Before going solar, most people want to know how long their new system can last. After all, the panels are not a small investment, and installing them is not a decision that should be made lightly. In these cases, the question: what is a solar panel’s shelf life? is one of the most important inquiries you should make when first talking to a solar provider.
From degradation rates to how external factors can affect a solar system, here is everything you need to know about the shelf life of solar panels.
How Long Can Panels Usually Last?
Generally speaking, solar panels last between 25 and 30 years. However, this assessment doesn’t mean that your panels stop working after that time is up. Instead, they will keep producing energy for at least 20 more years, meaning that a well-installed solar system can last for about half a century.
However, it is important to note that the panels won’t be able to produce the same amount of energy during that time. As time passes, the panels’ ability to produce energy will slowly decrease. When 30 years go by, the system will no longer save you money.
In other words, using old panels will become more expensive than taking electricity from the grid, defeating the purpose of the system. Therefore, you should start thinking of replacing your solar system as soon as 25‒30 years pass.
The Solar Panel Degradation Rate
Experts have long grappled with the shelf life of solar panels. To calculate how fast solar panels will decline in energy production, they have come up with a measure for it. It is called the solar panel degradation rate.
A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed that the output of solar panels usually declines by around 0.5% every year. Of course, this stat refers to panels built with premium quality materials, as well as those that undergo regular checkups. Otherwise, some systems can decline by as much as 1% annually.
When you think about these numbers on a yearly basis, they might not seem like much. After all, you won’t really feel any difference if your panels are just 0.6% or 1% less effective.
However, when you consider the percentages in the long term, the problem becomes quite glaring. For example, the panels will produce 15‒20% less energy in just 20 years. That will, in turn, drain your budget far too much.
Fortunately, manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their solar systems and make them more durable and long-lasting. In addition, there are even things that you can do to ensure your solar system lasts longer.
How to Increase the Shelf Life of Your Panels
While your panels will indeed produce less energy as time passes, there are still steps that you can take to preserve them for as long as possible.
First and foremost, you need to have the panels inspected at least every two years. That way, technicians will be able to see any damage and potential problems. Furthermore, they will be able to ensure that everything is running smoothly, the way it should.
Secondly, you ought to keep your panels as clean as possible. That involves keeping them free of snow, dirt, debris, leaves, and branches that might accumulate on top due to the weather. Doing maintenance like this is important for two reasons.
On the one hand, it will ensure that external sources have little to no influence over the panels’ shelf life. And on the other, cleaning the panels will make them 100% efficient, as the sunlight will hit them without any obstructions.
To Sum Up
In the end, the shelf life of a solar system is up to the manufacturer you opt for. If you choose a reputable company and perform regular checkups on the panels, they can run smoothly for up to 30 years.
After that, it is best to invest in new solar panels. If you do so, you will be able to save even more money in the long run and get the best out of solar power.