Solar Panel Cleaning: Manual vs Robotic with SolarCleano F1

SolarCleano F1 Solar Panels - Express Recycling

Solar energy is gaining ground in Switzerland, where the cleanliness of solar panels plays a crucial role in their performance. Regular cleaning is essential to maintain the effectiveness of the panels. Two methods stand out: manual cleaning, which depends on human effort, and robotic cleaning, facilitated by devices such as the SolarCleano F1.

Manual cleaning uses specific tools and requires direct intervention, while robotic cleaning, with machines like the SolarCleano F1 or iSolar of KÄRCHER offers an automatic solution. Each method has its advantages and limitations. This article examines these two approaches to help you choose the best option for your installations.

Why is solar panel cleaning essential?

Cleaning your solar panels isn't just about aesthetics; this is a crucial element for their performance. When the panels become dirty, their ability to produce energy decreases. 

Effects of dirt on yield

Dirt, dust, leaves, and even bird droppings can obscure the surface of your solar panels, reducing their ability to capture sunlight. Even a thin layer of dust can cause a noticeable drop in efficiency. 

In fact, clogging can reduce the efficiency of solar panels up to 25%​​. A thin layer of dirt can also reduce this 10% yield.

These yield losses mean that uncleaned solar panels produce less electricity, which directly impacts your energy bill and the profitability of your solar investment. 

Consequences of insufficient maintenance

Insufficient maintenance of solar panels can have serious long-term consequences. The accumulation of dirt and debris not only reduces energy efficiency in the short term; it can also cause permanent damage to solar panels, affecting their durability and long-term operation.

Many solar panel manufacturers make the validity of the warranty conditional on regular maintenance. Poor maintenance can therefore void the warranty, leaving owners without protection in the event of failure or loss of performance linked to premature wear.

In conclusion, regular maintenance of solar panels is essential to prevent damage, extend the life of the installation and guarantee optimal operation. Ignoring necessary maintenance can lead to higher costs in the long run, both in terms of repair and replacement and lost energy production.

Manual cleaning of solar panels

Processes and tools

Manual cleaning of solar panels is broken down into structured steps for maximum efficiency:

  1. Initial inspection : Identification of dirty or damaged areas on the panels.
  2. Preparing the tools : Assembling the necessary equipment, such as soft brushes, squeegees, and microfiber cloths.
  3. Implementation of security measures : Establishment of protocols to ensure the safety of technicians, particularly for overhead panels.
  4. Humidification : Application of demineralized water to the panels to facilitate the removal of impurities.
  5. Cleaning : Gently rubbing the panels with suitable tools to remove dirt without causing damage.
  6. Rinsing : Removal of dirt and cleaner residues with clean water.
  7. Drying : Allow the panels to dry naturally or wipe them dry to avoid water marks.
  8. Inspection and final verification : Control of the cleanliness of the panels and verification of their operational performance.

This methodical process helps maintain the efficiency of solar panels and contributes to their longevity.

Tools used for manual cleaning include soft brushes, squeegees, and microfiber cloths, often used with demineralized or filtered water to prevent limescale deposits. Specific, non-abrasive, environmentally friendly cleaning solutions are also used to remove dirt without damaging panel surfaces.

Innovations in manual cleaning tools include telescopic poles that allow panels to be reached at height without the need for scaffolding, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

Advantages and disadvantages of manual cleaning on solar panels


  • Precision : Manual cleaning allows you to specifically target dirty or clogged areas, ensuring complete cleaning.
  • Risk minimization : When done correctly, manual cleaning is less likely to cause damage to panels, compared to some automatic methods which can be too abrasive.
  • Flexibility : This method adapts to different types and configurations of solar panels, providing a personalized solution based on the specific needs of the installation.


  • Labor requirement : Manual cleaning is often longer and more laborious, requiring significant labor, especially for large installations.
  • Risk for staff : Cleaning panels installed at height can represent a fall risk for workers.
  • Cleaning frequency : As the process is more time and labor intensive, manual cleaning may not be performed as frequently as necessary, which can lead to dirt buildup and affect panel performance.

In summary, manual cleaning of solar panels offers precise control adapted to the specifics of each installation, but it requires more labor and presents some risks for personnel. The choice between manual cleaning and other methods will depend on the specific conditions of each site, available resources and safety considerations.

SolarCleano F1 on solar panels - Recyclage Express
SolarCleano F1

Robotic cleaning of solar panels with the SolarCleano F1

Description of SolarCleano F1

THE SolarCleano F1 is a robot designed for the automatic cleaning of solar panels. It fits standard 13-15mm diameter garden hoses, operating at water pressure between 2.0 and 8.0 bar. This allows for efficient cleaning, either with water or dry cleaning, depending on the specific needs of the installation.

This robot is equipped with helical brushes, available in lengths of 1.1m, 1.2m, and 2.2m, with two types of bristles suitable for both wet and dry cleaning. Its system is certified not to cause microcracks after cleaning, thus guaranteeing the safety of the treated solar panels. With rapid cleaning capacity, it is indicated as the fastest on the market, capable of cleaning up to 1,600 m² per hour​​.

