Pre-Qualify in 30 seconds 🔥
Fact Checked

How Long Do Solar Panels Last

How long do solar panels last? Find out how long your solar panel system will last and how to get the most out of it at SmartSolar.org
Solar Panels
7 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
January 19, 2023

How long do solar panels last? It's an important question for anyone considering investing in a solar panel system. Even though solar panels wear out over time, they usually last for a very long time and give you reliable access to energy for a long time. As you consider whether or not you should invest in solar panels, find out what manufacturers say about how long solar panels last. SmartSolar can help you get the solar panels that are right for your home installed affordably. Contact us directly to learn more.

How Long Will Your Solar Panel System Last?

Solar panel manufacturers typically provide a warranty on the solar panels and the entire solar array you install. Most systems will last between 25 and 30 years, providing you with years of reliable use. Some of the best solar companies offer warranties for up to that long, while others may have a shorter warranty period. In most cases, as long as you purchase a quality solar panel system and have it professionally installed, it should last you at least 20 years, often much longer.

Will solar panels degrade?

Be sure to look at the solar panel manufacturers for more information on the specific solar panel system you are considering. Still, most of the time, there will be some degradation of a solar panel's functionality or efficiency. Most often, they will begin to degrade after about 15 years.

What is the break-even point with solar panel energy?

For many people, the break-even point—or the point where the solar panels will have reduced your energy costs by as much as they cost to have installed—is around 6 to 10 years. That means you could have 10 to 15 years of additional lifespan in which you are creating energy for your home without added cost.

The longer your solar panels last, the more money you save when you use solar power. However, keep in mind that the lifespan of solar panels can differ from one manufacturer to the next, and your solar power system could be more or less efficient based on your overall use of the system.

What Factors Impact Solar Panel Lifespan?

The good news is that solar panel degradation rates are low, and that means you can count on them lasting for a long time. Most also come with long solar panel warranties to provide peace of mind. Still, some concerns are often related to solar panels and what happens as they get older. For example, will you suddenly not have the power you need from your solar panels or a solar power system that doesn't work? Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Solar panels are likely to degrade over time as the materials wear down.
  • Exposure to extreme weather changes and climates may increase the solar panel degradation rate.
  • Solar panel maintenance is typically very little. Most people will not need to do much maintenance to their system at all.

Why Do Solar Panels Degrade, Then?

Some solar panels degrade faster than others. There could be many reasons for this. For example, crystalline silicon panels, sometimes called crystalline solar panels, are likely to degrade faster than other types of solar panels. This is because these panels are made of many silicon wafers, which can get worse over time when they are exposed to extreme weather changes.

Solar panels can sometimes break down when they get a lot of dirt or other things on them. That could mean that they are unable to pull in enough solar energy, and that often means that they will be at a higher rate of damage.

Sometimes, solar panels installed improperly can also degrade faster than they should. If the solar panels aren't installed right, the parts that hold them up may wear out faster.

Also, note that some solar panel manufacturers simply use a higher-quality product than others. Those who use a better level of technology are likely to have solar power systems that last longer.

What Is the Average Solar Panel Degradation Rate?

Solar panel systems can degrade over time, which means they will not absorb as much sunlight as they did when they were first used. If the solar panels can't take in sunlight and turn it into solar energy, they might not work or be as effective as they should be.

Typically, it takes many years for this to happen. Most of the time, solar panels lose efficiency slowly over time. You may not even notice it until it becomes significant.

Still, it is worth choosing a solar panel system that has a lower degradation rate. This means that it will break down more slowly and produce more energy over the lifetime of the solar panel. When comparing systems on the market, seek out those that have a lower degradation rate. This usually means it is a better solar panel.

The average solar panel will degrade slowly over time. Typically, this is at a rate of 0.8% of its solar energy output each year. That information comes from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study. Keep in mind that this is not the case for all solar panels, but it is the average of those studied.

Some of the best solar panels will have a degradation rate as low as 0.3% per year. That means they will produce a better level of energy for a longer period of time.

What Can You Do to Extend the Life of Your Solar Panels?

When you're thinking about buying solar panels, take the time to think about a number of things. It helps to work with a trusted solar company, one that can help you choose the higher-quality panels available. Here are some factors to consider:

Solar panels require maintenance

Solar panels do require maintenance from time to time. This includes monocrystalline panels and others. Most of the time, this is minimal and can be completed by the solar installers for you. The key here is to keep the solar panels themselves clear of debris and damage. Regular maintenance that fits the manufacturer's recommendations could reduce this risk.

Monitor for changes in electric bills

It is not likely that your solar panel system will stop producing electricity suddenly. Rather, you may notice that your electricity bills are going up. That does not mean that you will start paying a lot on your electric bills each month, but you may notice that you are not using more energy but that the costs seem to rise.

Manufacturing defects can be a concern

If you find that you have a proper installation but the solar panels are not producing electricity as expected, it could be due to a factor such as physical damage or ineffective manufacturing. In some situations, lower-quality panels may not be made with the most care, and that could mean they are lower than the industry standard. That is why it is best to learn as much as you can about the manufacturer and choose premium manufacturers who can reduce this risk. Be sure to compare the average rate of degradation and make sure the manufacturer tested the solar panels to make sure they were made right.

If you find that they are not working properly or the original output promised is not occurring, turn to the manufacturer's warranty for help.

Keep panels clear

You can improve the peak performance of your solar panels by simply keeping them clear of debris. This helps to prevent UV ray blocking and allows for more overall sunlight. Many solar panels will be less efficient if there is anything on the surface, but all you need to do is use water to remove it.

Have your system inspected

Like any other major system in your home, it is worth it to have your solar panel system, racking system, solar inverters, solar batteries, and other solar system components inspected on a regular basis. Do this at least once a year, using a trusted and experienced solar company or installer. This can help to ensure your system is working at its best, ensure maintenance is completed, and even help solar panels last longer with fewer problems.

Joey Cheek

How Do You Find the Best Solar Panel Manufacturing Companies?

Start with the best solar system companies and have the proper solar installation done. You can compare the companies available and look at the variety of products that are available to you through SmartSolar. Our goal is to help you get the best panel performance for the longest amount of time.

To learn more about the solar panels available to you today as well as how long solar panels last in your area, contact our team. Take the SmartSolar quiz to learn more and to get started.

Join the thousands of satisfied customers who have cut their energy bills by up to 90%. Switch to solar today!
Get a Custom Quote

Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of SmartSolar.org, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest solar and environmental information:
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.