Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative energy solution for several reasons. Solar power is greener than fossil fuels, is environmentally friendly, does not produce any emissions, has higher energy efficiency, and has minimal maintenance requirements. Additionally, unlike wind turbines and other similar energy sources (which have moving parts), solar panels last an extremely long time due to their lack of moving parts. The warranty periods tend to be quite long due to the life expectancy of the average solar panel – something that is detailed further in this blog. However, there are some things to consider to keep your solar panels from deteriorating: our blog also describes ways you can ensure your solar panels last as long as possible.
Lifespan of Solar Panels
The lifespan of solar panels has been said to last anywhere from 10 – 25 years depending on the quality of your equipment and installation. Most solar panels won’t just “die” after this period, it just means that the energy production will decline by what manufacturers consider to be a significant amount. Over their lifetime, panels very slowly degrade, meaning they may produce less electricity over time.
However, solar panels will continue to work for many years after, as long as they aren’t damaged physically by wind, debris, or any other external factors. This is due to the lack of moving parts in solar panels – they can rarely break from within and are usually only damaged by outside forces. A poor racking set up or inclement weather can be included in these outside forces.
Solar Panel Degradation Rate
According to a 2012 study done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) solar panel output drops by 0.8% each year on average. This rate of decline is referred to as the solar panel degradation rate and will vary depending on which panel brand you buy. Premium manufacturers offer degradation rates as low as 0.3%, however degradation rates below 1% are common throughout the industry. It’s also been quite a few years since 2012, meaning more efficient technologies have now been developed. Many new solar panels have just a 0.5% yearly decline in energy output, or better!
What does this mean? Well, let’s say you have the average 0.8% degradation rate on your solar panels. In two years, your panels will operate at 99.2% of their original output. By their “25 year useful lifespan”? They’ll still be operating with an output of 82.5%. You simply need to multiply the degradation rate of the solar panels you’re interested in by the number of years and subtract that from the overall 100% output that the panels will start with.
Solar panels often come with different warranties that can help you get a sense of how long your solar panels’ lifespan will last. Most manufacturers will offer both an equipment warranty – to cover manufacturing defects – and a performance warranty – to guarantee that they’ll produce a certain amount of energy and for a certain amount of time. This performance warranty will help you get a sense of how much electricity to expect from your solar panel system over time.
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Solar Panels
The brand, reliability, and efficiency of each individual solar panel will indicate how long it will last. Lower quality, cheaper panels often have substandard materials and construction, including super-glued wiring, dodgy connections, poorly soldered joints and inferior quality components. In Australia, our Australian Standards for use in the design and installation of solar systems is a sure-fire way to tell whether or not you’re dealing with high performance panels and inverters. You can also check the ‘tier system’ which relates to the reputation of the manufacturer for quality and performance.
There are a number of things in the climate that can impact solar degradation:
Thermal cycling can put strain between joints and cause slow deterioration
Wind might help panels stay cool, but can cause panels to flex and result in damage over time
The moisture and ambient temperature from humid climates can lead to electrochemical reactions that may result in corrosion and electrical deterioration, as well as failing adhesive in cheaper panels
UV damage can occur in cheaper panels that aren’t treated with the proper protective UV blockers, you’ll notice they’ll discolour and sometimes fall apart as the glue degrades
Be sure to consider these before deciding which solar panels to install.
Poor installation can lead to faster degradation. Ensure your panels are well-connected and insulated by hiring a reputable installer who specialises in solar systems. Similarly, a reputable company will be able to guide you to make the best decision on which system best suits your needs and location.
Solar systems that are well-maintained last a lot longer than those that are left to their own devices. Regularly inspect your solar system (including panels, inverters and racking system) to pinpoint potential issues before they become a bigger problem. A typical central inverter for a PV installation will only last between 10 and 15 years so will need to be replaced at some point throughout the lifespan of your solar panels.
Do Solar Panels Degrade Over Time?
Yes, solar panels do degrade over time. Degradation is a normal, unavoidable part of owning solar panels. Over their lifetime, solar panels will slowly degrade and generate less power. Even if you work to control all the factors, you can still expect your solar panels to have some level of degradation over the course of their life. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean your solar panels will become “useless”, it is something to consider before installing a solar panel system into your home. Nothing lasts forever, but the savings you’ll gain from your solar system throughout its life can’t be ignored.
Tips to Make Your Home Solar Panels Last Longer
Keep your panels clear of debris and other damaging materials.
Before installing your system, it’s important to avoid placing the panels near anything that may cause physical damage. Trees or bushes may get blown into the panels if they’re not placed strategically and may speed up the degradation process.
Make sure your panels are regularly monitored and maintained.
Periodic maintenance checks and cleaning can extend the lifespan of your solar panels. It’s ideal to pick a company that will come back and perform routine maintenance as needed, so you can trust your solar system degradation rate will be as minimal as possible. Be sure to work with products and companies that practice proper methods for cleaning and maintenance – you don’t want to do more harm than good!
Team up with a trustworthy solar provider.
Be sure to work with certified industry experts that will install your system for long-term use and with the utmost care, using high-quality panels and parts.
Time to Replace Solar Panels
Many factors will determine how long your solar panels will last, however there is no rule on when to replace them. It can be ideal to replace your panels based on their productivity, as opposed to their age, with most manufacturers and installers recommending replacement when efficiency drops below 80%. However, solar panels will last long after their efficiency drops, it’ll only impact the amount of savings from energy use. So if you want to wait until it starts putting a strain on your pocket? That’s your decision entirely!
NuWay Solar and Solar Lifespan
Here at NuWay Solar, we do everything we can to ensure longevity from your solar system. We use high-quality, reliable components to ensure your investment performs at its best, long into the future, offering a performance warranty to ensure the best quality installation. We will take care of you from start to finish: our longevity is what sets us apart. We are a locally-based business so we’re actually there to help you even after installation (our competitors can’t say the same). The lifespan of our solar panels varies, as we work with our clients to make the right choice on which to use and how to implement them correctly. However, our friendly team always makes a follow-up appointment (or a few!) to make sure our clients both understand how their system works and get the best value for their money. We’re a proud member of the Smart Energy Council, meaning we have the kind of backing you need.
The answer to the question “How long do solar panels last?” is not always straightforward. Many factors influence the longevity of your system, including how well an installer takes care of it. If you are getting solar panels installed but aren’t sure how long they will last for you and want an idea about their potential, it’s essential first to understand a few key considerations. First, make sure you purchase quality equipment and hire a reputable installer who can assist you in getting the most out of your investment. It does matter because if anything goes wrong with your system – whether physically or programmatically – these are two areas vital to help keep it running safely and efficiently for as long as possible!
NuWay Solar has helped thousands of homeowners install quality solar panels that last longer through proper maintenance. NuWay Solar Panel installers are always ready to support you if you need any assistance.