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Would Landlords Fit Solar Panels If Maintenance Was Easy?

As UK homeowners commit to more sustainable sources of energy, the number of homes installing rooftop solar panels reached its highest level in over seven years in 2023. 

However one of the biggest hesitations for installing is not knowing how much maintenance they need.

The cost of living crisis coupled with the race to Net Zero has resulted in increased demand for solar panels. That’s why we wanted to answer some of the most common questions consumers have about solar panels and their maintenance to help anyone considering making the switch to more renewable and sustainable energy.


The experts at BOXT have put together a guide on solar panels, sourcing the most commonly asked questions about solar panels by analysing Google search data from July 2022 - July 2023, as well as revealing how to maintain solar panels to maximise their energy output to help anyone considering installations.

1. How do solar panels work? 

Solar panels absorb light energy using photovoltaic cells. These cells are sandwiched between layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. When light hits a solar cell it sets the electrons in motion causing an electric current called the photovoltaic effect. This effect creates a flow of electricity that can be used to power your home.

2. Do solar panels work all year?

In short, yes. With 16,680 Google searches for the question “Do solar panels work in winter?” in the last year alone, one of the biggest concerns about solar panels is whether they work throughout the year. 

Solar panels capture their energy from light, not heat, meaning they will still function in winter months. A cold bright day actually means solar cells will produce more electricity than on warmer bright days due to the contrast in energy between the photons from sunlight and the solar cells’ electrons. The higher the difference in energy between the two particles, the more power is produced, and during colder weather the difference between the two particles is greater, resulting in increased power generation within the solar cell when the light hits it.

In addition, solar cells absorb diffused light, including light that has been dispersed by particles such as rain clouds. This means panels do not need direct sunlight to function and can generate electricity even on cloudier days. 

3. Do solar panels need to be cleaned? 

Between July 2022 - July 2023, consumers asked Google the question ‘Do solar panels need cleaning?’ 15,360 times, and the answer is yes. Solar panels convert light into power, so it is important to have a clear panel that will allow as much as light as possible to pass through. Whilst solar panels require minimal maintenance once installed as they have no moving parts, keeping them clean will optimise their efficiency and ensure long-term benefits. 

4. How often should I clean solar panels?

With a 33 per cent increase in Google searches in the last three months alone, the frequency of solar panel cleaning is a question on consumers’ minds. 

On average, solar panels should be cleaned every six months but this depends on their positioning and location. For instance, if you live in a more built-up area where more dust, exhaust fumes and dirt can build up, wooded areas where droppings can accumulate, or your solar panels are located on a shed where leaves will need to be cleared more frequently it may be better to clean them every three to four months.

5. What is the best way to clean solar panels?

The question “What is the best way to clean solar panels?” has seen a 21 per cent increase in Google searches in the past year. Luckily, cleaning solar panels at home is not a difficult task and can be completed whilst on the ground.

First, you need to switch off the entire solar system to ensure your safety when cleaning the panels. Next, remove any loose dirt and leaves with a soft brush with a long handle. Use a soft brush or wet a soft rag with biodegradable soap and attach this to a long-handled wiper, wiping away any residue that may have built up. Never use an abrasive soap or sponge as you risk scratching the glass. Rinse a hose over the panels for a final clean, but keep on a low setting to avoid damaging the glass. 

Most window cleaners have extendable cleaning poles which they will use to clean Velux windows and an easy way to clean your solar panels would be asking your regular window cleaner to clean your panel along with your window visit.

Before starting the process, remember the best time to clean any panels is in the early morning, late afternoon or on overcast days. When the sun is shining, any water or cleaning products used will evaporate quickly, leaving behind residue which can decrease your panels' efficiency as much as dirt and dust.

BOXT has also shared six tips for maintaining solar panels:

1. Minimise potential shading

Even small amounts of shade can significantly reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Trim any nearby vegetation, remove any overhanging trees or branches and check there are no potential shading objects to ensure the biggest possible surface area of the panel is exposed to light.

2. Clean throughout the year

The more light a solar panel can absorb, the greater the electric current. Rinse down with a hose every few months, or wipe them down with a damp rag to reduce any contamination which could reduce the electricity yield. Another option is to install an automatic cleaning system which comes equipped with sprinklers to keep the surface of the panel clear.

3. Regularly inspect your panels

While rainwater is great at washing away dust from your panels, it may not be sufficient enough to remove heavier, more stubborn dirt and can cause grime to accumulate at the bottom of the panel. Check for any major blockages or debris that may have gathered on your panels at regular intervals throughout the year to make sure they are in optimal condition to generate electricity.

4. Carry out inspections after more extreme weather conditions

Solar panels are built with durability in mind and are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. However, recording the state of your solar panels before a more significant weather event will allow you to identify any damage that may occur. This will mean you will be able to get suitable repairs to ensure your system can get back to its best.

5. Monitor performance

Solar panel systems often have monitoring software that allows you to track your system’s energy production to ensure your solar panels are functioning optimally. Monitor the data regularly so you can quickly identify any declines in performance that may suggest your panels need maintenance or cleaning.

