solar panel maintenance costs

What is the Solar Panel Maintenance Costs? Solar power has many benefits worth noting. Investing in a solar panel system for your roof not only reduces your electricity costs but also adds value to your property. Other advantages include protection from continually rising energy costs, reduction in carbon footprint, and protection from the carbon tax effect on the cost of electricity. To ensure that such investments stay in great shape and continue to offer benefits, it is important to have solar panels professionally maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. So how much does it cost to maintain a solar panel? And what is the home solar panel maintenance costs?

home solar panel maintenance costs

2020 Solar Panel Maintenance Costs | Solar PV Maintenance Cost

Solar Panel Maintenance Costs

The average cost of cleaning a 2kW solar system with 10 panels is $150 to $330 annually in the United States, whereas cleaning a 3kW system with 20 panels costs on average $300 to $430. On the other hand, the average cost of an annual inspection of your rooftop solar panels is typically $150 to $300.

Solar Panel Cleaning Cost

The average cost to clean and maintain solar panels is $150 to $330. Depending on various factors such as the size of the pane and roof pitch, professional solar panel cleaning companies charge between $15 to $35 per panel. Some businesses charge a flat rate.

Benefits of Solar Panel Cleaning

Some benefits of professional solar panel cleaning include:

  • Reduced risk of damaging your solar panels: solar panels are very sensitive and require proper handling when cleaned. A professional solar panel cleaner ensures that minimum risk occurs to the panels during cleaning.
  • Minimal cost: cleaning the system is as important as cleaning and servicing your car, and the price is less in comparison to how much you would spend on replacement or repair if damaged.
  • Information on the condition of your solar panels: while cleaning your solar panels, the professional technician provides you with complete information on the condition of your system. The specialist informs you if anything needs replacing or repairing.
  • No physical stress: climbing onto your rooftop to clean your solar panels can be unsafe and mind-racking. Some risks include electrocution due to live electric wires running over the roof and the threat to your safety due to the inaccessibility of some of the panels mounted on the roof. Only professionals are efficient at climbing onto the roof, cleaning the panels, and climbing back down safely.

Solar Panel Cleaning Process

Cleaning solar panels needs professional involvement due to the complexity of the system. Usually, the owner has a cleaning and maintenance guide for every panel. Contractors follow these instructions and warnings from the manufacturer. For safety reasons, they turn off the power before cleaning.

They prefer cloudy days because sunny weather evaporates the cleaning water and stains the panels. First, they use a soft brush to remove the dust settled on the panels. Then, the professional uses clean water and a sponge using circular motions to clean the panels gently. They usually avoid harsh detergents, chemicals, or abrasive materials like steel wool because they might leave scratches and affect the efficiency of the system.

Professionals sometimes use a water hose in the garden to spray water on the panels. This ensures a uniform cleaning. They clean the panel with a dry and soft cloth to ensure no settling of any minerals that can cause damage to the panels. They turn the power back on when the unit is completely dry.

Average Solar Panel Maintenance Cost (with Price Factors)

Solar Panel Inspection Cost

The average cost of an annual inspection of your rooftop solar panels is typically $150 to $300. After the inspection, the technician might suggest replacement or repair work if any of the components are broken or not working properly. This could increase the costs up to $750.

A qualified solar maintenance technician inspects your solar panels annually to ensure that your investment is worth it and functions properly. Among other tasks, they focus on:

  • Evaluating overall efficiency and performance using monitoring statistics and onsite records.
  • Carrying out a visual inspection for panel damage, moisture penetration, fractures, and frame corrosion.
  • Inspecting mounting system 1 for fixing points, framework, and module clamps for security and integrity, where accessible.
  • Inspecting cabling for measuring voltage levels and inverters for any damage.
  • Inspecting generation meter to check function and meter display.
  • Inspecting junction 2 boxes for tightness of connections, water accumulation, and integrity of seals.
  • Ensuring correct general operation of inverters, cable connections, and display functionality.
  • Inspecting rigidity and alignment of the framing system.

