Average Lifespan of Solar Panels
March 18, 2020
Homeowners and businesses around the country are progressively more interested in making their lifestyle more sustainable by installing solar panels. To determine whether a home solar power system is worth the investment, it helps to understand the average life span of solar cell panels.
The average lifespan of solar panels is 25 years. However, this doesn’t mean the panels on your roof will stop producing electricity after a couple of decades. It just means that after that point, their energy production may decrease beyond what solar panel manufacturers will guarantee their rated production output. This article will discuss the standard warranty on solar panels, how you can extend the life of your solar panel system, specific maintenance required, why degradation may occur, and other factors that affect solar panel lifespan or may limit their efficiency and performance.
Standard Warranties on Solar Panels
The length of the warranty shows you the manufacturers’ estimate of the life expectancy of solar panels. The standard warranty for solar panels is 25 years. During this period, manufacturers can guarantee that panels will operate at or near their peak efficiency. Most warranties guarantee at least 80% of their rated output. If a panel is certified to produce 300 watts its warranty will cover it producing at least 240 watts until the end of those 25 years. Some companies may offer a longer warranty or guarantee 90% or more efficiency. When it comes to workmanship, there are usually separate warranties that specifically cover issues such as faulty framing or junction boxes. The warranties for workmanship and equipment beyond the panels, such as the inverter and monitoring equipment, are typically for a shorter period of time.
Why Do Solar Panels Degrade?
There are several reasons why panels may degrade faster than predicted. When solar panels are exposed to extreme changes in climate, experience heavy soiling, or are improperly installed, the crystalline silicon panels may experience a higher rate of degradation. The superiority of the technology used by different manufacturers can play a role as well.
To extend the lifespan of a solar panel, you need to consider some essential aspects. Solar panels are built for durability and are not prone to defects. However, when first connecting and installing panels you need to be especially careful. This is why it is so important to find a trusted installer. When arranging the solar panels in arrays the solar engineers will need to take into account the connection system and the condition of the roof underneath. If an installer doesn’t correctly assess the nuances of your roof, then an old, damaged, or leaky roof could cause serious problems later on.
Weather also plays a significant role in the longevity of panels. A strong windstorm can cause tree branches to fall on panels and possibly damage the anti-reflective glass coating that covers the solar panels. Heavy snowfall can cause panels to lose their structural integrity and accelerate degradation. Large hailstones can damage the glass. However, most manufacturers’ panels are tested and certified to withstand such hailstorms and other inclement weather systems.
Factors That Impact the Efficiency and Performance of Solar Panels
When it comes to technology, there is no such thing as perfection. Here are several factors that may impact the efficiency or performance of your solar panel system.
Solar panels function based on how much solar energy they can absorb. To enhance the efficiency of a solar panel, make sure it is installed facing as much sun as possible. As the sun moves across the sky throughout the day, the varying roof surfaces on the house will absorb different amounts of sunlight at different times so how the system is mounted at an individual installation location will affect energy production. The ideal orientation for solar panels in Texas is south-facing at an incline that matches the longitude at your location, which in Central Texas is 32 degrees, for prime solar exposure throughout the day.
Sunlight is crucial for solar panels to properly function and produce sustainable energy. Most people have a misconception that it’s the heat from the sun that allows the PV cells to produce the electricity. The generation of power is directly related to the amount of sunlight (UV rays) that fall over the panel.
If you’re considering installing solar panels, you should consider the average temperature of your current location. Extreme amounts of excess heat can actually reduce production. Make an effort to arrange your panels in a way that allows sufficient airflow to keep them at the best temperature for prime operating conditions.
Do Solar Panels Require Maintenance?
Solar panels are passive technology and require minimal maintenance. Depending on your location, a periodic cleaning may be recommended every few years to improve long-term energy production.
How to Extend the Lifespan of Your Solar Panels
You may be wondering how you can help extend the lifespan of your solar panels. That is where a qualified solar installation team who can monitor the state of your entire system will help. While you can do your part in keeping the panels clean and free of debris, a professional can analyze the energy production of your system, including for individual panels if you are using microinverters, to identify potential damage over time. If production declines, a solar maintenance professional should check your system in-person to look for potential issues such as exposed wiring, loose racking, microcracks and more. If you attempt to dismantle or examine your solar system on your own, you may end up doing more damage and voiding the warranty.
MAINTAINING AND REPLACING BATTERIES
If your solar power system includes a battery backup system, it is important to consider battery maintenance and replacement costs. Most lithium ion and sealed lead-acid batteries need periodic inspection. Depending on the specific brand of battery you choose, the manufacturer’s warranty typically lasts anywhere from 3-10 years. You can help extend the life of your batteries by ensuring they are properly installed and inspected.
KEEP YOUR PANELS CLEAR OF DEBRIS AND OTHER DAMAGING MATERIALS
To ensure that your panels continue to generate the most possible solar energy, be sure to keep them free of any leaves, dirt, debris, bird droppings, and branches. If you are unable to safely access the panels on your roof or if you notice any panels have suffered damage, it’s best to call a solar provider with the proper equipment and expertise for assistance.
When properly maintained, solar power is one of the most affordable sources of green energy over the long-term and it is accessible to almost every home. It is a low-maintenance fixture without any moving parts, so it is highly unlikely that you will need to replace any solar panels before the end of your warranty period. If the system is properly installed and maintained, the average lifespan of solar cell panels is 25 years or longer, which provides homeowners with plenty of time to recoup significant value on the initial investment.