The industry standard for the productive lifetime of a solar panel is 25-30 years. While panels will continue to produce energy for years after the 25-30 year mark, its output will decrease slightly year over year. Most solar panels will offset your electricity use for decades. It’s important to research the solar products you choose and to understand industry projections and the varying degradation rates with different panel types. It can be hard to understand the long-term cost benefits of going solar without knowing how long your rooftop panels will produce ample energy.
What’s the Life Expectancy of a Solar Panel?
Most panels have an average lifespan of about 25-30 years. However, this doesn’t mean that solar panels stop producing electricity after 25 years. It means their energy production has declined below the manufacturer’s original guaranteed amount.
However, their life expectancy will be much longer. As long as your solar panels aren’t damaged by wind, debris or other external factors, you can expect them to continue working for many decades. This is because solar panels have no moving parts. When they are damaged, it’s usually caused by inclement weather or poor racking setups.
Solar Panel Efficiency Over Time: Panel Degradation Rate
According to a 2012 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panel output decreases on average by 0.8 percent per year. This is known as the solar panel degradation rate. While the rate of solar panel degradation will vary depending on which brand you install, premium manufacturers like SunPower solar panels have degradation rates as low as 0.3%.
Solar panel degradation rates improve as technology advances, so degradation rates across the industry are commonly below 1%. In the decade since the 2012 study was conducted, more efficient technologies have been developed and newer panels are projected to show less than 0.5% decline in annual energy output (or better!).
Can You Make Your Solar Panels Last Longer?
Overall, solar panels are built to last and extremely durable–especially when you compare SunPower panels to conventional solar panels. Panel manufacturers commonly test their products to ensure that they can withstand high winds, heavy snow loads, and even falling hail. In addition, solar energy systems have no moving parts and require little or no maintenance.
To ensure that your panels work for many years to come, work with a reputable solar installer that offers outstanding customer service. You should also purchase solar panels that come with robust warranties. Some panel manufacturers offer 10- or 12-year warranties that cover the equipment’s defects and environmental damage, as well as production warranties lasting 25 years. This guarantees that your panels will produce above a certain amount of energy.
Regular care and maintenance of your solar panel system can slow down the annual degradation rate, which leads to longer-lasting panel performance. Here are a few things you can do to make your solar panels last longer:
Monitor system performance and get your panels checked by your installer or service provider as needed
To ensure that your panels last as long as possible, keep an eye on your solar monitoring system and check with your installer or operations and maintenance (O&M) provider if you notice a significant reduction in production. Inspections can detect any potential problems, such as loose wiring, exposed racking and other issues. By having a professional check up on your panels, you can avoid scratching or otherwise damaging them as well as voiding your warranty.
In addition to examining the condition of your solar panels, inspectors may also look at other components, including solar inverters and your roof racking system. Most central inverters used in photovoltaic installations will last 10 to 15 years—which means they will most likely need to be replaced during the life of your solar panels.
However, micro inverters are a new alternative to traditional central inverters and can last just as long as your solar energy system – up to 25 years. When it comes to racking, it’s always important to ensure your panels are securely mounted so they don’t move around, become loose or fall off.
Keep your panels clear of debris and other damaging materials
Before installation, your solar installer will check to make sure there aren’t any trees that could cast shade on your panels or drop branches on them. As long as your panels don’t incur any physical damage, they should produce energy for many years to come (likely beyond the 25-30 year “lifetime” of average solar panels).
You can buy specialty products that will help protect your solar panels from certain types of damage. Solar panel critter guards can prevent animals like squirrels and birds from nesting under your panels, reducing the risk of damage to both wires and panels.
Get a Sustainable, Custom Solar Quote for Your Home
Going solar is an investment in cleaner energy for the environment and your home that can reduce your monthly electric bills. If you’re ready to save money and power your home with clean, reliable energy, contact us today for a free customized solar quote.