This winter, you might be thinking about applying de-icing rock salt to the ground or lagging your water pipes, but have you given much thought to your solar panels?
As these handy devices work by absorbing the sun’s light and converting it to electrical energy, they must be kept clean at all times – particularly if you live by the coast. Salt water and salty air can settle on the panel’s collectors making them less efficient, so try to clean them on a weekly basis. Soft wash rags and biodegradable soap should do the trick, but never use abrasive products as these could scratch the surface and effect the way they function.
If your panels have an inverter display, make sure the green light is glowing brightly. If it’s flashing or goes out completely, there might be a problem with the way the panels are converting energy. A heavy downpour of rain or strong winds could have left unwanted salt deposits on the photo-voltaic cells and these might need wiping away. If you want to take things a step further, write down what your solar system has produced each day and take action if you notice a sudden dip in performance.
Remember solar panels are often up high, so take extra care when making repairs or making them sparkle with soap. Always use the right safety equipment and make sure you have a friend or relative to hold the ladder if needed. If snow falls, it too can stop the sun’s rays from penetrating the panel, so it’s a good idea to keep a soft rake nearby so you can brush the white stuff off.
If you’re planning to buy solar panels for the first time, keep in mind that salt water gets into the air and makes it corrosive to metal. For this reason, you should think about buying a system that has an anti-frost and water-repellent coating. There are many designs out there that contain hydrophobic and self-cleaning properties and these are often resistant to salt air. They don’t need to be cleaned as often and are ideal for those living by the sea.
There are many benefits to solar power, including low energy bills and reduced emissions, but they must be kept in a tip-top condition for optimum efficiency.