Solar Panel Lifespan Average, Detractors and Improvement Methods

As many who have gone this route are well aware, solar panels and their related systems are generally considered a long-term investment. They're meant to help you replace your reliance on the local power grid, allowing you to create your own energy over a long period of time -- and one factor that's important within this realm is the lifespan of the panels themselves.

At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we're proud to offer a wide range of commercial and residential solar panel products, including installation of the Tesla Powerwall battery backup to help clients store and best utilize their generated power. How long do solar panels typically last, what are the factors that may impact their lifespan, and how can you extend this lifespan with quality care? Here's a basic primer.

Standard Lifespan of Solar Panels

While it may seem like this is a pretty simple area to assess, it's more complex than you might think. Solar panels are generally designed to last between 25 and 30 years -- but there are several additional factors to evaluate.

Specifically, many solar panel manufacturers offer their warranties based on what's known as the "degradation" period they're likely to fall under. This refers to how quickly your panels are expected to lose their ability to generate power through the natural process of degradation. As you might suspect, this degradation period can impact how much time your panels have left before they're no longer effective at all -- which is why it's important that you understand these terms.

That 25-30-year number we mentioned is typically meant to cover the "useful life" of the panels, or the period before significant degradation (but still enough to generate power) and before the panels need replacing outright. Once panels have outlived this useful life period, it doesn't meant they can't produce power at all -- but rather that they're not as effective as they were when they first came online.

There are other factors that come into play, such as the monthly degradation rate of your panels and the impact of extreme weather on their ability to function. There are some cases where panels past their useful life should be immediately replaced, but others where you may choose to product energy at a lower level -- this depends on your specific case, and it's wise to discuss these factors with a solar professional.

As with any investment you're making, it's important to understand the terms of your agreement -- and with solar, those numbers aren't as simple as they sound. You'll likely want to talk about them in depth with a qualified expert who can walk you through the options for your unique circumstances.

Factors That Contribute to Solar Panel Degradation

Over enough time, all solar panels will degrade to some level. However, there are several specific weather elements that may play a role in the speed of this degradation, including:

  • Rain: While occasional rain will only have a moderate (or even no) effect on how much power your panels can produce on a given day, regular rain in your area may increase the chances of unexpected electrical problems. This can threaten the long-term durability of your panels, so it's important to consider whether you're in an area where rainfall is common. In addition, rain may lead to corrosion on certain parts of your panels, which can reduce their overall lifespan.
  • Wind: Wind is usually not a problem for solar panels -- but extremely high levels of wind could potentially pose risks to your system's performance. For example, if an especially strong gust of wind blows through the area where your panels are mounted, you may experience power fluctuations or disruptions in how and when your panels produce energy. This is especially common (and problematic) in particularly windy climates, such as coastal areas.
  • Extreme Temperatures: While the sun's direct UV rays may be able to affect solar panel performance over time, more often it's extreme temperatures that pose problems for clean power generation. For example, high heat can reduce the ability of panels to produce energy, which means that your system may not meet its expected production goals during periods of high temperatures.
  • Sunlight: Finally, while this may seem confusing given that sunlight is what your system is meant to take in, it's a simple reality that your initial exposure of these panels to sunlight may cause some small degradation. However, our installers will include UV blockers to reduce this damage as much as possible.

Tips for Extending the Lifespan of Solar Panels

If we're being honest, there's no way you can truly stop solar panels from degrading -- it's a simple reality of physics. That said, you can take a few basic steps to slow the process down, including:

  • Regular cleaning: This is especially important for panels that are exposed to the elements, such as rain or high winds. You may find it helpful to create a specific time of day when you clean your solar panels, in order to minimize any production interruptions. Remove debris, build-up and any other risks that may cause damage or corrosion.
  • Proper location choice: While you likely don't have much direct control over your location, you can at least choose a spot that is protected from the elements -- and where there's a low risk of accidental damage or corrosion. For example, many installations are placed on roofs or other areas away from windy locations.
  • Professional maintenance: Our team will help you keep your system running smoothly, but it's up to you to choose a trusted professional who can offer routine service and cleaning. This can ensure that your panels are always at peak performance levels.

For more on the lifespan of your solar panels and how to maximize it, or to learn about any of our other solar power services, speak to the pros at Intermountain Wind & Solar today.

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