Solar Panel Lifespan – How Long Do They Really Last?

Solar panels are one of the most efficient ways to capture energy from the sun. Unfortunately, they do eventually deteriorate and cease producing electricity.

The lifespan of your solar panel is heavily impacted by the climate in your area and other environmental elements like UV rays. For instance, solar panels in regions prone to extreme cold or heavy snowfall will degrade faster than those located in warmer climates.

Solar Panel Lifespan

Solar panels are an excellent way to harness energy from the sun, saving money on your power bill and protecting the environment. Not only that, but they add value to your home as well. But before making such a substantial investment, it’s wise to know how long your panels will last — and if continuing use after that point makes financial sense.

The longevity of your solar panel depends on several factors, including the brand and type of panels you select, the climate where you live, and how often they’re cleaned and maintained. Generally, the longer these panels remain clean and well-maintained, the longer they’ll last.

Be mindful of snow or ice on your home’s roof, as it can freeze and cause microcracks in your solar panels. These cracks could damage the cells of the panels, decreasing their efficiency.

Maintaining your solar panels on a regular basis is recommended. Make sure the installer you hire has years of experience, glowing reviews from past customers, and an outstanding reputation for excellent customer service.

Once your solar panels reach their expected lifespan, it may be time to start considering replacing them with new ones. Fortunately, solar panel degradation rates on average are only about 1% annually.

Though this rate of decline is relatively slow, it’s still important to watch for any indications that your solar panels may be deteriorating. The first sign that they could be failing is when you notice a decrease in the amount of electricity they produce.

Manufacturers typically estimate a solar panel’s useful life to be between 25-30 years. After this point, production will start declining gradually – an occurrence known as degradation.

That is why selecting a high quality solar system from an established manufacturer is essential. Doing so increases your chance of obtaining solar energy production to meet or exceed what you require for household power requirements. Furthermore, an efficient system means less likely you’ll have to replace solar panels in the future, increasing its longevity.

Solar Panel Degradation Rate

As with all pieces of equipment, solar panels naturally age. The annual reduction in energy production is known as the “solar panel degradation rate.” This reduces their capacity to generate electricity and can affect your overall savings over time.

Your solar cells in your panels may begin to lose their capacity to absorb sunlight and convert it into power due to issues like microcracks, junction box adhesion failures, discoloration, and more.

While some factors are out of your control, others can be more easily managed. For instance, keeping your panels clean and free of debris is an effective way to extend their lifespan.

The quality of the manufacturing process plays a significant role in your solar panel’s performance. Lower-quality panels usually exhibit higher degradation rates than premium models.

However, the best solar panels will have a low degradation rate, meaning they’ll last longer and produce more energy over their lifespan. This is an enormous advantage if you want to save money on power bills in the long run.

Research by NREL has indicated that the average solar panel will degrade at an annual rate of 0.5%, leading to a reduction in output to just under 87.50% of its original capacity by the end of its “useful lifespan” (usually 25 years).

In hotter climates or with rooftop systems, this rate may be higher. To ensure your success in these circumstances, make sure you install a high-quality solar panel which can withstand the elements in your environment.

One of the best ways to avoid this issue is by selecting a brand with an excellent manufacturing reputation. Typically, manufacturers with a solid track record offer higher-quality products and can provide you with longer warranties than less-reputable businesses.

Another way to help keep your solar panels functioning optimally is by investing in a physical tracker or app that will track their monthly energy production. This will enable you to monitor any decrease in production over time and determine when replacing your panels is necessary.

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is a crucial factor that determines how long your panels perform. The higher their efficiency, the longer they will last and produce more power.

On average, the most efficient solar panels boast an efficiency rate of around 21%; some high-efficiency models even reach up to 35%. This is because these panels have been engineered with various design features that help them capture more sunlight and convert it into electricity more effectively.

Most of these features include anti-reflective coatings, surface textures and a reflective layer beneath the cell. This means that light that enters through the panel is reflected back into it and converted back to electricity.

These features also increase the cells’ resistance to light-induced degradation, a natural process that occurs over time due to prolonged exposure to sunlight and other elements. That is why it is essential to select a solar panel with N-type silicon cells, which have lower light-induced degradation rates than P-type silicon.

N-type silicon cells are more durable and resistant to harsh environmental elements than their P-type counterparts, meaning they will last much longer in the long run. These advantages become especially important if you live in an extreme climate where your panel could experience heavy snowfall, ice accumulation or intense heatwaves.

Keep your solar panels clean and in optimal condition to extend their lifespan. Doing so will enable them to run at peak efficiency, especially on cloudless days when they can absorb maximum sunlight energy.

Another way to ensure your panels last is avoiding extreme weather conditions like freezing temperatures and strong winds. These can damage the cells in your panels and cause them to breakdown faster than expected.

The best way to safeguard your solar panels from potential damage is to make sure they’re always properly installed and maintained. A trustworthy company should be able to offer expert advice on which type of panels are suitable for your home, as well as how to properly install them.

Solar Panel Warranty

A solar panel warranty can offer financial security to protect you against the high cost of replacing equipment that breaks down over time. But it’s essential to read all details of a warranty carefully before signing up; many have exceptions or limitations which could void coverage and render your policy null and void.

Manufacturer warranties range anywhere from 10 to 25 years, and many companies provide power warranties as well as product guarantees covering workmanship and material defects.

Most solar panels also come with a performance guarantee, which guarantees an output production rate within its warranty period. Usually, this comes down to 10% or 25% over its lifespan. If you notice your panel’s output has dropped drastically, there could be an underlying problem with either the panels themselves or improper installation work.

If you have any concerns about the production or warranty of your panels, be sure to reach out to both the manufacturer and installer. In case there are issues with either the panels or installation, the warranty company will replace them and cover labor costs to repair them.

Some warranties offer what’s known as a step warranty, which provides limited replacement coverage in cases of panel performance falling below its guaranteed level after year 11 or 12 of ownership. Older models of panels may still qualify for these, though they’re becoming rarer in modern systems.

Another option is a combined power and product warranty, which is more common among major solar manufacturers. These warranties combine both power and product guarantees into one, but make sure it covers both your panels and inverters.

In addition to the solar panel warranties listed above, you might also choose to add a protection plan with insurance to cover damages to both your system and home it’s installed in. These plans usually have a five to 15 year term and cover repairs or replacements as well as shipping, handling and installation expenses.