self cleaning solar panels?

wintersolarwintersolar Registered Users Posts: 4
I was reading an article about why solar is considered a bit of a 'loser', on how many installations put them up then forget them and don't even check how badly the delivered amperages get worse and worse over time... due to dust buildup and similar things.

This got me thinking, is there any reason I couldn't make a self cleaning solar panel? (assuming such a thing doesn't already exist) Especially where I live in the north with rain and snow, i'm wondering if I could have something like a windshield wiper from a bus (they get pretty large) set up to clean something not so conveniently located up on a post or on a roof... or if the wiping would damage the surface/require it to be put under glass for this to work?

Has this been done or is it stupid for reasons i'm not familiar with?


  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    this has been discussed before and many thought of the squeegee type thing and many have opted for a wide broom type deal. put them on the extender polls like for painting and you got it.
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,750 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    This is an argument for a vertical mount in areas with lots of snow. Keeps almost everything off.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • Organic FarmerOrganic Farmer Solar Expert Posts: 128 ✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    My Solar Panels are mounted in a manner that allows me to adjust their angles with each season.
    Summer - 21.7 degrees from horizontal
    Spring / Autumn - 46.7 degrees from horizontal
    Winter - 68.5 degrees from horizontal

    As you can see during the winter they are far closer to vertical than horizontal. Also in their winter position, the bottom of each panel is suspended about 5 foot above grade, to allow enough room for the accumulated snow bank as the snow slides off each panel.

    I should think that repeated rains will generally keep any dust off them. This area has never had a drought, so dry dusty summers are unheard of.
  • nyarelathodepnyarelathodep Solar Expert Posts: 99 ✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    That's handy info for me, farmer. I live in maine as well, and built my own array to be adjustable inclination. This is my first season with them (winter), and they are set to 67°... but i wasn't sure about the other degrees going forward into spring and summer, so that is handy to know. The array is adjustable through any of those ranges, fortunately.
  • 2manytoyz2manytoyz Solar Expert Posts: 373 ✭✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    I use an RV brush, available at Walmart, and can attach it to a painter's pole.



    Piece o' cake. My oldest panels are 6 years old and still exceed the manufacturer's current rating.

    Not sure a squeegee would work on dried bird poop. The RV brush bristles get it done though.
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    If I spayed my panels with my house water hose I would have hard water deposites form that no brush would ever get off. I don't think I have ever cleaned mine except to take a shop broom and knock as much snow as I can off to get the melting started (can't reach high enough even with broom) I have read a couple of threads that say when they cleaned dust it wasn't that impressive of an improvement. I do think blobs of bird poop and stuff could cause issues. The birds love sitting on my racking, over watching my garden but so far I have been lucky or got enough rain as I haven't had to clean my panels. I would be careful with the water I used though cause mine would cause spots that would just get bigger the more you washed.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,319 admin
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    You can get small Resin based water softener cartridge for ~$20 and get ~90 gallons of deionized water. Use to rinse the panels after washing.

    And, it appears you can regenerate it too:

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • 2manytoyz2manytoyz Solar Expert Posts: 373 ✭✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    Years ago, I bought a DI filter setup for rinsing my automobiles after washing. It really did work as advertised. The downside was the very low pressure water coming out of the nozzle. Nowhere near the standard garden hose pressure/volume. YMMV. If this one wasn't it, it looked VERY similar:

    I did see self cleaning windows at a beachside restaurant years ago. Nothing more than a PVC pipe along the tops of the windows with small holes drilled in them. Once every x hours the valve would open and rinse the salt spray from the windows. Pretty effective in that application.
  • ramlouiramloui Solar Expert Posts: 109 ✭✭
    Re: self cleaning solar panels?

    Years ago, when printing pictures the old fashion way, in a darkroom, we would use a wetting agent to ensure that the films or prints dried without any water stains. This is available at any grocery store for use in dishwashers: Jet Dry. It won't help solving hard water issues, but at least, the water would shed quickly right off the panels.

    Off-grid cabin in northern Quebec: 6 x 250 W Conergy panels, FM80, 4 x 6V CR430 in series (24V nominal), Magnum MS4024-PAE
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