Solar panels are a long-term investment that can benefit both your pocket and the environment over time, but they don’t have limitless power.
Everything has a lifespan and solar panels are no different. This article will explain how long solar panels last and how long they can perform at their best.
It is important to understand how long they last so you can effectively plan for any future replacements.
What is the average lifespan of solar panels?
The oldest solar panel in the world is 60 years old and still generating energy, but not all solar panels will enjoy such a long life.
Each manufacturer is different, but they will generally be guaranteed for 25-30 years.
But PV-panels can still produce electricity, for example your electric heating long after that. As with other machinery and equipment, solar panels will become less effective over time.
Through a process called degradation, solar panels produce less electricity as they age. Ironically, the sun will be the main cause of solar panels deteriorating over time. More about degradation under the header ‘How much do solar panels degrade?’.
What is the lifespan of polycrystalline panels?
Polycrystalline solar panels are made with silicon crystals that are placed into molten silicon and allowed to cool. They are generally a cheaper option making them a popular choice with homeowners.
The crystals are impacted by electrical forces which reduce their efficiency over time.
However, they will be working at their best for up to 25 years.
What is the lifespan of monocrystalline panels?
Monocrystalline panels are made from single-crystal panels which means they are more expensive, but more energy efficient. Due to their single-crystal design, they have fewer chances to fail.
This means that on average they will last between 30-50 years.
How much do solar panels degrade?
Degradation happens when microcracks form in the silicon of the solar cells, causing electrical connections to deteriorate and overall efficiency to reduce. A solar panel will lose around 10% of its power in the first 10 years, increasing to 20% over 25 years.
PV-panels can also degrade between 1% and 3% during the first year of use due to light induced degradation.
All solar panels degrade, but not at the same rate. The performance of your solar panels will be impacted by:
- Extreme weather
- Quick temperature changes (causing cracks as the panels expand and contract)
- Poor installation
- Lack of maintenance
What is the lifespan of an inverter?
The inverter is the component that converts the energy created by the solar panels into energy that can be used in our homes.
It is an essential feature of solar panel installation and manufacturers will often provide a 5–10-year warranty for inverters.
- Inverters last around 10 years with proper maintenance
- The inverter should be replaced at least once over the lifespan on your solar panels
- They should be installed in a well-ventilated cool area such as a garage
- The lifespan of the inverter is impacted by the same elements as the panels
How can you improve the lifespan of solar panels?
Generally, solar panels are durable and built to withstand the elements to a certain extent, but you can help them to work efficiently way beyond their expiration date. Here are some ways to improve the lifespan of your solar panels:
Maintenance: Routine maintenance is part of owning solar panels. Although they do not have any moving parts, you should still check them regularly for any cracks, dirt build-up, or deterioration to find any issues early. Proper maintenance will save you money and inconvenience over time.
Warranty: Only choose a solar panel manufacturer and installer that offers a strong warranty of at least 10 years. This will give you peace of mind if any problems arise.
Cleaning: Keep your panels clean and free from dust, dirt and bird droppings that will cause the protective layers to deteriorate. You can hire professionals to clean your panels if it is not safe to do it yourself. Dirt is more likely to build up on flat roofs where rain does not run off effectively.
Tip: The suitability of your roof will need to be checked by a professional before you install solar panels.
Installation: You should have your solar panels installed by a professional, not only because of the warranty but to ensure they are fitted correctly and safely.
If you maintain your solar panels and inverter well, you can extend their lifespan and ensure you enjoy the benefits of your solar panels for many years to come.
Can you recycle solar panels?
If your solar panels have degraded to a point where they are not economically viable, you may be considering replacing them. If you installed solar panels to be more environmentally friendly, you wouldn’t want to add to the issue when disposing of them.
The good news is they can be recycled. In the UK, waste from solar panels is banned from landfills so solar panels can be recycled into raw materials such as:
The recycling of solar panels is a well-organised procedure. Each type requires a different process, so check with the recycling centre beforehand.
Get quotes from solar panel installers
Are you considering solar panels for your home? You should hire a professional solar panel installer to fit your panels safely and professionally.
You should request quotes from several solar panel specialists to ensure you get the best price and service. Before you decide on a manufacturer and installer, always check their warranty conditions.