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How Long Do Solar Panels Last

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Georgia Carter Updated: 10 January 2022
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You can breathe easy with solar panels powering your home. They save you from polluting the air, and they’ll provide energy for years, which means a great return on investment. But solar panels lose efficiency over time. In order to make the most out of your solar panel and prevent it from degrading too much, you need to understand how it works. 

With the average warranty lasting over 25 years, it’s important to learn about the inner workings of your solar panel. From degradation rates and prevention tips to finding ways to maximise energy output, learn about your solar panel lifespan in this article.

Key facts

  • The average warranty of a solar panel is 25 years, but the lifespan of the solar panel itself can last much longer than this.
  • Various factors like debris, weather, and heat can cause your solar panel to degrade.
  • After 20 to 30 years, your solar panel will only function at 90% of its full capacity
  • It may cost around 10% of your initial investment to maintain your solar panel.

What is the average lifespan of a solar panel?

Solar panel warranties are a little bit more complicated than you might think. Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty, but in reality, they will last beyond that time period – sometimes by nearly 50%. However, the output of your system does degrade each year slightly, usually at about 0.3%-1% per month (or less). 

Solar panels will work for many decades, given they aren’t physically damaged by wind or other factors. This is primarily because solar panel components are made up of solid materials and rarely break down internally; only external forces like poor racking setup can cause them to fail quickly enough before their useful lifetime has passed.

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What causes degradation in solar panels?

The solar panel degradation rate is a major factor in accounting for the decrease of an average of 0.8% each year over time, which leads to lower output from your panels and will require more frequent maintenance or replacement as they age with use. Following this average rate, it could mean that your solar panel only produces 87.5% of the electricity it has the capacity to after its 25-year warranty expires. The following factors cause solar panels to degrade:

What is the solar panel degradation rate?

Over time, solar panels lose their ability to absorb sunlight and convert it into energy due to the natural reduction in chemical potency within. The loss of efficiency of solar panels over time is referred to as a degradation rate – or how quickly they start breaking down over years of use (which would lead you back around full circle). The lower this number goes, the better! 

When dealing with electricity bills where we’re trying to maximise our savings while still getting ample power from these devices, understanding exactly when something will break isn’t good news. Still, there might be some insight into whether you should consider a replacement solar panel

solar power plant maintenance utility workers repairing electric installations boxes towers power lines electric network operation city service renewab

Extend the lifespan of your solar panel system

Maintaining a solar panel system is easy to do because it’s designed for durability. The panels can withstand snow, hail and wind, so they don’t need much care even if you leave them alone. You should still take the time to prevent any problems before they start by following these simple steps:

1. Get your panels checked regularly by your installer or service provider

At least once a year, it’s important to have the solar panels inspected by an experienced professional. This ensures that any quality degradation or issues with racking attached and whether or not the inverter is hooked up as well will be caught before they worsen- this could lead your system down a path towards failure, which would cause major problems for homeowners looking into going green. It’s also important to check whether you may need to be replacing old solar panels or not

2. Keep your panels clear of debris and other damaging materials

Keep your solar panels clean by washing them with water if they are dirty. If left on the panel for too long, dust or sand can cause microcracks and scratches, which will break down over time. To avoid these problems, you should regularly wash away dirt build-up from accumulated pollen and other debris such as snow, branches, or rocks that may have ended up on the panel.  

3. Use a solar concentrator

A solar concentrator is a device that uses mirrors or lenses to focus light onto small areas. Concentrators are often used in conjunction with photovoltaic systems, increasing how much energy there is from each cell on an array for use elsewhere. This helps bolster the cells on your solar panel while taking some of the strain off too.

4. Get your angles right

To protect the panels from rain, snow and sun damage, a sturdy roof rack is needed. A well-made system will have an L shape with teeth on both sides to hold securely in place any number of solar cells or other products you wish to store up there. If your panel is installed incorrectly, it could lead to a faster degradation rate. 

