How Long Do Solar Panels Last and Is It Possible To Make Them Last Longer?

Jessica PirroMay 20, 2019 1734 0

What is the average lifespan of a solar panel and can you make them last longer?

Solar panels are a massive investment. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on something that isn’t going to last very long. Luckily, solar panels do last a long time, and some can even approach middle age. Several factors determine how long your particular solar panels are going to last. Keep reading this blog to learn exactly how long your solar panels can live and what to do to keep your panels in the best shape possible.

The lifespan of the modern solar panel.

Generally, solar panels last 25 to 30 years, but some can last to 40. This is why choosing quality over a cheap panel is so important. The $4000 less on a cheaper panel won’t mean much when your panels only last 25 years and the more expensive panels your neighbor has last 30. Also, make sure you get at least a 25-year warranty from your installer.

What is the degradation of a solar panel system like?

Solar panel systems don’t have moving parts, so they aren’t just going to break down out of nowhere. However, they will degrade, which involves the breakdown of microwires or the water in the panels flowing out. Generally, the average degradation rate of a solar panel is 0.5% per year, meaning that by year 25, your panels could still be operating at 88% efficiency.

Caring for your solar panels.

An important factor in keeping your panels running as long as possible is by inspections and maintenance. Luckily, they require very little maintenance overall, but you’ll still want to get annual inspections from your solar company. You’ll also want to keep your panel clean, ensuring all debris is removed as often as possible. Click here for a guide to cleaning your solar panels and keeping them working at top efficiency all year round.

When you do encounter repairs that need to be made, there are a couple of common ones. One of these is the inverter failing and needing to be replaced, which is the most common cause of panel failure. The other is cracking panels and loose wiring, which will be easy to fix and should be covered by your warranty.

How can you make your panels outlive their warranty?

Solar panels usually have a lifetime warranty of 25 years (some panels offer a 30-year warranty but that is not typical). You can expect solar panels to last for at least 25 years, however in most studies, after 25 years the panels still work, they just have a reduced production rate.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) did a study in 2012 that found, the average solar panel output drops by 0.8% every year. This decline in energy production is referred to as the solar panel degradation rate.

The rate that each panel declines varies based on which brand you buy. However, because solar panel technology is advancing, the rate that panels degrade is improving as well.

Since the study was done there have been many technological improvements and 78% of the newer panels have cut their degradation rates to 0.5% yearly.  

During the 25 year warranty, solar panels are expected to maintain at least 80% of their rated energy output. Their warranty is the manufacturer’s guarantee that the panels will operate at their exact or near their peak levels of efficiency for 25 years.  

This warranty insinuates that at the end of its 25-year warranty, a 300-watt panel should still be producing at least 240 watts.

Workmanship warranty:

There is also a separate warranty that is offered by solar panel manufacturer’s called a workmanship warranty. This warranty covers all manufacturer errors, usually faulty junction boxes or frames.

The typical workmanship warranty is a 10-year warranty but some manufacturers offer workmanship warranties up to 20 years.

These warranties are good news for those who are concerned with their return on investment in their solar system.

There is no guarantee that the solar panels will last longer than their warranty, but that is the case for most panels. Because there aren’t any moving parts to solar panels they are very reliable.

Can you make your panels last longer?

The majority of solar panel manufacturers test their panels to ensure that they can withstand real-world conditions like high winds and lots of snowfall without breaking. They are also tested to make sure that they can handle hail storms without breaking.

Because solar panels don’t have any moving parts they are low maintenance, therefore the best thing that you can do to make sure that the solar panels last longer hires a good installer.

You should also buy the solar panels that have robust warranties. These warranties offer 10-12 year warranties on the panel's equipment to cover defects and damages that are caused by the environment.     

If your panels are well maintained it can help lower the degradation rate and it will help you panels performance last longer.

Here are some ways you can make your panels last longer: 

Get your panels checked regularly

Having your solar panel installer come out and do regular examinations of your solar panels is the best way to make sure that your solar panels last a long time. These examinations can reveal any potential problems that your system may have such as loose racking or exposed wires.

The reason it is important to have your solar panel installer come out and check on your system instead of doing it yourself is because of the warranty. If you inspect your panels and see an issue that you try to fix and end up damaging your panels while attempting to fix it, you could void the warranty.

When the solar panel installer is inspecting the roof they are also inspecting the other equipment on your solar system, especially your inverters and the racking.

Solar panel inverters will usually last 10 to 15 years and will need to be replaced at some point in the solar panels' lifetime. Unless you have a microinverter. The micro-inverters usually have the same life span as the solar panels.

When the solar panel installer checks they racking they will make sure that everything is in place and nothing is loose. If the racking is loose there is a huge risk that the solar panel will be moved around or fall of the racking.

You should also make sure that you are keeping your panels clear of damaging materials.

When the solar panel installer comes out to assess your property for your solar panels, they will make sure that there aren’t any trees that could potentially shade your solar system, or have its branches fall and damage it.

By making sure your panels stay debris-free you are helping your panels stay damage-free. If you can avoid physical damages being done to your panels you can help extend the panel's lives to well past 25 years.

If you are interested in making sure your panels last past 25 years there are specific products that you can buy to keep your panels damage free.

Solar panels can outlast their warranties as long as you are properly taking care of them. You should make sure to hire a reputable solar panel installer and schedule regular inspections with them and keep your panels clean of debris to make the panels outlive their warranty.

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