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You can save thousands with solar panels — but you need to know this one crucial fact before buying

A solar panel array functioning at peak efficiency will save you an incredible amount of money.

A solar panel array functioning at peak efficiency will save you an incredible amount of money.

Photo Credit: iStock

Solar panels are a stellar way to generate electricity at home, reducing or eliminating your energy bill and sometimes even making money back. While they require an upfront investment, they can easily pay for themselves over their 20- to 30-year lifespan. To reach that age, however, they need the right maintenance.

What maintenance do solar panels need?

Since solar panels are slanted, most debris slides right off, either on its own or with the help of wind and rain. Some messes, however, can stick. Tree sap and bird droppings are among the worst offenders, and dust can also accumulate over time. In cold weather, snow may cause issues, although in most cases, it will melt before causing a problem.

Forbes estimates that solar panels need to be cleaned two to four times a year and recommends spring and fall as the best times to get rid of seasonal debris. Keep an eye on your solar panels' output. A dip in non-weather-related performance could be explained by dirt on the panels.

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Lukewarm water from a hose can remove most messes, Forbes adds; just make sure the system is turned off first. If you need a heavy-duty cleaning option, stick to wiping the panels with a clean microfiber cloth. Soaps and chemical cleaners can leave streaks.

If you hire a professional, they can also check whether your system needs any other repairs or tune-ups. According to Forbes, professional cleaning costs about $150, and an inspection also costs around $150.

Why is maintaining your solar panels important?

A solar panel array functioning at peak efficiency will save you an incredible amount of money — up to $33,000 over its lifetime, Forbes says. However, if you're losing precious sunlight to dirt and debris, your panels won't work nearly as well, and the costs add up. Plus, regular maintenance prolongs the life of your solar panel, while neglect could shorten it.

Beyond saving money on utilities, solar panels also help protect the Earth. Other energy sources, like coal, put heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere and warm up the planet. Solar panels, when clean and working properly, help reduce pollution.

How to increase your solar panel savings

The lower your solar installation costs, the more you benefit from the equipment over a lifetime. EnergySage's free online tools can help you find the most cost-effective solar provider in your area. Get quick estimates and compare quotes all in one place to make sure you're getting the best deal out there.

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