5. Back-up batteries are key

Batteries are an excellent way to ensure your survival in case of power outages. They also provide you with more independence from the grid, increasing energy self-sufficiency while simultaneously saving money on electricity bills!

How much does it cost to maintain your solar panel system?

Solar panels are among the most cost-effective power generation equipment you can buy. With an annual bill of under $10 per kilowatt, it’s easy to see why Australia is home to some incredible solar installations.

Additionally, a 100 kW system will generally only require replacement parts every few years at most. While there still may be some labour costs associated with damage that affects total expense over time, you’re looking at spending about 10% of the original investment in maintenance costs.

cost of solar

Additional tips for maximising the energy output of your solar panel system

  • Purchase Quality From the Start: Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, which convert solar energy in the form of sunlight into usable electricity. Although the initial cost may be higher than other sources, it’s important that you invest in commercial-grade equipment if possible because they have been shown to produce better results and last longer.
  • Don’t place your panels in the shade: Even if you are wary of too much sunlight hitting your panels and degrading the materials over time, never install your solar panel in the shade as you will not receive the maximum energy output you would have hoped for.
  • Always opt for an expert: Don’t try and install the panels yourself, especially if it’s your first time doing it. Hire an expert to install your panels correctly. They will understand the angles needed for maximum sunlight and protect the panels from external dangers such as debris.
  • Keep your panels clean: As mentioned above, it is important to keep your panels clean constantly. While debris and other factors can degrade your panels, they can also get in the way of absorbing sunlight and creating energy in the long run.
  • Monitor your panels: Consider purchasing energy management software to keep an eye on the output of your solar panels. That way, you can see if something is getting in their way and hampering their ability to create energy. In addition, ask a professional to check up on your solar panel’s age to ensure it can still function correctly.

Frequently asked questions and answers.

  • What is the average lifespan of a solar panel?

    The average warranty of solar panels lasts for 25 to 30 years. However, this does not mean that the solar panel itself is no longer useful. It simply means that your solar panel will start to degrade and produce less electricity after this amount of time, usually only 90% of what it normally does. A solar panel can last for longer than 30 years but will need regular maintenance to remain working at full capacity.
  • What happens to solar panels after 20 years?

    Solar panels are a great way to make your home more energy independent, but they also have drawbacks. The first is that, as with most technologies, there will be reduced power output over time- this decrease in the median panel’s ability to produce electricity can be quantified at about 0.5%. In other words, after 20 years, you should expect 90% of original production from these devices if nothing was damaged or lost due to neglecting maintenance. Procedures such as tightening screws regularly so it doesn’t come apart again when exposed directly to sunlight which damages cells inside, can help prevent solar deterioration.
  • At what temperature are solar panels most efficient?

    The efficiency of a solar panel will decrease as it gets hotter. As the temperature increases, energy production decreases inefficiency with cooler temperatures (59°F – 95). For this reason, you should always keep your home’s thermostat set at 78 degrees or lower when using off the grid electricity made from solar panels. If you don’t, money spent on utilities may turn into lost profits through decreased performance due to increased heating costs.
  • How can I improve my solar panel output?

    You can improve and increase your solar panel output in a number of ways. The best way is to review and compare various solar panel makes and purchase more efficient models. Panels with High Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Cells generally produce more electricity, sometimes over 20% more. When you install your solar panel, make sure the angles are correct to avoid solar panel deterioration. Don’t install your panels in the shade. Make sure you hire an expert installer to check on your panels regularly.
  • Do solar panels stop working?

    Solar panels are a great way to generate electricity, but they have their limitations. The lifespan of solar panels is not unlimited. As they age, the output from those installations decreases at an increasingly slower rate until it becomes nothing more than just degraded energy production in year 30 or so due to degradation caused by a natural wear-and-tear on parts over time. However, panels last much longer than their 30-year warranty. You may be looking at over 60 years of a working panel, though not at full capacity if not regularly maintained.

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