How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Due to rising energy bills and a growing desire to reduce our carbon emissions and impact on the environment, solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular format for the provision of energy to homes in India. The latest solar panel models on the market have an expected lifespan of 40-50 years, and warranties that will keep them protected for at least half of that time.
The warranties also act to guarantee the performance levels of the solar panels over the course of the first half of their lives. Most warranties will guarantee that the performance will not drop below 80% before the warranty ends. In fact, some panels have been known to remain over 80% efficient even past the end of their lives.
If you take good care of your solar panels, then they could easily last over 40 years after being installed. However, it is essential to remember that their performance levels will have deteriorated slightly over that time period. The life expectancy of around half a century includes both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. The reason that this film is not included is that we don’t yet know just how long their estimated lifespan is, and this is why their warranties also tend to be shorter.
The Causes of Degradation
Crystalline silicon modules that are located in extreme climates have shown higher degradation rates than those in moderate ones. For climates that were very cold, panels that were subjected to heavy snow and wind tended to suffer the most. Similarly, panels that were installed in a facade in the same climate showed very low rates of degradation as the snow load was eliminated.
On the other side of the climate spectrum, solar panels in desert climates displayed large decreases in production over time (close to 1% per year) due to the high levels of UV exposure. This decrease is massive compared to moderate climates, which tend to be around 0.2% per year. Panels in moderate climates tend to be able to retain 96% of their production capabilities after 20 years.
How to Extend Their Life
Solar panels have been designed and built to handle as well as endure harsh and unpredictable weather conditions over prolonged periods of time. This is why solar panels are so durable and little to no maintenance is required over the course of their life. Generally speaking, if you keep the panels clean and in good condition, they should be working at high levels of efficiency for quite some time.
It is also important to check the panel output on a regular basis, either via the inverter or on your monitoring system. This means that if the output turns out to be less than the expected amount, you will be able to find out why that is quickly and get your panels back to running at optimum levels of efficiency.
It is also incredibly important that you ensure your solar panels are installed correctly, allowing them to run effectively and to the best of their capabilities.
Another thing to note is that solar panels are only as good as their inverter. The traditional string inverters tend to have a shorter lifespan than solar panels (typically around 10-15 years). If your inverter is preventing the maximum amount of energy from being processed, you will not be getting the most out of your solar panels. Make sure you keep your inverter up to date and in good condition if you want to receive the full benefits from your solar panels.
How to Maintain Them
If you keep your solar panels well maintained, then you can expect to enjoy them for the full length of their estimated lifespan. There are a few ways in which you can do this, helping the efficiency levels to stay at their best.
While solar panels should be pretty much self-sufficient after installation, an annual (or biannual) clean can really help them stay maintained. It is important to note that you only need to give your solar panels a good clean once or twice a year, but if you have had a long period with no rain, you may want to give them an extra once-over.
Here are some quick cleaning tips:
- Clean your solar panels in the morning or evening as they can get very hot during the day
- You should always start by gently sweeping leaves and debris from the surface of the panel. Make sure you used a soft bristled brush
- Spray the panels with your garden hose, but use a gentle stream
- If the panels need a few stubborn areas cleaned further, wipe them down with warm water and a soft cloth to avoid scratching
Safety precautions when cleaning:
- You should always refer to the manufacturer’s guide before you use any cleaning products on the panels.
- Always take precautions when reaching the panels, as they tend to be quite high. If in doubt, there are professional panel cleaners that you can call.
- Only ever clean the surface of the panels, never touch the wiring underneath. You can use a solar panel cleaning service for under the panels, as they are trained and qualified.
The other thing you can do to keep your solar panels maintained is ensure that there is nothing hanging over them, like tree branches. The shade produced by them will greatly reduce the overall efficiency of your panels, but they could also damage the panels if they fall on them.
Any cracks on the surface of your solar panel could also prove very dangerous as water is able to seep into them freely. This could lead to the disintegration of the contacts, resulting in poor connectivity. However, solar panels do have built-in safeguards to ensure that the damage made to one panel will not spread to others.