How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Are you worried about how long your solar panels will last? This article examines the lifespan of your panels and the things to consider to make them last longer.
Of the many questions people have when installing a solar power system, one stands out:
How long do solar panels last?
It’s a logical question. One of the biggest selling points of solar panels is that they generate electricity you don’t have to pay for. Naturally, some worry about whether the solar power system will last long enough for them to see a return on investment.
In this article, we take a closer look at the lifespan of your solar panels and why so many households have chosen to install solar power. We also examine some of the issues that may affect them.
Solar Panel Durability – The Numbers
Solar panels may face extreme weather conditions. They’ve got to withstand heat, rain, wind, and many other issues.
However, manufacturers use different materials for their panels. The choice of material will have an effect on the panel’s durability.
So, how long do solar panels last?
According to Energy Informative, most panels degrade at a rate of about 0.5% per year. Those made before 2000 tend to have a faster rate of degradation. Of the panels made after 2000, two types have slower degradation rates.
One of these is monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si), which deteriorates at a rate of around 0.36% per year depending on the quality of the panel.
Solaray installs two of the top monocrystalline panels on the market: Trina Honey 330W split panels and LG NeON 2 panels. These are mono-Si panels, which have the slowest degradation rate of any type of panel.
At the upper end of the scale, you have copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels. These degrade at a rate of about 0.96% per year. Not far behind them are amorphous silicon (a-Si), which degrade at a rate of 0.87%. These are both post-2000 numbers.
So, the first step to answering “How long do solar panels last?” starts with looking at the materials. Ideally, you’ll install mono-Si panels because of their slower rate of degradation. However, that isn’t to say other panel types won’t last for a long time.
Standard Solar Panel Warranties
When asked, “How long do solar panels last?” most installers provide a standard performance warranty of 25 years.
However, that warranty typically gets split into two parts. The 25-year warranty is a limited warranty related to power output. It will cover the nominal power output of the panel during the first year. It will also explain the anticipated degradation of the panel during that time period.
The goal here is to give you an idea of what to expect from your panels over time.
In addition to that, many manufacturers offer a separate product warranty for the module. Typically, this lasts for 10 years and covers any damages that would require maintenance or repair. LG Solar is far and away the best option here with a 25-year product warranty.
As mentioned, it will take a little while for solar panels to repay the investment you made in them, typically 3-5 years. What worries some people is the assumption that this 25-year warranty is the lifespan of the panel.
That’s not the case.
Over the course of that 25 years, the panel’s efficiency will degrade year by year. However, efficiency will only drop to between 80% and 91%, depending on the panel type, and this 25-year efficiency drop is covered by the performance warranty.
The better solar panels on the market now come with significantly better performance warranties compared to the industry standard. LG NeON 2 panels, for example, have a 90.08% power output guarantee, a full 10% high than the industry standard. So after 25 years the panel will still be outputting at least 90.08% of its rating. Not bad!
This means that most quality solar panels have a longer life expectancy than their guarantee suggests and will provide significantly more power over the life of the system.
That covers the question of “how long do solar panels last” – if you leave them alone. But there are several things you can do to extend the lifespan of your panels. Here are a few ideas that may help you.
Idea #1 – Work With a Quality Installer
Maximising the lifespan of your solar panels starts with the installation. A poor installer may cause damage or make mistakes that compromise the system.
Of course, you have to consider how the installer handles the panels. But that isn’t the main concern. Most solar panels are very sturdy, as they’re designed to deal with constant wear and tear. Even so, if your installer puts undue weight on the panels they might cause microfractures. These may not have a huge affect at first. But they’ll compromise the integrity of the panels over time.
Still, the real concern comes from the structure of your array and the installation of the connections that support it.
Mistakes in this department aren’t easy to spot. They could go undetected for years and only get discovered with a later check (unless you have panel-level monitoring that is included with Enphase systems).
The key is to get a quality installer with a strong reputation. Research any installer you consider working with. Look beyond their website and try to find independent reviews of their work.
The answer to “how long do solar panels last?” can vary greatly. A lot depends on how good your installer is.
Idea #2 – Cleaning Solar Panels
Many will tell you that you need to have your solar panels cleaned by professionals a couple of times a year.
That’s not the case. Rainwater is more than capable of washing away much of the dust and sediment that collects on panels. Furthermore, hiring cleaners raises the risk of damaging the panels and decreasing their lifespan.
The only time you may need to clean the panels is if a large piece of debris that rain can’t wash away covers them. In this case, look for a professional who takes particular care when cleaning. You don’t want somebody who goes stomping over your panels to get to the debris.
Idea # 3 – Understand Your Solar Inverters
A solar inverter is a crucial part of any solar power system. It’s responsible for converting the DC current the panels produce into AC current your appliances can use.
Your inverter does not have the same lifespan as the panels themselves.
Typically, a standard inverter lasts for between 10 and 12 years. After that time, you’ll need to replace it with a new inverter. This may mean you use three inverters before the warranty on your panels expires. Enphase microinverters are one of the better alternatives on the market. They have a 25-year lifespan and are a lot easier to replace. More information about the reliability of solar inverters is available here: reliability of solar inverters.
Keep track of the inverter’s age. A malfunctioning inverter may fail. While this doesn’t affect how long your solar panels last, it will prevent your system from providing you with power.
Idea #4 – Engage in Some Pest Control
One of the larger threats to your panels doesn’t come from the elements.
It comes from pests that can cause damage you don’t even see. For example, a rodent problem can cause serious issues. Rats and mice, in particular, have a tendency to chew through wiring. While they’re unlikely to damage the panels themselves, they may cause issues with the connections between them.
If you see any evidence of pests in your home, you’ll need to have them removed as quickly as possible. Call a professional exterminator immediately. This may be one of the few times when you need to call solar panel maintenance professionals too. Inform them of the pest problem and have them check the connections to ensure there’s no damage.
The other main issue is bird droppings, especially if solar panels are installed under a TV antena or something that birds can pirch on.
So, How Long do Solar Panels Last?
With a typical performance warranty of 25 years, and operation beyond that point, solar panels can last for decades.
This is what makes solar power such a good investment. It will take 3-5 years to repay the installation costs, after that, you will be generating free electricity for your household. It’s even possible to finance the system so that the reduction on your power bill matches the monthly repayments, making it easy to cashflow your investment.
There is a lot to take into account when installing solar, which is why thousands of Australian households have chosen Solaray for our professional advice and customer service.
For more information, call us today on 1300 221 586 or request a callback here: