How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

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Jack Ayre

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Installing a solar panel system lets you make use of clean, green electricity, cuts down your energy bills, reduces maintenance costs, and lowers your carbon footprint. Additionally, relying on solar energy increases your property’s value, decreases your dependency on the grid, and protects you from energy price fluctuations.

Solar panels undoubtedly have many advantages to offer homeowners in the UK. The question is, for how long do you get to enjoy all these benefits? Because if solar panels degrade, then what is an average solar panel life expectancy for useful energy production?

The more time your solar panels stay working, the higher the return on your investment. Below we’ll explore how long solar panels last, what factors affect a solar panel’s lifespan, and how you can extend their operation.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

On average, solar panels last between 25 and 30 years, meaning your solar panel installation can serve you well for decades. This is the industry standard, but the exact life expectancy varies between different solar panel manufacturers, and can also be affected by other factors, including installation and maintenance.

When we say that a solar panel lasts around 25 to 30 years, we’re referring to the duration that it’ll continue to work at maximum capacity.

This means that solar panels won’t just stop producing energy after 25 to 30 years from installation. They’ll continue to generate electricity but at a reduced efficiency for an additional 10, 20, or even 30 years.

That said, determining the lifespan of solar panels is still tricky because they haven’t been around for too long. Solar panel warranties are a good place to start, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you about solar panel efficiency, or how long solar panels typically last.

In the UK, the popularity of using solar energy as an alternative energy source took off only over a decade ago when the FIT (Feed-In Tariff) policy was first introduced in 2010. This means that the majority of installations are yet to hit the 10 or 15-year mark.

However, technology hasn’t been sitting idly during that time. We’re constantly using the latest solar panels to improve their efficiency and sturdiness for long-lasting satisfactory performance.

Out of all the components of a solar energy system, solar panels come with the longest life expectancy as well as the longest warranty, making them the most reliable part of a solar installation compared to things like solar batteries and inverters.

What Is the Rate of Degradation of a Solar Panel?

As we explained above, the life expectancy of a solar panel refers to the amount of time it’ll stay working at full capacity. Such performance means that the solar panel is producing electricity at an optimal rate.

When the solar panel begins to generate energy at a lower rate compared to after installing it now, it’s said to have started degrading. The degradation rate is defined as the speed at which the efficiency and output of a solar panel decrease over time.

To estimate the lifespan of a solar panel, calculate your annual energy output, and evaluate your return on investment – how fast solar panels degrade must be taken into account.

It’s nothing alarming though. Most high quality solar panels nowadays operate with a very slow degradation rate; we’re talking about an approximate range of 0.2 to 0.3 percent loss of efficiency per year – so that’s only a tiny portion of a solar panel’s performance being lost annually.

This means that solar panels in the UK – which experiences moderate climates – should perform at 98 to 97% of their electricity production efficiency and output after 10 years. They should work at a capacity of no less than 96 to 94% after 20 years.

What Shortens the Lifespan of Solar Panels?

You now know that solar panels are subject to degradation, but a durable panel will degrade at an extremely low rate.

But why does this degradation happen? And what determines its speed? As expert solar panel installers, we know a thing or two about how business or home solar panels behave…

Causes of Solar Panel Degradation in a Solar Panel System

Various internal and external culprits can be the reason for efficiency loss in solar panels and a reduction in power output.

Optical failure, cable failure, J-box failure, power loss, and glass breakage are the most common internal causes of solar panel degradation for many solar panels. By internal, we mean faults located in the solar panel.

However, solar panels are fixed in place upon installation by your solar panel installer and feature no moving components. So, traditional mechanical problems aren’t something worth worrying about. The real issues lie in external and environmental factors that affect the solar panel, resulting in wear and tear.

One of the most prominent degradation triggers in this aspect is long-term UV exposure and exposure to the elements. In warm climates, elevated temperatures are likely to accelerate solar panel degradation. In cold climates, heavy wind, rain, and snow are likely to interrupt the sun panel operation and inflict damage.

Soiling, which occurs when dirt, dust, snow, or other debris build up on the surface of the panel, is another common reason why solar panels lose energy generation capacity. So keeping solar panels clean is important to get the most solar power output.

Factors that Affect the Degradation Rate of a Solar Panel Installation

Here are the main factors that affect the performance of solar panels:

Installation

An improper installation job when you first get panels installed can cause your solar panels to lose efficiency and have a shorter life expectancy. Even if you got the most expensive model on the market, it’ll underperform if it’s poorly fitted.

