Key Takeaways:

  1. The most common cause of low power output in solar panels is obstructions or shadows on the array.
  2. Checking Voc (voltage open circuit) and Isc (current short circuit) measurements can help diagnose panel issues.
  3. Loose connectors and improperly seated terminals can cause low voltage or current output.
  4. Junction boxes should be checked for tight screws or properly crimped connections.
  5. Rare manufacturing defects may require panel replacement.
  6. Micro cracks in solar panels can lead to power loss over time.
  7. Cracking in the back sheet of the panel can cause moisture ingress and panel failure.
  8. Hotspots in cells can lead to burn marks and potential fire hazards.
  9. Shattered glass in panels can be caused by hotspots or impacts.
  10. Moisture ingress and delamination of back sheets can cause leakage and inverter trips.

Why Your Solar Panels Aren’t Producing Power & How to Fix Them

Imagine you’ve set up a little garden in your backyard, expecting a blooming oasis, but despite your efforts, some plants just won’t thrive. Frustrating, right?

That’s a bit of how it feels when your solar panels, those sleek slabs of future-tech on your roof, don’t seem to be doing their job.

You invested in them to save on bills and do your bit for the planet, yet here you are, scratching your head, wondering why they’re slacking off.

This guide is here to help you play detective with your solar panels, simplifying the jargon and shining a light on how to get them back in action.

Identifying Common Solar Panel Issues

Why Aren’t My Solar Panels Working Their Magic?

Think of your solar panel system like a high-tech plant. For it to flourish, certain conditions need to be just right. When something’s off, it’s like your plant is telling you it needs a bit more TLC.

Here are some common reasons your solar panels might be underperforming:

  • The Dirt: Just as plants need clean leaves to photosynthesize effectively, your solar panels need clear surfaces to catch the sun’s rays. Dirt, dust, leaves, or even bird droppings acting like a layer of shade could be the culprit.

Do Solar Panels Need to be Cleaned? – Mother Earth News

  • Shades: Ever noticed how plants lean towards the light? Solar panels soak up sunlight directly; if something’s casting a shadow over them, it’s like they’re being starved of their light meal.

Solar on a shady roof - Renew


  • Angle: If plants could, they’d move to catch the best rays, right? Your panels are set up at a specific angle to catch the sun, but if that angle’s not optimized for your location, they might not be getting all the sunshine they could.
  • The Inverter Conundrum: Here’s a bit more technical bit, simplified – the inverter is like the stomach of your solar system, turning sunlight into usable energy. If it’s having issues, your system can’t digest sunlight properly.

Wondering how many solar panels you might need? Here’s our detailed breakdown.

What to Do About It?

  1. Take a gentle stroll outside and see if your panels look dirtier than your car windshield; if yes, they might need a clean.
  2. Observe if any new buildings, trees, or even a basketball hoop have grown or been constructed that might be blocking sunlight to your panels.
  3. Reflect on when you last had a professional check the angle of your panels; it might be time for a tune-up.
  4. Notice any strange blinking lights or error messages on your inverter? That’s its way of saying, “Help!”

Navigating these issues doesn’t have to be like solving a mystery without clues.

With this guide and a bit of observation, you’re well on your way to getting the most out of your solar panels, ensuring they’re not just decorative roof accessories but powerful allies in your energy-saving mission.

Solar savings are yours for the taking. Claim your free, personalized quote now!

DIY Troubleshooting Steps

Before you call in the cavalry (aka the professionals), there are a few things you can do yourself to see if the issue with your solar panels can be resolved with a little elbow grease and attention to detail.

Think of it as giving your solar panels a check-up from the comfort of your ladder (safety first, though!).

Visual Inspection

  • Gather Your Gear: Grab a pair of binoculars if your roof is a no-go zone for you. It’s like birdwatching, but instead of birds, you’re looking for anything out of the ordinary with your panels.
  • What to Look For: Dirt and debris are the usual suspects. However, keep an eye out for any damage like cracks or wear that seems out of place. It’s like checking for bruises on an apple – you want it to look pristine.

