Last updated on October 11th, 2019
How do you know the lifespan of a solar panel? Our thorough guide will highlight all the important topics of how long solar panels last.
Solar Panel Lifespan Guide: How Long Do They Last?
Buying solar panels is an investment that pays you back over the period of time. Although the upfront cost may appear to be large, your monthly savings on electricity bills and tax incentives surely lowers the overall cost of a solar power system installation.
There are plenty of drawbacks and benefits of solar. One thing that is highly attractive about solar panels is the lifespan.
Solar panels are durable and are capable to withstand the job site abuse. It can work in extreme temperatures and continue to provide the required amount of power even after years of operation. Even if the solar panels are made to last for years, the question arises about their expected lifespan.
There are numerous factors, which affect the lifespan of solar panels. However, by taking good care of your solar panels, you can continue to use them for years to come. Check out our list of the best solar panels to purchase.
In order to know how long do they last and how you can enhance their life expectancy, just keep on reading this article. We will answer all your questions.
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Standard Solar Panel Warranties
The warranty offered by most of the manufacturers is 25 years. This suggests that a typical solar panel is capable of serving the purpose for at least that long. The warranty usually relates to the performance and efficiency of a solar panel.
Most of the renowned solar manufacturers claim that their panels will continue to produce a minimum of 80% of their rated output throughout their lifespan or the period of warranty.
For instance, a 300-watt panel must be capable of producing a minimum of least 240 watts till the warranty ends.
There are some manufacturers, which offer a 30-year warranty and claim that their solar panel will provide 85% efficiency during the warranty period.
Apart from performance and output, solar panels also offer a workmanship warranty. This type of warranty covers various types of manufacturing defects like the faulty frame or broken junction box.
Usually, a workmanship warranty is offered for 10 years, which is sufficient time to claim customer service or even replacement.
Types of Solar Panel
The rate of degradation and lifespan of a solar panel relate to the type of panel you have installed. For example, crystalline panels offer more resistance against normal wear and tear. This is the reason; why different solar panels have their distinctive life expectancies.
During normal circumstances, crystalline panels can withstand extreme heat and cold for more than 20 years. On the contrary, film panels usually last for a period not exceeding 5 years.
How Manufacturers Calculate the Loss of Efficiency
As stated earlier, a crystalline solar panel may last up to 25 years. But how the manufacturers calculate the loss of efficiency during this period? In fact, companies producing these solar panels calculate .8% of efficiency loss per year.
After calculating the degradation or loss of performance at this rate, the operating capacity of a solar panel will reduce to almost 80% after 25 years. This is the efficiency standard that all the solar panels must hit.
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Why Do Solar Panels Degrade
When exposed to extreme climates, a crystalline silicon solar panel may experience a high rate of degradation.
For instance, a panel subjected to heavy snow loads, winds, and heat does lose its structural integrity and efficiency. On the contrary, panels installed in a favorable climate will show a minimum rate of degradation.
Given below are some of the other factors that result in the degradation of a solar panel.
If you want to expand the lifespan of a solar panel, you need to consider some essential aspects. Usually, solar panels are not fragile or prone to defects.
However, when connecting them with a solar system and arranging them into arrays, you need to be careful.
In fact, installing solar panels requires you to take into account not only the safety of solar panels but also that of the connected system. Despite being durable, solar panels are still vulnerable to the threats involved during the installation process. For instance, if an installer mistakenly steps on a panel, it may disconnect the built-in circuit.
Although manufacturers use tempered glass for extra protection, the solar panels are unable to withstand continuous stress. This may lead to micro-fractures in the PV cells, which generally serve as a cause to accelerate the rate of degradation.
Outside Factors Causing Degradation
Soiling is the most common factor, which affects the lifespan of a solar panel. Tiny dirt particles start to accumulate over the surface of a solar panel, reducing the amount of sunlight received by PV cells. Research has shown that a solar panel may loss 1% of its efficiency due to the loss of solar radiation.
Moreover, these panels are more likely to lose their power due to soiling when installing on the flat surface. Although it is quite easy to install solar panels on flat roofs, this results in the accumulation of more dust over the panels.
Weather also plays its role during degradation of panels, which is some cases turn out to be catastrophic.
A windstorm has the potential to damage your solar panel. After breaking from the trees, the branches may fall on the panels and trigger the degradation process. Hence, it is essential to install solar panels at a considerable distance from trees.
In addition, birds also pose a threat to the structural integrity of a solar panel. They prefer the dry area below the panel for making their nests. They even drop different materials over the glass, which inhibits the panel’s efficiency to a great extent.
See Related: Best Solar Panels for Camping
Factors Affecting the Efficiency and Performance of Solar Panel
The capacity of a panel to convert solar light into electric energy is known as Solar Cell Efficiency. Below are a few factors that affect the efficiency of a solar panel.
In order to enhance the efficiency of a solar panel, make sure to install it facing towards the sun. The most recommended mounting position for solar panels is to install them with an inclination angle of 15 degrees South.
