How Long Do Solar Panels Last?: The Average Lifespan of Solar Panels
November 2, 2021
Solar panels are extremely durable, lasting an average of 25 – 30 years.
Homeowners and businesses around the country are getting more interested in making their lifestyle more sustainable. Going solar is the best way to transition to clean, sustainable energy while also dramatically reducing your monthly utility bills — or even eliminating them entirely!
In order to get the most life from your solar panel installation, it’s important to understand the average lifespan of solar panels and determine whether a solar power system is worth the investment for your home or business.
Here we’ll discuss 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.
[Related: Energy Independence Through Solar Power]
Why Do Solar Panels Degrade?
Solar panels may degrade faster than predicted for several reasons.
Crystalline silicon panels may experience a higher rate of degradation when solar panels are exposed to extreme changes in climate, experience heavy soiling, or are improperly installed. The superiority of the technology that different manufacturers use can play a role as well.
What Is a Solar Panel Degradation Rate?
Solar panel systems will show a reduced ability to absorb sunlight and convert it into solar energy over their lifetime. However, it takes many years for this slow loss of efficiency to occur. Factors that cause this include hot weather as well as the natural reduction in chemical potency of the panels, also known as the “degradation rate.”
A solar panel with a lower degradation rate will produce more energy over its lifetime. Essentially, the lower the degradation rate, the better the solar panel. Solar panel degradation rates depend on the brand as well. As you’d expect, higher-quality panels will have a lower degradation rate than lower-quality panels.
The average solar panel loses 0.8% of its output each year according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study. However, premium manufacturers like SunPower offer panels with degradation rates as low as 0.3%, meaning their panels will last much longer compared to the majority of other manufacturers. This makes degradation rate a vital aspect to consider when comparing solar panels during your pre-purchase research process.
[Related: Who Makes the Best Solar Panels?]
Weather also plays a significant role in the longevity of solar panels.
A strong windstorm can cause tree branches to fall 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, and large hailstones can damage the glass.
However, most manufacturers test and certify their panels to withstand storms and other inclement weather conditions.
Solar panels are typically not prone to defects because they’re built for durability. However, you should take especially careful precautions when first connecting and installing panels. Solar engineers will need to take into account the connection system as well as the condition of a roof when arranging solar panel arrays.
An old, damaged, or leaky roof could cause serious problems later on if an installer doesn’t correctly assess any issues. Make sure to do your research and find a trusted installer before doing any work on your home or business.
[Related: What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels]
Factors That Impact the Efficiency and Performance of Solar Panels
There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to technology. Here are some 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. Installing your panels to face as much sun as possible will enhance their efficiency. Therefore, mounting is a key factor to consider in terms of energy production.
Roof solar panels absorb different amounts of sunlight throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. But in general terms, south-facing is the most ideal orientation for prime solar exposure all day.
Most people have a misconception that the sun’s heat allows the photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels to produce electricity. In fact, it’s sunlight that’s crucial for solar panels to properly function and produce sustainable energy. The generation of power from solar panels is directly related to the amount of sunlight (UV rays) that fall over the panel.
The average temperature of your location is an important factor to consider before installing solar panels onto your home or business.
Extreme amounts of excess heat can reduce your system’s energy production. Considering your area’s climate will help you to arrange your solar panels in a way that supports sufficient airflow, thus keeping them at the right temperature for prime operating conditions.
Do Solar Panels Require Maintenance?
Solar panels are passive technology that require minimal maintenance. Depending on your location, a periodic cleaning is usually recommended every few years to improve long-term energy production.
How Can You Keep Your Solar Panels Efficient for Years to Come?
Solar panels are extremely durable, lasting an average of nearly three decades. Manufacturers rigorously test them to withstand extreme weather, including high winds, heavy snow, and even hail. And because solar panel systems usually lack moving parts, they don’t require routine maintenance.
All of these factors contribute to the long lifespan of solar panels. Here are some ways to ensure that your panels are working efficiently for as long as possible.
Work With a Reputable Solar Company
A trustworthy solar installer will have years of experience, not to mention glowing reviews from previous customers. They’ll also have a track record of impeccable customer service — a must when you’re committing to such an important purchase.
Ask Your Installer to Regularly Check Your Panels
We have our cars routinely checked, so why wouldn’t we do the same with our solar installations?
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. You may end up doing more damage and voiding the warranty if you attempt to dismantle your solar system and examine it on your own.
It’s recommended to have a cleaning and inspection once a year to ensure that your installation is operating at peak performance. You’ll want to have a professional conduct the inspection rather than doing it yourself. If you accidentally scratch or damage any of the panels, it could void your warranty.
Maintaining and Replacing Batteries
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 three to 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
During installation, the solar company you’ve chosen to work with will ensure that there are no trees that could drop branches on your panels. Even still, you can do your part in extending the lifespan of your solar panels by keeping them clean and free of debris, leaves, snow and more. However, it’s best to have a professional analyze the energy production of your system — including individual panels if you use microinverters — to identify potential damage over time.
If you notice any damage or debris on your panels but are unable to safely access them, it’s best to call a solar provider with the proper equipment and expertise to assist you.
[Related: Uninstalling and Reinstalling Solar Panels]
Standard Warranties on Solar Panels
The length of the warranty shows you the manufacturer’s estimate of a solar panel’s life expectancy.
Most solar installations will last an average of 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.
When it comes to workmanship, there are usually separate warranties that cover specific 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.
Freedom Solar Is an Installer You Can Trust
Solar power is one of the best sources of green energy if your system is properly installed and maintained. Thanks to their durability and long lifespan, they’ll continue to generate a return on your investment.