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I'm getting solar panels put on my 1710 sf home. Does anyone have them? Any advice? Opinions?

I want to take advantage of the rebates before they are gone, stop electric bill increases, and increase the value of my home. I am not getting battery backup since I live in town and outages are short and rare. It was also almost double the cost.
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I've had solar for 5+ years.

Depending on your utility, you might have a minimum payment for connecting to the grid. If so, you should size your system so you get about 90% from solar.

Do you get any shade? If no, then a single inverter for the whole system is cheaper. But if you get partial shading some times of the day or by season then you want micro inverters. These are one small inverter per panel (or maybe 2 of them). With a single inverter shade to any panel reduces the output for all panels.

Have them show you pictures of how they will run all the cables and make sure you are OK with it and get this in the quote.

Mike
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I'm considering Tesla Solar for the house I just bought. I would include their Powerwall battery systems as power outages are quite real around here.

If nothing else you might cost them out as a basis for comparison.

https://www.tesla.com/solarpanels
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I am surprised that their power shingles arent being more widely adopted. Looks like a great concept
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I am surprised that their power shingles arent being more widely adopted. Looks like a great concept

I'm not surprised.

Last I checked it was >2x more expensive for their power shingles compared to the typical rails and panels style installation.

And for most people the minor improvement in aesthetics isn't worth stretching the payback period to >2x longer (or out to never)
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I installed solar panels a few years ago.

Depending on where you are and how things work with your utility it may or may not be a good financial decision.
In some (most?) states, the electric utility has to do "net metering".
First thing you should do is find out "Would I fall under net metering in my location?" And "How does net metering work for my location/utility?"
And one way to find that out is probably to ask a few people in your area that have solar. Or your utility company may also have a powerpoint presentation on their website about how net metering works.

Once you know how the net metering works, you can start looking at what the financial benefits would be for various scenarios.

You can model how many kwh you will get for a given array size - I find https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ to be very useful for that. Many people say to use 10% for system losses instead of 14% that is the default. (I also think that 10% is a better guesstimate for that.) I assume you're planning on a roof mount (most people do) - so you'll have to change the Array Type to that.

I'd look at what roof penetrations I have on my roof where I'd be installing the array and see which ones can be moved. For example, plumbing vents can often have elbows put in within the attic so that they come out on the north side of the roof. (Sometimes two pairs of elbows to get it to follow the pitch of the roof then return to vertical) Moving vents is something you may want to hire a plumber to do. Any solar installer is going to hire that out anyway, so if they hire someone and supervise their work, they're going to include that subcontractor's cost plus some to cover themselves.

I'm guessing you're planning to hire out the installation of the panels,etc. (most people do - mine was a DIY project)
I would get multiple estimates - and look at what the reputations of the various companies are. And I would probably go with a small local company that *doesn't* advertise on the radio/TV constantly as opposed to the big companies that very often are just subcontracting out to the small local company anyhow (and adding in their own margin for advertising and profit in the process)
Good prices are going to be under $3 per DC Watt. (really good will be under $2.50/DC Watt). If you have more complex needs or a very small array it may be more. Some things scale very well with DC wattage (like panel cost, mounting costs, labor) Other things are more of a fixed cost, like costs for upgrading an electrical panel, or the cost of getting labor to/from the site.)

As you're learning about this you'll often see the terms "kilowatt" "watt", and "kilowatt-hour".
You should learn what the difference is between kilowatt-hour (kwh) and kilowatt (kw).
And make sure you're using those terms correctly so you're comparing apples to apples.
A 8-kilowatt DC array may 40kwh during an average day. And that array may use an inverter with a max of 7600W (7.6kW).

I wouldn't put any value on a "production guarantee" that any solar company will give you. All that means is they're going to estimate how much power you should produce in the first year, then "guarantee" about 85% of that amount. And the guarantee says it is "per year" - but any excess from the previous year they apply to future years. So if you have great production the first year, and really really bad weather or a small system failure the 2nd year, you'll find out the guarantee didn't get you any money. The first year's production plus the (lower) 2nd year is still more than they guaranteed for the first 2 years.

