What’s the Lifespan of Solar Panels?
Residential solar power has been with us long enough now for its benefits and advantages to be known by most anyone who has looked into this alternative source of power. It’s an absolutely clean energy, run by the sun, and it gives people the opportunity to lower – drastically, in some cases – their electricity bills by reducing their need to stay on the local power grid.
Solar power hasn’t, however, been with us long enough for everyone to know how long solar panels should be expected to last. The majority of solar energy systems today are still under their warranties, still years away from wearing out.
30+ years can be expected
So how long do solar panels last? Most warranties on systems are for 25 or 30 years. This doesn’t mean that everything’s going to stop working after that, but it does mean that manufacturers and installers realize that solar photovoltaic cells, which drive the panels, gradually lose efficiency over time. The key word here is “gradually,” and, according to studies performed on this topic, solar panels in many cases should be expected to outlive their warranties.
One research study examined some 2,000 solar installations to determine their rate of photovoltaic degradation. The study found that efficiency dropped by about a half percentage point annually. At this rate, a system would still be running at 85 percent of its original capacity after 30 years. On the upside, some solar installations from 40 years ago are going strong today and are expected to keep generating power for several more decades.
Of course, these are ballpark numbers; part of the process of shopping for solar for your home should be speaking with individual installers and getting up-to-the-minute specs on their particular systems.
What about associated costs in a solar installation?
It’s important to keep in mind that while the cost of “going solar” is a lot lower, overall, than most people realize, and that most systems can pay for themselves during the first decade of operation, there are associated costs. One of these is the inverter.
Inverters in solar systems turn the DC power from the panels into AC power, which can be used within the house. The lifespan of a central inverter is typically between 10 and 15 years, so if you expect to be living in your home for that long, you should know that this expense likely is on the way. Where panels lose generating capacity over time, inverters, like many other pieces of equipment, just stop working when their time is up.
Micro-inverters are the latest innovation available with some systems and are installed on each individual panel. This means that everything won’t stop all at once and you can replace the inverters as needed. Additionally, micro-inverters have lifespans of 25 years or more, so make sure to ask about this technology when talking with a solar rep.
If you’d like to get all the specifics about a solar installation for your home, Burlington Fireplace & Solar is your go-to source. We perform custom solar projects for homes throughout southeast Wisconsin and can help you make a good, informed decision on moving into this growing alternative energy source. To arrange a meeting or if you have questions, give us a call at (262) 763-3522. You can visit us at 857 Milwaukee Ave. in Burlington.