While a solar energy system is a significant financial investment, proper maintenance and service can help your solar panels deliver reliable, clean power for more than 25 years.
Because solar panels are typically installed on a roof, involve high electrical currents, have advanced technologies, and use expensive pieces of equipment, getting your solar power system serviced is something that's best left to the professionals.
In this article, we’ll look at the service and care that your solar power system might need, the cost of that service, how to tell if you need solar maintenance, the common causes of solar power system damage, and why you should consider protecting yourself with a solar maintenance plan.
How Often Do Solar Power Systems Need Maintenance?
With no moving parts, solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems are very reliable, and with proper maintenance and service, they can provide trouble-free performance for 25+ years. That said, it's good to do a yearly check of your solar power to make sure everything is working correctly, get your panels cleaned for optimum performance, and catch issues before they become a more serious problem.
One of the most frequent preventative maintenance needs is a good panel cleaning, as you don't want debris to obstruct the sun's rays and reduce your power output. Rain generally keeps panels clean, but if the rain hasn't washed away the dirt from your panels in a while (especially during the dry season) you'll need to have them cleaned manually. A thorough solar cleaning once per year should be enough to ensure maximum performance, but more frequent solar cleanings may be required in certain locations.
The other piece of equipment in your solar pv power system that needs more regular maintenance are solar inverters, since they’re the most complex component of the system, and also the most critical. Inverters typically have a shorter lifespan than panels, so it’s good to do a yearly check of all equipment to catch any potential issues before they become larger problems.
How Can I Tell If My Solar System Needs Maintenance?
If you suspect that your solar installation needs maintenance, a good first step is to check its energy output and see if the system is generating the expected amount of power.
A solar production tracker like the Palmetto App makes it easy to spot inconsistencies, because you can compare energy production to similar times from previous years to see if there’s a change. Start by determining how much power your home was receiving in the same month last year, and then compare this figure with the current production.
Reviewing your electricity bill is another way to get more insight. If there's a significant change in the amount of power you’re using from the grid, it may be time to contact a solar service company.
Some manufacturers also have an indicator light on their solar equipment. When it shows green, your system is working fine, but if it starts flashing or changes color, there might be a problem.
Common Causes of Solar Power System Damage
While it's true that solar panels don't cause a lot of headaches over repair and maintenance, unexpected events do sometimes occur. Some common causes of solar power damage include severe weather, arc faults, and ground faults.
Severe Weather or Freak Accidents
Solar panels are protected by a sturdy layer of tempered glass that helps them endure severe impacts. Per manufacturers' specifications, many solar panels can withstand up to 1-inch hail falling at 50 miles per hour, which is beyond what is seen from most storms. That said, accidents and extreme weather conditions do sometimes occur, and this can lead to damage that requires solar panel maintenance.
Arc faults occur when there is extreme electrical discharge between conductors. This can produce heat that might damage wires and cause other issues with electrical equipment.
Fortunately, most solar inverters come with arc fault protection, so if your inverter senses a possible arc fault, it kicks into a fault mode and shuts down the system before more damage can occur. The display will then indicate the issue, allowing you to correct it.
If this shutdown happens repeatedly, there may be a more significant issue causing the arc faults that needs to be diagnosed and repaired.
Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI)
Solar power systems are also susceptible to ground fault circuit interruption, where electricity flows to the ground through an unintended path. The main culprits here tend to be broken panels, damaged wires (caused by pesky animals like squirrels), and moisture in the junction box.
GFCI will trigger your inverter to switch off, and the display will alert you about this issue so you can contact a solar service provider to investigate.
Can I Do My Own Solar Service And Maintenance?
You can potentially do some light maintenance of your solar power, like getting rid of dirt from your panels with a hose, but most maintenance is better left to professionals. Climbing on the roof can be dangerous, and you don't want to injure yourself. Trained professionals come equipped with safety gear to take care of your investment and also keep themselves safe.
Furthermore, the high electrical energy that flows through a solar power system can be dangerous, and advanced technologies need careful handling. Expensive equipment is best looked after by an expert who knows what is needed to ensure you don't waste money buying unnecessary or incompatible components.
If you notice any abnormalities in your power output, it may be time to contact a solar service expert. They'll come to check the system and fix any problems that they find.
Roof Mount vs Ground Mount Solar Maintenance
The only difference between roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar panels when it comes to maintenance is ease of access - it’s a lot easier to work on panels when they’re on the ground, compared to climbing up on the roof to perform any service. Cleaning ground mount solar panels is pretty straightforward, as you can usually access them with a garden hose to give them a gentle rinse.
How Much Does Solar Power Maintenance Cost?
It's tricky to provide a 'one-size-fits-all' cost for solar maintenance, because the answer depends on variables like the system design, equipment manufacturer, maintenance contract, inverter type, panel condition, roof slant, house height, location, and the surrounding environment.
That said, expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $750 or more for a typical solar maintenance or service visit.
If you need panels cleaned, some solar maintenance companies will charge a flat rate for the visit, while others charge per panel, typically between $15 and $35 per panel.
For an annual solar inspection, the price is typically in the $150 to $300 range. If the inspection reveals the need to replace or repair damaged or underperforming components like inverters, wiring, or panels, the cost for those services will usually be quoted at the end of the inspection, and can be fixed for an additional charge.
The good news is, a plan like Palmetto Protect can help you save money on solar servicing and maintenance needs, since it offers discounts from top-rated local service providers, and even has options that include solar panel cleaning and annual inspections.
What Is An Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Package?