Checking the Inverter: The Heartbeat Monitor

  • Your inverter usually has a light indicator. Green means good, just like a green light at a traffic stop. If it’s blinking red or showing an error message, it’s like your solar system’s way of saying, “I’m not feeling too hot.”
  • Sometimes, all tech needs a good ol’ off-and-on-again trick. Safely switch off the inverter, wait a few minutes, and switch it back on. It’s like rebooting your frozen computer – sometimes, that’s all it takes.

What to do with an inverter fault - GI Energy

Ensuring Proper Electrical Connections: The Circuit Check

  • Safety First: If you’re not comfortable or knowledgeable about electrical systems, skip this step. Safety is paramount, and there’s no shame in leaving it to professionals.
  • The Basics: If you are proceeding, ensure all connections are tight and secure, much like making sure all the plugs are correctly seated in their sockets.

Actionable Tips for a Clean Sweep

  • Soft Cleaning Approach: If your panels are within reach and it’s safe to do so, use distilled water and a soft sponge or cloth to gently clean the surface. It’s like giving your car a gentle wash – no harsh chemicals or pressure washers.
  • Shade Detective: Take note of any new constructions, trees, or installations around your home that might be casting shadows on your panels. Sometimes the solution is as simple as trimming a tree branch.

These DIY steps are like the first aid for your solar panels. They’re not meant to replace professional care but can often help you pinpoint the issue or, better yet, resolve minor problems on your own. Remember, when in doubt, calling in a seasoned professional is always the best course of action.

When to Call the Professionals

There comes a point in every solar panel system’s life when a professional touch is needed.

Despite your best DIY efforts, some issues are too complex or risky to tackle on your own.

Knowing when to hand the reins over to a professional can save you time, protect your investment, and ensure your system’s longevity.

Recognizing Professional Help Red Flags

Electrical Issues

If you suspect the problem is electrical beyond simple connection checks—think sparks, unusual sounds, or complete system failure—it’s time to call the experts.

Electrical issues can be dangerous and require a professional electrician with solar experience.

Persistent Inverter Problems

If your inverter continues to flash warning signs after a reset or if error messages persist, it’s a signal that professional diagnostics are necessary. The inverter is the heart of your solar system, and heart surgery is best left to the heart surgeons.

Structural Damage

Notice cracks, significant wear, or possible water damage to your panels? These structural issues can affect not just the performance but also the safety of your solar system.

Finding the Right Professional for the Job

Certified Solar Technicians: Look for technicians certified in solar energy systems. They’ll have the specific knowledge and tools needed to diagnose and repair solar-specific issues.

  • Warranty Awareness: Ensure the professional is familiar with your system’s warranty. Some warranties might be voided if repairs are not conducted by certified personnel or with approved parts.
  • Reputation and Reviews: Research local solar repair companies, focusing on reviews or testimonials related to similar issues to yours. A good reputation in the community and industry can give you peace of mind.

Image source

When you reach out, be prepared to describe the issue in as much detail as possible. Include what DIY troubleshooting steps you’ve already attempted. It’s like giving a doctor your symptom history before they examine you – it can lead to a quicker, more accurate diagnosis.

Remember, enlisting the help of a professional not only ensures your solar panel issues are resolved efficiently and safely but also protects your system’s warranty and future performance. Like calling in a plumber for a leaky pipe you can’t fix, getting professional solar system aid is about preserving your home’s energy health for the long term.

Maintenance for Optimal Performance

Here’s how to proactively care for your solar panels and safeguard your clean energy investment:

Set a Cleaning Schedule

  • Depending on your location, dust, pollen, or leaves might accumulate on your panels. A seasonal, gentle rinse can help maintain their efficiency. Think of it as giving your panels a refreshing shower.
  • Occasionally, it’s beneficial to have a professional cleaning, especially in areas with heavy soiling. They have the tools and expertise to clean without damaging your panels.