Lastly - Do NOT do a leased system or a power production agreement.
If the salesman is trying to sell you one when you get an estimate, you probably want a different company. Every time I hear about one it's about how it was a bad deal for the homeowner. Or about how the lien on the house because of the system is making it more difficult to sell the place. In theory there could be a PPA or lease that was good for the homeowner. But that isn't what happens with the companies that offer/sell them. They're always couched in "Look at the lower cost per month compared to your electric bill", but examining the contracts closely shows they're not as good as buying a system outright, even if you pay for the system with a loan.
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This is the company I'm using. They are fairly local and there are a lot of homes around who have used them. Several had no problem speaking to me about how they love their new solar system.

https://purelightpower.com/
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Foo1bar,
It's an all-in-one install. They cover everything needed from permits, panel installations, contacting the electric company, etc. Could I install the panels myself? Maybe, but big installations are not my forte. Yes, it's a roof installation. I live almost downtown and I think only roof installs are allowed in the historic district.

It's not a lease. It's a purchase. I plan to put all the rebates toward the loan amount and pay off the balance within a couple of years. The payments are no more than I pay in electric now. I asked the power company about this solar company and they know them well. I don't anticipate a large increase in electric usage in the next few years. It's only my husband, myself and one roommate. No kids, and we all turn off lights and electronics when leaving the room (thank you Google Home). I also have some low energy bulbs, timers, and other methods to keep the power usage low. We have gas heat and gas water heaters. An addition was put on in 2010 that created a roof over the original roof, so although the attic is insulated, more insulation is not necessary and it stays toasty in winter. I'd use more in summer with a swamp cooler, fans and one portable air conditioner (bedroom).

Pacific Power will raise rates by 1.6% in 2021. Not huge, but I expect another increase in 2022. "Company’s first general rate filing in seven years and 2021 power costs forecast propose a 1.6 percent overall increase along with noteworthy investments in renewables, grid reliability, and customer service enhancements".

Sue1anne
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Several had no problem speaking to me about how they love their new solar system.
That is good. And so are the reviews I see of them on solarreviews

But I know people who have thought their new system was "great" - but the financials were not nearly as good as they could have been if they had purchased the system instead of leasing it.

The "$0 out of pocket" being touted on their website makes me immediately suspicious of them.
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It's not a lease. It's a purchase. I plan to put all the rebates toward the loan amount and pay off the balance within a couple of years.

I'd carefully review the loan terms (possibly with a lawyer).
Make sure there are no prepayment penalties.
And I would look at what other options you have for a loan. There are some credit unions that have specific products for solar loans. And there's also HEL and HELOC loans that may work for you. (I might refi first at the current low rates since a HEL or HELOC adds a step of having to get it subordinated on a refi)

I usually figure electric rates will go up - but so does inflation. So when I'm looking at the financials, I don't look at the electric rate increases, nor do I look at the time-value-of-money. Those are small impacts to the financial benefit - and since they act in opposite directions they mostly cancel each other out IMO. So the net effect is together they're an IMO 1% or 2% uncertainty on the analysis. And there's already a few percent uncertainty because the weather from year to year is going to vary your output by a few percent.
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We had solar panels installed on our roof yesterday. Inspection is set for Thursday, and then we wait for the electric company to put in the meter and energize the system. We are taking advantage of a sprint in the next town over, so there is significant savings.

We opted to fill the rear roof which will give us 143% of our average electricity usage. We will actually get a check back each month under a program in MA for the excess, but we wanted to ensure that we had enough for any future needs such as an electric vehicle, and it made sense to just fill the roof.

Payback on the system using last year's electric usage for the estimate is 5.8 years, which we think is pretty good. That said, it has been much hotter this year, and so our usage is up this year and we think payback will actually be faster.

So far, the process has been very smooth, and the folks we know in our town who used the same installer a few years ago when our town did a sprint have been very pleased with the results.

Our house is 21 years old, so they recommended that we redo the roof in the back that would be under the panels, so we did that. We also had to move 2 vents which was fairly easy since we have a walk-up attic with easy access. We also put in conduits from the attic to the basement when the house was built for future use, and the electrician was able to use those to run his wires.
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Sue1anne,

I see you live in Medford - lovely little town - and hope you are managing with the fires and heat. I am near Portland.

We (my wife and I) installed a 4500kW system 4 years ago (about $13K in total cost) - used a private company and Solar World panels. We generate about 20% more than we use, so our only expense from PGE is the monthly $12 administrative fee. Have been very happy with the performance.