6. Schedule a service

Small signs of wear and tear can be hard to spot for the untrained eye, but will eventually slow down your panels. Schedule a professional to inspect your solar panel system every year or two to guarantee your system is in optimum condition.

* Andy Kerr is the founder of energy consultancy BOXT *

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    A problem in London is the type of roof - often cramped, narrow and complex. Tall narrow terraced houses with chimneys are hardly ideal for solar panels. You would need scaffolding to install, but, more importantly, how do you clean them without scaffolding being installed on a regular basis?

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    BUT u can’t install them if u like me have no roof space/ attic.

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    BS. Have two houses, including my own with panels and have never cleaned them. Zero maintenance. An inverter and things to he replaced when they fail but haven't done either yet. One system is 12 years old one 5.

    Window cleaning is cheap, solar panel cleaners are extortionate and basically remove any gains you've made when they want 100s of pounds to clean them.

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    Not a chance !! 😱 So I would spend thousands of pounds on panels to save my tenant money on their electric 😂 Erm NO. You would never make the capital back on the rent increase, along with all the other increases for EPC, licences, etc etc. Utter nonsense.


    Hi. I put solar on a rental house about 10 years ago. It has paid for itself and the tenant gets the benefit too.
    As the FIT payments no longer exist ( to any significant degree) I now need to move to a new provider like octopus who pay for the energy being put into the grid.
    Personally for me I am delighted I put them in. It has been a win win all round.

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    Roof mounted solar panels, for almost everyone, are a crazy expenditure. You are purchasing and having to operate for years to come, a 'DIY Power Station' located in the most inaccessible part of a building. I have a conservatory and the glass roof becomes filthy every 12 months. It's pretty expensive to have it cleaned once a year, whilst still adhering to Working at Height H&S Regs. Solar panels are black so they don't show the dirt, but they get as dirty (and therefore lose efficiency) as rapidly as any conservatory roof. Based on any metric you care to mention investing in insulation to reduce the amount of energy you require (negawatts) will always beat a DIY Power Station. Trying to make your own electricity on a stupidly small scale is a fools game. BUT if you really want a solar panel buy one of Helimotion's ground mounted solar PV arrays that move and track the sun. Very flash. I know the CEO of Helimotion and she has developed a great product. It sits in your garden so you can actually maintain it with a bucket and sponge.


    The ground mounted Solar PV sounds more feasible for tall houses where it would be impossible for a ladder to reach the roof for maintenance.

    How would you insulate a Victorian terraced house where there are no cavity walls and where the tanks for all the flats are located in the loft?

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    I've had solar panels on 3 houses for 12 years and they were one of the best investments I have ever made. I usually get them cleaned once a year. My regular window cleaner used to do them but someone has nicked his ladder so he's stopped doing them. So I'm in the process of finding someone else.
    Back in the early days it didn't matter who paid the electric bill as the owner of the panels got the Feed In Tariff. Very worthwhile.

    I had 2 more houses done earlier this year with solar panels and batteries. The tax situation is hideous so there's no way it would work if the tenants were paying the electric. On bills inclusive HMOs they may be a good or a very good investment. Don't know which yet. The Octopus Flux tariff is a game changer. However, the location of the inverter is important for that as you need to be able to change the time setting twice a year when the clocks change.

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    Nope wouldn’t put em on . Cost way too much. No return.


    Totally agree it's a big fat NO from me as well

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    I know you were lucky at that time and well subsided to have it installed I was in the process and didn’t proceed because of HMO Licensing scheme’s getting in the way over loading me with free cost and work load to useless Government Department’s sitting there pressing buttons making rules that involve no input from them, strange no one mentioning the work load imposed on us for no payment but we are required to pay them for every obstacle they invent.
    The Scheme back then was pulled.

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    I wouldn’t have minded doing the Solar Panels etc on every property but with THE RENTERS REFORM BILL not a hope. They are removing ownership rights keeping rental Tenants installed in our Private owned Property again our Will.
    So they think I should accommodate them with free energy as well and possibly charge their electric car for free, you are not going to get the best out of anyone by attacking them and Rachel Psychology degree wasted about how the human minds work, she’s well out of touch with Landlords & Tenants she didn’t need any of that just a bit of common.


    Michael - you make an interesting point about car charging. Charging a car at home costs a fraction of charging a car using a public charger. Having the ability to charge a car at home is potentially worth a lot to a tenant with an EV.


    That is my view exactly Michael - and I would think it is shared by the majority of landlords. Who would spend a huge amount on their properties in the knowledge that our ownership rights are being removed without our consent!

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    Yes as I understand it some models to charge at home £7.00 out & about can be £25.00.

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    Or charge the car for Nowt and have spare electric to sell to the grid as my brother does for his Nissan Primera.

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    These EV vehicles are a serious fire risk. Further its farcical to have solar power,, electricity generation was relatively cheap and has been forced up due to green taxes and asset stripping.

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    Mr Gibbons, l entirely agree with you. Does anyone know what an energystor is ? It's not a battery ! American banks think its good!


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