How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Repairing solar panels

By 8 min read


Cheese, wine, whiskey, art – they all get better with age. Solar panels, however, do not.

As solar panels get older, they become less efficient, and won’t be able to absorb as much sunlight. Luckily, you should be able to get a solid two decades out of your panels before you have to part ways and replace them.

In this article, we’ll cover how solar panel owners can give these tools a new zest for life, whether some panels last longer than others, and how to dispose of old panels.

Once your solar panels eventually reach the end of their lives, it’s time to explore the plethora of new systems on the market.

Good news – you can make it much easier to find the best deal for your home by using our free comparison tool.

All you have to do is answer a few simple questions about your property, and our suppliers will be in touch with free quotes for you to compare.

Repairing solar panels

How long do solar panels last?

Depending on the manufacturer, solar panels will last between 25-30 years – with most still producing electricity long after this, but at a lower rate.

Solar panel life expectancy can be difficult to work out, since they haven’t been on the market for very long. In fact, there’s currently only a tiny portion of residential panels older than 10 years.

However, manufacturers are able to make pretty accurate predictions on how long solar panels will last, based on something called a ‘rate of degradation’. This term basically refers to the speed at which panels lose their efficiency and output over time.

Thankfully, modern solar panels have an extremely low rate of degradation, sitting at around 0.2%-0.3% per year. This means that the solar panels lose very little of their total capacity over time.

To summarise – solar panels last a really long time.

Monocrystalline compared to polycrystalline

While both types of panels typically come with a 25 year warranty, monocrystalline panels have a longer lifespan. According to the American Solar Energy Society, monocrystalline solar panels last around 40 years, whilst polycrystalline models last roughly 35 years.

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are two different types of solar panels. Both capture energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, and are also made from silicon.

What’s the average solar panel warranty?

Solar panel warranties vary, depending on the manufacturer and model you go for. Generally, you’ll find that the panels themselves will be covered for 10-25 years. This performance warranty will typically guarantee 90% production at 10 years and 80% at 25 years. 

Of course, there is much more to these complex systems than the panels. Luckily, many of the other components come with a warranty too, including batteries, which are usually covered for roughly 5-15 years, and inverters, which are typically covered for between 5-10 years.

Solar panel installation

Why do solar panels become less efficient over time?

Research by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that the most common causes of solar panel expiry are:

  • Optical failure (20% of cases)
  • Power loss (19% of cases)
  • J-box and cable failure (19% of cases)
  • Glass breakage (10% of cases)

Since solar panels don’t have any moving parts, there aren’t too many risks of your system going kaput out of the blue.

There are, however, a lot of external factors that can cause wear and tear on a solar panel system.

The most common factor that reduces a solar panel’s lifespan is ‘soiling’, which is when elements like snow, dirt, dust, and other particles accumulate on the panel’s surface. This becomes even more of an issue if the panels are fitted on a flat roof, not at the optimal angle of 20-50 degrees.

Studies have shown that even at a tilt of 30 degrees, an average of 1% solar radiation is lost from dust collecting on the surfaces of solar panels – with the highest loss at 4.7%.

How can you make your solar panels last longer?

If you look after your solar panels, they’ll reward you with years of free energy. There are a few ways you can give your panels a helping hand, including:

  • Avoiding any physical damage to the surface of the panels – the more scratches, the higher the rate of degradation
  • Carrying out maintenance checks regularly – look out for loose racks, cracks in the surface of the panel, and exposed wires
  • Cleaning your panels regularly – especially after snowy or stormy weather, to brush off any debris
  • Making sure panels are installed properly – research solar providers, manufacturers, and installers, checking their track record of successful installations
  • Keeping birds and other critters away from the panels Pigeons, in particular, can reduce efficiency by covering panels with poo, and by climbing on the surface

Of course, these techniques will only last for so long – there will be a time where you’ll have to face the music and get a new set of solar panels. That’s where we come in.

We can make the process much easier, saving you time and money. Use our free comparison tool to tell us a bit about your property, and our suppliers will be in touch shortly with free quotes for you to compare.

Should you get solar panel insurance?

Solar panel insurance is definitely worth looking into. This way, you’ll be able to protect your solar panel system from all sorts – including natural disasters and theft, but probably not including accidental damage.

And, given the average cost of a network of solar panels for a family of three typically costs between £4,000 and £6,000, this cover can certainly come in handy.

 

Are solar panels covered by home insurance?

Buildings insurance policies usually include the option to have solar panels because they’re part of the fixtures of your home.

It’s worth contacting your insurer before you get the panels installed to see whether your policy includes a photovoltaic system.

The average annual cost of buildings insurance is £119.22, according to the AA’s British Insurance Premium Index. Adding solar panels to this might increase the cost of your home insurance, but not by much. And, with up to £6,000 worth of equipment being covered, this insurance is certainly a small price to pay.

cleaning solar panels

How should you dispose of disused solar panels?

Solar panels are great for the planet – unless they’re discarded recklessly, that is.

It’s estimated that at the end of 2016, cumulative global PV waste reached 43,500-250,000 metric tonnes. Plus, looking forward, Europe is predicted to present the second-largest PV waste market, with a projected waste of up to 3 million tonnes by 2030.

But it doesn’t need to be like this – solar panel owners can easily recycle panels instead of sending them to landfill.

And you barely have to do anything, either!

Once it’s time to replace your panels, all you need to do is get on the phone with your solar panel installer and let them do the hard work.

Under EU regulations, solar panel installers are legally obliged to take your old solar panels off you, or at least fund a Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS).

And, to make sure all panels are collected and recycled properly, every solar panel company in the UK has to join a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS), such as the Government-approved PV CYCLE.

Alternatively, you can make a few quid by selling your panels on platforms like eBay or Gumtree – just don’t expect to get much for them, since it’s pretty uncommon for people to buy second-hand panels.

Summary

Although solar panels usually last between 25-30 years, the lifespan really comes down to you – the owner. If you give your panels a bit of tender love and care, you’re much more likely to get a few extra years out of them.

If you neglect your panels, let pigeons poo on them, or have branch scratches smeared on the surface, well, then you’re asking for short-lived panels.

And, whenever the time comes to replace your panels, find the best deal by using our free comparison tool.

You’ll be guided through a few simple questions about your property, and we’ll then put you in touch with our suppliers, who will have free quotes for you to compare.

Beth Howell Writer

Beth has a real passion for green living. She’s been absorbed in eco research for over three years, and has become quite the expert. Whether you’re after a new set of solar panels, a home energy improvement, or you want to catch the latest eco news, she’s got your back.