Answering your burning question: How long do solar panels actually last? – CNET

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Installing solar panels on your home can help reduce your energy costs, increase the value of your home, and reduce your carbon footprint. But solar panels also come at a steep price point. And before making such a large investment and buying solar panels, homeowners naturally want to understand how many years of use they’ll get out of their solar panels. 

Below we’ll answer the question of how long solar panels last, as well as some of the factors that affect their lifespan and how you can make them last longer to get the most value.

How long do solar panels last?

To answer the question of how long solar panels last, we should first define degradation. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, degradation is “the reduction in solar panel output over time.” 

Degradation is a critical factor in how long you can expect your solar panels to last. NREL data shows that solar panels have a degradation rate of roughly 0.5% per year. So after 20 years of use, a solar panel would be capable of producing roughly 90% of the electricity it produced when it was new.

Based on that information, solar panel manufacturers typically offer warranties of about 25 years or more. And in the case of newer or well-built systems, panels can last for 30 years.

Factors that affect the lifespan of solar panels

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the productivity of a solar panel and either increase or decrease its lifespan. Some of those factors include:

Quality

As with most things, the quality, materials and type of solar panels you install will impact how well they work and how long they last. While low-quality materials may be more affordable, they may also degrade more quickly.

Climate

Extreme weather can reduce the life of a solar panel. If you live in an area with cold temperatures, heavy rain, snow, and more, you might find that your solar panels degrade more quickly.

Installation

The way your panels are installed — and the racking system they are installed on — can impact their degradation rate. 

Maintenance 

Just as anything else of value you buy, solar panels last longer when they are well-maintained. Panels may degrade more quickly if they are dirty, have debris on them or don’t undergo regular maintenance.

How to make solar panels last longer

As you can see, some of the factors that lead to solar panel degradation are controllable, while others aren’t. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to get the most of your solar panels.

One of the best ways to make your solar panels last longer is to work with a trusted provider. First, a trusted provider will make sure you get high-quality panels made from quality material. Additionally, a good provider will ensure the panels are installed correctly. Finally, a good solar provider will provide regular maintenance checks to ensure that everything is working properly.

There are also things you can do yourself to make your solar panels last longer. For example, be sure to remove debris that may end up on the solar panels from tree branches, snow, and more. Keeping your panels clean is one of the best ways to extend their lifespan.

When should you replace your solar panels?

Good solar panels can last anywhere from 20 to 30 years, but there’s not necessarily a date at which point you should immediately replace yours. It’s more important to pay attention to their productivity. If your solar panels are still in good shape and producing enough electricity, then they may not need to be replaced. On the other hand, if you find that your electricity bill is going up because your solar panels are no longer doing the trick, then it’s probably time to replace them.

The bottom line

Solar panels can be a major financial investment, especially when you need to purchase a large number of them for your home. Luckily, you’re likely to get decades of use out of them, during which time you’ll enjoy energy savings and other benefits.

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