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Solar panels are a popular choice for those looking to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources. These panels have an average life span of 25 to 30 years. However, factors such as the panel type, quality, and local climate can cause this figure to vary. With proper maintenance, high-quality solar panels can last even longer. This guide explores how long solar panels last and what you can do to extend their life span.
Types of Solar Panels
Solar panels help homeowners reduce their energy costs and reliance on the grid. There are several solar panel types, each with advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview of the most popular options for homes.
Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Panels
The crystalline silicon panel is the most common type of solar panel. Manufacturers make them by cutting silicon cells into thin wafers. Although these panels have a long life span and high efficiency, they require a more significant initial investment.
The two types of crystalline panels are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. These are the most popular options for residential systems. Monocrystalline panels have the highest energy production and best solar panel efficiency but are expensive. Polycrystalline panels have a lower price tag but lower outputs and efficiencies than monocrystalline panels.
You’ll need more polycrystalline panels to match the power output of monocrystalline options. Polycrystalline panels also have a shorter life span. According to the American Solar Energy Society, monocrystalline panels can last up to 40 years, while polycrystalline options last for 35.
Thin-film panels are another solar panel type that manufacturers produce by depositing a film of photovoltaic (PV) material onto a substrate. Thin-film solar panels are less efficient and cost less than crystalline silicon panels. Since thin-film panels offer little solar energy production, they’re typically used for smaller projects such as converting a storage shed or stand-alone garage.
Solar Panel Life Span
Solar panel life expectancy varies depending on the panel type, but most panels last 25 to 30 years. Many solar panels installed in the 1970s are still in use today. Although solar panels have a long life span, their production levels drop over time.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) defines this production drop as the solar panel degradation rate. It found that solar panels drop by 0.5% every year after activation. The degradation rate affects the panels’ efficiency and their original output rate. High-quality panels with excellent production and efficiency have a lower degradation rate than less expensive options.
Panel Warranties and Power Guarantees
Many solar panel manufacturers include a power output guarantee that states their products’ expected degradation rates. If your solar power system’s production falls below those expectations, the solar installer will repair or replace your solar panels for free. These guarantees vary but are typically included with solar panels from the best solar providers.
Most top-quality panels include an industry-standard 25-year warranty. The manufacturer’s warranty covers any defects or issues with the panels not caused by normal wear and tear. Solar panel system warranties usually cover other components, such as the solar inverter and solar battery. Installers may also have a comprehensive warranty that covers workmanship, maintenance checks, and an extended panel warranty. Check the terms of any warranty included with your solar energy system to confirm your coverage.
Environmental Factors That Affect Panel Life Span
A solar panel’s life span can shorten due to extreme weather exposure such as high winds, heavy snowfall, and high temperatures. Have your solar panels regularly serviced and checked for microcracks. Your solar provider should check the whole system, including the inverter, battery, and all moving parts. Panels may also need occasional cleaning to remove leaves, branches, or other external debris that could weigh down the panel or the rooftop racking system.
Solar Panel Cost
Though still a significant investment, solar panels have become increasingly affordable. The average price of a solar energy system has fallen by 70% over the last decade. Still, homeowners should consider using solar incentives to get additional savings.
For example, the federal tax credit provides a credit equal to 30% of your solar installation costs. Incentives and rebates such as this make buying a high-quality solar system more attainable and provide more long-term energy savings.
How to Make Solar Panels Last Longer
How long solar panels last largely depends on their quality, but you can use the following tips to prolong your system’s life span.
- Keep your solar panels clean: Rain typically keeps solar panels clean enough to function, but debris, dirt, snow, and other substances can sometimes build up and reduce efficiency. Have a professional solar installer clean your panels regularly. Some solar companies include cleaning with your contract or as a stand-alone service. Check with your solar provider or local installers for cleaning services.
- Regular maintenance and servicing: Panels last longer with regular care and servicing. Without proper care, they can degrade sooner, impacting your long-term savings and investment. Many companies include servicing or offer it as an add-on.
- Professional installation: Improper installation can lead to damaged panels, loose racking systems, and poor orientation. Working with licensed and experienced solar installers is essential for a proper and safe installation. Homeowners without proper electrical or solar energy knowledge should not attempt home system installations.
Solar panels can last for decades with proper maintenance, making them an excellent long-term investment. Though they cost more up-front than other energy options, you’ll save enough on your utility bills to make up the difference over time. Solar panels are also environmentally friendly since they generate clean energy.
Solar Panel FAQ
How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?
Although the initial investment can be significant, solar panels typically pay for themselves within 5 to 10 years. After that, they provide free energy for the rest of their life span.
What happens to solar panels after 25 years?
Solar panels will continue to work after 25 years, though their power output and efficiency will be significantly lower. Solar panels lose 0.5% of their output per year. By year 25, your panels will generate 12.5% less energy than when they were brand new.
What is the normal life span of a solar panel?
Solar panels have a life span of 25 to 30 years. However, some panels may last longer.
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