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karlInSanDiego

Proper equipment for 2nd story low pitch roof solar with limited yard access

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karlInSanDiego

Hi Folks,
I'm in San Diego California, where they build 2 story houses with low pitched roofs and the houses are packed tightly together.  I'm considering starting a solar panel cleaning service, but before I invest in a WFP and DI/RO equipment that will work on single story homes with lots of yard access to allow me to stand way back and use a 30' pole and simple gooseneck (I think), I'm also trying to work out a way to use a pole in an almost vertical orientation with a long overhang (15 feet?) and maybe a camera to see what I'm doing.  Without a good method to do these cramped tall houses with flatish roofs, I'd have to turn down half the jobs.  I'll only work from the ground, as I'm too old to get on roofs all day for a living and don't want the hassle of roof safety gear/insurance.  I imagine there's a good market to clean these, as homeowners can't do these themselves, and we get very little rain here making panels dirty very quickly.

I've been trying to find examples of extreme long 90 degree extensions that would allow different lengths to account for the various setbacks.  I suppose I could cobble something using multiple poles and a nearly right angle holder, but was hoping experts on here have seen this kind of rig manufactured professionally for daily usage.  It seems like an extreme side load on a carbon pole could snap it, before I get the brush onto the panel.  Thanks for any tips or photos you can provide.

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Clisty1989
4 hours ago, karlInSanDiego said:

Hi Folks,
I'm in San Diego California, where they build 2 story houses with low pitched roofs and the houses are packed tightly together.  I'm considering starting a solar panel cleaning service, but before I invest in a WFP and DI/RO equipment that will work on single story homes with lots of yard access to allow me to stand way back and use a 30' pole and simple gooseneck (I think), I'm also trying to work out a way to use a pole in an almost vertical orientation with a long overhang (15 feet?) and maybe a camera to see what I'm doing.  Without a good method to do these cramped tall houses with flatish roofs, I'd have to turn down half the jobs.  I'll only work from the ground, as I'm too old to get on roofs all day for a living and don't want the hassle of roof safety gear/insurance.  I imagine there's a good market to clean these, as homeowners can't do these themselves, and we get very little rain here making panels dirty very quickly.

I've been trying to find examples of extreme long 90 degree extensions that would allow different lengths to account for the various setbacks.  I suppose I could cobble something using multiple poles and a nearly right angle holder, but was hoping experts on here have seen this kind of rig manufactured professionally for daily usage.  It seems like an extreme side load on a carbon pole could snap it, before I get the brush onto the panel.  Thanks for any tips or photos you can provide.

any chance you could put some pics if the houses, that way we could advise better?

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karlInSanDiego

Something more like this with a long telescoping pole after the angle.  Need to reach panels 15 or so feet to the center of the house, without the benefit of standing far back to use the natural angle of a straight pole.  Goosenecks seem to max out at 25", and still assume you're approaching the roof at a comparable angle to the roof.  If the roofs were severely pitched, this wouldn't be a problem, but imagine a scenario where standing in the narrow side yard, you could never know that there are solar panels up there.  The only way I would know how to be comprehensive from the ground is with the aid of a camera, and a recent satellite image.  I imagine these home owners are just ignoring cleaning altogether.  Looks like the one San Diego company who quotes online charges $25+ per panel for 2nd story, maybe because they assume it requires getting on roof, or using a scissor lift.

uprightsolarpole.jpg

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Pjj
3 hours ago, karlInSanDiego said:

Something more like this with a long telescoping pole after the angle.  Need to reach panels 15 or so feet to the center of the house, without the benefit of standing far back to use the natural angle of a straight pole.  Goosenecks seem to max out at 25", and still assume you're approaching the roof at a comparable angle to the roof.  If the roofs were severely pitched, this wouldn't be a problem, but imagine a scenario where standing in the narrow side yard, you could never know that there are solar panels up there.  The only way I would know how to be comprehensive from the ground is with the aid of a camera, and a recent satellite image.  I imagine these home owners are just ignoring cleaning altogether.  Looks like the one San Diego company who quotes online charges $25+ per panel for 2nd story, maybe because they assume it requires getting on roof, or using a scissor lift.