Make sure you understand the financial incentives. The rebate from the Oregon Energy Trust is good because it goes directly against the system expense. And, the federal energy tax credit is good if your AGI is high enough. However, if you do NOT have significant AGI or your income is primarily from self-employment, the tax credit is not much help. In 2016, we received a $6,000 tax credit from the State of Oregon (in addition to the Oregon Energy Trust and the Feds) and have been unable to use it for the reasons mentioned above.

As mentioned in another Solar panel post, I clean them 3-4x per year to remove pollen, air pollution, etc. These things reduce electric generation by as much as 20%. Luckily, I can reach them from a ladder and the roof pitch is not steep. Others around here are not so lucky.

I have recorded the readings every day for 4 years including the weather that day.

Good Luck - we are glad we did it!
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Nothingissimple:

Nice to hear from a local.

I'm not self-employed and make a decent income. I'll have a few medical deductions due to surgery this year. It's not too late to change my taxes for a few months if you think it would help. No dependents, so not many deductions. My husband and I file married-separate, so I do pay the higher tax rate.

I have two large roofs, which will be ample space for 26 panels. No trees and all day sunshine, which if you're familiar with Medford you would understand. We do get a lot of smoke from fires and living in a "bowl" occasionally though.

Thanks for the cleaning tips. Never would have crossed my mind. I have a balcony that makes it easy to reach both rooftops.

PureLight has an app I can use on my phone to monitor usage. Nothing is hooked up yet, of course, but it's nice to be able to monitor daily. I'll have to see if it shows weather for each day. I'm a list maker so I'd have no trouble tracking daily if I thought it might give me insight.

Sue1anne
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2gifts,
I only bought the house a year ago. We have a newer addition over the garage of two bedrooms and a bath. It's mostly unfinished space - bare white walls, texture (too much actually), cheap carpet that needs replaced, etc. So if we had to move and change a few things now is a good time to do it.

Thanks for the input,
Sue1anne
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Foo1bar,
As much as I'd like to refinance at these low rates I can't. I just bought the house a year ago and it doesn't make sense yet. No money for a HELOC, although I had one in the past and that was a great way to pay for some needed repairs that involved excavation for leaking foundation.

Sue1anne
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Sue1anne,

Wow - 26 panels? What is the theoretical generation capacity? Our system's theoretical capacity (14 panels @ 325 watts each) is 4500 watts. Our panels face due south with no obstructions from sunrise to sunset. Our system has been generating about 5500 kW hours each year and our usage is around 4500 kW hours (my wife and I are pretty conservative energy users).

I ask this because our agreement with PGE calls for an annual "netting" out of the generation vs usage every March 20. They buy back any excess electrical generation and allocate it to low income families. Our credit is about 10% of the cost of electricity if we were buying it.

I am not trying to dissuade you from changing your mind, but you might want to make sure the system capacity is right for your needs. Generating a huge excess of power means you are paying for alot more than you need right now. In our case, I expect to buy an electric car in 5-8 years, so the excess power will be handy then. But, right now, not so much.

Sounds like your tax situation will work. We are retired and I work as many angles as I can to have no tax liability each year. The federal tax credit has allowed me to do a couple of Roth conversions.

By the way, the 20 yr panel guarantee is an industry standard - not unique to Purelight. The industry standard allows for a 5% deterioration/yr. Check with them about the inverter they will install. The industry standard, as far as I know, is SMA (Sammy Boy) which are guaranteed for 10 yrs.

Good Luck
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had them since last december...love them...get optimizers with them...enjoy the tax credit.
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The industry standard, as far as I know, is SMA (Sammy Boy) which are guaranteed for 10 yrs.
SMA SunnyBoy (not Sammy) inverters are a popular brand.
They aren't "the industry standard", but they are one of a few main brands that are commonly used.
Some other common brands are Fronius (also string inverters like SunnyBoy), Enphase (microinverters), and Solaredge (per-panel optimizers+inverter)


They buy back any excess electrical generation and allocate it to low income families.
I think it should be pointed out that they do this because of requirement by Oregon law, not because of some altruism by PG&E.
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As mentioned in another Solar panel post, I clean them 3-4x per year to remove pollen, air pollution, etc.

