Get More From Your Solar Panels - Keep Them Clean!
Right After Install
Today, I went down to my RV to check out how everything was doing after winterizing it a few weeks ago and was VERY surprised that I was only producing a few watts of power from my solar charging system. Oh great, now what?! Well, thankfully, after taking a look on the roof it became obvious that all the panels were covered in pine needles, dirt and debris! A while back, I experienced a total failure of my original panels. It was quite a shock to see the newest ones producing so little power! Believe me, it was a relief to find out the problem was so simple. Clean your panels! Why is it so important??
Solar panels rely on the sun (Duh.) to make electricity to charge your batteries. If the sunlight can't get to the panel surface they don't produce squat. That's obvious. What isn't so obvious is that a small amount of dirt will make a BIG difference in your electrical production. Shade is the enemy, whether it comes from trees, poles, helicopters or dirt on your panels it's bad. Also, abrasion from dirt and debris can permanently scratch the surface finish of your panels and degrade their performance forever. Depending upon what the surface of your panels is made from (or covered with) use an appropriate cleaner. Mine are a plastic, semi-flexible material, so once washed with plain water to get rid of the "bigger stuff," I use a non-abrasive cleaner (usually a little soap in water) and a microfiber cloth to finish the cleaning. So far, works great with no scratches, abrasions or discoloration.
Solar power can be a wonderful thing! It's quiet, unlike generators. It's free to use (though not to purchase nor install) and can really extend your time without needing to connect to shore power. As a "boondocker" I truly love my solar charging system! With just a tiny bit of maintenance, most solar panels and their associate charging systems should give you years of trouble-free service. When they work they are, essentially, invisible to the user. When they don't.....stress and angst begin. Well, at least they do when I'm involved!
Be nice to your solar panels and they will be nice to you.