Benefits of automation with the SolarCleano F1

  • Regularity and efficiency : The SolarCleano F1 ensures regular cleaning, which is crucial for maintaining the energy efficiency of solar panels. Its ability to clean large areas quickly reduces the inactivity time of solar panels and increases their energy production.
  • Cleaning precision : Thanks to its advanced technology, the SolarCleano F1 can precisely target dirty areas, ensuring deep cleaning without damaging the panels. The different sizes and types of brushes allow adjustment according to the nature of the dirt and the configuration of the solar installation.
  • Operational security : Using this robot reduces the risks associated with manual cleaning, in particular falls and accidents. Operated remotely, it allows safe intervention, particularly in difficult or dangerous conditions.
  • Environmental impact : Robotic cleaning with the SolarCleano F1 also contributes to a reduced environmental impact. By optimizing water use and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals, the robot supports a more sustainable approach to cleaning solar panels.

SolarCleano F1 represents an advanced solution for cleaning solar panels, combining speed, efficiency, and safety, while supporting an environmentally friendly approach. 

Limitations of use of SolarCleano F1

Using the SolarCleano F1 robot for cleaning solar panels has several advantages, but there are situations where its use may be limited or less appropriate:

  • High initial cost : The initial investment in a cleaning robot like the SolarCleano F1 can be substantial. For small installations or for owners with a limited budget, the cost of acquiring the robot can be a barrier.
  • Technological complexity : Deploying and managing the SolarCleano F1 requires some technical skill. Users must be trained to operate the robot effectively, which can be a challenge for facilities run by less tech-savvy people.
  • Access Limitations : Although the robot is designed to be adaptable, there may be solar panel configurations or environments (such as very rough terrain or extremely confined spaces) where the robot cannot access or operate effectively.
  • Dependence on weather and environmental conditions : The robot may be less effective in certain extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain, high winds or freezing temperatures, which may affect its performance or ability to clean properly.
  • Maintenance and repair : Like any complex machine, the SolarCleano F1 may require regular maintenance and sometimes repairs. If specific components fail or wear out, it can result in downtime and additional costs.
  • Effective on different types of dirt : Although the robot is equipped with brushes suitable for different types of dirt, it may be less effective against very adherent or embedded dirt that requires special or manual treatment.
  • Energy use for operation : Robot operation requires energy, generally provided by batteries. In situations where saving energy is a priority, or in places where access to electricity is limited, this could represent a disadvantage.

SolarCleano F1 offers significant benefits in terms of efficiency and safety for cleaning solar panels. However, its use could be limited by factors such as cost, accessibility, technological complexity, environmental conditions, and maintenance needs.

Additional Resources

For a deeper understanding and to view the SolarCleano F1 in action, check out these resources:

🔗 SolarCleano solar panel cleaner robot dry cleans in Middle East

🔗 Cleaning floating solar installations with SolarCleano robots

Detailed comparison: Manual vs Robotic Solar Panel Cleaning

To inform the choice between manual and robotic cleaning of solar panels, consider the criteria of time, cost, efficiency, safety, and sustainability.

CriteriaManual CleaningRobotic Cleaning
TimeLonger, depending on the number of operatorsFaster, covers large areas quickly
CostLower initial cost, but more expensive laborHigher initial investment, lower operational costs
EfficiencyDepends on operator skillConsistent and high, thanks to advanced technology
securityRisk of falling or injuryLess physical risk, remote control
SustainabilityUneven wear, depends on frequency of cleaningUniform cleaning, can extend the life of panels

Best apps for each method:

  • Manual cleaning : Ideal for small installations or those with difficult access where robotic cleaning is not practicable.
  • Robotic cleaning : Preferable for large installations, where speed and reduced operational costs are priorities.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Method for Your Facility

To determine the most suitable cleaning method, consider:

  1. Installation type : Smaller or complex installations can benefit from manual cleaning, while large, uniform installations are ideal for robotic cleaning.
  2. Geographic context : Local environmental conditions, such as the frequency of precipitation or the presence of dust, influence the need and frequency of cleaning.
  3. Budget considerations : Evaluate the potential ROI of robotic cleaning versus the long-term costs of manual cleaning.

In conclusion, the choice between manual and robotic cleaning depends on the specifics of each solar installation, environmental conditions, and financial and ecological objectives. A careful assessment of these factors will help determine the most suitable solution, thus ensuring maximum efficiency and sustainability of photovoltaic installations.


In Switzerland, where solar energy is becoming more and more predominant, optimal maintenance of solar panels through cleaning is essential to guarantee their maximum performance. The energy efficiency and durability of solar installations largely depend on the cleanliness of the panels. Whether through manual or robotic cleaning, each method has specific benefits suited to various needs and contexts.

SolarCleano F1, with its ability to clean effectively and without risk of damage, emerges as an avant-garde technological solution for the maintenance of solar panels. Its performance in terms of coverage, water saving and respect for the environment marks a significant development in the field of cleaning photovoltaic installations.

To ensure the longevity and efficiency of your solar installations, opt for a cleaning solution that combines human expertise and technological innovation. 

Contact Recyclage Express for a free quote and discover how our services, including the use of SolarCleano F1, can transform the maintenance of your solar panels. Whether you are an agricultural producer or a large industrial company, we have the right solutions to optimize the energy efficiency of your installation.

Maximize the efficiency of your solar panels with Recyclage Express and ensure a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for your business or home.

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