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Unlike other sources of boondocking power, RV solar panels don’t need a lot of maintenance.
A bit of care from time to time can add to the performance, longevity, and safety of your RV solar panels.
In this post, I’ll give you 8 preventive maintenance tips to keep your RV solar panels in top working condition.
Later, I’ll be answering some of the most frequently asked questions regarding RV solar panel maintenance.
Table of Contents
- 01. Keep Track of your Solar Monitoring System
- 02. Inspect your Solar Panels Visually
- 03. Clean the Panels Once in a While
- 04. Check the Connection Wires for Damage
- 05. Check the Mounting Hardware for Signs of Wear
- 06. Keep an Eye on Vermins
- 07. Maintain a Logbook to Keep Track
- 08. Warranty of the Panels
- Frequently Asked Questions
- To Sum Up
01. Keep Track of your Solar Monitoring System
The best way to find out if your solar panels need attention is by keeping a track of the solar monitoring system.
These monitoring systems are designed to keep logs of how much power is generated and used daily. Just compare the data on your monitoring system if there is a sudden drop or a constant decline of energy coming in.
If you find abnormal differences in the power generation in your comparison, you need to dig further.
Note: You need to keep in mind that the weather and season play a big role in how much power is being produced.
02. Inspect your Solar Panels Visually
Visual inspection of the panels may also tell you the reason behind the sudden power drop.
All you have to do is climb up on the roof and look to find if there is anything unusual about the panels. Check to see there is a build-up of dust, pollen, bird droppings, or other debris obstructing the sun’s rays.
It makes sense to check on your panels more frequently if you’re boondocking in a desert where other RV’s regularly move around.
Additionally, you may want to inspect your panels after a heavy hail storm.
03. Clean the Panels Once in a While
Firstly, dirt and other debris don’t affect the efficiency of your panels a lot.
Plus, dirt is regularly blown away from the solar panels as you drive down the highway. On the other hand, rain showers usually wash away most of the buildups, especially if your panels are tilted.
However, it is important to check and clean your panels during the dry season. All you have to do is clean the panels with a soft-bristled brush and rinse them with water (if possible).
Cleaning becomes more evident during the winter months, especially when there is heavy snowfall. You can use a brush to remove the accumulated snow off the panels.
Additionally, portable panels collect dirt and dust easily and thus require more cleaning. But portable panels are easy to clean compared to roof-mounted panels.
Such simple cleaning will make sure your panels are clean and in top working condition.
Caution: If you plan to use water to clean snow, make sure to use lukewarm water and not hot water. The temperature difference may crack the tempered glass of the panels.
04. Check the Connection Wires for Damage
There are times when the elements take a toll on the cables that run from the solar panels to the charge controller.
Damaged cables and the MC4 connectors may affect how much power is reaching the battery. Additionally, damaged cables will increase the risk of short circuits, damaging the solar power system, or worse, result in a fire.
If you find any wear tear on the cables, consider replacing them immediately.
05. Check the Mounting Hardware for Signs of Wear
Because RVs move from one place to another, this poses a safety issue, if the mounting brackets holding the panels are not up to the mark.
RV solar panels with corroded mounting brackets, missing screws, or barely hold the roof is a ticking time bomb. Because, once you hit the road, the wind forces may unroot these panels and land on vehicles behind you.
There may be many reasons why the screws may become loose from expansion and contraction due to temperature differences to vibrations during transit.
So once in a while, check to see if the fasteners are tight and brackets are standing strong. Additionally, check to see if the sealant between the brackets and the roof is intact to prevent roof leaks.
06. Keep an Eye on Vermins
Though less common with RV’s, solar panels can be an inviting home for vermins.
Birds, rodents, and insects can find their way up to your RV roof and make a home. They can damage and destroy the cabling system and sometimes the panels themselves.
So if you have uninvited guests living under your solar panels, make sure they are taken care of ASAP.
07. Maintain a Logbook to Keep Track
Maintaining a logbook of the preventive maintenance work you have done can be great for future diagnosis.
You should include everything from cleaning to any abnormalities to basic inspections in the logbook. You can simply maintain a notebook or use a word document on your phone or PC.
This will further help you when you need corrective maintenance and don’t want to get charged for the diagnosis already done.
08. Warranty of the Panels
The warranty of your panels indicates how much trust the manufacturers have in the product.
Just simple maintenance will not improve the output of your solar panels if the panels are not well built. This may cost you thousands of dollars in professional servicing in the long run.
Big brands offer a warranty period of about 25 years and guarantee that the efficiency of your panels will not come down below 80-85%.
Therefore, go with the brand that offers the longest warranty period to minimize additional maintenance work or expense.
Frequently Asked Questions
Solar panel maintenance is not a difficult task if you know what to do. However, if you’re new to solar and maintenance, you may have other related questions.
Here, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about RV solar panel maintenance to keep the panels in top condition.
How Often do Solar Panels need Maintenance?
Solar panels don’t need a lot of maintenance work once installed. However, it is recommended that you do a scheduled check-up of the panels yourself, 2-4 times a year.
Follow the solar panel maintenance tips we discussed above to make it easier.
How can I Tell if my Solar Panel needs Maintenance?
Generally, a visual inspection of your panels will tell you how much time you have until your next maintenance.
In addition to that, your solar panel monitoring system will provide different data points that you can compare to determine if you need maintenance.
How much does Solar Panel Maintenance Cost?
Most preventive maintenance (discussed above) can be easily done by ourselves. However, you may have to spend a lot if you want some corrective maintenance done by professionals.
To keep the maintenance cost down, buy panels from brands that offer longer warranties.
How Long do Solar Panels Last?
Solar panels generally last over 25-30 years. The panels will produce up to 80-85% rated power after about 25-30 years.
Both performance and life expectancy can be further extended with time to time care and maintenance.
To Sum Up
Solar panels are easy to maintain, and following the tips we discussed above will make it easier. Apart from all the maintenance tips, keeping the panels clean is an absolute must.
Additionally, make sure to buy panels with the longest warranty to reduce maintenance costs. Follow these, and your solar panels will keep your RV powered for years to come without any worries.