, but they need proper ventilation when charging or discharging. Also, portable power stations should not be covered by blankets or kept in enclosed spaces when operating, since their batteries can overheat due to lack of ventilation. Unlike solar panels, which are designed to operate under direct sunlight, the batteries inside a portable power station are vulnerable to heat.
If your portable power station has not been used for more than 3 months, it is recommended to discharge the battery to 0% and then charge it to 100% to avoid calibration errors caused by long-term non-use.
For long-term storage, keep the battery charge between 30%-60%, and store it in a room with low humidity and no corrosive gases. If the battery is in a low power consumption state for a long time, it may damage the battery and reduce the life of the whole machine.
The technical specifications of portable power stations include battery capacity, and how long they can operate with different types of electrical devices. If your portable power station is discharging faster than expected, the battery is probably malfunctioning. In this case, you should contact the provider to get the unit checked.