You asked MotorHome:
In reading the article on installing a Solar Power system in the August issue (“Watt do You Need?”), many of the processes were well covered. However, the issue of maintenance was not covered; it is otherwise a well-written article that covers many issues of selection and installation of the system. My motorhome roof seems to be a magnet for road film, tree sap, bird droppings, etc., that would affect the efficiency of a roof-mounted system. How would you measure the system efficiency and know when to clean the panels, and what do you use to clean the panels? I would assume harsh cleaning chemicals would damage the solar panels, so mild cleaning solutions would be used. Are there other routine maintenance items to be considered?
Pete Garrett | Huntsville, Alabama
Our Expert’s Reply:
Solar panels are generally durable and fairly resistant to cleaning chemicals, but you only want to use products that are just strong enough to get the cleaning job done. Mild household cleaners, such as Simple Green, should be adequate for most crud. Effectiveness of the panels depends on intensity of sunlight, which varies with the season and time of day, as well as with cloud cover and haze, etc. These factors make it difficult to compare the difference between clean and dirty. You could simply check the panels when you wash the motorhome, or after being bombarded with environmental elements. Devices to measure efficiency are available, but it’s much cheaper to just keep the panels clean. You should also check mounting bracket security, and ensure that any holes that go into the roof are properly sealed.