The use of solar panels in homes and businesses has caught on like wildfire. Equipping these to your building is more affordable and simpler than ever. Plus, it’s an incredible investment that pays off within a few years’ time. While the upfront cost is still expensive regarding home renovations, the price has come down significantly. There are also increased incentives through taxes and certifications that can help make up for the price. Best of all, the savings on your utility bill are enormous.
Whether you’ve already installed solar panels or are thinking about purchasing some, it helps to calculate the value of your investment. To make your calculations, you have to ask yourself, “how long do solar panels last?”
There’s no sense in buying the equipment if it only lasts five years, but you can’t expect them to last a lifetime either. So, what is their average lifespan? Does it make financial sense to purchase solar panels now? Here’s everything you need to know.
How long do solar panels last? The first step towards answering that question is looking at the warranty. Most manufacturers time their warranties according to the lifespan of their product. If a treadmill is meant to last at least fifteen years before running into any issues, then the warranty will most likely match that estimate.
Solar panels generally come with a twenty-five-year warranty in which you are guaranteed that they should operate at peak performance. Over time, their efficiency will wear down. However, there shouldn’t be any issues for a quarter of a century. During this time, each panel should produce a minimum of 80% output.
If you had a 300-watt panel, for instance, it is guaranteed to produce a continues 240 watts when in operation towards the end of the warranty. That isn’t always the case with warranties, though. Some companies cover their products for longer and guarantee higher percentages.
The vast majority of solar panels also come with a workmanship warranty that covers defects, the box, and the frame. These are often ten to twenty years long, giving the panel plenty of time to reveal any flaws.
Doing the Math
If each panel is meant to last a minimum of twenty-five years, then how long do solar panels last before they finally stop producing energy? With a little math, you can quickly estimate the total lifespan of your purchase.
On average, panels lose about 0.5-1% of their efficiency rating per year. When the warranty is up, that means their output should fall within the 75-87.5% range. At fifty years, it would produce 50-75% of their total production. That’s a long time for any piece of technology to last and still work efficiently.
When Should I Replace Them? There is no need to replace your solar panels after the warranty expires. At 80% efficiency, you’re still reaping the cost-saving benefits of owning them. In fact, you can keep your panels around as long as
they still produce energy.
Over 70% of all solar panels tested lose less than 1% of their efficiency per year. That means yours will still retain a small output 100 years from now. So, the good news is that your investment is going to last for decades to come.
To keep your panels running as they should, you only need to replace the inverters and batteries every so many years. That’s right. You don’t need to replace the panels themselves. Here’s what to do.
Replacing the Inverters
The majority of inverters come with a ten-year warranty, which you can usually upgrade to twenty years. Opting for the upgrade is a smart choice since most models last between twelve to fifteen years, allowing you to replace your inverters with a newer model down the road at no extra cost.
Before making the additional purchase, it never hurts to look over the more delicate details of the warranty. Several will gladly cover parts but leave you with the bill for the labor. If you’re working with an off-grid model, this tip is paramount to making sure you get the most out of your investment.
Replacing the Batteries
While residential and commercial panels are hard-wired into the structure, off-grid rigs rely on batteries to store energy. These need to be inspected and maintained a few times per year. Otherwise, they can fail in less than a year’s time.
You can expect them to last anywhere between three years and a decade when properly recharged. To prolong the life of your batteries, make sure your entire system is built for efficiency. The battery capacity should match the inverter output, being able to handle a steady flow of generated AC/ DC.
Making Your Money Back
The return on investment, or ROI, is one of the main reasons homeowners choose to install solar panels. Based on the size and setup of your system, the amount of money you end up saving will vary. To help figure out your ROI, there are numerous calculators online.
These calculators figure out how long it will take to make your money back as well as how much money you’ll save throughout twenty-five years to match the length of most warranties. Once you figure out your yearly ROI, you can continue to estimate from there based on the average output loss solar panels
These estimates also take into account financing for solar panels, which can change your ROI dramatically. Once your system is paid off, that number will shoot through the roof. Since panels do not rely on moving parts, their ability to outlast their warranties is impressive.
Setting Up For Success
The best way to ensure your investment is well spent is to work with a trusted solar provider. These installers know the most effective way to set up a rig, ensuring maximum output with the least amount of routine maintenance. DIY projects are fun, but the largest ROI comes from a professional setup.
Next to that, keeping your panels free of any debris is paramount. Leaves, dirt, dust and more can all impact their performance, leaving you with less solar energy than your panels should be creating. From time to time, climb up on the roof to remove anything blocking your solar cells from receiving sunlight.
It also helps to clean your panels regularly. This is an easy step you can tack on to your fall and spring cleaning to-do list that will help you save hundreds. While you’re up there, check the inverters. Finally, routine maintenance is key. If you’re unsure about your skill with electronics, there are some
contractors who offer professional maintenance along with their warranties. In some cases, you can pay an additional fee for up to twenty years of reliably maintained solar panels. While that does tack on more to the upfront cost, the benefit of saving more money on your utility bill is well worth the investment.
Is Your Home Worth the Investment?
That might sound like a ridiculous question at first, but there are a few factors that could prohibit the output (and therefore the ROI) of your solar panels.
Nearly every home or business is an excellent candidate for solar-powered electricity. There are, however, some that are not. First, your roof needs to be exposed to sunlight. If trees are providing constant shade during the day or
you live in an area that receives limited sunlight, then your solar panels might not perform like you want them to.
Partly cloudy days, thunderstorms, and heavy snow are all accounted for by most professionals. These changes in the weather do not inhibit your panels from providing energy to the house. As long as there are plenty of somewhat sunny days in-between, your house is suitable for solar energy.
Homes with tiny roofs might also have an issue with installing panels. There need to be enough solar cells to provide the home with power, and only installing four isn’t going to cut it. Terrace houses and townhomes, in particular, are often too narrow or small to accommodate a full solar panel rig.
The are you live in may have restrictions against solar panels facing the street. If your home receives plenty of sun on the other side of the roof, then this isn’t a problem. However, it’s something to consider if that side of the house is constantly covered in the shade.
Solar panels are a fantastic way to save on energy costs, make your home green, and enjoy an incredible ROI. While there is no clear-cut answer for, “how long do solar panels last,” you can gain an accurate idea of their lifespan and the energy they will continue to produce over time. Remember, maintenance and regular upkeep go a long way in extended their usability.