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Cleaning flexible solar panels

Bob S

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Sep 27, 2007
1,477
Beneteau 393 New Bedford, MA
I will be adding 2 possibly 4 if I can find the real estate SunPower solar panels over the winter layup. I know I'm getting ahead of myself but are products like 303 or 210 plastic cleaners OK to use on a flexible solar panel? Their manual says over the counter cleaners such as Windex can be used but I would never use Windex anywhere on my boat.
SunPower SPR-E-Flex-100 Flexible Solar Panel 100 Watt Monocrystalline
Their installation manual states:
Trained SunPower dealer or trained SunPower support personnel should inspect all modules annually for safe electrical connections, sound mechanical connections, and freedom from corrosion. Periodic cleaning of module has resulted in improved performance levels, especially in regions with low levels of annual precipitation; therefore, SunPower recommends periodic cleaning of the modules. To clean a module, wash its surface with potable, non-heated water. Normal water pressure is adequate. Some fingerprints, stains, or accumulations of dirt on the surface may be removed with over-the-counter cleaners (such as Windex® or equivalent), or with a 3% soap-and-water solution. Wet the module surface with the solution, let it stand for five minutes, and then wet them again and use a soft sponge or seamless cloth to wipe the surface in a circular motion. Do not use harsh industrial-strength cleaning materials such as aggressive chemicals, scouring powder, steel wool, scrapers, blades, or other sharp instruments to clean the module. Use of such materials will void the product warranty.

Thoughts?




 
Jan 11, 2014
4,649
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Why not use Windex? A few spritzes to clean up the glass on the panel shouldn't hurt anything.

Using abrasives will scratch the surface which will reduce the panels efficiency, that makes sense. The directions seem to imply that the Windex will remove grease and grime that might be the result of fingerprints. Wiping the panels with rubbing alcohol would also remove the fingerprint grease.
 
Jan 11, 2014
4,649
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
windex is abrasive and should not be used on any plastic
I think you might have been misinformed. Windex does not contain an abrasive. : SC Johnson

If it contained an abrasive, it would not be clear, it would be cloudy from the abrasives.

It does contain an ammonia based chemical (Ammonium Hydroxide) and that may be affect some plastics. In an application where Windex is sprayed on to a compatible surface and wiped off with paper towels or rags and thoroughly flushed with water, I don't think it would be a significant problem.

Cleaning acrylic windows with ammonia can cause clouding, however, this is due to a chemical reaction not a physical reaction that an abrasive would cause.
 

leo310

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Dec 15, 2006
224
Catalina Catlina 310 Campbell River BC
I have 2 flex panels for 3 years and all I do is wipe them down with a wet terry towel no soap just water.
 

ToddS

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Sep 11, 2017
192
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
Personally, I'd MOSTLY just use water... because MOSTLY I'd be removing water soluble stuff like salt, or a little bit of pollen/dust. I'd add a tiny bit of soap only in the VERY unlikely scenario that I was trying to remove something greasy... then I'd rinse very well. I rarely spill bacon grease on my solar panels though, and that's what soap is best for. Some type of glass cleaner (probably methanol based like Windshield Washer Fluid is) would probably work pretty well for bird droppings... since that's what cleans my car's windshield without damaging the plastic all around my windshield... but mostly just water imho. My guess is that the #1 way cleaning causes scratches/haze is through the MECHANICAL rubbing of the panel... so the sponge/towel/brush/paper/etc. that you use matters at least as much as the cleaner/solvent as long as you obviously don't use cleaners labelled abrasive/polish/acetone/wax... or ones that say they'll harm plastics. Or you could try asking the manufacturer for their recommendation.
 

Bob S

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Sep 27, 2007
1,477
Beneteau 393 New Bedford, MA
Thanks everyone, looking ahead!
Jesse,
I see you weathered another hurricane! You still in St Thomas?
 
Mar 20, 2004
1,556
Hunter 356 and 216 Portland, ME
I think you might have been misinformed. Windex does not contain an abrasive. : SC Johnson

If it contained an abrasive, it would not be clear, it would be cloudy from the abrasives.

It does contain an ammonia based chemical (Ammonium Hydroxide) and that may be affect some plastics. In an application where Windex is sprayed on to a compatible surface and wiped off with paper towels or rags and thoroughly flushed with water, I don't think it would be a significant problem.

Cleaning acrylic windows with ammonia can cause clouding, however, this is due to a chemical reaction not a physical reaction that an abrasive would cause.
Thanks, Dave, it was some time ago I was told this - and the clouding I witnessed could well be chemical