Getting solar panels for your house is a big investment. Given that, most people would like to know just how much value they’ll get from their money. Spending thousands of dollars for something that will last you only a few years isn’t practical, right? But don’t worry, solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, and they can last for much longer with proper care and maintenance.
However, it doesn’t mean that they will stop producing electricity after their estimated lifespan. It only means that the solar panels will not be able to produce as much energy as before. Their energy production will be below what the manufacturers consider optimal to meet the average American energy needs.
What is Solar Panel Degradation?
Just like any other equipment, solar panels degrade and become less efficient over time. They will produce less electricity with the same amount of sunlight. But why? That’s because many different external factors wear down the panels and affect their ability to produce electricity negatively.
One example that contributes to solar panel degradation is the formation of microcracks in the silicon of solar cells. These cracks cause deterioration in the electrical connections, leaving fewer paths for electrons from the sun to take, leading to lower energy output. Aside from that, junction box adhesion failures and discoloration are possible issues.
Since solar panel degradation is affected by various factors, manufacturers are having a hard time solving it. But they are continuously trying to improve their technology to combat the degradation and maintain the optimal power output of solar panels for a longer time.
Solar panel degradation rate
According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study in 2012, a solar panel’s output decreases by 0.8 percent every year. Although, this rate of decline varies depending on the brand. There are premium manufacturers that offer degradation rates as low as 0.3 percent. These numbers continue to go lower over the years, and degradation rates below 1 percent are standard throughout the solar panel industry. Since the study was conducted, manufacturers have developed better technologies and panels with a 0.5 percent or better degradation rate is not uncommon anymore.
How do you make your solar panels last longer?
To maximize every buck you’ll spend, you want your solar panels to work effectively as long as possible. But you don’t have to make a lot of effort to maintain your solar panels in good condition. Solar panels don’t have any moving parts, so they are not prone to mechanical failures. The best you can do is to plan for it before you get your system installed. Although these panels are made durable, they could still suffer some damage from a rough installation process. So, you want to work with only the reputable names in the industry to make sure they’ll handle the installation process with care, using high-quality panels and materials. That alone can extend the lifespan of your solar panels.
You can also lengthen your solar panels’ lifespan by preventing them from physical damage caused by foreign objects such as trees, bushes, and animals. Clearing a six-foot distance from the edge of your roof to the nearby trees will help you avoid those kinds of damage.
Lastly, periodic maintenance checks and cleaning can help as well. Solar panels are relatively maintenance-free, but these may further extend their lifespan when done with the correct products and proper methods.
What happens to the solar panels after 30 years?
Your solar panels will not suddenly become useless after 30 years. As mentioned earlier, they will only lose some of their electricity-generating capabilities. They will continue to produce electricity and save you money for many more years, even if they are past their “useful life” as intended by manufacturers.
This means that getting a solar system for your house is a great investment, which will last for much longer than you may think. They will also surely return the money you spent by cutting your electricity bill every month. Rest assured, your investment will not be wasted after three decades. The earlier you get them, the earlier you’ll start saving.