How Long do Solar Panels Last?

How Long do Solar Panels Last?

If you are planning on installing a brand new solar system for your home, something that can help you save a whole lot of money on energy costs, and maybe even make a profit by selling surplus energy back to the grid, then there are a few things that you need to consider. Of course, the size and type of array that you want is important to consider.

However, one thing that many people also want to know is how long solar panels last. Now, of course, just like with any other physical product out there, solar panels do have a shelf life, so to speak, or in other words, they don’t function forever. Solar panels do eventually wear down with time, become less efficient, and yeah, they do break as well.

Before we get into it, we do want to say that solar panels are very low maintenance, and due to very few (or no) moving parts, they do last for quite some time, a few decades generally speaking. Let’s figure out how long solar panels last, how long the components last, how to make them last longer, and more.

Average Lifespan of Solar Panels

Alright, so in terms of the average lifespan of solar panels, you can expect the average ones to last anywhere from 25 to 30 years, which is not too bad at all.

There are also some newer types of solar panels made with more durable materials (that do of course cost more), that have the potential to last for up to 50 years.

Although, 50 years is a bit of a stretch, and solar panels that can last this long are still few and far between, but that said, the technology and the production processes are both improving every year.

What is important to note here is that how long your solar panels will last for does also depend on where you live, particularly in terms of weather. If you live in an area that sees plenty of heavy snowfall, tons of rain, hail, heavy winds, and extreme temperatures, especially extreme cold, then this can reduce the overall lifespan of your panels.

The bottom line is that if you live in such an area, then extreme weather can decrease the lifespan of your panels, but that said, that’s not really what we are here to talk about today.

We are here to talk about the lifespan of a solar panel based on its functionality regardless of outside interference, such as damage due to golf ball sized hail, and in this case, if well installed, you can expect to get about 30 years out of a new solar panel array.

Finally, what does also need to be said here is that nowadays, solar panels last much longer than they did 20 years ago. Solar panel technology, construction, and overall durability have all improved greatly over the last two decades.

Solar Panels are Generally Low Maintenance

One of the reasons why solar panels last for such a long period of time, at least in part, is due to the fact that they generally have very few moving parts and require little maintenance.

The general rule of thumb is that with any physical product out there, whether we are talking about cars, saws, solar panels, or anything in between, is that the fewer moving parts there are (granted that the components are high in quality), the longer those things will last for.

The fewer moving parts there are, the fewer things that can break and the fewer things that need to be maintained. Due to the low maintenance nature of solar panels, as well as due to a very limited number of moving parts, they last for quite some time indeed.

Solar Panel Degradation

Now, one of the most important things that we do need to talk about here is solar panel degradation. This actually has nothing to do with their physical durability per se, but rather with how efficient they are at absorbing light and converting it to energy over the course of their lifespans.

Although that said this does have to do with the fact that constant exposure to UV rays does wear down the components over time, as well, adverse and extreme weather can cause them to degrade faster too.

However, to be clear, by degradation, here we are not referring to the physical strength or structural soundness of the panels, but rather how efficiently they convert light to energy. Depending on the type and quality of solar panels that you have, they may degrade by anywhere from 0.3% to 0.8% per year.

So, if you start out with a solar panel that is very efficient, and it degrades by 0.8% per year (worst case scenario), after 30 years, it could lose up to 24% efficiency. Therefore, even if your solar panels still look brand new after 30 years and don’t have a single scratch on them, their performance will still be significantly lower than when you first purchased them.

How Long do Solar Panels Last

Other Solar System Components

Besides the panels themselves, there are also some other parts of the solar system that may break down and require replacement over time, and generally speaking, this will happen before that 30 year mark comes around.

The Inverter

The inverter of your solar panel, which converts the produced DC energy into usable AC energy, will usually last for 10 to 20 years depending on the model and the quality. At the very least, these should last 20 years, and some newer models may last for up to 25 years, or at least come with a 25-year warranty.

The Racking

The racking for your solar panels, or in other words, the frame that holds it all in place, may need to be replaced after a couple of decades. That said, depending on the quality of the racking, this may not be necessary. 

The Battery

If you have an off-grid solar system, or a solar system that has a battery for energy storage, then that battery will also need to be replaced at some point. A low-quality battery may only last for 5 to 10 years, whereas a high-quality battery could potentially last for 15 years, given optimal conditions are met and maintained throughout that time.

The Roof

What is also important to consider here is the roof that the solar panels sit on, the roof of your home. Beware that most roofing materials will generally last for around 35 years at the most, at which time your roof will likely need to be replaced.

Although 35 years is quite some time no doubt, it’s still a consideration to keep in mind, because when that time does come around, the solar panel array will need to be removed in order to repair or replace your roof.

How to Extend the Lifespan of Solar Panels

Before we call it a day, let’s go over some of the most crucial tips that you need to follow in order to extend the lifespan of your solar panels, so that they can last for as long as humanly possible.

  • Right from the get go, one of the most important things that you need to do in order to extend the lifespan of your solar panels, is to make sure that they are properly installed by a qualified professional to begin with period a lot of problems that occur with solar panels are due to improper installation, so making sure that they’re properly installed is paramount to their longevity.
  • Another thing that you need to pay close attention to here is known as a solar panel soiling, which is a fancy way of saying that solar panels get dirty, and this can greatly decrease their overall longevity and efficiency. Unless you plan on cleaning your solar panels yourself on a regular basis, you do want to find qualified professionals that can maintain them for you.
  • On that same note, you also want to make sure that you don’t have your solar panels located under trees, as both critters and debris from those trees can fall onto the solar panels. Moreover, there are also some critters that can cause serious damage to solar panels, mainly insects.

Conclusion

As you can see, in the grand scheme of things, solar panels do last for a very long time.

If you consider that for a large solar panel array, you might spend $40,000, and considering that it will pay off after 8 to 16 years (lets say 10 years for a nice even number), and the solar panels in question last for up to 30 years, it would therefore mean that you get three times your initial investment back over the course of those 30 years, not to mention that a solar panel array will also greatly increase the resale value of your home.

If you consider tax credits and rebates that most governments provide you with for installing solar panels on your home, they could actually pay off much sooner.

Hi there! I'm Ally, I can help you find out if solar makes sense for your home in 30 seconds!

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Hi there! I'm Ally, I can help you find out if solar makes sense for your home in 30 seconds!

See if your home qualifies and how much you could save with current programs available...