Image source

Monitor for Shading Changes

  • Trees grow and buildings rise. What was a sunny spot last year might now be shaded. Conduct an annual check to ensure new obstructions aren’t casting shadows on your panels, blocking their sunbathing.
  • If you find that branches have begun to loom over your panels, it might be time for some careful trimming. Ensure it’s done safely to avoid damage to both the tree and the panels.

Schedule Professional Inspections

  • Having a solar technician inspect your roof or ground-mounted solar system can catch issues you might not see, from wiring problems to hardware updates. It’s like a yearly physical but for your solar panels.
  • Given its critical role, the inverter should be checked regularly for signs of wear or software updates, ensuring it’s converting as efficiently as possible.

Karel Jetleb with Pro Solar Clean uses a power brush to clean solar panels on the roof of Community Market in Santa Rosa on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Image source

Stay Alert to System Alerts

  • Many modern solar setups come with monitoring systems that alert you to drops in performance or other issues. Engage with these alerts rather than dismissing them to catch potential problems early.
  • Learn the basics of what different alerts might mean. A sudden drop in energy production, for instance, could indicate an obstruction or a technical fault.

It’s about being proactive rather than reactive, ensuring your solar panels continue to provide clean, efficient energy to your home. Like any valuable asset, a little care goes a long way. Avoiding the most common mistakes when installing solar panels can be huge too.

Warranty and Repair Services

Ensuring your solar panels are always at their best involves not just regular maintenance but also understanding how to navigate warranty and repair services effectively. It’s like having an insurance policy for your car; you hope you never need it, but it’s invaluable when you do. Here’s how to make the most of your warranty and choose the right repair services when necessary.

Understanding Your Warranty

  • Familiarize yourself with the details of your solar panel warranty. Most come with a performance guarantee for up to 25 years and a hardware warranty that covers defects.
  • Keep a record of all maintenance and repairs, just as you would service records for a vehicle. This documentation can be crucial if you need to make a warranty claim.

Selecting a Repair Service

  • When choosing a professional for repairs, ensure they’re certified to work on solar systems.
  • Look for a repair service that has experience with your particular solar panel brand and model. Their familiarity can lead to quicker, more accurate troubleshooting. Here’s how to avoid solar scams.
  • Verify that the repair service is recognized by your solar panel’s manufacturer to comply with warranty terms. You wouldn’t want a repair to inadvertently void your warranty.

Making a Repair Claim

  • If you encounter a problem that might be covered by the warranty, your first step should be to contact the manufacturer or installer.
  • Be ready to describe the issue in detail and provide any relevant documentation or records. The more information you can give, the smoother the process will be.

Bringing light to the common issues that can dim the performance of your solar panels and how to troubleshoot them is more than just about maintenance—it’s about empowering you to get the most out of your clean energy investment.

From the dirt and debris that can accumulate on the surface to more complex issues like inverter failures, knowing when you can DIY and when to call in the professionals ensures your solar system remains a reliable source of energy.


Regular check-ups, cleaning, and staying vigilant about your system’s performance not only enhance the efficiency of your panels but also contribute to a sustainable future.

Remember, each kilowatt-hour of solar energy you harness not only reduces your electricity bill but also decreases the carbon footprint, making a difference in the world.

Now, we’d love to hear from you! Have you encountered issues with your solar panels? How did you resolve them? Or, if you have tips and tricks for maintaining solar panel efficiency, especially during the challenging seasons, share your story in the comments below.

Your experience could light the way for fellow solar enthusiasts navigating their solar energy journey.

Together, let’s build a community of informed and proactive solar power users, driving forward the mission of renewable energy for all.

Take the first step towards energy independence. Calculate![your solar savings instantly

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

Share This Story

Looking to save on your energy bills? Get your FREE, no-obligation solar quote today.

About the Author: Nate Rodda

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

Related articles