According to EnergySage, “As a general solar industry rule of thumb, solar panels last about 25-30 years. However, this doesn’t mean that they stop producing electricity after 25 years”
When considering installing solar panels, homeowners tend to ask the common question, “What is the lifespan of solar panels?” You need to know the life expectancy of the panels on your roof in order to understand the cost of them. These panels can produce a good amount of energy for a long time, offsetting your electricity use for multiple decades. It is equally important to know the degradation and industry projections rates.
The major takeaways involving solar panel lifespans:
- Panels tend to last for up to 30 years
- These panels degrade slowly over their lifespan. That means they will continue to produce less electricity as time passes.
- High-quality equipment impacts the lifespan– Use the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide to get side-by-side comparisons of solar panels.
So, How Long is the Lifespan of Solar Panels?
It is a general rule of thumb in the solar industry that these panels last up to 30 years. That doesn’t indicate that, after 25 years, they will produce no electricity. It just simply means that the energy production will gradually decline over the years by an amount that is considered by the manufacturers to be significant. There are external factors that can have an effect on the lifespan of your panels. Wind and debris being great examples. Without these factors, you will get decades of life out of your panels. You will not see moving parts with these solar panels, which means that internal breaking isn’t a factor. They are only likely to be damaged by outside forces or weather.
What is the Degradation Rate?
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) performed a study in 2012 that found, on average, the output of solar panels will fall 0.8% per year. This is called the solar panel degradation rate. The rate of decline varies depending on the brand of the panel you buy. Some brands, like SunPower, offer rates of degradation by as little as 0.3%. As time passes, the degradation levels of solar panel technologies are showing improvements. Throughout the solar panel industry, you see rates that are below 1%. Since the 2012 study, the solar panel technologies that have been developed are considered to be more efficient. Most of the newer panels will have a degradation rate of just 0.5% per year.
However, the degradation rate is still undefined. To simply put it, the degradation rate is the decline of the energy output of these panels. Using the example above (the 0.8%), you will find in year two that the energy output is only 99.2% of the original output. Like we said, it doesn’t mean that at the end of the 25-30 year life, you won’t receive energy. In fact, at the end of the useful lifespan of 25 years, you are looking at an output of 82.5%. If you have a panel that is slightly more durable, you may see as much as 87.5% output after the same period of time. In order to determine the output projection rate after a specific number of years, you only need to multiply the number of specified years by the degradation rate. Then you make sure to subtract the results from 100%.
When you get solar panels, you will find that they are accompanied by different warranties. This can give you an idea of how long your panels may last. You are offered an equipment warranty, which certifies against manufacturer defects. Also, you will be presented with a performance warranty, which normally lasts for about 25 years. This performance warranty guarantees that your panels will produce a specified amount of electricity. With the performance warranty, you gain a better idea of how much electricity you can expect from your system as time passes.
You need not concern yourself with the carbon footprint left behind by your solar panels. The energy payback time is significantly short than the lifespan of a single solar panel. This EPBT (Energy Payback Time) is the time frame that equals out the energy savings to the cost of manufacturing the panels. Brookhaven National Laboratory did an analysis in 2010. This analysis determined that the EPBT is around 6 months of a solar panel. This number, however, has seen a decrease in the past years as panels become more efficient.
How Can You Make Panels Last Longer?
You will find that the durability of solar panels is extremely high. Most panels are tested by the manufacturers in order to gain confirmation that high winds, and massive snow loads, will be less damaging. Some solar panels are tested specifically for falling hail. Luckily, there are no moving parts requiring very little maintenance or none at all.
However, if you want to ensure that your panels will have the longest life possible, then you need to work with an installer that has a stellar reputation. The installer should also offer quality customer service. Your warranties should be robust when you purchase solar panels. You can find 10-12 year equipment warranties with many manufacturers. This covers environmental damage and defects. Also, as stated above, you get an average production warranty of 25 years. This will guarantee that the energy produced is over a certain amount.
Nonetheless, regular maintenance on solar panel systems will lower the degradation rate over the years. This can ensure a longer, efficient performance of your solar panels. This maintenance comes down to a few actions.
Installer/Service Provider Inspections
Having regular inspections from the installer or O&M (Operations and Maintenance) provider will help to ensure a longer lifespan of your solar panels. These inspections can identify potential issues. Such issues include:
- Loose Racking
- Exposed Wires
- Other Concerning Areas
Having a professional inspect your panels is recommended, rather than doing it yourself. If you do it yourself, you could void out your warranty. Also, if you damage your panels, your warranty won’t cover it.
Most inspections of solar panels aren’t just limited to the panels themselves. The solar inverters and racking systems are often inspected, along with other equipment. The typical central inverter will have a lifespan of 10-15 years. That means, at some point in the solar panels’ lifetime, you will need to replace it. That being stated, microinverters are a popular and relatively new alternative. They offer the same estimated lifespan of the solar panels themselves. As far as racking, it is important that the panels are properly secured to your roof. Inspecting them regularly can detect loose, moving, or falling panels.
Clear Panels of Debris and Damaging Factors
One of the first things that an installer does when you have solar panels mounted is to investigate the area for trees that could cast a shadow over the panels or drop branches down on them. If you can avoid sustaining physical damage to your panels, then you will be able to receive solar energy for years to come. It is even possible to exceed the lifespan average of 25-30 years. There are specialty products that you can invest in to help prevent specified damages to the panels. As an example, the critter guards. This will prevent animals from nesting under and around your panels. If you have animals nesting around your panels, it can cause damage over time.
Solar Panel Installation by Alternative Energy, LLC
Alternative Energy, LLC offers affordable solar installation, off-grid solar systems, residential solar panels, solar batteries for home & business, solar air conditioning, solar carports & canopies, commercial solar panels, solar EV charging stations, solar panel repair, and other very effective energy-saving products & services in Louisiana. View our solar financing options. We offer solar panel installation all over the entire United States.