How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
With the excellent benefits that solar panels offer, homes and businesses are shifting to generating electricity using this proven technology. The cost of solar solutions is continuously decreasing, making them an affordable renewable source of energy. But how long do solar panels last?
Generating electricity through solar panels is environmental-friendly, as it does not produce emissions. They also have the advantage of low running cost because they are only powered through the sun’s energy and have no moving parts that can break down.
However, as a homeowner or business owner thinking of installing this solar technology as an alternative source of electricity, you want to know how long solar panels last. Knowing that gives you the idea about how long your system will serve you for.
Apart from answering the main question, this article also states the causes of solar panel degradation, and provides guidance on what to do to extend your system’s life.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
The simple answer to this question is 40-50 years. This shows that solar panels have impressive lifespans that vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. You can have an idea of how long a solar panel will last from the warranty that comes with it. Solar panels usually come with a warranty of half their lifespan.
One thing worth noting about these warranties is that they guarantee the panels’ performance over the period of the warranty. Most manufacturers include their panels’ performance level will not drop below 80% before the warranty ends.
Though it is not included as a guarantee, some panels are known to maintain not less than 80% performance throughout their lifetime.
However, how long a solar panel serves greatly depends on the care it receives. A solar panel that is well maintained will last longer than a panel that is neglected for a considerable period of time. Though they have no moving parts that can break down, solar panels require proper maintenance to maintain their life expectancy.
It is also worth noting that a lifespan of 40-50 years is only expected for polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels and does not cover thin-film panels. Thin-film solar panels have shorter lifespans, averaged at 20 years.
Also Read: How Do Solar Panels Work?
Causes of Solar Panel Degradation
One common cause of degradation in solar panels is the climate they are subjected to. The crystalline silicon technology has higher degradation rates when installed in an extreme climate. Panels exposed to heavy snow and wind are more prone to degradation. However, with the provision of a façade, the degradation rate in solar panels tends to reduce due to snow load elimination.
Also, solar panels installed in desert-like climates tend to have the highest degradation rate. Solar panels in this climate lose about 1% of their production capacities every year, meaning that they lose about 40% of their production capacities (power output) after 40 years.
Moderate climates are the best for reduced solar panel degradation. Solar panels installed in a moderate climate lose only about 0.2% of their production capacities every year. This shows that the panels still retain 92% of their production capacities after 40 years.
How to Extend Their Life
Knowing what to do to extend a solar panel’s life helps it retain its performance rate for a long period of time. Generally, solar panels do not require much maintenance, as they have no moving parts. Also, they are built to endure any weather conditions they find themselves in. However, it is not to say there is nothing you can do to make your system last for a generation.
The major maintenance required of you is to keep them clean and in good condition. This keeps their efficiency level high for a long time.
Inspection is Key for Longevity
Solar panels need frequent inspection. Checking them regularly ensures you follow up with their performance and spot any unwanted developments early. This inspection includes checking for their output. If the output goes below the expected amount, this lets you invite an expert to inspect and rectify what might be wrong, ensuring that your system comes back to its optimum efficiency level.
Another important factor that helps elongate how long a solar panel lasts is how it is installed. A well-installed solar panel does not only last longer but also maintains a high level of efficiency over a long time. For example, solar panel strings have to be adequately optimized for uneven generation of electricity. Other Factors that contribute to some degree of degradation is the slope of the panels and the side of the roof they are mounted on. Admittedly, these make only a marginal difference.
This is why it is usually recommended to hire an accredited company (e.g. MCS accredited in the UK) for solar installation. No doubt, the level of experience of the installer hired contributes to how long solar panels last. One major importance of hiring an accredited installer is the warranty covering any damage or incorrect installation.
Inverter Will NOT Outlive Your Panels
Other than keeping an eye on your solar panels, your inverter also needs proper maintenance. Note that how best your system serves you also depends on your inverter. Solar inverters have shorter lifespans than solar panels.
For example, the traditional string inverters have lifespans between 10 and 15 years. This means you are likely to have to replace the inverter at least once during the lifetime of your solar panels. The key is to keep your inverter in good condition to ensure it can process the maximum amount of energy from your panels.
How to Maintain Solar Panels
Maintaining your solar panels ensures they last for the full length of their estimated lifespan. The major maintenance tip for your solar panel(s) is proper cleaning.
The good part of this cleaning is, you only need to do it once or twice a year. However, when you have a long period with no rain, it is wise to increase how frequently you clean them.
Here are basic steps to clean your solar panels:
- The best time of the day to clean solar panels is in the morning or late evening, as they can get hot during the day.
- Use a soft brush to sweep debris and leaves on them. Make sure not to scratch them.
- Use your garden hose and spray the panels gently. Panel system owners recommend warm water as it helps to get rid of the dirt easier.
- If there are areas with stubborn bird drops, use a soft cloth to clean them. However, again, do this gently to avoid scratching.