Solar technology has improved so much over the last decade that modern modules are now cheaper, more efficient, and more durable. There truly is no better time for the solar industry. So, as of right now, how long do solar panels last?
In general, high-quality solar panels last at least 25 years. That being said, they do lose a small percentage of their efficiency every year due to degradation – and that just opens up a whole new can of worms.
To help you better understand the longevity of these clean energy-producing wonders, this article covers the following topics:
- How long do solar panels last on average?
- What is solar panel degradation?
- Factors that can affect the solar panel degradation rate
- Ways to maximize the life of your solar panels
What is the average solar panel lifespan?
As previously stated, modern solar panels are mostly rated to last 25 years. That’s standard and what we recommend you should look for when you’re shopping for components.
On that note, some live shorter lives while others live longer. For example:
- Jinko’s Tiger HLM 60 HC is only rated to last 12 years.
- SunPower’s Maxeon lasts a whopping 40 years.
Regardless of who the solar manufacturers are, though, all solar panels will suffer degradation.
This brings up the question:
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What is degradation in solar panels?
Degradation is the loss of power output over time due to a decline in efficiency.
Now, solar panel degradation rates are different from brand to brand. On average, though, a study from NREL says that modern solar panels lose an average of 0.8% of their efficiency per year.
To you, this should just mean that a solar panel you bought today will retain 90% of its power output after 20 years.
Many things can affect the degradation rate and overall lifespan of your panels, though. Let’s discuss them.
Factors that can affect solar panel lifespan
Where solar panels are installed is important because several environmental factors can affect how long these modules last. These factors include:
- Thermal cycling. This is when temperatures change between night and day, as well as during weather changes from rainy and cloudy to bright and sunny. These thermal fluctuations can expand or contract your panels which contributes to degradation.
- Humidity. This is particularly important for Australians because the country is known to be hot and humid. The combination of heat and moisture can cause corrosion, especially in low-quality modules.
- Wind. Wind can be both good and bad. It’s good because it helps keep your solar panels cool which, in turn, improves efficiency. However, excessively strong winds can also warp and flex modules. Again, this is especially true for poorly made panels.
- UV damage. Not to be repetitive but, again, this especially applies to low-quality modules. High-quality ones have a layer of UV blockers to prevent damage. Modules without this protection will soon suffer from discoloration and rapidly reduced efficiency.
Quality of installation
Poorly installed solar panels may be less reliable and can cause issues that may shorten their lifespan. Properly installed solar panels, on the other hand, will last longer as they will be better secured.
Additionally, wiring and other components used in the solar installation process should be high-quality and properly tucked in.
This brings up the importance of hiring a CEC-accredited installer. After all, they wouldn’t have gotten their accreditation without going through proper training. Plus, hiring them makes you eligible for rebates which makes installation thousands of dollars cheaper.
Type of solar panel
There are various types of solar panels used in Australian homes. But, of them all, monocrystalline solar panels have the longest lifespans. They are also among the most efficient and the most expensive.
If you want a cheaper version that’s slightly less efficient, polycrystalline is the way to go.
Having said that, brands and models matter, too. So, if you’ve already set your mind on the type you want to have on your home, we highly recommend looking at different manufacturers and comparing their qualities.
If you need help choosing, our Solar 101 guide has a list of recommendations that can point you in the right direction.
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Maximizing solar panel lifespan comes down to proper maintenance.
Excluding the factors listed above, maximizing the life expectancy of your solar panels all boils down to how well they’re maintained.
That means doing 2 things:
- Cleaning them. A clean solar panel is an efficient solar panel. Luckily, rain water, and snow does most of the work. If your solar panels gather dust, dirt, and debris faster than average, though, you may need to hose them down every 6 months or so.
- Regular inspections. This means you have to visibly check the status of your system components, not just your panels. If something is out of the ordinary, have it fixed immediately. We also recommend hiring an installer to check your system every 2 years.
How long do solar panels last in Australia?
The standard lifespan of solar panels is 25 years. Some solar panels last longer, like SunPower’s Maxeon line that last 40 years. Others last shorter, like some of Jinko’s that only last 12 years.
When do I need to replace my solar panels?
You will need to replace your solar panels if their performance doesn’t satisfy your energy usage anymore. So, if your solar panels are past their rated life expectancy but are still performing well (and safely), you don’t have to change them.
Why do solar panels degrade?
There are numerous reasons for solar panel degradation. All things are perfect, it simply comes with age. However, environmental factors, the quality of the installation, as well as quality of the panels themselves can also be considered.
The truth is that your solar panels will eventually degrade. It is an inherent and inevitable part of owning these systems. Cheap panels, in general, are more prone to steep degradation rates but environmental factors as well as the quality of installation also have their roles to play.
The standard solar panel life expectancy, however, is 25 years – and that is more than enough to say they’re worth it. After all, you could enjoy a return on your investment in as soon as 5 years. That’s 20 years of free and clean electricity.
So, if you’re still on the fence about putting money into a solar panel system for your home, that’s totally fine. But, if you’re ready, we can get you 3 FREE quotes from our network of pre-vetted installers.