How do you do this exactly? I hadn't considered that we would need to be cleaning the panels, and am trying to figure out the logistics given that they are up on the roof with little space to walk around them. We have a 34-panel array, so it is fairly large.

Can you give some specifics on the cleaning you do?
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I haven't read all the replies, but we've had this discussion before. I'll hit the highlights, which likely others have mentioned already. Yes, we've had solar for at least 8 or 9 years (I'd have to look it up). We live in Phoenix.

First, use a company that either is licensed for roofing, or uses licensed roofers. You want the people poking holes in your roof to know how to fix them properly.

The company you use should be able to take your previous usage patterns (often available from your utility if you don't save your statements), and project how long it will be to "pay back" with solar generation. In our case it was 6 years. We passed that a while ago, and they are just printing money now.

Buy, do not lease. Leasing is (in general) a terrible deal. Could be some exceptions out there, but universally I have read it's a worse deal.

Likely you won't get a credit from the utility if you have batteries. I know SRP would only consider a grid-tie system. Also, because they don't want you energizing their lines if there is a power failure, your system almost certainly will shut down. They can't have you energizing their lines while the linemen are working on a problem! So if you imagine continued power during blackouts, that isn't going to happen. You'll be in the dark just like your neighbors until whatever problem is fixed.

There are sun-tracking systems, but that is an added complexity that will be more prone to failure. So I would avoid it. Position your panels facing south (as much as possible). Likely a good company will know the optimum angle and orientation of the panels that is possible for your specific home orientation and roof pitch (i.e. flat, gabled, etc).

Plan on going up to clean them a few times a year. Doesn't have to be always, but at least locally I notice a thin layer of sticky dust that builds up (i.e. it is dust, not grime, but it doesn't rinse off...just like the outside or your windows likely need to be cleaned sometimes). It's not difficult. Dish soap or car soap (like you were washing your car) is perfectly adequate. Get a long-pole squeegie to make it easier.

Our inverter is in the garage. It's about the size of your electric meter. I would recommend having the inverter protected from the elements. I believe a lot of them can be in the rain, but why? Stick it under shelter and it will last longer. A good company should discuss those options with you ahead of time so you're not surprised when they start running wires to the location they chose.

They should offer a guarantee of some sort. I believe our is that the system will continue to produce 80% of original capacity after 30 years (and I think the inverter is for 25 years, but again I would have to look it up). Solar panels degrade over time, so you want to be sure what they're offering. Ours is a 5kW array, and so after 30 years it should still be able to produce 4.6kW or they have to come out and replace panels.

1poorguy (needs to get up there and clean them...back has healed enough I could probably do it safely again)
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Can you give some specifics on the cleaning you do?

Not addressed to me, but I don't sweat the cleaning. It not like I will see any streaks (unlike the dining window!!). You just want the get the layer of grime off to improve the efficiency of the panels.

What I do is as follows:

1. get a ladder, bucket, hose, soap (usually dish soap, but if you have car soap that works too), and a long brush (like a pool brush) and/or squeegie.
2. put the ladder up, and take the rest of the supplies up the ladder individually.
3. fill the bucket (on the roof!) with water and soap.
4. spray the panels down, and at the top of the panels slowly pour the soapy water and let gravity bring the water down over the panels.
5. if you have a pool brush, just give them a light scrub. If not you can use the squeegie. (I've been meaning to get a pool brush.)
6. run the hose over the panels again, and squeegie dry
7. take everything back down and put away.

You could also use one of those hose-attached car cleaners that has soap and a brush together. 1poorlady got one before I broke my back, but I should evaluate it for this purpose. If it will work, no need to buy the pool brush.

Don't try to crawl on the panels, or any such thing. Use long-reach tools, often available at a pool supply store. As I said, I keep procrastinating but I need to buy a pool brush of some sort if the car brush won't work. I just have a squeegie right now.
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Nothingissimple,
I just checked the CAD drawing, and yes, it is 26 panels across 2 roofs. 4 panels are on the east and the rest are on the west. Total roof area is 2219 sf, and the total solar area will be 470 sf, which is 21.2% of the roof. The system is 8.19kW, and the panels are 315W. We have Pacific Power and not PGE, but I'm sure how they distribute the excess usage is very similar.

Sue1anne
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Just a different thought & I am guessing you checked. What do solar panels do in terms of your homeowners insurance ?
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Just a different thought & I am guessing you checked. What do solar panels do in terms of your homeowners insurance ?

