2200 Panel Array, first proposal for my new window cleaning co

I have just ordered new equipment (no WFP yet - soon, very soon!), going to purchase insurance and bond tomorrow, and then get my card/postcards and begin hitting the pavement on Monday and see how this new adventure flies.

Everyone here has been so welcoming and helpful, thank you!

So, the first job that comes across my screen is through a friend that owns and operates a solar panel manufacturer. His company also maintains one array with 2200 panels. The guy that cleans them, or hoses them down, charges $4000.00 for each clean.

I am curious how all of you price cleaning commercial solar arrays.

I think I can do this for much less without low-balling. Taking into account that I won’t be nearly as efficient on my first go 'round I can safely offer $1.50/panel and do just fine. That would be about $3300.00 for three days work. This still seems more than I need to charge, though. I keep thinking of a quote from Rockefeller: Price high to enough profit, but low enough to keep others from getting interested. My service would be cleaning, but also looking for and reporting damage (i.e. broken glass, loose wires), also clearing bird nests, hornet nests, etc. Above all is safety, checking the ground failure indicators before touching each panel to avoid electrocution.

I think a professional approach offered in a solid proposal will ameliorate a modest difference in price. Frankly, this is work I would like to specialize in. This array represents .5 megawatts of solar in an area that is slated to see 150 megawatts installed in the coming years. That is nearly 700,000 panels. Lots of work that is not a luxury, but a necessary maintenance.

Your thoughts are most welcome.


Sounds like a good project. What are you cleaning with if not WFP? Why do you want to undercut that much? I would think if you get the job, your first check would pay for a WFP so the next time you do the job it will be a bunch easier. Good luck.

"What are you cleaning with if not WFP? Why do you want to undercut that much? "

Initially, I would have to clean with handtools, and bring plenty of water with me. Even with WFP, I would have to bring water. This adds a level of complexity and would necessitate a tank.

To my sensibilites, $4000 is extravagant. But what do I know? that’s why I am asking!

I’ll admit I’ve never done solar panels. I think based on panels of glass, $1.50 a panel is low for commercial work, but that what lots of store front guys get. Solar panels are more delicate and I would assume be worth more to clean. But like you said, “What do I know”. There are some solar panel guys here that might have more insight for you.

I do residential solar panel cleaning. Never done any commercial yet. I would not dream of doing solar with anything but a WFP. Especially 2200 at a really cheap price. I would bid in such a way that would pay for your tank and WFP situation and some for your work. Sign then up on a plan so that you know you will get a good return on your investment. Then you would be ready to spread out and do others and the equipment is paid for. No dept involved.

What are the panel sizes ? And the array dimensions ( the farm footprint) . There is a fast way to use Waterfed Pole If water is scarce - agitate with the pole, and pull the excess water off with a blade to avoid the rinse cycle ( there is a partial rinse by nature of the way the WFP brush works). This way you may be able to buy your pole , and not need pure water ( till the next job )

To your sensibilities, why is $4000 extravagant and $3300 is sensible? Where do you draw the line and how do you determine the difference between extravagant and sensible? If you are unable to explain with reasons why one is “extravagant” and the other is “sensible”, then your sensibilities may be based on emotions; the “thrill” of the prospect of landing a $3K job. If it’s based on emotion rather than the rational explanations based on the true costs of running your business, BEWARE!

For your first job, $4K might seem like an exorbitant price and it could be tempting to reason that you will make a fortune at $3500/$3300/$3000, etc. The customer has at some point determined that $4000 was appropriate since that is what they have already been paying. Could it be that your friend is simply looking for an opportunity to save his own budget and is using the lure of a “big” job to get you to charge less? $3K might seem like a lot of money until you factor in [B]all[/B] the expenses of running your business. There is a reason the other company came up with $4K.

My advice is to avoid allowing price to be the reason your customers choose you. Don’t even start down that road. You will lose your customers for the same reason you gained them. If you acquire their work because you are cheaper, you will lose them as soon as the next cheaper guy comes along. What’s to stop the next guy from explaining that $3300 is “extravagant” and that his price of $2999 is “sensible”? Show your customer better reasons to hire you and to stick with you; the [B]value[/B] they get from hiring you should not be based on a cheaper price.

Also, watch out for the NSPs. I got a call to do 10,000 panels in South Jersey last year, I bid them at $5 each (they were caked in bird crap) = $50k. A NSP came through and bid them at $0.50 EACH! I literally got outbid by $45k. They can have it.

