Solar energy is not as carefree as it might sound at first. The panels do not require too much care, but you will get the most out of your investment with just a little work.
Clean Your Solar Panels
Your energy panels need to be kept clean. Any dust, debris or snow on the panels prevents the cells from absorbing as much sun as they can. You will notice a drastic reduction in energy if you don't keep them as clean as possible.
During the winter, be sure to brush the snow off the panels after every snowfall. You may need to scrape off any ice that forms, as well. This can be done with the same type of scraper you use on your car's windshield. An old credit or bank card will work, too. Do not use water to remove snow or ice, as it will freeze.
Throughout the year, you will need to remove any debris that might accumulate on the panels. This can be done with the hose. Simply spray the solar panels down. This will get rid of dust and leaves in most cases.
Four times a year, you should get up there and really scrub the solar panels with a soft squeegee. You can use a mild soap, as well, if there is any residue on the glass. Nearby trees may leave sap on the panels and this is easier to remove with dish soap and warm water. Don't worry about getting the panels wet. The electronic parts are sealed inside and cannot get wet.
The back of the squeegee should have a rubber blade. Use this to scrape the water off the panels, starting at the top. Removing the water and leaving the panels dry prevents more dust from sticking and can be useful in preventing streaks.
Track the Energy Output
Make sure you know exactly how much energy your solar energy system is putting out at any given moment. It will take some time, but soon you will know what to expect from a sunny day vs. a cloudy one.
Don't Forget the Batteries
If you are storing energy rather than feeding it back into the grid, you will have a battery bank to hold the power. It's important to keep your batteries well maintained so they will perform at maximum capacity.
The batteries are essential for using electricity at night or during storms. You should visually inspect them on a regular basis, at least once a week. All batteries need to be in good condition. You should replace batteries that have leaks.
Corroded batteries may be cleaned with an abrasive mixture of one quart water with a quarter cup of baking soda stirred in. Avoid getting this mixture inside the batteries. You should disconnect the batteries before cleaning to avoid a shock. Remove the negative cable first and then put it back on first, as well.
You can also check the battery levels. It's not uncommon for battery fluid levels to drop over time. Add distilled water to ensure that the liquid is about an eighth of an inch over the lead plates.
Be careful around the battery bank. There will be hydrogen gas coming from the battery vents and this is quite explosive. A spark can set it off, so do not smoke in the area.
Keeping your solar panels in great condition ensures that you will get the maximum amount of energy from them. While there is still a decline over the years, you should be able to get more time from the panels if you look after them. Care for both panels and batteries and you'll be blessed with a renewable energy source for decades.