Ash on Your Solar Array — What to Do?

The Sky Is Falling

With wildfires raging though much of the Western United States, people from Southern California to British Columbia are surrounded with hazy skies, poor air quality—and in some cases—a sifting of ash over everything in sight.

Residents of Western Washington, where Itek Energy is headquartered, have taken to social media to post pictures of cars covered in ash, ash falling from the sky on the daily commute, and ash settling on their homes.

Smokey Sun Over Itek.pngA smokey sun over Itek 9/5/17

Impact on Your Solar Production

Expect a drop in your solar production during this time. Unlike clouds or fog, air pollution from wildfires will absorb light, reducing the amount of light that can reach your solar modules. In addition to the darkening skies, the ash that falls on your system will provide a further barrier to power production.

Cleaning Guidelines

As with ash on your vehicle, just brushing the ash off of your solar array is not the best solution.  

I asked Sam Winters, Itek’s Application Engineer, for advice about cleaning up an ash buildup on an active solar array. Sam advises home and business owners to follow the Itek Energy Module Cleaning Guidelines to safely and effectively remove the ash buildup. Here are some highlights from that document:

Welcome Sam Winters_banner-277363-edited.pngSam Winters, Aplications Engineer

  • Make sure you perform this task in the morning or on an overcast day. Cleaning while the modules are hot could result in rapid cooling which could damage the modules. 
  • Use soft, non-abrasive materials such as a microfiber mop. Avoid metal tools as they will scratch your module.
  • Water is usually enough to clean off the average solar array, however to get rid of the ash, you may want to use a cleaning product. If so, it is very important to find a product that is:
    • Non-Abrasive
    • pH Neutral
    • Biodegradable

        Dish soap works great. There are plenty of products on the market that will meet the case, but it is important to note that a                 product that does not meet these criteria could damage your modules. Products that contain chemicals or solvents like Rain-X           or Windex should never be used.

  • Once you have cleaned your modules, rinse them thoroughly to avoid leaving any residue behind. Unlike your car, your modules do not have a paint job to protect, but they do have a textured glass where minerals can collect. So it is always important to use a squeegee to scrape off any remaining water which can deposit sediments and leave a splotching effect on the glass.

 And most importantly...

  • Always use caution and proper fall protection if roof access is required for cleaning.

Stay Safe Out There

With no immediate relief in sight, it is important to protect yourself and your property from wildfires and wildfire smoke.  

Eagle Creek, OR Fire - 12-hr Timelapse

Stay abreast of your local air quality reports and limit your outdoor activity if there is heavy smoke in your area. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with respiratory or heart conditions are most at risk of being affected by smoke. Check in with neighbors and friends who may be vulnerable to the effects of smoke. 

Fighting climate change is becoming more and more important, and as a user of solar power, you are contributing to that effort. At Itek, we're here to support you. Contact us if you have any questions about our U.S.-built, high-efficiency modules or optimizing your solar array for more energy yeild.

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Kathryn Heltsley

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