Like your car or a piece of equipment, solar panels will eventually degrade. However, there are many things you can do to extend the life of your solar system, including choosing durable products with low degradation rates and taking advantage of warranties.
Many manufacturers protect their products with power production guarantees that ensure solar panels won’t dip below a certain energy output level. It’s important to know how these guarantees work during your pre-purchase research.
Solar panel degradation is the natural decline in their performance over time, caused by things like sun exposure and weather conditions. While technology has made significant improvements in decreasing degradation rates, it is still an unavoidable reality.
How long your solar panels last will depend on many factors, including the type and quality of panels you choose, installation and maintenance, and environmental factors. The best way to increase your solar panels’ lifespan is to ensure you purchase high-quality products from a reputable manufacturer and have them installed by an experienced installer. Deline says that finding a qualified installer is “far and away the most important factor in ensuring your solar system works correctly.” He suggests choosing an installer who does location analysis, offers a warranty guarantee, and uses products with a reputation for durability.
Most solar panels are designed to be very durable, and they undergo a rigorous testing process that includes being blasted with hail up to 1.5 inches in diameter, alternating between low and high temperatures, and baking in heat for 2,000 hours. Despite this, even the most durable solar panels will eventually show signs of wear and tear and may need to be replaced.
Fortunately, the degradation rate is not the same for every solar panel, and the lower your panel’s degradation rate, the more energy it will produce over its lifetime. In addition, the more solar electricity your panels produce, the more money you will save on your utility bill.
As the degradation rate decreases over time, it is also possible to install more solar panels to compensate. However, it’s important to consider the amount of space you have available for additional solar panels when you’re considering a new roof or purchasing an existing property.
Solar panels have a useful lifespan of 25 years or more, but this doesn’t mean that they will stop working at the end of that period. They will continue to generate electricity, but the amount of electricity they will produce will be less than what it was when first installed. Depending on the amount of power you use, this may result in your utility bills increasing over time.
When purchasing solar panels, it’s important to understand the difference between a product warranty and a performance warranty. The former protects you from any defects in the equipment and covers the cost of a replacement, while the latter is a guarantee that the solar panels will maintain a certain percentage of their original power output throughout the lifespan.
All solar panels lose a small percentage of their output over time, which is why they come with warranties. This is due to a variety of factors, including heat, UV radiation, and other environmental conditions that can lead to degradation. Solar panels undergo stringent testing before they can be sold, and manufacturers typically set their performance warranty numbers based on conservative expectations.
In order to receive a refund or replacement for underperforming solar panels, you’ll need to submit a claim to the manufacturer and provide proof that your system was not performing as it should. A warranty claims representative will review your claim and determine whether it meets the requirements for compensation.
If your solar panel installation is still under warranty, a solar expert will inspect it for any issues that may be impacting the performance of your system. These can include things like a buildup of dirt or leaves on the panels, shading from trees or buildings, or even corrosion caused by salt mist in coastal locations. If the problem is severe enough, a solar technician can repair or replace the affected panel with ease.
Besides the power output warranty, many solar companies also offer a workmanship warranty. This is typically only offered for products installed by an approved installer, and it protects you against any problems that could result from a poorly installed system. The duration of a workmanship warranty varies by company, and some offer up to 25 years of coverage.
Power Production Guarantees
Unlike some appliances, solar panels don’t stop producing electricity when they reach the end of their useful life. Instead, they simply produce less power than they used to. A solar panel manufacturer typically describes this decrease in energy production as “degradation.” Solar panels come with performance guarantees, also known as power warranties, which give you a good idea of how long they’ll continue to perform at their best. The higher your panels’ quality, the more power they’ll continue to deliver over their lifetimes.
Various factors, including weather conditions, location, debris, and a lack of regular maintenance cause degradation. For example, if you live in an area that experiences frequent extreme temperatures, the expansion and contraction of your solar panels’ frames could lead to microcracks that shorten their lifespan. In addition, debris from storms or a poor racking system can cause your solar panels to fall off the roof and reduce their efficiency.
Solar panels are also prone to degradation due to the sun’s UV rays. This initial degradation is called light-induced degradation (LID). Fortunately, this is only the case for the first few hours after your solar panels are installed. After that, the degradation rate slows down dramatically.
The degradation rate for your solar panels will also depend on the type of inverter you choose. Some inverters are better at preventing LID than others. If you have a good installer, they should be able to help you choose the right inverter for your home’s needs.
As for maintenance, your installer should offer ongoing services that will keep your solar panels at their peak performance. Often, these are called O&M programs and can include preventative cleaning and other routine tasks. If your installer doesn’t provide these services, it may be worth looking into another solar company.
Solar panel manufacturers have a lot of faith in their equipment. They typically guarantee that their panels will perform at 90% of their rated output for the first ten years and 80% after that.
The answer to the question of how long solar panels last isn’t as simple as “25 years.” Just like any equipment, solar panels degrade over time, meaning they produce less and less electricity. This is what’s known as their useful life. While most solar panels are guaranteed to provide 80% of their initial power production for the first ten years, that percentage will decline as the panel ages. A degradation rate of 0.5% per year is typical for solar panels, though there are premium manufacturers who have lower degradation rates.
When choosing a solar system, it’s important to consider the degradation rate in addition to the power and materials warranties offered by the equipment manufacturer. The EnergySage Buyer’s Guide makes it easy to compare the degradation rates of different solar systems before making a purchase.
The degradation of solar panels is inevitable, but there are some things you can do to help extend their lifespan. Cleaning your solar panels regularly is one way to make sure they are absorbing sunlight as efficiently as possible. It’s recommended to clean your panels at least once per year, and it may be more often depending on where you live and the weather conditions.
Another thing to consider is the impact of your home’s roof on the longevity of your solar panels. Ideally, your roof should be free of obstructions and have minimal shade. Lastly, the quality of your solar panels will also impact how long they last. Choosing high-quality, durable products with low degradation rates is a great first step to enjoying free, green energy for decades to come.
As residential solar installers, we get a lot of questions about solar panel lifespans and how they differ between homeowners. The good news is that solar panels can last well beyond 25 years. The key is to choose quality equipment and work with a professional during installation. With proper maintenance, your solar panels can continue to generate enough energy to meet your household’s needs for decades to come, with no need for early solar repair.
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