Maintain your solar panels with the help of a pro to keep your investment in peak operating condition. Solar panels are made of tempered glass and electrical components and mounted on your roof to absorb the sun’s rays. With the help of micro or string inverters, the useable power collected by the solar panels can meet your home or business electrical needs. Solar panels reduce or even replace your reliance on utility companies for energy, effectively eliminating your electrical bills. Purchase of the panels and installation does require a large financial output upfront, but fortunately solar panels need relatively little maintenance in the long run.
The brand of solar panel you have installed, the environment you live in (dry, dusty, snowy, etc.), the number and height of trees around your building, the type of inverter you buy (micro or string), the labor warranty you have, and the manufacturer’s warranty on the panels will all affect your maintenance costs. Here are the cost factors of maintaining your solar panels.
Most solar panel companies offer labor warranties that cover installation errors and maintenance costs for up to 10 years, says Clay Mauldin of Clayco Electric and Solar. If the problem is directly related to the panel, the service will have to be provided by the manufacturer, while problems with wiring, monitoring and connection will be handled by the installation company. Manufacturer warranties on the solar panels themselves can range from 10-25 years. Always read your contract carefully to understand what services you’ll receive as part of the warranty. The warranty is typically included in the cost of installation and purchase of the panels. Once your warranty has expired, any maintenance or repair work will fall under an hourly rate.
Hourly rates for solar panel maintenance vary by region, area labor costs, business overhead and other factors such as business reputation. Here is one example of an hourly solar panel maintenance and repair rate:
Hourly rate: $100 from Clay Mauldin of Clayco Electric and Solar in Alpine, California.
Where you live will impact your costs for solar panel maintenance. To operate efficiently, your solar panels should be washed at least twice per year; you may need less frequent washing in areas with high rainfall such as the Pacific Northwest, or more frequent washing in dry regions such as the Southwest. In Gilbert, Arizona, Brent Windsor of Window Genie of the East Valley explains that accumulated dirt and dust on your panels can decrease efficiency by up to 30 percent. Tree trimming is also part of solar panel maintenance: If tree branches block sunlight from the panels, they will produce less energy. Here are some examples of tree trimming and solar panel cleaning costs:
Hourly tree trimming rate: $150 per hour from Heavens Gate Tree Service in Fort Worth, Texas.
Flat solar panel cleaning rate (up to 32 panels): $129-$149 from Window Genie of the East Valley.
Per-panel cleaning rate: $4 and up from Carl Prox of Prox Window Cleaning in Yucaipa, California.
Most installation companies can provide remote performance monitoring of your panels. Some companies charge an annual or one-time fee for this monitoring service, while some, like Clayco Electric and Solar, include it in the cost of installation. Through an online system, your installation company receives regular reports on your power collection and energy usage. Major dips in production might just be a software issue, or could mean a faulty panel, a wiring issue, a loose connection, a problem with your inverter or other problems. All of these problems are covered by either your labor or manufacturer warranty, says Mauldin of Clayco Electric and Solar, so don’t hesitate to contact the company for service. The monitoring devices store data internally as well as uploading it to the cloud, says Mauldin of Clayco Electric and Solar, so your data will be captured and saved even if you lose your internet connection.
Inverters are covered for the length of your warranty. Once the warranty expires, the property owner typically buys a new inverter and pays an hourly rate for a professional to connect it to the existing system. String inverters and micro inverters are used to convert the panel’s collected power into energy for your home. A inverter transforms the direct current (DC) power collected by your solar panel into the alternating current (AC) used by your home or office. A string inverter is a single unit, typically installed on the ground, that is connected via wiring to all of the solar panels on your roof. Micro inverters, on the other hand, are multiple units, each connected to only one solar panel. Micro inverters are preferable, says Mauldin of Clayco Electric and Solar, because targeting a problem panel and replacing a faulty inverter is more efficient than troubleshooting with a string inverter. If string inverter or micro inverter fails outside of your warranty period, here are some examples of replacement costs from Clayco Electric and Solar:
New string inverter (parts only): $1,200-$2,500.
New micro inverter: $100-$250.
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