Understanding Commercial Solar Panel Cleaning and Maintenance


by Eric Lam - Published 4/28/2024


For businesses investing in solar energy, maintaining optimal performance of solar panels is crucial. Commercial solar panel cleaning and maintenance are essential practices that ensure the longevity and efficiency of these solar systems.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the best practices, methods, and considerations involved in commercial solar panel maintenance, helping businesses maximize their energy production and return on investment.

Importance of Solar Panel Maintenance

Solar panels are generally low-maintenance, but like any other piece of equipment, they require regular upkeep to function optimally. Dust, debris, leaves, and bird droppings can accumulate on the panels and significantly reduce their efficiency. Regular cleaning and maintenance ensure that the panels operate at peak efficiency, extend their lifespan, and reduce the likelihood of breakdowns and costly repairs.

Cleaning Commercial Solar Panels

Frequency of Cleaning

The frequency of cleaning depends on several factors such as the location of the installation, local weather conditions, and the angle of panel installation. In areas with high dust or pollen, more frequent cleaning might be necessary. Generally, it is recommended to clean solar panels bi-annually to maintain optimal performance, but quarterly inspections should be conducted to determine if additional cleaning is needed.

Cleaning Techniques

  1. Manual Cleaning: This involves workers using brushes and squeegees to scrub the panels gently. It is essential to use soft brushes and mild soaps to avoid scratching the panels or damaging the anti-reflective coating.
  2. Automated Cleaning Systems: For larger installations, automated systems like robotic cleaners can be used. These systems reduce labor costs and can maintain consistency in cleaning.
  3. Water Usage: It is advisable to use deionized water for cleaning to prevent mineral deposits from forming on the panels after they dry.

Best Practices

  • Perform cleaning during the early morning or late evening to avoid sudden temperature changes that could crack the solar panels.
  • Ensure that all cleaning equipment is free of abrasive materials.
  • Use minimal pressure when cleaning to avoid damage to the panels.

Maintenance of Solar Panels

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are crucial to detect and address issues such as:

  • Frayed or damaged wires
  • Loose or corroded connections
  • Structural integrity of mounts and frames
  • Condition of inverters and other electrical components

Preventive Maintenance

Implementing a schedule for preventive maintenance helps in identifying potential issues before they lead to system failure. Preventive maintenance includes:

  • Checking and tightening of electrical connections
  • Inspecting the structural support system for stability and corrosion
  • Testing system output to ensure panels and inverters are performing within expected parameters

Monitoring System Performance

Most commercial solar systems are equipped with monitoring systems that provide real-time data on the system’s performance. This data helps in identifying drops in efficiency that could indicate the need for maintenance or cleaning.

Tools and Equipment for Maintenance

  1. Cleaning Tools: Brushes, squeegees, and cleaning robots.
  2. Inspection Tools: Thermal cameras to detect hot spots, which can indicate cell failure.
  3. Safety Gear: Harnesses and ropes for technicians working on elevated surfaces.

Challenges in Solar Panel Maintenance


Accessibility is a significant challenge in maintaining solar panels, particularly for commercial installations that may cover extensive areas or are situated on structures like high rooftops or remote locations. The difficulty in reaching these panels not only complicates routine cleaning and maintenance tasks but also increases the safety risks for maintenance personnel.

To manage these challenges, businesses often need to invest in specialized equipment such as aerial lifts or drones for inspections and maintenance work. Additionally, the use of professional cleaning and maintenance services that have the necessary tools and safety training becomes essential.

These factors contribute to higher operational costs but are crucial for maintaining the system's efficiency and the safety of the maintenance operations.

Weather Conditions

Weather conditions play a critical role in the maintenance scheduling and procedures for solar panels. For example, heavy snowfall can cover panels, significantly decreasing their output and requiring prompt removal of the snow to restore energy production. Similarly, hail can cause physical damage to panels, necessitating inspections and potential repairs following severe weather events.

Extreme temperatures, both high and low, can also impact the performance of solar panels and the physical integrity of their components. High temperatures can lead to overheating and reduced efficiency, while very low temperatures might affect the electrical connections and increase the brittleness of materials, leading to cracks. Planning maintenance activities around weather conditions and having a responsive strategy to address weather-related impacts are crucial for maintaining uninterrupted and efficient solar power generation.

Environmental Regulations

Environmental regulations concerning the maintenance of solar panels can vary significantly by region and have a profound impact on the practices adopted by businesses.

Regulations may restrict the amount of water used for cleaning panels, dictate the treatment and disposal of wastewater, or establish guidelines for the use of chemicals and soaps to prevent environmental contamination.

Compliance with these regulations is critical not only to avoid legal penalties but also to promote sustainable practices that align with the eco-friendly image of solar energy. Businesses must stay informed about local environmental laws and potentially invest in water recycling systems or eco-friendly cleaning agents that comply with regulatory requirements.

This compliance can sometimes increase the complexity and cost of maintenance operations but is vital for responsible environmental stewardship and maintaining public trust in solar energy initiatives.


Proper cleaning and maintenance of commercial solar panels are integral to ensuring their efficiency and longevity. By understanding and implementing best practices in solar panel maintenance, businesses can ensure that their solar investment is secure and productive. Regular inspections, adherence to cleaning schedules, and the use of appropriate tools and techniques are essential for maintaining the health of solar panels and supporting sustainable business practices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1: How often should commercial solar panels be cleaned to maintain optimal performance?

Regular cleaning schedules can vary, but it is generally recommended to clean commercial solar panels bi-annually. However, the frequency should be increased in areas prone to high dust, pollen, or bird droppings, where quarterly inspections are advisable to assess if more frequent cleaning is necessary.

Q2: What is the best method to clean commercial solar panels without causing damage?

The safest method for cleaning commercial solar panels involves using soft brushes or automated robotic cleaners with deionized water to prevent mineral deposits. It is crucial to avoid abrasive materials and harsh chemicals, which can scratch the panels and degrade the protective coatings.

Q3: What are the safety considerations for solar panel maintenance personnel?

Safety considerations for maintenance personnel include proper training in handling electrical systems and working at heights. It's also essential to use appropriate safety gear such as harnesses, ropes, and helmets, especially when panels are installed in high or hard-to-reach locations.

Q4: How can adverse weather conditions affect solar panel maintenance?

Adverse weather conditions like heavy snow, hail, and extreme temperatures can necessitate special maintenance protocols. For example, snow must be carefully removed to avoid scratching the panels, and inspections after hail storms are critical to check for and repair any physical damage to the panels.

Q5: What should businesses know about environmental regulations related to solar panel cleaning?

Businesses must understand local regulations regarding water use and the disposal of wastewater from cleaning solar panels. These might include restrictions on the types of cleaning agents used and the implementation of water recycling systems to mitigate environmental impact. Compliance with these regulations ensures legal operation and supports sustainable practices.