How Long Do Solar Panels Last: Your Ultimate 2021 Guide

West Bay Energy solar panels

Are you considering installing solar panels on your property? Or do you have a solar energy system and wonder when it will need replacing?

The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy has fallen by 85% in the past 10 years, statistics show, making solar affordable for more people than ever. But solar installations do not last forever and at some point, you will need to replace the panels.

How long do solar panels last? And what can you do to extend their lifespan and get the most out of your investment?

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

How long do solar panels last on average? Solar energy systems are designed to last for 25-30 years. Most suppliers provide a warranty for at least 20 years to replace solar panels if they fail.

The inverter in a solar panel system converts the direct current (DC) from the panels into alternating current (AC) of the right frequency for the electrical network. Inverters have more electrical components than PV panels, making them more prone to overheating and failure in a shorter time. Inverters usually have a lifespan of around 10 years, so need replacing well before the panels.

What Are the Main Types of Solar Technology?

There are three main types of solar PV panel technology, based on the structure of the components in the panel. Here is a brief overview of each type.

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline PV panels are the most efficient. They use single-crystal silicon wafers that can absorb more sunlight, enabling them to output the most energy. Monocrystalline solar cells are black, with the wafers arranged in rectangles.

How long do monocrystalline solar panels last? As they are the most efficient, they are more likely to last beyond the initial 25-year lifespan.

Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline solar panels use many fragments of silicon crystals in the wafer, rather than the single-crystal wafers used in monocrystalline panels. This makes them less efficient, so they tend to sell at lower prices. Polycrystalline panels are blue rather than black, a result of the crystals being in fragments.

Thin Film

Thin-film technologies can use a variety of metals as an alternative to silicon. While there are thin-film silicon panels available, they can also use cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). Thin-film panels are less efficient than crystalline panels, but they also tend to be more affordable.

How Long Do Different Types of Solar Panel Last?

There are several different types of solar panel technologies, each with its pros and cons. Here are a few examples.

Flexible Panels

Flexible solar panels are versatile, as they use thin-film technology that can bend and fit on curved surfaces. However, that flexibility makes them prone to damage from the glass surface cracking.

How long do flexible solar panels last? They are less efficient and less durable flat panels, so they have a shorter lifespan of at least 15 years.

Portable Panels

Portable solar panels are small, self-contained power units that are ideal for camping and long road trips. They come in a range of sizes, some suitable for using an RV, others small enough to carry in a backpack. You can connect batteries or electronic devices directly to the panel to charge them wherever you are.

How long do portable solar panels last? Like traditional fixed flat panels, portable panels can last for 25 years.

Solar Batteries

Connecting a battery to your solar panel system stores excess energy so that you can still make use of solar power on cloudy days and even at night. While a home with solar panels gets an average of 40% of its electricity from solar, a battery allows you to potentially get all of your power from your solar panels.

How long do solar panel batteries last? Their lifespan is much shorter than the solar panel system, averaging 5-15 years before needing to be replaced.

Must You Replace Solar Panels After 25 Years?

Does a 25-year lifespan mean you must automatically replace your solar panels after that time? No. Solar panels can continue generating electricity well beyond their nameplate lifetime. But their efficiency degrades over time, so they will generate less energy than they did when they were new.

Research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that solar PV panels degrade over time, at an average rate of around 0.5% each year. After 25 years, solar panels operate at around 87.5% of their original capacity.

At that point, you can still use them, or you might choose to upgrade your panels to a newer, more efficient system.

How to Extend Solar Panel Lifespan

Once installed, solar panels need little day-to-day maintenance. They usually only break if they are damaged by falling debris such as tree branches or ice and heavy snow following a storm. But there are some things you can do to help ensure your solar panels last as long as possible.

  • Buy high-quality solar panels
  • Use a skilled contractor for the installation
  • Schedule maintenance checks on a regular basis to identify potential issues
  • Keep panels clean to absorb the most sunlight
  • Remove debris that can cause cracks on panel surfaces
  • Avoid abrasive cleaning products that can scratch panels

With basic care and maintenance, solar panels can last for the initial 25-30 year lifetime and beyond.

Get the Most From Your Solar Energy System

How long do solar panels last? With this guidance, you can make sure you get the most out of your solar installation.

Are you looking for a solar installer in Tampa Bay, or are your solar panels in need of repair? West Bay Energy is a family-run business committed to providing the best customer service. Contact us today to find out how we can help you cut your dependence on the electricity grid.