How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels last 25 to 35 years, on average. Most homeowners reach the break-even point after owning solar panels for around ten years.

Today’s top solar panel manufacturers offer 15 to 30-year warranties on solar panels, giving homeowners peace of mind their solar panels will last for their advertised length of time.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how long solar panels last.

The Average Solar Panel Lasts 25 to 35 Years

On average, you can expect solar panels to last 25 to 35 years, according to our research.

Typically, homeowners break even on solar panels within roughly ten years of installation. During the next 15 to 25 years, homeowners can save thousands of dollars on electricity costs

After 25 years, many solar panels start to degrade and become less efficient. Solar panels continue to convert sunlight into electricity beyond this point, but they may become less and less efficient – and eventually stop producing any electricity. 

Although solar panels last 25 to 35 years, solar inverters need replacement every 10 to 15 years. Solar inverters convert energy from solar panels into usable electricity for your home. Expect to pay $1,00 to $2,500 to replace a solar inverter.  

Different solar panels have different lifespans, and different solar panel manufacturers have different warranty periods. The longer your solar panels last, the more money you’ll save by installing solar panels today.

How Solar Panel Warranties Work

A standard solar panel warranty is around 25 years. Solar panel manufacturers guarantee their products against manufacturing defects and similar issues from the date you purchase the panels to the next 25 years.

In other words, you can expect your solar panels to remain functional, efficient, and operable over the next 25 years, barring unfortunate accidents and damage.

Many solar panel manufacturers provide an additional, shorter warranty against damage. This warranty can protect against fallen branches, extreme weather events, and similar incidents. 

Factors that Impact Solar Panel Lifespan 

Your solar panels could last just 10 to 15 years. Or, they could remain efficient for 35 years. 

Solar panels vary in lifespan based on many factors, including: 

Manufacturing Quality: When shopping for solar panels, you’ll find Tier One, Tier Two, and Tier Three solar panel manufacturers. Tier One solar panels have the highest standards, and their panels tend to last longest, while Tier Two and Tier Three panels have shorter lifespans and are less efficient with age. Instead of worrying about the tier system, focus on the manufacturing warranty: the best solar panel manufacturers offer warranties of 25 years or more.

Local Weather & Extreme Events: One of the biggest factors impacting the lifespan of your solar panels is the local weather and extreme events. Suppose your solar panels regularly experience fallen tree branches, hurricane-strength winds, and other extreme weather events, for example. In that case, your solar panels will not last as long as someone who lives in an area with mild weather. 

Quality of Original Installation: The quality of your installation impacts how long your solar panels last. Solar panels last longer when properly installed and wired. If your solar panels are set up incorrectly, then they may degrade more rapidly. 

Cleaning: Solar panels require minimal cleaning or maintenance. However, even light cleaning can have a significant impact on the lifespan of your solar panels. If you let dust and dirt accumulate over time, this could reduce efficiency and increase the risk of scratches. People who clean solar panels regularly tend to have longer-lasting solar panels. 

Ongoing Maintenance & Checks: Many solar panel installation companies offer ongoing maintenance services to check solar panels for damages regularly. If you regularly check solar panels for damage, you’re more likely to spot that damage and fix issues before they become serious. If you perform regular maintenance and checks on your solar panels, then you can expect them to last for a longer time than someone who performs minimal maintenance.  

Unexpected Solar Panel Failures and Breakdowns: Solar panels may fail for other reasons. Sometimes, the glass anti-reflective coating of your panels degrades unexpectedly, for example. In other cases, your solar panel could delaminate, have a cracked cell, or become corroded for other reasons. These breakdowns are unexpected, but they can occur in solar panels and affect longevity. 

What Are the Best Solar Panels for Longevity?

Some solar panels last longer than others. 

As mentioned above, solar panel manufacturers use a tier system for quality and longevity:

Tier One: Tier One solar panel manufacturers are the highest quality solar panel manufacturers in the industry. They must have been manufacturing solar panels for a minimum of five years and have a proven reputation for service and quality to qualify for Tier One status. Tier One solar panels have an expected degradation rate of 0.30% per year, which means they’ll remain efficient for much longer than Tier Two and Tier Three solar panels. 

Tier Two: Tier Two solar panel manufacturers lose 0.50% efficiency annually.  

Tier Three: Tier Three solar panels lost 0.80% efficiency per year.

Studies show that the average solar panel degrades around 0.50% annually. Ten years ago, that degradation number was closer to 0.80% per year, which means solar panels are lasting longer and remaining more efficient than ever before. 

If your solar panel degrades at the industry-average rate of 0.50% per year, then your 20-year-old Tier Two solar panels will produce at around 90% of their original capacity.  

As expected, Tier One solar panels are more expensive. On average, you’ll pay 10% to 30% more upfront for Tier One solar panels. Many homeowners are willing to pay a higher price for higher efficiency. You’re already investing in your home and your future, so you might as well pick higher-quality, longer-lasting solar panels. 

Why Do Solar Panels Degrade Over Time?

Some are surprised to discover solar panels degrade over time. Why do solar panels lose efficiency over time? Why don’t solar panels last forever?

Solar panels degrade over time for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Thermal cycling
  • Damp heat
  • Humidity freezing
  • Physical damage and debris accumulation
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation

Some of these factors are unavoidable. You can’t change local weather in your area, for example, and solar panels require UV radiation to operate. Other factors, including physical damage and cleanliness, are avoidable and can significantly increase the lifespan of your solar panels. 

How to Increase Solar Panel Lifespan

You can increase solar panel lifespan by practicing basic maintenance, buying the right solar panels upfront, and installing solar panels correctly in the first place.

Some of the best ways to increase the lifespan of your solar panels include:

  • Work with a reputable installation company.
  • Check your solar panels regularly for issues. Or, order a maintenance package from a reputable solar panel installation company.
  • Invest in the right solar panels upfront, including those from Tier One manufacturers or companies with lengthy warranties.
  • Clear your panels of debris, dirt, grime, and other materials to avoid scratches and other damage.
  • By practicing these basic tips, you can give yourself the best chance of enjoying 25+ years of use out of your solar panels – and maximizing the cost-saving benefits of solar panels. 

Final Word

Solar panels last 25 to 35 years, on average, and most manufacturers offer a warranty to cover this expected lifespan.

By installing solar panels correctly, cleaning and maintaining panels regularly, and investing in the best solar panels today, you can enjoy highly-efficient solar panels for the next few decades.

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