Thank you for your experience and time, Tony.

There was some rationale behind my thinking that $4000.00 is extravagant and $3300.00 is not. At least I had it worked out at the time. I am not sure that $4000.00 is too much, but there are some other factors that I have been considering.

It seems to me cleaning solar arrays is a much different proposition that cleaning residential windows, and to some extent, commercial windows. The difference is that solar panels have to be cleaned to maintain their peak output and efficiency, where windows of homes (and arguably, businesses) are being cleaned more as a luxury. This can be debated for some time, but there are models for pricing solar arrays that might be able to be analyzed empirically, rather than emotionally.

It seems that cleaning solar arrays benefits the company’s bottom line that owns them. The increased output can be measured and that measurement can be calculated as to what the cleaning is worth. I doubt the increased revenue from maintaining high output from each of those generators is insignificant, and justifying the need to clean isn’t needed, but the mechanism for setting the price is not an abstract in this work - at least this is my humble an woefully inexperienced observation.

Looking into this more deeply, this isn’t something that can be done with a couple jerry cans of water, a pole, a squeegee and some replacement rubbers and clips. Maybe it could, but good Lord, how long would that take? How to get water to these remote areas? How to clean them for a long lasting clean? The answer is WFP to many of the concerns, but with WFP comes many more variables and investments into equipment, and labor. This isn’t to be done on the cheap, but there is a cut off point where it costs the solar company money for cleanings. It would seems to me to be of huge marketing value to understand how to win these jobs and make a decent profit - for both parties. This isn’t part of the calculus for residential, or even commercial work. Residential and commercial is a profit for us measured in dollars and cents, but is more of an emotional or aesthetic value for the customer. I agree, I won’t bd solely on price. but I do want to try to account for how my customer might actually realize a profit from my performing the service.

If I were to win such an account and service it well AND have strong margins for my company and theirs, it would put me in a position to get significant work in the future - perhaps enough that this would be all I need to do.

From the limited number of solar owners who can or have tracked their savings after cleaning the number seems to be on average about 20% increased productivity for home owners. If you take that savings and get a few more numbers from the grid owner, you can do the math to see what the breakeven point might be for them and charge accordingly. If done carefully both parties can make money on the cleaning.

Wow I wonder if they got someone yet…

Hey Randy
Do you have any documentation or online source that states that 20%? Id be interested in seeing it… Or was this just from chatting with customers?

Hey Chris

I reached this # by the average from customers that have shared either their tracking system #'s with me or who have done the math year over year. They have the documentation. Here are some pictures that show the difference before and after. It seems pretty reasonable that 20% is doable when you see the pictures. I actually have one customer who had a 33% difference year over year with 2 cleanings per year. The cost of $250.00 for two cleaning more that paid for itself. We both made money on the cleanings. Remember Solar Panel cleaning is the only glass cleaning that has a return on investment that can be measured in dollars. Of coarse a storefront or a house window cleaning has a return, but how do you measure that?

2200 panels in three days is just over 30 seconds per panel–that’s flying!! Are you actually cleaning with scrubbers and rubber, or just rinsing them off with a hose??

Hey Chris i believe some solar companies have those number if i am remembering correctly. i also belive there are large service providers that state those numbers. by the looks of the panels in Randy Mills pic i believe it. WOW great job Randy

I came up with that based on using WFP cleaning, scrubbers and squeegees will take much longer. I expect it to take longer, but if they have been cleaned then a bit of hustle will go a long way to doing the job in a reasonable amount of time. If this looks like it might be a go I will have to get a WFP set up pretty soon. Even if I have to do it by hand the first time, it’s not like I have a crowded schedule to try to negotiate so taking longer will be o.k. knowing that the time it takes will continue to get shorter every time I do it.

I had an account with 1300 panels and they only wanted us to power wash them, did them in 7 hours. I was amazed at how it all dried without any visible white residue from the tap water.

another one was 1700 panels in 9.5 hours.

this was 2 of 8 or so rooftops

[MENTION=675]Pioneer Services[/MENTION] - you ever power wash them Randy?

How did you power wash solar panels?

like you’re rinsing a car or washing a wall, these things were caked, it had been years.

Oddly enough, no water spots remained and they came out the same as the ones I wpoled next to them!

No Bruce. Never power-washed panels. I don’t even offer power-washing yet. Just DI with a pole. 6% of my business so far this year.