What to Know About Solar Panel Lifespan & How to Increase It

March 25 2021

Home solar system that is freshly cleaned to enhance solar panel durability

Solar panel lifespan is always an area of interest for homeowners. After all, solar panels are an expensive investment. Most people know that solar panels can save them money over time, but many don’t know what that timeline looks like.

On top of that, the life expectancy of solar panels varies depending on a variety of factors. Some of those factors are controllable, while others, like climate, are not. There is no guarantee that the average lifespan of solar panels will hold true for your system.

If you’re wondering, “How long do solar panels last?” you’re in the right place. We’ll discuss the life expectancy of solar panels and how to extend it as long as possible.

Learn more about the typical solar panel lifespan and find tips for increasing it below.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

So, exactly how long do solar panels last? Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer to this question. Solar panel lifespan varies depending on the type, brand, and climate where they’re installed.

If you’re set on getting an answer, research shows that the average lifespan of solar panels is between 25 and 30 years. Of course, this only an average. However, recent studies have shown that modern systems are outperforming expectations.

The average lifespan of solar panels is calculated via annual degradation rates. These rates vary by manufacturer but typically range from 0.3% per year to 0.8% per year.

That brings us to an average degradation rate of 0.5% per year, resulting in at least a 25-year average lifespan of solar panels. At this rate, panels should operate just under 88% capacity after 25 years, which is the length of most warranties.

Even the most durable solar panels will lose efficiency over time. This doesn’t mean they’ll stop working completely, but you won’t be able to rely on your panels for sufficient production and savings after a certain point.

How to Increase Solar Panel Durability

Solar panels aren’t necessarily cheap. It makes sense that homeowners are constantly looking for ways to increase solar panel lifespan.

While solar panel durability depends heavily on type, brand, and climate, there are still actions you can take to help make your panels last longer.

1. Maintain your solar panels.

Because panels require such little attention and maintenance, it’s easy to forget they’re there. However, dust and dirt can accumulate over time.

Solar panels are more efficient when they are clean. Wash your panels routinely. The frequency will depend on your climate. When you do clean your panels, do not use abrasive soaps or sponges. Instead, opt for a hose and water, or a soft cloth and biodegradable soap.

Not sure what to use? Check with your manufacturer before washing. Proper cleaning will allow your panels to convert more sunlight and increase solar panel lifespan.

2. Install bird barriers.

If there are many birds in your area, you may want to consider installing bird barriers. These barriers will help keep pigeons from nesting under panels.

This is important because bird droppings can cause permanent chemical damage to panels. Keep birds away as much as possible to help increase the life expectancy of solar panels.

3. Regularly inspect each panel.

Small problems are easy to fix. However, ignoring small problems leads to large ones. Large problems require more money and time. They may even affect solar panel durability long-term.

Regularly inspect your solar panels to avoid these issues. Look for loose racks, surface defects, exposed wires, and general damage. If anything seems out of place, contact a professional servicing company for repair.

It’s simple. If you care for your panels throughout their lifetime, they’ll last longer. There are many controllable factors that can increase solar panel durability.

4. Minimize shade.

Keep your panels in the sunlight. Trim back branches when they start to cover your rooftop. Help your solar panels do their job effectively by minimizing shade. In turn, you’ll increase the efficiency and life expectancy of solar panels.

5. Install panels correctly at the proper angle.

A professional solar installer can determine the best angle for your panels. They’ll be able to find what position receives the most sunlight year-round. Use a trusted solar installer.

Looking for a certified solar installation company in your area? Use Greenlife Solar to compare your options. Find an installer who can set up your system to produce the most energy possible over the entire solar panel lifespan.

6. Purchase high-quality, efficient panels.

The panels you choose will have the biggest impact on the longevity of your system. First, consider type. Solar panel types include polycrystalline, monocrystalline, shingles, and thin film.

Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline are the most durable solar panels. Monocrystalline panels offer the highest efficiency. Solar shingles are still new and their longevity is still largely unknown. On the other hand, thin-film options cost less but also have less solar panel durability.

The manufacturer tier also plays a role in solar panel durability. The most durable solar panels are “Tier 1”. Tier 1 manufacturers are loosely defined as those who have been producing panels for 5+ years, have fully automated production, and have a high degree of vertical integration. These manufacturers are typically listed on a stock exchange or have a strong balance sheet.

Examples of these manufacturers include Sunpower, Panasonic, LG, Rene Solar, Solarworld, and Panasonic, to name a few. This group includes the top 2% of solar companies. These manufacturers may produce the most durable solar panels, but they also charge more. Tier 1 panels are 10-30% more expensive than others.

In contrast, Tiers 2 and 3 include small to medium-sized manufacturers who don’t meet one or more of the previously-mentioned Tier 1 criterion. While Tier 1 panels have degradation rates as low as 0.3%, Tiers 2 & 3 range from 0.5% to 0.8%. Keep in mind that a solar panel with a 0.5% degradation rate will operate at about 88% capacity after 25 years, which is still fantastic.

The main benefits of Tier 1 panels are longer warranties and solar panel lifespan. Of course, you’ll want to weigh these benefits against price. Not sure what you need? Find out how Greenlife Solar can help you compare pricing on all of your options below.

The most durable solar panels on two houses in the sun

The Most Durable Solar Panels

When you’re ready to go green, find the best price on the most durable solar panels with Greenlife Solar. We work with a variety of certified solar installers nationwide to collect a huge selection of solar installation options for homeowners.

Compare free quotes from different installation companies in your area. Compare all of their options and work with our partners to get transparent pricing on a system that fits your home and its needs.

While there are certain steps you can take to enhance the life expectancy of solar panels, some factors come down to the choices you make before installation. Turn to trusted professionals to set up your system for decades of success. Start comparing your options today.

Compare Free Quotes From Solar Installers in Your Area.