One of the most asked questions about installing solar panels is “How long do they last?”.
It’s an excellent question to ask before committing to such a vast project. Even if solar installation costs have dropped by an enormous 65 percent since the last decade, it’s still a substantial investment.
We all know that most techs have a finite useful lifespan. You can consider yourself lucky if you can get two years out of the latest model smartphone before considering an upgrade. What about solar or photovoltaic panels?
To help you understand how long you can enjoy solar energy from your panels, please continue reading below.
Solar Panel Lifespan According to Manufacturers
A solar panel company usually offers a 25-year warranty. In general, photovoltaic panels last for about 25 to 30 years, so a 25-year warranty from solar providers is pretty much standard.
But that doesn’t mean that a solar panel will just fizzle out after 25 years. It only means that energy production will decline by a significant margin compared to the initial output. The performance that manufacturers guarantee for the length of the warranty is at least 80 percent of the original peak rate.
The panels will continue to produce electricity beyond the system’s “useful” lifespan. In fact, Britain’s first modern solar panel uncovered in 2010 based on the patent by Russel Ohl in 1946 still works after 60 years!
The Degradation Rate of Solar Panels
As they age, all solar panels produce less electricity with the same amount of sunlight. This decline in performance and efficiency is known in the solar panel industry as the degradation rate.
Even the best solar company can do nothing to stop this process. Some of the factors contributing to degradation include soiling and extreme weather. Hotter weather also accelerates the loss of chemical potency.
Degradation rates vary from brand to brand. Higher-quality (and more expensive) panels have lower degradation rates than lower quality ones. The best panels (tier 1) have rates as low as 0.30 percent per year, while tier 3 panels degrade at a rate of 0.80 percent per year.
On average, the degradation rate of a solar panel is about 0.50 percent annually. Accounting for 25 years, the solar panels will be operating at 88.7 percent efficiency at the end of the warranty.
How to Make Your Photovoltaic Panels Last Longer
While manufacturers take care to build panels that can withstand snow, winds, and even hail, there are things you can do to extend their lifespan.
The best way is to have your photovoltaic panels regularly checked by your installer. Regular inspection can uncover potential issues such as a failing battery, loose racking, and exposed wiring.
Between inspections, you can also do your part in maintaining your panels, but please always gear up for safety before doing so. Remove tree branches, snow, and other debris to prevent scratches and cracks. If there’s a buildup of dust or sand, you can clean the panels by washing them with water.
When to Replace Your Solar Panels
As we mentioned, the end of the warranty period isn’t necessarily the end for your solar panels. You may still continue using them as long as they’re not broken and producing enough electricity for your current needs.
Of course, if you think that their output is no longer adequate, then that’s the time that you should consider shopping for a replacement.
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