Homeowners who are looking to go solar have lots of questions. It’s a big decision and investment, so naturally they want to understand every last detail about buying and owning a new solar system. Questions range from “How much will my system cost?” to “Do my panels work in bad weather?” At Blue Raven Solar, it is our goal to educate our customers and answer any and all questions before they make the switch. Today, we’ll be answering one of the most popular customer questions: How long will my solar panels last?
How long do they last???
Solar panels are made to last several decades. In fact, the first modern solar panel is still producing energy more than 60 years after its creation. Every year, solar panel manufacturers discover new tech to incorporate into their panels, making it impossible to know exactly how long the latest and greatest panels will last. Despite this uncertainty, most solar installers provide their customers with warranties of 10-25 years. These warranties can guarantee energy production, cover install repairs, and protect your panels from defects or malfunctions. Thus, it is safe to say that your panels will last for many years, leading us to another question about the life of a solar panel: Will panels maintain their energy production throughout their lifetime?
Solar Panel Degradation
No matter the brand or provider, solar panels will slowly become less efficient at producing electricity. This reduction in production, known as Solar Panel Degradation, occurs when tiny cracks build up within the solar cells, causing electrical connections to deteriorate. These “microcracks” are caused by humidity entering the system, freezing of the solar cells, flexing from heavy winds, UV damage, and thermal cycling. Thermal cycling occurs when materials within the solar panel expand and contract at different rates due to temperature change, straining the joints between materials and causing deterioration.
With proper installation and simple maintenance, most solar panels can avoid major degradation and failure. In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that most solar panels have degradation rates of 0.3-0.8% per year depending on panel quality. Which means over a 25-year span, a panel is expected to have an energy production rate that starts at 100% efficiency and drops incrementally to about 80% efficiency by the end of the span. Even after 25 years, its efficiency will continue to drop, but luckily there are some ways to combat microcracking and maintain maximum efficiency.
What can I do to increase the life and efficiency of my solar panels?
All solar panel owners can extend the lifetime and efficiency of their system by performing 4 simple actions:
- Monitor solar panel output – by simply checking the panels’ output each month, homeowners can know how well their panels are functioning and report any serious reduction in output to their installers.
- Rinse panels with water – generally, with a quick wash, any dust, dirt, or pollen will be removed from your panels. Clean panels will absorb more light and produce more electricity.
- Remove snow and ice carefully – snow and ice are tricky because they can block valuable light from getting to your panels but can also be dangerous to remove. Thus, it is important to buy and use proper tools to remove any snow or ice. Panel owners can also wait for the sun to melt the snow off their panels.
- Visually inspect the hardware – because most systems come with a 25-year warranty, it is a smart idea to routinely make visual inspections on your panels. Some items to check for include rusted mounting bolts, solar panel defects, or frayed wiring. If there seem to be any problems with your panels, call your installer and have a professional come give them a look.
With a few routine checks and simple cleaning, your solar panels will be performing at a high capacity, cutting the cost of your electric bills and saving you money. At Blue Raven Solar, all of our solar panels include a 25-year manufacturer warranty. It is our goal to make homeowners’ lives better throughout their solar journey. See how much you can save today by using our Estimate Savings Calculator, where you can receive an accurate, zero-commitment savings report on going solar.