The angle of the solar panels, the size of the solar inverters, and the alignment of cables all need to be selected and installed correctly to avoid compromising the efficiency of your panels and solar energy system.

This doesn’t have to take a long time to be done right. Our team of professionals typically installs a standard system consisting of 12 panels in one day.

Quality

Even with the most meticulous installation job, if the quality of the solar panels is sub-par, their panel output will degrade more quickly over time. This is particularly true in cheaper solar panels. While they seem to cost much less upfront, they’ll end up having you pay a lot of money for repairs and maintenance expenses.

Cheap solar panels are low quality because they’re made using low-quality materials to keep their prices down. For example, they feature thinner frames made of less aluminium which translates into reduced protection. Cheap solar panels also house more fragile glass which makes them more prone to damage.

Maintenance

One more key factor that heavily affects the energy production of a solar panel is regular maintenance.

A major advantage of switching to solar panels is indeed their durability and self-sufficiency, but this doesn’t mean you can completely forget about them. Proper upkeep of your solar panels is crucial to preserve their efficiency, and it’s not at all hard to provide the necessary care.

You need to schedule regular checks of your panel’s output, cabling, and connections. Also, regularly check if new shadings are surrounding the solar panels so you can deal with them quickly.

Unless extreme circumstances occur, like extreme weather events or a natural disaster, a thorough cleaning one or two times a year is pretty much all the panels require to stay in top condition.

Here’s a simple outline of what you need to do to get the job done:

  • Always turn off your solar energy system before cleaning.
  • Start by clearing debris from the surface of the panel.
  • Use a gentle stream when spraying the panels with a garden hose. Pressured water can damage the panel seams and reach the delicate electrical components inside that actually help them produce electricity. Damage these, and they may stop producing electricity altogether.
  • Don’t use abrasive tools; a soft brush and a squeegee will do the trick.
  • Don’t clean your solar panels during noon or when the weather is hot; go for early mornings or evenings instead. Otherwise, you’ll end up with smudges as the water evaporates too fast.
  • If you don’t have rain for a long time where you live, increase the number of cleaning sessions to three times a year.

How to Make Solar Panels Run Efficiently for Longer

Solar panels nowadays are built to last, but there are always ways you can ensure they operate at maximum efficiency for their full expected lifespan and to make your solar panels last longer. Here are a few tips to put you on the right track:

  • Make sure your solar panels are installed correctly.
  • Make sure your inverter is in good condition and up to date.
  • Keep birds and animals away from the panels.
  • Invest in a high-quality solar panel system.
  • Perform maintenance check-ups regularly.
  • Protect the surface of the panels from physical damage such as scratching.

Solar Panel FAQs

How Long Do Solar Panel Batteries Last?

Solar panel batteries can last between 5 and 15 years, depending on their type and typical lifespan. At ESE Solar, our batteries come with a 10-year warranty to guarantee long-lasting usage because we’re a reputable installer that works with only the best solar equipment.

Which Lasts Longer, Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels?

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels both have a lifespan of around 25 to 30 years.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last Conclusions

There you have it, a complete guide to answer the question: how long do solar panels last? The average lifespan of solar panels ranges between 25 and 30 years. After this period, solar panels will continue to work but at a reduced efficiency.

The life expectancy of solar panels varies according to multiple factors including the construction materials, the installation process, and how regularly monitored they are.

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Born in North West England, Jack kicked off his career in the insurance arena, dealing with claims for three years. Always up for a challenge, Jack leapt out of his comfort zone and embarked upon 5 years of excitement with the military.

Working for the Ministry of Defence, Jack specialised in counter-terrorism which took him to places such as Dubai, Oman, Iraq, Norway and Bahrain. During this period he worked with various Governments implementing strategic operations to prevent terrorism.

After travelling around various countries Jack increasingly came across various forms of solar from large solar farms to domestic solar panels. From here Jack took a keen interest in all things solar and started reading about the technological capabilities with a view to entering the industry after his career in the Ministry of Defence.

Once home after 5 fruitful years, Jack had 3 months leave in which he immersed himself in a solar crash course and got applying for jobs within the solar sector. He came across ESE Solar, a long-established forward-thinking company whose head office was only a stone’s throw away from him. He picked up the phone to see if there were any vacancies and within a week had a successful interview and obtained a full-time job, starting in the technical team.

Within the first few months, Jack onboarded in various online courses during work and social hours to speed up his knowledge of all things solar. Due to his strong work ethic and thirst for knowledge Jack was promoted to Head of Technical at ESE Solar. He currently leads the team and oversees the product development of new technologies within the company alongside assisting where necessary on their maintenance department.

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