uprightsolarpole.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dont want to want to put you off but I don’t think this is going to work at all we clean many thousands of panels a year ones that look like the photo you have posted we walk away from : only option for that that’s affordable would be a portable scaffold tower but it would be slow work to clean the actual panel would take a couple of muinets to put up the tower would take at least 20 muinets but if you could make it pay then maybe that’s the way forward , or just do ones that you can get access to 

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karlInSanDiego

Thanks for the honest answer Pjj.  I'm familiar with that type of scaffolding, and I do own one already.  It's two levels with a rail.  Putting this up in soft ground is a problem, and when assembling our greenhouse kit, we used long planks to give the base stability.  It has outriggers designed to support that height, but it doesn't have hatches in the floors to climb through, so it is cumbersome and somewhat dangerous to climb and assemble by yourself.  I hated climbing on it (notice my full face bike helmet), and imagine it would also trigger expensive insurance both for my safety and liability of damage to a property.  Perhaps I need to purchase a pole, experiment with cleaning single story, attaching my GoPro set to wifi broadcast to my phone, adding a cheap goggle mount for my phone as a view screen, and see how hard it is to clean via remote eyes.  At worst, I'll have an expensive pole for cleaning all the high glass on our greenhouse, and our own solar panels, and at best, I'll be able to pull my pole into two sections and create a durable part to hold two sections at an adjustable angle.

It helps me to hear that experienced cleaners refuse these jobs.  If I can crack it with a safe, fast solution using a different pole design, I might just have an edge over other cleaners in the region.

29376815740_280d202a5d_k.jpg

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Pjj

The scaffold towers we have are wider than yours and you can climb up internally but it’s not ideal for doing solar panels I admit , this is the type we have for awkward and high conservatory 

F833788A-8A3C-46A8-813D-294E41D64DD4.jpeg

60F4055A-F3E6-460D-931F-798F1BFA08CC.jpeg

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karlInSanDiego

I believe to use any scaffolding professionally, I'd also need a harness and the associated break away safety line to support it.  The arresters are rated for different fall heights, I think.  I'd be more confident on your scaffold for sure, but then I'd be in it for another several thousand dollars and lots of time assembling and disassembling, so like you said, not cost effective.  And my truck is from 1948, so I'd need new wheels to haul all this gear around.  If I can keep it to a pole, excess hoses, and 4 part DI/RO filter, I would hope to work out of a car.  Maybe a Chevy Bolt electric, down the line.

 

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adamangler

Your best bet might me to try to d.i.y something?

 

2 extendable poles, some sort of angle bracket that's adjustable and a camera on the end.

 

All seem like too much hassle to me though, I would just stick to houses you can clean, unless they are all like that then you could be onto a winner if you find a solution.

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Green Pro Clean Ltd

There's two types of jobs in the cleaning business. 

The one you take on and the ones you walk away from.  

 

Now if I were to do that job I would set up my anchor points and ropes and do it from ropes as I am certified to do so.  Having said that to get certified and fet all the gear cost me a fair bit of cash and that cost will get passed on to the client. 

 

It's not your fault the client fitted panels in a place that will require specialist solutions. If (and that's the key) they really want them cleaned their going to need to pay accordingly. 

 

Here in the UK the price of a job goes up dependant on the difficulty of said job. 

 

For us to tackle that job in the picture here in the UK would be around £180 no more than 2 hours and requiring 2 men.  One on the job and one on the ground for safety. 

 

If we could do that from floor or gutter level ladders then more like £80 and out in an hour. 

 

Here's the kicker..... do you need to do these awkard jobs? Are there not tens of thousands of panels in your area with easy access? 

 

Good luck mate. 

 

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karlInSanDiego

You make a good point about sticking to the easy/profitable jobs, and I appreciate that feedback.  I'm actually a 48 year old software programmer who's trying to leave the corporate world behind, and have been looking for a job I feel good about, which is why I'm focused on Solar panel cleaning, and not cleaning corporation's windows, for example.  I'm one of those tree huggers, and I may yet choose this as a part time career rather than my sole income.

