How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

solar panels on roof of house

What is the lifespan of a solar panel? 

Given the increasing electricity prices, this question might have crossed your mind. 

By 2030, the plan is for Ireland to boast 250,000 rooftop installations, generating 80% of its power needs from renewables. 

This green dream is still a work in progress. Yet, by 2022's end, about 5% of Ireland's electricity demand is expected to be fulfilled by solar energy.

Are you thinking of embracing the green wave? Installing solar panels may be more budget-friendly than you anticipate. 

It promises immediate energy cost reductions, and the SEAI grants can help offset the initial expenses. 

Need more reasons to see solar panels as a wise investment in Ireland? Keep reading for all the details.

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Ready to harness the power of the sun? Get a free quote today for solar panel installation in your home and take the first step towards energy independence!

When Does a Solar Panel Need Replacement?

The exact longevity of a solar panel isn't strictly defined. Modern panels are predicted to last 40-50 years. 

Those set up in the last few decades should function well for over 25 years. With regular cleaning and maintenance, a solar panel can serve indefinitely.

Manufacturers typically offer warranties for approximately 25 years. 

A top-notch solar panel is unlikely to face many performance issues during this time. It might maintain around 80% efficiency well past the warranty expiration.

Remember, solar panels are relatively new in the technological landscape. 

Therefore, pinpointing their maximum lifespan is challenging. The precise longevity remains a mystery. 

However, many systems might function excellently for numerous decades. For instance, the original solar cell created around 1954 still operates perfectly today, even after being stored in a London museum drawer for about 18 years, as the tale tells.

What's the Future Hold?

About 50,000 households in Ireland have embraced solar panels, most installed in the recent decade. 

This figure doesn't account for the numerous commercial PV systems actively running in Ireland. The adoption of solar panels is poised to increase as more residents and businesses aim to counteract the escalating energy expenses.

Since PV technology is relatively nascent, extensive data on the performance of solar panels post the 25-30-year mark is limited. 

However, nearly all setups will notice a minor dip in efficacy over time. In the past, a common solar panel would show a degradation rate of about 0.8% per annum, but advancements have been swift in the PV sector.

With prolonged UV exposure, contemporary solar panels may exhibit a yearly degradation rate of approximately 0.7%. 

Moreover, those with superior warranties see an even lesser decline, capped at about 0.2% annually. 

Is investing in solar panels a good move in Ireland? 

Despite not being famous for sun-soaked days, the country offers an ideal climate for prolonging the operational lifespan of solar panels.

Prolonging the Life of Solar Panels

PV systems are inherently durable, withstanding continuous exposure to various weather elements. 

While they necessitate occasional upkeep and knowledge of proper cleaning techniques, they are mostly self-sufficient. However, adopting an active stance can help you maintain the optimum functionality of your solar panels for a prolonged period.

To begin with, consistently monitor your solar panels' output. Utilise dedicated monitoring systems or refer to the inverter for this task. 

Any significant decrease in power generation signals an issue that needs swift resolution.

Often, efficiency glitches stem from installation errors. 

Hence, having your PV system set up correctly is critical to achieve peak performance. Opt for certified installers such as Wizer to guarantee swift rectifications or replacements should installation-related complications emerge.

Inverter Lifespan

The lifespan of a solar panel can often be correlated with the quality of its inverter. 

Traditionally, older panels feature string inverters, which usually maintain optimal performance for roughly ten years before a decline is observed. 

Moreover, these inverters might restrict the energy capture and conversion rate. Hence, periodic inverter check-ups are vital in maximising your PV system's potential.

Routine Upkeep

When contemplating the lifespan of a solar panel, maintenance should be a focal point. 

Despite the largely autonomous nature of PV technology, regular maintenance is crucial for sustaining optimal performance over the years. 

Post-installation, schedule professional inspections and servicing annually or biannually for larger setups.

Periodic cleansing forms the core of solar panel upkeep. Undertake cleaning sessions semi-annually, although certain conditions may necessitate more frequent cleaning. 

Utilise rainfall as a natural cleanser and be vigilant during prolonged dry phases to initiate manual cleaning when necessary.

Solar Panel Cleaning Guidance

During cleaning, exercise caution to avoid harming the panel surface. Gently remove loose debris like leaves using a soft brush and employ a low-pressure garden hose for stubborn dirt. 

