Cleaning Solar Panels With Vinegar – A Good Idea?
When the panels are dirty, their performance is impeded dramatically, as the dirt blocks the photovoltaic cells from capturing sunlight. Vinegar is one of the cleaning agents you can use, but is it safe and does it work?
Yes, vinegar is excellent for cleaning your solar panels. It contains acetic acid that can break up your panels’ dirt, grime, grease, and mineral deposits. Vinegar is a better alternative to soap and harsher chemicals that may contain abrasives that can damage your panels. More so, it is safe for human beings and pets.
Let’s learn more about using vinegar as a cleaning agent for solar panels and how safe it is.
Yes, vinegar is safe for cleaning solar panels. However, not all types of vinegar can be used to clean your panels. In this regard, we are referring to cleaning vinegar or domestic vinegar.
Domestic vinegar contains about 5–8% acetic acid by volume and is deemed safe to use as a cleaning agent for your panels.
Commercial vinegar contains a higher percentage of acetic acid, so it should be avoided as it can damage your solar panels.
Best Vinegar mixture for cleaning solar panels
It is essential to use deionized water rather than tap water when creating your solar panel cleaning formula, as it has no mineral content and will not leave any streaks or marks behind.
Combine ¼ cup vinegar and 2 cups de-ionized water.
Note: Some prefer adding a small amount of detergent to their vinegar mixture to give it more cleaning power. We do not recommend this as the detergent can leave behind streaks that can interfere with the performance of your solar panels.
Can vinegar cause discolorations on solar panels?
No. Diluted white cleaning vinegar has about 5–8% acetic acid, and it will not cause discolorations on the panels.
Vinegar will also not leave behind a thin film like soap, which can attract more dirt and grime build-up.
How to clean solar panels with vinegar
Before you clean your solar panels, make sure you refer to your manufacturer’s instructions. Better still, you can hire a professional to do the cleaning for you and regularly maintain your panels.
Below are simple DIY steps to clean your panels with vinegar.
- Read and understand your manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure you disconnect the panels before you start the cleaning process to avoid damaging their sensitive wiring system.
- Inspect the panels for any damages and repair them if necessary before cleaning.
- Remove large debris like leaves and limbs from the panel’s surface and use a fine bristle brush to remove loose dirt or rubble from the surface.
- Hose off the panel’s surface with a moderate spray using deionized water.
- Dilute your vinegar by mixing 2 cups of deionized water with ¼ cup of vinegar and transfer the mixture to a spray bottle.
- Spray the diluted vinegar on the surface of the panel and wipe the surface using a soft, non-abrasive sponge. Make sure you get rid of all the dust and rubble.
- Hose the panels again using a moderate spray.
- Use a squeegee to eliminate any excess moisture to avoid leaving water marks on the surface. This is especially important if you use tap water.
- Use a soft, lint-free cloth to dry the solar panel surface to avoid scratching it.
- Leave the panels to dry for about 30 to 60 minutes, then reconnect them to the power.
Following the above steps will ensure you get rid of all the accumulated dirt, grime, and debris from the panel’s surface. Cleaning your panels frequently keeps them at optimal performance and makes your next cleaning session easier.
Can vinegar damage the solar panel components?
Solar panels are a significant investment for many homeowners, so you should be careful with the cleaning agents you use. One wrong move and you end up damaging your panels.
Domestic or white cleaning vinegar is completely safe for cleaning solar panels and will not damage any components or degrade the panels’ coating.
Vinegar has a small concentration of acetic acid. When diluted to the correct ratio, it provides enough cleaning power to remove dirt, debris, and grime from the solar panel surfaces. Vinegar is not aggressive and will not damage the panels.
Can I use soap or chemicals to clean my solar panels?
Generally, most people clean their solar panels using mild soaps and chemicals and hose down the dirt and soapy water with a low-pressure hose.
Avoid using high-pressure hoses, as they can leave scratches on the panels’ surfaces, thus interfering with their performance.
So, is it safe to use soap and chemicals to clean your panels? Let’s find out.
Soap and water
A mixture of soapy detergents and water indeed has more cleaning power. However, we do not recommend this, as the soap-based detergents can leave streaks and marks on the panels’ surfaces. These streaks reduce the performance of the panels.
Soap also tends to leave a thin film on the panel’s surface, thus impeding the sun-absorbing potential of the panels.
Steer away from using harsh chemicals to clean your solar panels. These chemicals are unnecessary and can damage the photovoltaic cells of the panels, affecting their overall power output.
Is vinegar better than other cleaning agents?
Yes, vinegar is a better alternative to detergents and commercial cleaning agents. Compared to other cleaning products, vinegar has a lower risk of damaging your panels. More so, the acetic acid will effectively clean the panels and reduce the accumulation of dirt and grime in the future.
How often should I clean my solar panels?
Before you start cleaning your solar panels, it is essential to check your manufacturer’s instructions or seek advice from a professional solar panel cleaning service to devise a proper schedule.
Ideally, solar panels should be cleaned every six months to a year to maintain optimal productivity. However, the cleaning frequency will depend on the climate where you live and the level of dirt and grime accumulation.
What happens if I do not clean my solar PV panels?
If you do not clean your solar panels, dirt, grease, grime, and debris will accumulate and affect their performance.
The primary reason for installing a solar system is to save money on electricity. So why would you spend a fortune installing the panels if you are not going to maintain your panels and keep your electricity bills low?
Solar panels require little maintenance and are pretty easy to clean. Keeping them clean ensures that you have enough power to power your home all year until the panels expire.
Author: Ben McInerney is a renewable energy enthusiast with the goal of helping more Australians understand solar systems to make the best choice before they purchase. Having an accredited solar installer in the family helps give Ben access to the correct information, which allows him to break it down and make it easily understandable to the average homeowner.