My insurance agent asked how much it cost / how much it'd cost to replace and increased the insurance coverage (fire, etc) by that much.
No change to liability coverage because it doesn't really change that risk.
The overall change in premium was very small.
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What I do is as follows:

1. get a ladder, bucket, hose, soap (usually dish soap, but if you have car soap that works too), and a long brush (like a pool brush) and/or squeegie.
2. put the ladder up, and take the rest of the supplies up the ladder individually.
3. fill the bucket (on the roof!) with water and soap.
4. spray the panels down, and at the top of the panels slowly pour the soapy water and let gravity bring the water down over the panels.
5. if you have a pool brush, just give them a light scrub. If not you can use the squeegie. (I've been meaning to get a pool brush.)
6. run the hose over the panels again, and squeegie dry
7. take everything back down and put away.


I assume you do not have a steeply pitched roof. I can't walk on mine. Just to do all that work while standing on a ladder would not only be difficult but there are also safety concerns. It's one reason I have not installed them.

PSU
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It is pitched. I don't know how steep it is (it's average for around here). Yes, I wouldn't want to do that from a ladder, or on a really steep roof. At that point, hire a fully-insured pro.

We have the added feature that our back patio roof is flat. I usually stand up-roof of that. If I were to fall and roll I would roll onto the patio roof. I try to make a point of not venturing beyond where the patio roof would catch me. The only exception is to clean the dryer vent...it's not "protected" by the patio roof, and the bug screen catches lint so I need to clean it about once per year. I need to get up there for that too.

Depending on your situation you could also install them on the ground. That was an option for us as well, but you do have to bury the 400VDC line from the panels rather deep to meet code.
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Just a different thought & I am guessing you checked. What do solar panels do in terms of your homeowners insurance ?

You know me too well :-)

I called the insurance company as the panels were being installed. It makes a very slight difference in our premium. They had a couple of questions that I could answer based on the info being in the contract, and the change is going in.

But that's a good question, and I note that no one from the solar company thought to mention that this was a call that needed to be made.
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At that point, hire a fully-insured pro.

That affects the cost/benefit analysis.

PSU
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Foo1bar,
I never thought about the insurance change. Good point and I've made a note to contact my agent after the installation.

Sue1anne
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1poorguy,
Thank you for the overview of previous discussions. It was really helpful.

Sue1anne
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You're welcome
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Yes. It would extend your pay-back time. I estimate our panels produce about $100/mo (average). That's $1200 per year. If you hired a guy 2x per year for (say $100 each time), that would reduce your benefit to "only" a grand (if you were in my situation; your utility rates are likely different, the amount of generation potential in your region almost certainly is different, the rebates and tax credits are different, etc).

I think solar in general is a great idea for most people, but they do need to run those numbers. And they need to be in the home long enough for it to pay for itself. If you plan to move in 2 years, don't bother getting solar (IMHO). If you plan to be there for 20 years, it should pay-off for you
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Yes. It would extend your pay-back time. I estimate our panels produce about $100/mo (average). That's $1200 per year. If you hired a guy 2x per year for (say $100 each time), that would reduce your benefit to "only" a grand (if you were in my situation; your utility rates are likely different, the amount of generation potential in your region almost certainly is different, the rebates and tax credits are different, etc).

I think you underestimated the cost of hiring a person to clean the panels.

PSU
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I think you underestimated the cost of hiring a person to clean the panels.


How much sun light gathering capacity do they lose over a year? I know there are a lot of factors geographically, mid west desert versus east coast and tree sap etc...
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For a 15 minute job?? Well, I suppose it's possible. I've never priced it since I do DIY.
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For a 15 minute job?? Well, I suppose it's possible. I've never priced it since I do DIY.

It costs me $125 just for my pool company to drive to my house.

PSU
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How much sun light gathering capacity do they lose over a year? I know there are a lot of factors geographically, mid west desert versus east coast and tree sap etc...

I just asked a friend. He says the losses are minor and the rain does a good job keeping them clean. The panels are coated in environmentally friendly PFAS.

He still doesn't like rooftop installations. He says he doesn't like the idea of drilling 50 holes into the roof. His installation is ground based.

