You’ve made the decision to go for a solar panel system on your home or business, and often the first question that arises is, how do you maintain and operate your system? Are there any interventions required on the part of the system owner to keep the system operating as efficiently as possible? These are some of the topics we will cover in this blog post.
Rooftop Solar for business and homes are an extremely low-risk investment when using good quality equipment (especially the panels and inverter) and a reputable system installer. Solar Panel Warranties usually last more than 20 years, while Solar Inverter Warranties can range from anywhere between 5-20 years. Solar Panels are extremely durable and designed to resist extreme weather conditions including hail, snow, and corrosive environments such as coastal areas. The weather condition that can most affect your Solar panels is ironically, heat. The hotter the Solar panels are, the more inefficient they are at converting Sunlight to electrical energy. Hence it is important to properly ventilate the Solar panels by providing at least a few inches of clearance between the roof and the solar panels using the appropriate mounting structures. When installed properly, the efficiency loss is minimal (less than 1-2%) and does not damage your panels in any way. Since there are no moving parts in the system, reliability and replacement is not an issue since there is no wear and tear which we typically associated with Diesel Generators, motors and other electrical equipment.
What Maintenance needs to be carried out for my Solar Plant?
As a system owner, it is important to check your data monitoring portal or your inverter display and observe the trends in energy production. For Indian conditions, a 1 kW Solar plant should generate roughly between 3-5 units (kWh) of Electrical Energy on a sunny day. If it is producing lower than this, you may need to check the condition of the Solar panels. Typically dust and dirt buildup occurs over time on the Solar panels which has an effect of anywhere between 2-10% on energy production depending on the level of soiling. The good news is that a light rain shower is all it takes to wash away the light debris such as leaves, dirt, dust and animal/ bird droppings. In most cases, an occasional shower is good enough to keep your panels clean. However, if you live in conditions where rainfall is low or panels get dirty due to the environment over a long period of time, you can request a cleaning for your Solar panels.
For obvious reasons, it is not recommended to venture out on your roof to clean up your Solar Panels (as much as we love to DIY most of the time!). Apart from the safety aspect, any accidental damage caused during cleaning would not be covered under a warranty. Since the panels have an anti-reflective coating you must also be careful not to wash your panels with harsh chemicals as they may damage the anti-reflective coating on your solar panels and cause a decrease in the reflective efficiency of the panels. In case you still feel like doing the cleaning yourself, use a low-pressure water hose to rinse the panels and for persistent dirt/ grime, you can use a sponge or soft bristle brush with a telescopic arm with some gentle soap and warm water. Be careful when doing this during the day time as the panels will be very hot to touch, especially in Indian conditions.
In terms of the inverter, when it is located properly there should be no major issues. Do check the exterior of the enclosure for dust build up, particularly over the fans and filters. Every once in a while, the filters may need to be swapped out especially in dusty outdoor areas. If the inverter is not operational, typically an error code will be displayed on the inverter or on the data monitoring system. Contact your system installer for assistance along with this information and they will sort it out in coordination with the manufacturer. If your system is an off-grid or hybrid system with battery backup, consult the battery manufacturers guidelines which vary widely based on the technology. Most newer technologies (Lithium ion, AGM etc.) are maintenance free, however older systems employing flooded lead-acid batteries will need to be topped up with distilled water every 2-3 months depending on usage.
The Importance of Good Design and Equipment Selection
As seen above, Rooftop Solar plants are extremely straightforward and easy to maintain. However, the key to worry-free maintenance is ensuring to go with a trusted system integrator who will choose system components which are more reliable over the long term. All things considered, the lifetime of a Solar plant can be anywhere between 25-30 years, with the inverter being the only component that may need to be replaced during the life of the system. Considering this, saving a few percent up front on the installation by compromising on the quality of equipment or the quality of installer does not make sense from a long-term perspective. At Swan Energy, we use industry best practices and learnings gained from almost a decade of experience in the Rooftop Solar industry to ensure that each system is optimized in order to generate maximum value for our customers over the system lifetime, while ensuring a safe and code-compliant installation.
For more information and to learn more about how Solar can power your home or business, do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.