What started me looking into the right way to clean panels was 4 years of climbing on my single story roof with a hose and **** microfiber tipped pole, and watching my panels gradually become dirt magnets and be constantly dirty looking (and progressively less effective), despite my good intentions to keep them clean.  The elements aren't kind to panels left unloved, and since I've decided against a career of selling solar or climbing roofs to install solar, I believe if I can come up with a solid, safe method to clean anyone's panels when they call, I'll be in much better shape, than if I have to ask if it's 2nd story, then how clear is the access on the side yard, and then shock them with an $800-$1000 estimate, followed by them hanging up angry.  And, that wouldn't get their panels clean and fix the problem, it would just kick it down the road.  San Diego is a mecca for solar, but we're still nowhere near the percentage installed that we could be.  Installers have been competing for several years, and now it's a bit of a receding business, because our installed panel cost is still high enough that it's counter productive to install a small array to a low or middle-low income home with a small electrical bill.  So solar is usually found on the homes of the ecology minded (believe the Climate Change is real), or high users of energy who did the math, but the wealthy by and large.  I'd like to approach this new career, if I decide it's for me, with the attitude that I'm doing it to get them all clean, not just choose the more profitable or safe jobs.  That said, I won't sacrifice my health and safety, so it's an efficient ground method I'm seeking.   And I don't mind charging 2x more for the jobs that require a laughably strange rig of a remote camera and their panel washer with a video game helmet on.  That actually would make a good television spot on the local news.

Unfortunately, a  grad student here at Uni. California San Diego wrote a paper in 2013, that essentially told people not to bother cleaning their solar, because they'll never recoup the cost, with increased production.  It was a **** article that didn't actually account for the fact that our short rainy season doesn't actually clean panels effectively, but never the less, some people believe they don't need to be manually cleaned.  Even our premium installer told us to just spray it with a hose every 6 months if we wanted to help keep them clean.  These panels on those 2nd story roofs are completely hidden from sight, and they have no idea how dirty they are, but given their flat angle, I suspect they are far more dirty than people guess.  So there's a lot of people here with unwashed panels who need the service.

I'm leaning towards investing in a telescoping pole I can separate into two parts, and experiment from there.  I've got a gopro camera and smartphone.  Even if I only do 20 easy jobs over a couple of months, I think I can pay off my equipment (~$2000).  Aside from that, I have to decide on creating an LLC. so I can't be sued and lose my house/savings if something goes terribly wrong.  I'll try a few neighbor's houses for free to get my technique down before trying to go public.

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solarpanelcleaningltd

If you can’t see the panels, then you can’t clean them.

invest in a lightweight aluminium scaffold tower for those awkward jobs. They don’t take long to erect, charge accordingly.

 

good luck!

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Green Pro Clean Ltd

We do many types of cleaning from windows to gutters to solar panels to complete roofs. 

 

You're looking at this with rose tinted glasses with 'There has to be an "easirer" solution'  

 

Often there isn't and full on access equipment is required weather it's rope and harness or cherry pickers with booms.  At the end of the day no one willl be angry with you quoting a price to do the job safely, legally and in the eaiest manor available.  

 

If it were that simple to make a 'hook' shaped pole someone would have done it by now.  This is not to say it cant be done. 

 

Here's your biggest issue with your idea..... tge actuall mechanics of moving it whilst applying a degree of presure to the panel and trying to do this whilst viewing it all remotley through a GoPro. 

 

Might I suggest you buy a pole..... then see how you get on doing single story arrays to a competent level from the ground then you will have a better idea of exactly what you're up against. 

 

Good Luck. 

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HollasSpecialistCleaningSystems

Could you not just ladder up to the gutter line, preferably with a stand off, strap to secure the ladder and someone footing at the bottom. Then just reach and wash em from the top of the ladder?


Sent from my iPhone using Window Cleaning Forums

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karlInSanDiego
3 hours ago, HollasSpecialistCleaningSystems said:

Could you not just ladder up to the gutter line, preferably with a stand off, strap to secure the ladder and someone footing at the bottom. Then just reach and wash em from the top of the ladder?


Sent from my iPhone using Window Cleaning Forums

I don't think standing on a ladder with two hands operating a pole, would get me any safety awards.  More likely I'd eventually be a man in a  wheelchair.  Plus, then I'd have to have another guy on the clock to hold a ladder.  It might make sense if it was one day out of 100 that'd I'd be trying that, but the goal here is to specialize in this type of cleaning.

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karlInSanDiego

Thanks for everyone's advice and insight.  It has been helpful, and you've given me a good representation of how involved a 2 story job like that is.  I've ordered a WF pole and a DI/RO filter, and I'll start learning the process on single story roofs with reasonable access.

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