PSU
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He still doesn't like rooftop installations. He says he doesn't like the idea of drilling 50 holes into the roof. His installation is ground based.

I think putting panels on the roof is a bad idea as well ^^^ holes??
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For a 15 minute job?? Well, I suppose it's possible. I've never priced it since I do DIY.

I don't know anyone in the trades who will come out to do a 15 minute job and not charge at least a 2 hour minimum, and around here, hourly rates are at least $85 per hour, so that's $170 just to walk through the door.. DH is a General Contractor, and he charges a 4 hour minimum for those sorts of things. But for folks who don't do anything, they are always willing to pay that to get even the smallest thing done.

There was one customer who has since moved who would call him to change the battery in her remote garage opener (the one on the house), and would sometimes have one or two other things to be done since she was paying for 4 hours anyway. She stopped calling when they moved an hour away.

You'd be surprised how many people prefer to just write a check.
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He says he doesn't like the idea of drilling 50 holes into the roof.

There are, by solar institute estimate about 3 million homes with rooftop solar, so I’d guess the “holes in roofs” issue has been pretty well solved.

I think you underestimated the cost of hiring a person to clean the panels.

Maybe, but I have all my gutters cleaned for $100. Three guys come in a truck, set a ladder up, climb on the roof, clean them all out. Take the $100 (I give another $20 tip, woo hoo) and drive away. And no, they’re not ethnic, they just do it fast (and well.)

I assume you do not have a steeply pitched roof. I can't walk on mine. Just to do all that work while standing on a ladder would not only be difficult but there are also safety concerns. It's one reason I have not installed them.

Winded OUTDOOR. Comes in a green bottle which you hook up to your hose. Turn the little knob so it dispenses along with the stream of water, wait a minute for the goo to PacMan all the crap on the window, turn the knob the other way and rinse it off. My last house had windows not reachable except by ladder, this stuff took off heavy pollen, bird poo, crusted on spider webs, everything. Miracle product, no ladder necessary.
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Howdy,

Sorry for the delayed reply - this has been a busy post.

What is your current annual kW usage (you can get that from your monthly statements)? Our usage is about 4000 kW (my wife and I). Just curious. Our panels are 325 watts.

Regarding the cleaning - it is simply and does not take much time - for our set-up anyway. I use dish soap and a soft nylon brush on a 15-18' extension pole (Home Depot has them). I rinse the panels, dip the brush in the soap and run it across the panels a couple of times, and then rinse the soap off. I either get on a ladder from the ground or go up on the roof which is a very shallow pitch (5/12). Any steeper pitch or second story and I would not do it. Cleanings takes me about 15-20 minutes.

I clean them because I am obsessive about getting as much energy for my buck - even an extra 10%. If the panels look a bit coated over, I will rinse them off. As I said, I do it about 4x a year.

One other reason I check the daily output is to make sure all of the panels are working properly. Yes, they are guaranteed, but that does not mean they don't fail. You only know they fail if you watch the output on a regular basis. We have 2 banks of panels. if one bank is much different than the other, it is because (other than late day shade) one panels is failing. So far, all is good. :)

Hope this helps..
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Winded OUTDOOR.

WINDEX outdoor

Sorry for the auto-correct.
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Hence my comment about licensed roofers. If they aren't licensed roofers, move on to another option.

When we installed our panels only one company we approached proudly said they were licensed roofers. We went with them.

As for cleaning, it doesn't rain enough around here. So I try to do it maybe twice a year. Jan-Feb is our rainy season, and it's at least adequate at rinsing the panels. But we do have a sticky dust that you need soap and a light scrub to get off. Maybe that's unique to this area?

One huge advantage to a ground installation is that you don't have to climb up to clean the panels.
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Goofyhoofy,
Thanks for the Windex recommendation. I noticed Zep has one (available at Lowe's and Home Depot) and I really like their products. Hose application and rinse is very appealing.

Sue1anne
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I'm in central Texas and neither I nor any of my neighbors who also own solar panels clean them. From what I've read in the past, it really isn't necessary save for some specific situations such as if you're in an area where avian fecal bombardment is a prodigious or dust storms are common.
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Just a small caution. We were totally off the grid overseas for 10 years near the equator. When we put in solar panels, local kids thought they were a dandy target for their slingshots. We hurriedly moved the panels to the other side of the roof, out of sight.
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