What are the maintenance requirements and cost for a residential solar energy system?
For maintenance purposes, the fact that home solar panels have no moving parts is a tremendous advantage. Most companies recommend washing the array's panels several times a year to prevent the build up of dirt and dust that will lower energy production.
In dusty areas with low rainfall (exactly the areas with the most peak sun hours per day), accumulated dirt can lower power generation by as much as 5% per day.
Always ask your installer for advice. Most will suggest that homeowners get in the habit of visually inspecting the panels, especially after major weather events and in areas prone to hail and high winds. An inspection from the ground, aided by binoculars is usually sufficient to spot damage in need of attention.
Depending on the climate and amount of rainfall in your area, the installer may recommend using a non-abrasive cleaning agent and a window washing scrubber on a pole to remove dirt. Generally nothing more than a garden hose is required for rinsing.
Most installation companies also provide a year to three years of maintenance visits as part of the original contract with options for extensions. The technician will verify that the system's electrical connections are intact and working efficiently.
This inspection should also include voltage readings performed on the individual panels to confirm maximum performance and to spot problems not visible to the naked eye from the ground, like problems with the seals around the individual panel frames.
It's also a good idea for the homeowner to record data from the system inverter and / or meter and to investigate if power production tapers off over time or drops suddenly.
Do-it-yourself home solar owners will be faced with pricing individual components in the event of failure or damage, and of hiring a repairman if the required work is beyond their ability or if they cannot accurately diagnose the source of problem.
On systems where batteries are present, expect to replace the batteries after 10 to fifteen years. Otherwise, all other maintenance recommendations are identical.
Because home solar arrays have no moving parts and because the inverter and batteries (if present), are usually internal to the home, operational problems and maintenance costs for a home solar power system are minimal. The greatest threats to the roof panels are from high winds or hail.
Frankly, the most complicated part is simply deciding where to buy a home solar array.