Solar panels are a great way to generate clean energy for your home or business. However, over time, they can become covered in lichen, which can reduce their efficiency. Lichen is a combination of fungi and algae that can grow on the surface of your solar panels. It is typically green or black and can be very difficult to remove.
Here is a quick DYI guide on maintaining the efficiency of your solar panels. In this guide, we'll explore the causes of lichen growth on solar panels and, most importantly, how to safely and effectively clean them.
What is Lichen?
Lichen is a type of fungi that can grow on various surfaces, including solar panels. It is typically green or black and can be very difficult to remove. Like algae, lichen can grow on your solar panels if they are exposed to rainwater or dew for an extended period of time. Lichen is very visible as it will make your panels look greenish and mossy if it’s allowed to grow unchecked. While it’s not harmful to the panels, lichen can reduce their efficiency and make them less effective at converting sunlight into energy.
How does Lichen Build up on Solar Panels?
When conditions are supportive (extremely moist environment), fungi and algae develop on the surface of the solar panels. If a fungus surrounds a colony of an alga, a lichen is formed. Lichens are complex organisms characterized by a brown, yellow, silver, or gray color. Sometimes the green color of the alga forming the lichen will show up, especially during wet conditions. Lichens have no leaves, stem, or roots but can still photosynthesize through the chloroplast of the algae, so they’ll spread on the surface of the solar panels, although slowly. They can even absorb water without all these essential parts! Once a combination of algae and lichens has got hold of your solar panels, it can be a bit of a task to remove them.
How does Lichen Affect Solar Panels?
Lichen makes solar panels look unattractive and reduces their efficiency by blocking sunlight from hitting the panel. The build-up of moisture on the panels caused by lichen can also lead to corrosion of the metal parts, which can cause them to malfunction.
The Consequences of Neglect
If you neglect the regular cleaning of your solar panels, lichen can take hold and start growing exponentially. It may only expand by 1 to 2 millimeters each year, but over time, this adds up. To prevent this, you need to remove the algae since without it, lichen cannot form.
The Impact of Lichen
Lichen not only reduces the efficiency of your solar panels but also affects their aesthetic appeal. You might notice white or green spots on the panel's surface, which are a clear indication of lichen growth. These spots can accumulate along the bottom edges, sides, and even across the entire panel, hindering energy production.
Now we will walk you through the process of cleaning lichen off solar panels, step by step. Let's dive in!
How to clean solar panels and remove lichen
1. The Impact of Lichen on Solar Panels:
Before we get into the cleaning process, it's crucial to understand the impact of lichen on your solar panels. Lichen is a stubborn growth that can reduce the efficiency of your panels. It's important to address this issue promptly to maintain the optimum performance of your solar energy system.
2. Gather Your Cleaning Tools:
To effectively clean lichen from your solar panels, you'll need a few essential tools. These include a soft-bristle brush or a specialized solar panel cleaning brush, a hose with adjustable pressure, isopropanol alcohol (99.9%) for tough lichen, an extension pole with an angle joint, and a water-fed pole with a specialized brush head. Having these tools ready will make the cleaning process more efficient.
3. Choose the Right Time for Cleaning:
Solar panels should be cleaned when they are cool and not under direct sunlight. Cleaning during cooler hours of the day or on overcast days can help prevent water spots and make the process more effective.
4. The Cleaning Process:
Start from the top of the solar panel and work your way down.
Use the soft-bristle brush or specialized cleaning brush to gently scrub the surface.
Apply water using the hose to soften lichen and algae for easier removal.
For stubborn lichen, use isopropanol alcohol to kill off the algae and prevent regrowth.
Reach difficult spots with the extension pole and angle joint.
For hard-to-reach areas, utilize the water-fed pole with the specialized brush head.
5. Preventative Maintenance:
Preventative maintenance is key to avoiding lichen buildup. Set up a cleaning schedule to ensure regular maintenance of your solar panels. Cleaning them on a monthly basis can help prevent lichen and algae from taking hold.
6. The Role of Soft Water Systems:
Using a soft water system is essential in ensuring that your panels remain free from water spots. This system helps maintain the cleanliness and effectiveness of your panels, leaving them spotless and performing at their best.
7. What to Avoid:
While cleaning your solar panels, it's important to avoid using abrasive materials, as they can remove the anti-glare coating film on the panels. This could potentially lead to further issues down the line. It's best to stick to the recommended cleaning tools and methods.
8. The Science Behind Lichen Formation:
Understanding how lichen forms is crucial in preventing its growth on your solar panels. Lichen is a symbiotic association between fungus and algae. It starts with algae growth on the panels, providing a foundation for lichen to form. Regular cleaning prevents algae growth, which, in turn, inhibits lichen formation.
9. The Benefits of Regular Maintenance:
Regular maintenance not only keeps your solar panels free from lichen but also ensures their longevity and maximum efficiency. The clean panels will continue to generate energy at their highest capacity, saving you money on your energy bills.
In conclusion, cleaning lichen off solar panels is a vital aspect of maintaining the efficiency of your solar energy system. Regular cleaning, the right tools, and a soft water system are your best allies in the battle against lichen. Last but not the least having the Bird proofing solar panels will allow you not to go through the hard time for cleaning the solar panels.