The most frequently asked questions regarding solar energy systems involve longevity. It is hard to believe in 25-year warranties and 50-year life expectancies. Surely, if nothing else, the panels will degrade over that time, weakening the system’s output and gradually renewing my energy bills to their former heights. Right?
Not likely. The degradation of your solar panels is slow and depends on the type of panel. It is true that the panels will slowly weaken over time, but I’m talking about several years – a time frame the warranty will reflect. Conventional, crystalline silicon solar panels are the longest lasting, which is why they have the longest warranties. Most panels are warranted for sustained power output for 20 to 25 years. This means that up to 25 years should come and go before you notice any significant dip in panel production.
Remember that companies are not going to warranty something unless they are sure the product will perform as expected. Furthermore, because manufacturers are more likely to underestimate than overestimate expected performance, you will likely get even more life and quality from the panels than the warranty would indicate.
Note: Most warranties will designate a minimum percentage of output that a panel will maintain during the warranty period. This is typically around 80 percent over 25 years. That’s a healthy chunk of production left over.
Thin film solar panels are more prone to degradation. But, as sure as sugar is sweet, manufacturers are well aware of this and their warranties reflect it. Thin film panels are not likely to have a warranty lasting more than ten years at most. Although panels may last double that time. This is one of the reasons that conventional solar panels still dominate the market. Thin film manufacturers, though, are racing to ramp up efficiency and longevity of their products.
Solar panels in general are virtually maintenance-free. But this does not mean that they can be ignored. Debris, such as blowing leaves and shading may not cause degradation, but they will certainly affect power output. Panels do function in the shade, especially with a little Solar Magic, but not up to their peak potential. Regularly checking on your panels is an important and effective way to keep performance strong through the warranty period and beyond.
In conclusion, always read warranties thoroughly and consider them carefully when buying solar panels. If you’re looking to save money, you may be able to find refurbished solar panels at a lower cost but without much of a warranty. Panels, like anything exposed to extensive sunlight, will slowly weaken over time. But not considerable enough to really harm the panel’s output. Remember that solar panels are designed to sit in the sun; that is their job.