Use a soft cloth paired with warm water for persistent grime, applying moderate force to avoid scratches.

Additional Maintenance Advice

Resist the urge to clean the panel's underlying wiring. 

Exposing the wires to water can drastically shorten a solar panel's lifespan by compromising internal connections, thereby reducing efficiency significantly. Only allow trained professionals to access these components during maintenance sessions.

If the output seems inadequate, assess the environmental factors. While solar panels function on overcast days, persistent efficiency drops indicate other underlying issues. 

For instance, in verdant areas of cities like Waterford, overhanging branches may block sunlight, reducing UV absorption and posing damage risks from falling limbs. 

Ensuring clear surroundings thus aids in maintaining and even enhancing your solar panel's productivity.

What Happens to Retired Solar Panels?

Eventually, even the most reliable solar panel ends its operational life. But this doesn't imply that they have to contribute to landfill waste. 

Remarkably, about 95% of the glass incorporated in silicon-based solar panels is recyclable, and all metal components can be reused. 

Subsequently, thermal methods are utilised to extract the leftover silicon, with approximately 85% of it being recyclable.

Recycling thin-film solar panels entails a considerably distinct method. Initially, old panels undergo shredding, reducing them to minuscule fragments. 

This process facilitates the separation of the liquid and solid fractions of the material. The liquid portion undergoes a rigorous purification, effectively recovering about 95% of the semiconductor material. 

Meanwhile, vibration and rinsing techniques are employed to cleanse the solid components, with nearly 90% of the initial glass content being recoverable for various applications.

Maximising Your Solar Panels' Efficiency

In general, modern solar panels maintain a high performance for at least 25 years, with the potential to last over 40 years if well-maintained, given the rapid advancements in PV technology.

Taking proactive steps can prolong your solar panels' life. Consistent output monitoring is vital, utilising a specialised system or checking the inverter to detect discrepancies. 

Investing in a top-notch inverter is crucial; panels with inferior string inverters may only function optimally for 10-15 years.

After a professional installation, ensure a yearly service to address any small issues before they escalate. Cleaning your panels semi-annually is also recommended.

During prolonged dry periods, gentle cleaning with a soft-bristled brush and a damp cloth is advisable to prevent scratches on the panels.

Lastly, consider trimming surrounding trees to prevent your panels from being overshadowed, thus maximising sunlight exposure.

Get a Free Quote

Ready to harness the power of the sun? Get a free quote today for solar panel installation in your home and take the first step towards energy independence!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should solar panels be replaced?

Solar panels generally have a robust lifespan, lasting at least 25-30 years. Nowadays, many panels are anticipated to function effectively for over 40 years. 

Notably, manufacturers offer warranties for 25 years. Although the panels have substantial longevity, the associated batteries might need replacement within every 5-15 years interval.

Do solar panels experience an efficiency decline over time?

Despite technological advancements, solar panels have gradually lost efficiency over the years. 

An annual efficiency reduction of around 0.5% is typically expected, amounting to a 15% decrease over 30 years.

What is the status of solar panels post the 25-year mark?

Solar panels are generally designed to function beyond their 25-year warranty period. Although a decrease in efficiency is anticipated, they should continue generating electricity, albeit at a reduced capacity. 

The degradation rate depends on various factors, but if maintained well, a replacement might only be necessary after some time.

What number of solar panels is required to power a home?

The number of panels depends on the house size and power needs. For a small, one-bedroom house, around six panels might suffice. 

In contrast, a three-bedroom house requires around ten panels. If the yearly consumption approaches 10,000 kWh, considering a setup with 20 panels would be prudent.

Why might solar panels cease functioning?

Solar panels naturally degrade over time, losing efficiency. Besides, they might stop functioning due to an accumulation of dust, pollen, and other debris, obstructing sunlight. 

Issues with inverters and solar meters can also occur. Moreover, panels might incur damages, including microscopic cracks which expand over time, eventually necessitating panel replacement.

What temperature affects solar panel efficiency?

Solar panels may experience a decline in efficiency during extreme heat. 

Generally, their optimal performance is at 25 °C, and exceeding this temperature might result in reduced efficiency, approximately at a rate of 0.35% for each degree rise in temperature.