Solar Panel Repair Cost

The most typical problems found by professionals include:

ProblemPotential repair/solutionAverage cost
CorrosionReplace all severely oxidized metal parts$150-$350
Loose wiringFix loose wiring by cutting through the soft silicone to reach the back of the cellsRe-solder the cells with bad connectionsFix or replace the cuts and padding 3 material$100 per hour
Cracked panelsEither fix the panels by soldering the edges to save the unit,or consider a full replacement based on the the extent of the crack$100-$300
Broken glassWrap the panel surface with a transparent laminating film,or fix it with a silicone encapsulantIn some cases, the broken glass may require replacement$20-$400
Tree branches obstructing sun exposureRemove or trim the vegetation obstructing the system’s sun exposure$50-$200
Inverter not communicatingReplace the micro inverter/string inverterA micro inverter is very expensive compared to a string inverter$1,000-$2,000
Loose or damaged roof tilesTemporarily remove the solar panels to replace and repair the loose or damaged tiles$100-$500

Solar Panel Replacement Cost

The solar panels often last beyond their expected lifespan of 20 years. Expect new and advanced models to last about 50 years. These need replacement only if:

  • They break beyond repair.
  • They are physically damaged by wind, debris, or other factors.
  • The solar panels show inefficiency and declined energy production.
  • Poor racking or bad weather caused damage.

Solar Panel Maintenace Cost Factors

The following factors may influence the costs of professional solar panel maintenace:

  • Location: most solar panel installations are on the rooftop, but others are on the ground or side of the home. Contractors may require additional hours or extra laborers to ensure proper accessibility and safety.
  • Roof pitch: the steeper your roof, the more time and labor required.
  • Size: a larger array of solar panel systems takes more time for inspection and cleaning to ensure peak performance. Also, some contractors charge a minimum fee for very small arrays.
  • Maintenance agreement: some homeowners have the alternative to bundle a cleaning and maintenance agreement when purchasing the system. Bundling lessens the annual fee.

Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Sprinkler-based Cleaning Systems

This system consists of nozzles positioned every few solar panels. The sprinkler-based systems have an adjustable frequency and independently programmed rinse and wash cycles. They require no tools, and the panel cleaning happens just by gravity. Once the system is installed and programmed, it does not need any attention except the infrequent refilling of the soap extract and replacing the water filters.

The system is designed to be maintained at a relatively low cost, ensuring that the solar panels are cleaned regularly for optimum solar generation. A one-time installation cost eliminates an ongoing labor cost incurred for manual cleaning of the solar panels. Expect to pay about $2,260 for a sprinkler-based solar cleaning system for around 50 panels.

Cleaning Robots

Solar panel cleaning robots possess the capacity to wash your panels daily, mostly without the use of water. These usually run on solar energy as each robot has its own solar panel.

Cleaning robots use microfiber brushes to wipe off dirt and dust from the solar panels. They use a battery and a photovoltaic panel for energy storage, which allows them to clean during the night. And, the positioning of the panels beneath the rails ensures that they are cleaned by the robots themselves.

The automated cleaning system does not need the installation of water tanks, water pipes, or electrical cables to charge or power the robot since it is energy-independent. Expect to pay a price of $0.20  to $0.25 per kW for robotic solar panel cleaning systems. However, the approximate cost of a solar panel cleaning robot is $2,900 for 10 to 99 sets.   