Solar is a significant investment, just like your home or car. And just like you want protection against any issues with your home or car, an Operation and Maintenance (O&M) package can provide peace of mind against any problems that might pop up with your solar power system.
A solar operations and maintenance package goes above and beyond the coverage that your warranty provides. With a car, the warranty might cover a broken engine, but the service package covers regular maintenance needs like oil changes and tire rotations. With solar, the warranty might cover a broken inverter, but the service package provides additional benefits and guarantees like performance monitoring, energy recommendations, and discounts on system upgrades.
Best of all, while your regular maintenance is being performed, the O&M team can look over everything and spot potential issues that need to be addressed. If an issue is discovered, the plan can also help cover some of the cost of any service and maintenance that’s needed to get back to full power.
Benefits of a Solar Operations and Maintenance Package
With a robust solar O&M plan, you'll enjoy a wide range of benefits. When searching for a suitable package that will help prevent headaches, be sure you choose one that includes features like:
Real-Time Performance Monitoring
While it may be possible to check your energy output through the inverter, solar operations and maintenance plans usually offer online apps or a physical home monitoring system to enable you to analyze your solar power system's electrical production and spot abnormalities without having to directly access the equipment. Solar O&M providers can even review your performance data remotely and proactively alert you if they spot potential issues.
With most solar operations and maintenance plans, the provider will perform a physical visit at least once per year to look over the entire system, identify any issues, and make sure your system is working at peak performance.
Rodents, birds, and other pests like to nest wherever they feel safe, and solar panels tend to be among the safe havens they seek out. However, the activity of these animals can damage the solar panel's components. A solar service package can help remove any existing pest issues, and install critter guards to help prevent pest-related issues in the future, providing comprehensive protection against pest damage to your solar equipment.
While rain can keep your panels relatively clean, your electricity output goes down significantly if the atmosphere is filled with dust, pollen, and other small particles that coat your panels and block the sun’s rays. If that happens, your solar maintenance company can clean your panels to remove the layers of dirt and debris that are blocking the sun.
Electrical System Checks
A good solar service package helps maintain the electrical components that link your home to your solar panels. This benefit usually includes ongoing monitoring of your electrical parts like wires and connectors to ensure you're getting all the available power.
Solar Inverter Maintenance
Solar inverters are one of the most complicated components in a solar power system, and typically their lifespan is not as long as solar panels, so they need additional monitoring and maintenance to make sure you're not left with an underperforming system. A well-maintained inverter will make sure the conversion from direct current (DC) energy into usable electricity is optimized and uninterrupted.
Getting Service From Your Installer vs A Service Specialist
If you recently had your solar power system installed, and the system is still covered by the installer’s parts and labor warranty, then your first call should probably be to the installer to see if they can provide the service you’re looking for.
However, most solar companies prioritize new client installations over existing client services, so don't be surprised if they don’t send out their top technicians to handle the job, or you don’t receive the best solar customer service. When you get a solar O&M services plan from a solar service specialist, they will put your needs first, because maintaining and servicing your solar power system is the only thing they’re being paid to do. Your satisfaction is their priority.
You may also find yourself in a situation where your solar company has gone out of business, so getting maintenance can be a headache, even if your initial warranty still stands. If this happens, a solar service provider that has experience working with solar warranties and a wide variety of equipment can help get your issue resolved in a timely manner, and save you a lot of time and money along the way.
What Does A Solar Warranty Cover?
A typical solar warranty (sometimes called a solar product warranty) covers the equipment that makes up your solar power system, and may sometimes cover the labor costs associated with repairing or replacing that equipment if something goes wrong. Different warranties have different terms, so there’s no single answer to what a solar warranty covers, but generally they’re designed to fix issues that are the result of the equipment manufacturing process.
Some companies offer an electricity production warranty that makes sure your system will perform at a specified level over its lifetime, up to 25 years or longer. For example, a warranty may guarantee that you'll be generating no less than 85% of the peak energy output for the first 25 years of operation.
Some companies may even offer an extra warranty that promises higher electricity production over the first few years. For instance, it may guarantee at least 90% of initial power production for the first 10 years, and then 80% for the next 15 years. Even if the system isn’t broken, it may still be replaced or upgraded if it doesn’t generate as much electricity as promised.
A workmanship warranty is another coverage that’s available for your solar power system, and it guarantees that the design, assembly, and installation of your solar power system were all done correctly. While a product warranty covers against issues with your equipment, a workmanship warranty covers against any labor-related issues that may occur during the installation process. A workmanship warranty covers a shorter period of time, usually around five years, since that’s the time when issues from the installation are likely to pop up.
Fortunately, Palmetto has experience working with all types of warranties, and if the warranty covers your solar power service and maintenance costs, you won’t have any extra out-of-pocket expenses. We're in the homeowner's corner, and we can help make sure you get the coverage you’re owed.
Save On Service And Maintenance For Your Solar Power
Solar power is a passive system, where electricity is just available when you need it, without having to think about it, so you might not even notice when an issue pops up. However, solar power does sometimes need service or maintenance, and there are also things you can do proactively to make sure your solar power system is performing optimally.
If you’re looking for a robust solar maintenance and service package that supports all solar power systems, or if you’re just searching for solar panel service near me, consider Palmetto Protect. Regardless of who installed or manufactured your system, there’s a Palmetto Protect plan that’s right for you, and you can even get started for free to get real-time insight and control over your system's performance.
Sign up for Palmetto Protect today to get fantastic discounts and any service and maintenance needs you might have now, and then sit back and relax as we take care of your solar service and maintenance needs in the future as well.