The Life Expectancy of Solar Panels

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You can expect new solar panels to have a lifespan of around 40 years, with warranties covering around 20 years.

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How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are increasingly becoming a popular way to provide energy to UK houses, due in large part to rising energy bills and carbon emissions. The newer solar panel models in the market are expected to have 40-50 year lifespans and warranties to protect them for at least half that time.

The warranties also guarantee the performance level of the panels over their first 25 years. Most warranties guarantee that performance will not drop below 80% by the end of the warranty period. Some panels have been known to still be more than 80% efficient by the end of their life.

With care and attention, solar panels could potentially last over forty years after installation, although their performance will have deteriorated marginally over that time. The 40-50 year life expectancy goes for both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. Less is known about the lifespan of thin film panels at the moment but, as they also have 25 year warranties as standard, they are expected to match the long life of crystalline panels. The size and wattage of the system should not impact its lifespan.

What can I do to extend the life of my solar panels?

Solar panels are built to endure harsh and unpredictable weather conditions over a long period of time. For this reason, solar panels are very durable and there is little maintenance or repairs needed to expand their life. Generally, keeping the panels clean and in good condition should allow them to work at high efficiency for a very long time.

You should also regularly check the output of the panels, either from the inverter or on your monitoring system. Therefore, if the output is less than expected you can quickly find out why and get your panels back up to optimum efficiency.

It is vitally important that solar panels are installed correctly in order for them to run effectively and for as long as possible. Always use an MCS accredited company to install your solar panels. You can use the form at the top of the page to find MCS approved installers in your region. If the panels are damaged during installation or they are not connected properly you will be covered by the warranty and you should immediately arrange for a repair or replacement.

Solar panels are only as good as their inverter. Traditional string inverters have a shorter lifespan than solar panels, normally around 10-15 years. If your inverter is not allowing the maximum amount of energy to be processed then you are not getting the most from your solar panels. Keeping your inverter up to date and in good condition could extend the amount of years you can benefit from clean, free solar power.

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Ways To Maintain Solar Panels

The life expectancy of solar panels may be over forty years in some cases, if they are maintained well. There are a few ways to sustain the efficiency of your solar panels.

After installation the panels should be fairly self sufficient, apart from an annual or biannual cleaning. Here are our tips for cleaning your solar panels:

- Solar panels can get very hot during the day. If you need to clean them you should do so in the morning or evening.

- Start by just sweeping any leaves or debris of the surface of the panels.

- You could then spray the panels with your garden hose.

- If the panels need further cleaning, wipe them with warm water and a soft cloth.

- Always refer to the manufacturer's guide before using cleaning products on the panels, as some could damage the surface of the panels, and most are fine with warm water only.

- As most panels are at quite a height, you should take precautions. If in doubt, always get a professional cleaner to do the job as they are used to working safely at heights.

- Only clean the surface of the panels yourself, never touch the wiring underneath. If you are concerned that the underneath is dirty or rusting, use a solar panel cleaning service to get them back into top condition.

Cleaning should only need to be done once or twice a year. If you have not had any rain for a long period of time, or you notice that your panels are not producing as much energy, then they may be in need of an extra cleaning.

Make sure that nothing hangs over the solar panels, such as tree branches. Not only will their shade greatly reduce the efficiency of your panels, but they could damage the panels if they fall on them. Cracks in the surface of your solar panels could be very dangerous as water will seep into them and disintegrate the contacts, leading to poor connectivity. Solar panels do have built in safeguards to ensure that the damage to one panel will not spread, greatly increasing the longevity of the system as a whole.

Solar Panel Warranties

Most reputable solar panel manufacturers in the UK offer a similar warranty of 25 years as standard. This is because solar panels are simple pieces of equipment, built to last. This warranty covers anything that may go wrong with the solar panels themselves and ensures that they perform at an acceptable efficiency rate for the full 25 years.

The installation of your panels is covered by a second warranty, known as the workmanship warranty. This warranty covers any problems that arise from the way in which the solar panels were installed. The workmanship warranty covers the manual installation of the panels onto the roof and any electrical work connecting the panels to the inverter. This warranty is usually shorter than that of the solar panels themselves, typically 2-10 years. The reason for this is that most issues that derive from faulty workmanship will become apparent quite quickly after installation.

What happens when my panels come to the end of their life span?

Solar panel technology in its current form is still relatively new, therefore it is not known exactly how long new panels will last for. Some examples in Europe are exceeding expectations and still operating reliably long after the warranty period is over. However, solar panels do have an end time, when they will need to be removed or replaced.

The PV CYCLE scheme was set up in 2007 to deal with the issue of recycling of solar panels at the end of their lives. The PV CYCLE scheme ensures that the company who install your solar panels will also remove them and recycle them at the end of their life. This service is free as the costs are absorbed into the initial installation price.

Solar panels contain many recyclable materials, such as glass and and aluminium, so it is important that they are recycled to maximize their environmental value and minimize their carbon footprint. Most respectable solar panel installation companies are members of the PV CYCLE scheme. You can check whether a company is involved in the scheme here.

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