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Those living within a 20-mile radius of the contractor’s location will pay a lower minimum fee than those living farther away.
  • Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels typically come with a 20-year warranty, which ensures that the panels generate at least 80% of the rated power even after 20 years of use. The rule of thumb is that PV solar panels depreciate about 1% every year.
  • If you lease your system, the solar company is responsible for repairs and regular maintenance. If you own your system, you are likely responsible.
  • Freezing weather can be very challenging for your solar panels because they could freeze. Some modern solar thermal heating systems use antifreeze (propylene glycol or ethylene glycol) solutions to work around the temperature issue.
  • If you need to replace the roof, the solar panels need to be professionally removed, or you might opt to do it yourself. Generally, a contractor charges $1,500 for removal and reinstallation. However, this might vary based on a few factors, including the size of the roof, the size of the solar panel, and accessibility to the roof. Also, during the switchover, there will be no generation of solar power.
  • Most of the solar panel systems consist of monitoring equipment either included or bought as an add-on. The monitoring equipment helps you keep an eye on the energy production and usage, informing you whether your system is performing as per expectations.
  • The monitoring equipment has a green light which is always on. If it goes off or begins flashing 4, it is an indication that your system has stopped working and needs inspection and possibly repair. Monitoring of solar panels also involves accessing figures, data, and reports obtained from downloading information from an online portal on your computer.

TIPS FOR BUYING YOUR SOLAR POWER SYSTEM.

Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.

Buying solar tips: Solar quotes online

Recommendations

Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

Length of manufacturer’s warranty

Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.

Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.

Solar panel certifications

This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.

Decide on the type of panels

It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.

It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.

Solar panel mounting

Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system  and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.

Solar inverter efficiency

A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.

Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of  generic type brands.

Get a few solar quotes

It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.

Buy solar power at discount prices

Avoid high pressure sales people

High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.

High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

One of the best buying solar tips is to make sure to use an accredited solar power system installer, certified by the Clean Energy Council.

HOW TO BUY SOLAR PANELS

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How to Buy Solar Panels

Are you thinking about buying a solar panel system but don’t know where to start? You came to the right place!SEI PV Design ManualA Really Great Read

Before we dive in to the specifics of solar panels (a.k.a. PV modules, solar electric panels), let us remind you that energy efficiency and conservation are the best ways to reduce your energy foot print and your electrical bill (see our Energy Efficiency and Your Home article). Please actively explore and incorporate all avenues of efficiency before pursuing a home solar panel system. That being said, solar power is an exciting clean-energy option that is becoming more and more popular. Solar electricity is a fascinating topic. To really feed your curiosity, we highly recommend the book PHOTOVOLTAICS: DESIGN & INSTALL MANUAL.

What shapes, sizes and types do solar panels come in?

Solar panels vary in length and width and are often about 2 inches thick. They are generally about 30 pounds or less, but the larger solar panels can be cumbersome to carry onto the roof. We carry a wide selection of solar panels for home use: framed, foldable, and rollable.

  • Framed solar panels are the industry standards. They are the most cost effective and applicable for most home solar panels applications.
  • Foldable solar panels are lightweight (less than 5 pounds) and can fold up and fit easily in a backpack.
  • Flexible (or rollable) solar panels are also lightweight but bulkier than the foldable panels. Many people use these rollable solar panels on boats because they are durable and can be easily stowed after use.

Generally thin-film laminate type of solar panels (foldable & flexible) are more expensive per watt and require more square footage to produce the same wattage of an equally sized framed module.

What size solar panels do I need for my home and how many?

The number of solar panels you will need depends primarily upon the amount of electricity you are trying to produce and the insolation in your area. Solar insolation can be thought of as the number of hours in the day that the solar panel will produce its rated output. This is not equivalent to the number of daylight hours. Read more about insolation in our How To section and get an idea of the insolation in your area: Solar Insolation Map – USA.

You’ll find solar panels in a variety of wattages. Watts are the main measure of a solar panel, along with nominal voltage. For a rough idea of how many watts of solar panels you will need for your home, start by dividing your electrical usage (in watt-hours per day) by the solar insolation in your area. Bump that number up by 30-50% (to cover system inefficiencies) and you’ll have an idea of the number of watts of solar panels total you will need. If that number is more than 1000 watts, you are talking about $4K to $8K or more for the solar electric system. (Could we take this opportunity to mention the importance of energy efficiency again?!) If you could still use a little help with the math, please give us a call and tell us how much electricity you are trying to produce (in kwh/month or watt-hours/ day) and your location, and we’ll help get you started.