Sunlight is crucial for the operation of a solar panel. Most people have a misconception that it’s the heat that allows the PV cells to produce electricity. In fact, the amount of power generated is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight falling over the panel.
See Related: Solar Battery Charging Basics
When buying solar panels, you must consider the average temperature of your region. Moreover, make sure to position your panels in such a way that there is a sufficient amount of airflow.
This will keep the temperature of the panels under favorable operating conditions.
Failure to Maintain
Solar panels require regular maintenance, which is essential to improve their efficiency and extend their lifespan. Hence, failure to clean dust and smudges lowers the efficiency of solar panels.
Ways to Increase the Lifespan of Solar Panels
Generally, solar panels appear to be extremely durable and come with a good warranty. During their production, each solar panel passes through extensive and rigorous quality tests. These tests ensure that solar panels are capable of withstanding extreme wind, rain, hailing, and other natural phenomena.
In order to increase the lifespan of a solar panel, the first thing to consider is the choice of a qualified installer. Such a service provider must offer solid customer care. Moreover, you must only buy the panels that come with robust warranties.
Talking about the warranty, you should ask about both the equipment as well as performance/efficiency warranties.
It will allow you to claim a replacement in case any kind of defect appears after a few years of installation.
In addition, by maintaining your solar panel, you can lower the degradation rate. Besides, here are some of the tips that you should follow to ensure that your solar panels last for a longer period.
Apart from inspecting your solar panel on your own, it is essential that you take the help of a qualified installer or maintenance team. The service provider will examine and monitor the physical state of each panel. This allows the maintenance team to analyze how much damage a solar panel has suffered over a period of time.
Regular inspections are necessary to identify even the slightest defects and minimize the chances of bigger damage.
Through such an examination, the maintenance team looks for potential problems like exposed wires, loose racking, minor cracks, and similar other issues.
This is a job that needs to be done by professionals only. Hence, you shouldn’t try to examine the solar system on your own. If you do so, you may end up leaving the panel warranty void by scratching the glass or damaging its structure.
Remove the Debris
At the time of installation, your installer will take into account the presence of trees over the installation area.
In most of the cases, you should avoid installing a solar panel array under the trees.
However, if it is inevitable, you should give a thorough clean up to your solar panels after regular intervals.
If you continue to maintain your solar system, chances of developing any defects are rare. Your solar panels will maintain the required efficiency and won’t cause any trouble for you. You can even use them after 25 to 30 years.
You can download our free solar ROI calculator to use in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. This will help you see how the lifespan of a solar panel affects the rate of returns.
It only takes 5 seconds to download.
Solar Panel Disposal
Solar power is a clean and less expensive source of energy. Almost everyone is aware of the advantages of this type of energy. It not only minimizes greenhouse emissions but also helps developing economies to meet their energy needs.
Apart from this, there is no such issue of wastage. Most of the solar panels that have been installed within the past few years would continue to serve for the next 20 years or so. This is the reason, solar energy is the most reliable and cheaper option to overcome the energy crisis.
Solar Panels and their Recycling Process
After discussing the benefits and overall lifespan of solar panels, it’s time to explain the process of solar panel disposal. Like any other product, solar panels can also undergo a recycling process.
The crystalline module includes primary materials like glass, plastic, and aluminum. It is possible to recycle all these three materials by using the normal recycling process.
However, the process involved during the separation of different materials is quite difficult and tedious.
For this purpose, recyclers use advanced machinery. The following are the steps that recycling companies follow to remove silicon from the module.
- First, the aluminum frame gets separated from the module
- Then glass and conveyer belt is removed carefully
- Thermal processing helps to separate the PV cells from the plastic components
- Next, the process of separating the silicon wafers starts
- In the end, recyclers turn the reclaimed silicon into reusable slabs
The solar recycling market is maturing slowly. The basic reason behind the slow growth relates to the fact that there is only a limited amount of recyclable solar panels. However, these recycling units are developing infrastructures to improve their capacity.
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Conclusion on Solar Panel Lifespan
Initially, investing in a solar power system may appear to be costly and expensive. However, after knowing its advantages, you will find it as one of the most affordable and sustainable sources of energy.
This is so, as the solar panels are durable enough to withstand the extreme temperatures and less favorable weather conditions.
There are no moving parts attached to solar panels, hence there is no need to spend a considerable amount on their maintenance.
However, if you are using a gasoline generator, you need to spend a huge amount in terms of fuel and maintenance. This is the reason; solar systems are gaining so much popularity throughout the world.
Talking about the overall lifespan of a solar panel, it may live up to 25 to 30 years depending on the installation conditions and type of material used for its production. For instance, if you have installed monocrystalline panels, you can continue to use them without any issue for more than 25 years.
On the contrary, film panels are less reliable when it comes to their structural integrity and performance. Even though, film panels can easily operate up to 2 to 5 years. Apart from their actual lifespan, you can maintain the efficiency of a solar panel through continuous maintenance.