With how much the world is focusing on how to reduce their energy usage and minimise their carbon footprint, it’s no wonder that solar panels are so popular. Solar panels provide a clean form of electricity with minimal environmental impact and few moving parts. One question many people in Australia have when they’re thinking about installing solar panels to produce their own solar energy is how long do solar panels last? Here at Skyline Solar, we answer this question for you!
Start with a high-quality solar panel brand
Before we get into the nitty-gritty we should spend a minute to explain one of the main factors that can influence the longevity of your solar panels, their brand. It’s fair to say the lifespan of your overall solar system can depend primarily on their brand (how they are manufactured) as well as how well they’re taken care of and how much sun they receive.
Generally speaking, solar panels have a lifespan of around 25 years. As long as you keep your solar panels clean and free of debris, they should last a long time.
There are a number of elements that influence the overall quality of your solar panels. Panels that are cheaply manufactured will be constructed of low-quality materials, resulting in a poor product. These ‘cheap’ type of solar panel manufacturers use poorly soldered joints, dodgy electrical connections, exposed wires, poorly applied glue, and low-quality components. They inherently don’t handle many external factors, such as extreme cold, very well and can be prone to manufacturing defects soon after installation. Their ability to handle physical damage can be questionable noting the cheap components are mostly less sturdy than those who by reputable manufacturers. One reliable indicator of high-performance modules and solar inverters in Australia is that they are certified to Australian Standards. You may also refer to the manufacturer’s “tier system,” which refers to their reputation for quality and performance.
If you’re looking for solar panels that will last longer than most, we highly recommend Suntech, SunPower and Solaredge solar panels. These are some of the longest-lasting and most reliable panels on the market. Homeowners naturally want to save money, however, the overall solar panels cost needs to be factored against the expected degradation rate especially when comparing cheap vs premium solar panel manufacturers.
When to consider replacing your solar panels?
If your solar panels are starting to show wear and tear, or you’re not getting the same amount of clean electricity as you used to, it might be time for a replacement.
Many solar manufacturers have built-in tracking systems and software for monitoring the electrical power produced for your home every day. The typical electrical energy produced on each system will give a simple indication if anything is not functioning correctly. When solar panel power production decreases below an acceptable level, they may need to be replaced. If for example your 8kw system panels consume 4 hours a day of sunlight each month and produce a clean energy output of up to 32kwh and drop over 20% within 25yrs – and there’s neither noticeable dirt nor shade around your roof – that could signify your system is faulty.
How long your solar panels last is determined by a variety of factors; however, there is no hard and fast time to replace them. We advocate replacing your panels based on their efficiency rather than their age. As a rule of thumb, most manufacturers and contractors advise replacing a panel if its efficiency falls below 80%.
What causes the degradation of solar panels in Australia?
There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of solar panels. One of the main reasons for an increased degradation rate is the environment the panels are operating in. Solar panels are exposed to wind, rain, dust and debris so they can also become dirty over time. A good maintenance schedule, that includes semi-regular cleaning is important.
If left unattended for too long, panels could even stop producing electricity altogether. This is why it’s important to have a regular maintenance check-up of your solar panel system done every year or two by a qualified electrician or professional installer.
Here at Skyline Solar we only use manufacturers that offer a minimum 25-year performance warranty on all our solar panels and at least 15yrs manufacturers’ warranty, so you can be sure your investment is protected!
Essentially, there are four types of solar panel degradation:
Light-induced degradation (LID)
When panels are exposed to too much sun, there is a risk of ‘light-induced degradation’ where they can produce less power. The photoconductivity of the panel is reduced as a result of this effect, which explains why solar panels on roofs tend to be more efficient than those mounted on flat surfaces. The first 1000 hours are referred to as an “adjustment” period for the panel, also known as “initial deterioration,” and it happens immediately after installation. After which time, the efficiency of the panels stabilises and reduces around 1 to 3% per year on average.
Cold Temperature Degradation
As you might have guessed, cold temperature causes solar panels to degrade as well. When the temperature gets below -18 degrees Celsius for an extended period of time it will cause a significant drop in how much power the panels produce. The good news is, this is quite rare in Australia.
Potential-induced degradation (PID)
If a panel is exposed to UV radiation for long periods of time, it will eventually degrade. This isn’t always the case, but if it does happen, its performance can be reduced by 30%. When different parts of a system are at different voltages, as is the case with the solar cell and the panel’s frame, there is an interruption in the voltages. Variations in voltage and current can cause voltage leaks, which subsequently lowers a panel’s power output.
Naturally, solar modules are subjected to environmental elements that lead to deterioration. Solar panels’ natural deterioration is due to aging. This might occur for a variety of reasons, including chemical reactions in semi-conductive materials that cause crystalline hardening, cell contamination, shading effects, and weather cycles.
Can you extend the lifespan of a solar panel?
Extending the life of your solar panels actually starts at the installing phase. Solar panels are not inherently fragile; however, the connections and overall structure of your array must be considered as with any interconnected system. Installing solar panels is a long-term commitment, and you’re not just paying for the panels themselves; you’re also buying into the rest of the system that keeps them operating.
Despite the fact that solar panels are incredibly resilient, they are actually more prone to damage during installation, when unskilled installers may step on them while working. The panels and internal solar cells are designed to tolerate this kind of pressure since most are built with the same tempered glass as windshields. Straining can, however, cause micro-fractures in PV cells, which can eventually lead to their accelerated deterioration as they are constantly subjected to the elements and dirt. Don’t skimp on your solar installation, ensure it is completed by a reputable installer and is built using reliable solar system components.
Solar panels are typically simple to maintain because they have been crafted to cope with weather situations including rain and hailstorms. Having a regular maintenance schedule can ensure you get to any problems before they occur or before your warranty period expires. The following steps can help your solar panels last longer, allowing them to perform tasks easier so that the cells can stay functional longer:
- Clean solar panels with a damp cloth or medium bristled broom, some areas of Western Sydney have large amounts of birds, give the panels a clean on occasion to remove debris and help them operate at their maximum efficiency for longer.
- Replace any failing mounting brackets utilised within your roof racking system (note these should last at least ten or more years).
- Just had a storm? Check for any damage from hail or fallen tree branches near your roof that may have hit your panels before sliding into your gutter or onto the ground.
- Perform visual inspections, look for loose racks, gaps, exposed wiring, and faulty panels on a semi-regular basis.
How fast do solar panels degrade in Australia?
Data shows that in regards to a ‘brand generic’ solar panel degradation rate, you will find that high-quality solar panels will deteriorate by approx. 0.5 to 3% each year on average. Many solar panels lose close to the 1% mark.
However, solar panel degradation rates differ; although most high-quality panels retain at least 90% of their output efficiency after 20-25 years.
How long solar panels last is a common question we receive. Solar panel degradation is commonly misunderstood so we hope this article allows you to maximise your solar panel output now and into the future so you receive many happy years of solar power to your premises.
Most solar panels are not inherently fragile; however, the connections and overall structure of your solar system must be maintained (as with any interconnected system). Installing solar panels is a long-term commitment, and you’re not just paying for the panels themselves; you’re also buying into the rest of the system that keeps them operating. Despite this fact, many people don’t realize basic upkeep is required to keep these cells functioning at their peak efficiency levels.
Taking care of your solar energy system by maintaining mounting brackets, fixing any loose racking and cleaning panels on occasion can help ensure they retain more output power over time without too much degradation happening during the life of the system. If you would like to know more about maximising your solar panel lifespan reach out to the friendly staff at Skyline Solar today.