The Step-By-Step Cleaning Process
Solar panels are a fantastic invention and have helped many people supplement their power usage. Smaller models for RVs have been introduced in recent years and these are especially useful for people who live in their vehicles year-round. However, if the panels get too dirty, they can lose some of their efficiency. This is why it’s a good idea to know how to clean RV solar panels.
Solar panels are designed to be pretty hardy, so they can withstand most outdoor conditions. But sometimes RVers have to park in areas where the panels will be exposed to heavy quantities of dust, pollen, tree sap, bird droppings, etc. Some of these substances are easy to remove with a quick brush, but others require more work.
Below, we’ll cover a step-by-step process for cleaning off your RV solar panels. They’ll be as good as new after this treatment!
Step-By-Step Cleaning Process
Choose a Cool Time to Clean
First things first, you need to pick the proper time to clean your solar panels. These are designed to absorb light and heat, so they can get pretty hot during the peak of the day. If you’re ready to clean your panels, try to do it early in the morning or during a cloudy day.
Hover your hand over the surface of the panel to determine if it’s safe to touch. If you apply cold water to a sizzling panel, this could create hot steam that will harm you or the RV. The panel can be warm, but it shouldn’t be too hot.
Access the Panels
Next up, you need a way to access the solar panels. Most RV solar panels are attached to the roof, but others may be portable models that can be arranged on the ground. In some cases, you may be able to take them off the roof, but you’ll usually have to find a way to climb up and clean them.
If you have a ladder on the RV or an easy way to access the roof, feel free to do this. It can be a bit risky though, especially once you get everything wet. Make sure you have shoes with good traction and someone to look out for you.
A safer option is to use a stepladder to access the panels. Just move this around as much as necessary so you can reach all the parts of the panels.
Perform a Surface Sweep First
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to clean RV solar panels, let’s start with the easy stuff first. Most panels are smooth and can be cleaned by rainfall. Any dirt or pollen that is covering the surface should be fairly loose and easy to remove (unless you’re dealing with a serious buildup).
Take a cloth or towel and gently sweep off the surface of the panels. There’s no need to dampen it yet because that part will come later. This will remove the majority of the debris and it will give you a cleaner surface to work with as you tackle the bigger issues.
Only Wash the Top, Not the Wiring
Remember, as you clean RV solar panels, you should only try to clean the exterior portion. The outer surface of these panels is designed to withstand the wear and tear of the outdoors, but the internal wiring is more delicate.
As you clean, don’t try to pry up any panels or get underneath the surface. This could cause major problems and might damage the panels permanently. Just stick to a surface-level cleaning and you should be fine.
Focus on Problem Areas First
Now we can get into the part that requires some elbow grease. Once the loose dirt has been removed, you may notice that there is dried bird poop or sap on the solar panels. These substances are difficult to remove because they harden and stick to the surface.
You can tackle them with warm water and a soft cloth. If you directly scrub on these problem areas, you should be able to loosen the majority of the substance. Sometimes it sticks firm though. In these cases, you can use a bit of dish soap, rubbing alcohol, or diluted window cleaner (only one at a time though!). Scrub until these stains are completely gone.
Spray Panels With a Garden Hose
Now it’s time to move on to the general cleaning. A standard garden hose is the best tool to use. Just spray the panels with low or medium-powered streams. Never use a pressure washer to clean solar panels. These are much too powerful and can get into the interior wiring.
Apply a Minimal Amount of Soap
Now you can apply your cleaner of choice. Some soaps will leave a film behind, so only use a tiny amount. Standard dish soap will work fine for most solar panels, but you can also use a specialized cleaner like Winsol Solar Brite Solar Panel Cleaning Soap.
If you use a powerful cleaner, make sure you dilute it according to the instructions. Mix up your soap and water ahead of time and spray it on the panels with a spray bottle.
Use a Soft Cloth or Sponge: Nothing Abrasive
Next up, wipe down the panels with a soft cloth or a dishwashing sponge. Never use anything abrasive to treat your solar panels. This includes steel wool, stiff-bristled brushes, or stiff sponges. If the panels become scratched, they will be weak to further damage.
Go over the entire surface with your soft cloth and wipe the water and soap over the panels.
Finish Up With a Rinse of De-Ionized Water
Now it’s time to wash the soap away and finish up! Give the RV another quick spray with the garden hose; then finish up with a rinse of de-ionized water. This will prevent any spotting or hard water stains from forming after the cleaning.
After this is done, you can wipe the panels off with a clean towel, or just let them air-dry in the open. Either approach works just fine!
Get Professional Help if Necessary
If your solar panels are acting strange or you have stains that just won’t budge, you may need to call in some professional help. Consult your owner’s manual for special instructions and contact information.
Solar Panel Maintenance
Most people only need to clean their solar panels a couple of times a year. These items were designed to be low-maintenance so you don’t need to worry about them too much.
Estimating Your RV or Van Solar Needs
However, there are a few things you can do to provide a bit of extra protection. For example, you can do things like:
- Use an RV cover.
- Avoid parking under trees.
- Rinse the panels when you wash the rest of the RV.
These are simple habits, but they will protect your solar panels and the rest of your RV! Knowing how to clean RV solar panels is handy, but you can save yourself a lot of work by taking preventative measures.