While homeowners have been installing solar panels on their homes since before the 1980s, they have dramatically increased in popularity over the last several years. For some homeowners, their interest in home solar is based on investing in renewable energy, while others are savings in the form of tax credits and lower electric bills. But a critical consideration for both is the solar panels’ lifespan.
Whether you have a professional perform your solar panel installation or you install your own solar modules, you’re investing in your home, and part of that investment is knowing how long you can expect your solar panel systems to last.
This article will look at how residential solar panels age and what you can do to help extend your solar panels’ lifespan. We’ll also look at the other components in your solar power system. Finally, we’ll cover the signs that it might be time for you to replace your solar array to continue producing sufficient solar energy for your needs.
What Should You Expect Your Solar Panels’ Lifespan to Be?
Your solar panels are made up of numerous photovoltaic (PV) cells linked together and protected by a sheet of glass. These panels are then installed in a location that will receive direct sunlight, which your PV system converts into electricity.
When it comes to your solar power system, the average solar panels’ lifespan can vary based on a number of factors. These factors include things you both can and can’t control, including:
- Type and quality of your solar panels
- The quality of the installation
- How frequently you perform solar panel maintenance
- Variations in climate, including extremes in temperatures
Even with all of these factors, you should generally expect your solar panels to perform at a high level for 20 to 25 years. Even after this time, your panels won’t stop working.
Instead, you may notice that your solar electric production has simply degraded past the point where they’re providing you enough energy. This is due to what is known as the “solar degradation rate.”
What Is Solar Degradation Rate?
Like many other products, solar panels will work less and less efficiently as time goes by. The decline in power production from year to year is the solar degradation rate. The lower the solar degradation rate, the better your solar panels will perform over time.
On average, the median rate for solar degradation is around 0.5%. You can find panels with higher degradation rates that may cost you less upfront, but they will produce less power over time. Conversely, there are also panels with lower rates, and those usually have a degradation rate of 0.3%.
However, you’ll need to determine if you would benefit from replacing your panels at that point to continue reaping the full benefit of your solar system.
Tips to Extend Your Solar Panels’ Lifespan
While solar panel systems are generally very robust, they do require periodic attention to keep them working at peak efficiency. Here are some ways you can stretch your solar panels’ lifespan out as long as possible.
Buy New and Reputable Solar Panels
You should consider your solar panels an investment in your home, which means spending more upfront to ensure you get the best return on investment possible. Avoid used solar panels, which likely will not last as long, and opt for higher-quality panels from reputable companies, which should have warranties lasting as long as 25 years to ensure you get the performance you paid for.
Hire Professional Installers
Some homeowners are more than qualified to install their own home solar panel kits. However, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional solar installer to make sure everything is done right the first time. Not only do they have more experience, but they can also offer technical support if you run into an issue later and need assistance.
Regularly Clean and Maintain Your Solar Panels
Your solar panels may end up covered in dirt, dust, bird droppings, and other debris. Rainwater is often enough to keep them clean. Still, you may find it beneficial to periodically clean your panels with a garden hose, washing away any excess material the rain can’t catch.
If you notice your power levels declining or fluctuating significantly, you may also have an electrical problem. It’s never a bad idea to have your solar panel system inspected and regularly serviced by a professional solar company.
When to Consider Replacing Your Solar Panels
While the average solar panels’ lifespan should extend to 25 years, you may find that your solar array continues providing you with enough electricity for years beyond that timeframe. However, there are a number of signs that it’s time to replace your solar array and install new panels to restore your lost efficiency.
Because of the solar degradation rate of panels, solar energy systems will lose efficiency year after year. Over time, this efficiency loss and the resulting decline in solar power production may drop far enough that you no longer see enough benefit in your electric bills. When that happens, your best solution is to replace your solar panels.
However, if you’re content with your current power production, you should be okay keeping your current panels.
While solar panels are built to withstand a significant amount of punishment, they can break. Extremes in temperatures can cause components to crack, as can severe weather like hail. No matter the cause, broken panels will need to be replaced. And if you don’t perform regular maintenance on your panels, that damage can render your panels inoperable.
One suggestion is to consider replacing your solar panels when it comes time to replace your roof. While the exact timing depends on the type of covering, most homes have roofs rated to last 20-25 years. Since the panels will need to be removed to replace the roof, it’s an excellent time to consider replacing your panels with newer, more efficient models.
Other Solar System Components that Might Need to Be Replaced
While your panels are the most visible part of your solar energy system, there are a number of other components that are required to help transform and store the electricity your panels produce. Here are some of the most important components you may need to replace during your solar panels’ lifespan.
Solar Panel Racks
Your solar panels are not laid directly on your roof but are actually installed in solar panel racks, which hold the panels several inches off the surface of your home. These racks are usually drilled directly into your roof, and as a result, they are more directly exposed to the elements.
By keeping an eye on your racks, you can avoid having your panels come loose and possibly get damaged.
Solar Panel Inverters
Solar panels produce direct current (DC), but homes need electricity in the form of alternating current (AC) to function. String inverters and microinverters help transform the electricity into a form that you can use. String inverters tend to last for 10-15 years, which means that they’ll need to be replaced at least once during your solar panels’ lifespan. Microinverters, on the other hand, should last about 25 years.
Solar Panel Batteries
Solar batteries are an excellent way to store the excess energy your solar system produces. Battery chargers carry extra DC power to an array of storage batteries, which can then be used to power your home during the hours your panels are not producing power, including overcast weather and nighttime.
Most solar batteries have an expected lifespan of 10 years. After this point, they begin to lose their ability to store power effectively. Before replacing your batteries, make sure to check your inverter chargers, which help transform the DC power from your batteries to AC power for household use.
Knowing Your Solar Panel System
No matter what your solar panels’ lifespan is expected to be, it’s essential to make sure you’re performing regular maintenance to ensure that minor problems don’t turn into big ones. With the help of your solar company, you should be able to keep your solar panels working their best for years.
When it does come time to replace your solar panels, make sure that you’re caught up on the latest technology as well. Improvements in solar energy production continue to move at a breakneck pace, and staying well-informed will help you install the solar equipment, most likely to last you another 25 years—or more.
When you invest in high-quality solar panels, you should receive an excellent return on investment. And the more attention you pay to your panels, the more likely you will keep seeing those returns year after year.