5 Solar Panel Bushfire Care & Maintenance Tips
Australia has a rich natural ecosystem but it’s also one of the driest continents on earth. Each year, many areas experience bushfires which impact people, homes and wildlife. Recently, these fires have covered a much larger area, with millions of hectares burnt.
During the cleanup process, there are many different things to consider, from removal of debris and cleaning out water systems, through to removing smoke odours from clothing and furniture.
Because solar panels are more exposed to the elements, it’s highly likely smoke and ash buildup will impact their efficiency. Solar panels only work at peak efficiency when they’re clean and can fully absorb the sun’s rays.
There are a few different things you can do to check and clean your panels, although we always recommend talking to a professional if the system has not been regularly maintained, or appears damaged in any way.
1. Remove any shading
Damaged or overgrown trees need to be removed or trimmed if they shade your panels. Trees may bend or break due to weather or fire events, and it’s important to make sure they aren’t impacting your solar. A small amount of shade on even one cell can lead to reduction in that panel’s power by a third at least, which is replicated by all of the other panels in that string, or electrical group.
Track the shading over different times of day and different seasons to make sure the panels have direct sunlight for as long as possible during daylight hours. If nearby trees have burnt, it’s also important to monitor regrowth over the following months.
2. Wash with a hose
A good wash with some soapy water and a hose can remove any buildup and residue from smoke and ash. We recommend not going onto your roof to clean without appropriate safety height equipment. Cleaning the panels first thing in the morning, when they’re covered in dew, can make the task easier but beware, as the roof can be more slippery. Avoid cleaning the panels during the hottest parts of the day as the water will evaporate much more rapidly in the heat and there is a small risk of the panels cracking from thermal contractions. Late afternoons are probably the best time to clean the panels.
- DON’T use a pressure washer.
- DO clean with a soft broom if necessary.
- DO use appropriate height safety equipment if you are going onto the roof.
3. Keep birds away
During bushfires, it’s not unusual for large numbers of birds and animals to be displaced from their natural habitat. Sometimes, your roof may be the location they choose to rest. Birds may fly over the panels, or choose to nest under them at night time. Unfortunately, large amounts of bird faeces can cause just as much efficiency loss as shade can. Be careful not to do anything that may attract more birds near your panels.
If you want to offer food and water to birds, make sure there’s ample resting space in a location away from the roofed area, so the birds are less likely to nest near or on the solar panels.
4. Check frayed or exposed parts on your inverter
Although good quality inverter brands are made to stand up to Australian weather conditions, they still have limitations, and you want to ensure your inverter is working every day.
Although you should never touch or change any of the settings on your inverter, you can still look for any obvious issues. If you see a red light during the day, case damage or hear loud buzzing or clicking, contact your solar installer for advice and maintenance.
5. Monitor with Solar Analytics
One of the leading monitoring systems on the market, Solar Analytics integrates with every type of solar system. Being able to track your solar usage over time means you can see any loss in efficiency due to smoke, ash or other problems. Checking your monitoring app regularly means you can identify and nip any problems in the bud, or at least be aware of issues caused by factors such as smoke, and prepare for any increases in your next power bill.
Live panels can be deadly if they’re in faulty condition. Not willing to take the risk? We always recommend using a licensed professional to do a thorough clean, check and maintenance visit every two years.