What types of solar panels are there?

Most solar panels can be classified as monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. This is based on the silicon structure that comprises the cell. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Basically a 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel should have the same output as a 100 watt polycrystalline solar panel and a 100 watt amorphous solar panel. The main difference is the amount of area which the solar panel occupies. Because the monocrystalline structure is more efficient than amorphous (and only very slighlty more so than polycrystalline) in turning sunlight into electricity, the amorphous solar panel of the same wattage will be physically larger. By the way, when talking about efficiency of solar panels, keep in mind that solar panel efficiency is still only about 13-18% efficient in turning sunlight into electricity. Often amorphous solar panels are less expensive than the crystalline panels. If space is not an issue, then an amorphous panel could be a great option. Additionally, amorphous solar panels perform better than crystalline solar panels in very hot temperatures and are also slightly more tolerant of partial shading.

Solar Energy for Home Heating & Cooling

Please keep in mind that solar panels produce electricity, and should not be used to produce electricity for heating or cooling sources. If heating is your main issue, be sure to check out Solar Air Heaters and Solar Water Heaters. Solar air heating and solar water heating are examples of solar thermal technologies which produce heat, but not electricity (and are much more cost effective than solar panels). While solar electric panels are not an economically feasible choice to power your air conditioning, a solar panel can power an attic fan that can help reduce the amount of time you use your AC.

Locating your Panels – Very Important!

A key factor in the effective use of solar electricity is proper placement of the solar panels. Make sure to locate the panels where they will receive full sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Be sure that the solar panels will not be shaded by shadows from tree branches, chimneys, other structures, etc. Once again – NO SHADE! You will be mounting the solar panels on the roof, the ground or a pole. For more information on the proper placement solar electric panels, please checkout the How To for Solar Panel Mounting article.

How Long will Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels use the sun’s light to generate electricity. They generate electricity during sunny daylight hours and can be used in a system with batteries so that the electricity can be used at other times as well. Also known as Photovoltaic (PV) modules, solar panels are the main component of a solar electric system. Along with an inverter, mounting system, batteries and Solar Charge Controllers, solar panels can produce electricity to power the energy efficient appliances and lights and appliances in most households. Solar panels themselves generally last over 25 years, and require little maintenance. Many of the first solar panels produced in the 50s are still in use today. Many of the solar panels have a 20 year warranty or more. A common warranty states that the panels will produce at least 80% of their rated power after 20 years.

What else will I Need with a Solar Panel?

In addition to the solar panel mounting hardware, there are additional components that you will need for a safe installation. If you plan on using just one solar panel in a battery based system (an off-grid system), you will need a solar charge controller and overcurrent protection to protect each major component of your system: solar panels, solar charge controller, deep cycle batteries, and inverter. If you plan on using more solar panels in your system, you will also need to safely wire the photovoltaic solar panels together and to the charge controller. An easy and safe way to do this is by using MC (multi contact) connectors. These connectors connect to the cables coming from the solar panel and can be cut in half to expose bare wire. Combiner & pass-through boxes are used to collect the bare ends of the wire from multiple solar panels; then from the combiner box you can run just one set of wires to the solar charge controller. For each series string of solar panels, you will need an appropriate sized breaker.

That’s a lot of components to figure out! If after reading all this you are a little confused but even more excited about solar energy, what’s next? Well, you can read more about solar panel systems. Also, our AltE U offers in-person workshops in Massachusetts and Ohio, as well as free education online videos. If you are considering installing your own solar electric system or installing PV (photovoltaic panels) as a business, be sure to check out our series of three classes beginning with our Basic Photovoltaic and Site Assessment class.

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