If you’re looking into solar power for your home, you may have questions about how long you can expect your solar panels to last. You may have heard that solar requires a lot of maintenance, or that you’ll have to throw your panels out after a few years. 

The good news is that when you go solar, you can expect your solar panels to last a long time with little to no maintenance – decades, in fact! Read on to learn the real deal on solar panel lifespan and degradation.

What is the typical lifespan of solar panels?

The average lifespan of solar panels is about 25 to 30 years. But it’s important to remember that a solar panel’s “lifespan” is only representative of how long they’re expected to produce at max efficiency – not when they’ll go out of service completely. By year 25, high quality panels will still be producing at 90%+ efficiency, but you may begin to see a downtick in power output in the coming years.

This means that you can expect to continue relying on your panels for much longer than their predicted lifespan. In fact, there are solar systems installed back in the 1980s that are still operational!

What is solar degradation?

Though you can expect your solar panels to provide you with clean energy for decades, they will likely degrade overtime. Solar panel degradation is a natural process that occurs over the lifetime of the technology, due to uncontrollable factors like chemical processes and extreme temperatures. 

All solar panel models come with a measured degradation rate. A lower degradation rate means better performance and greater output overtime.

What causes solar degradation and inefficiencies in NYC?

Natural Processes

Some of the most common forms of degradation are naturally occurring mechanical or chemical processes, such as light-induced degradation (LID). Exposure to direct sunlight and UV radiation for the first time can cause chemical reactions that create slight inefficiencies before stabilizing overtime. Potential-induced degradation (PID) can cause voltage leaks if two of the panel’s components operate at different voltages.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Over the course of a solar panel’s lifetime on a roof in NYC, it’ll stand strong against many types of weather. But heatwaves, hurricanes, and snowstorms all have the potential to increase the rate of aging-related degradation if dramatic changes in temperature or high winds cause any damage. Seasonal solar panel performance is generally not something to be worried about, but there are rare instances where this could occur.

Manufacturing and Installation Issues

Like any manufactured product or appliance, solar panel system performance can suffer due to manufacturing or installation issues, like poor workmanship, mishandling, and the use of low quality materials. This is why it’s important to choose a solar provider that invests in high quality panels and top-notch installers. 

Does the manufacturer play a role in degradation?

As with any industry, not all solar panel manufacturers are the same. Unfortunately, some try to cut costs by using low quality or incompatible materials, or fail to assemble panels correctly. Thankfully, this is quite rare, and most manufacturers provide warranties. But when you go solar, it’s important to take note of what kind of panels your solar power company chooses to use.

The solar industry uses a tiering system to rate the overall quality of solar panel models, and solar panel degradation rate is a major factor in that ranking. Tier 1 solar panels, the highest quality on the market, have a degradation rate of no more than 0.3% per year. This equates to an excellent 93% efficiency by year 25. Tier 2 panels are around a 0.5% rate of degradation, while Tier 3 is 0.8% or more.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 panels are both terrific options for long-term performance, though Tier 1 will be slightly better in the long run. To maximize your return on investment, it’s important to choose a solar installer that uses high quality solar panels. REC, our go-to panel provider, boasts degradation rates of only 0.25% per year. 

Are you an NYC homeowner ready to make the switch to solar energy? Schedule a free consultation today.

Do you have to replace solar panels over time?

Reaching your 25th solar anniversary doesn’t automatically mean that it’s time for panel replacement. Unless your panels have incurred significant physical damage by that time, they’ll still be generating quite a bit of energy. Though you may begin to notice a slight downtick in energy production overtime, you’ll still be able to rely on your solar energy system as a source of electricity for your home for many years to come. 

Does your solar system need regular maintenance?

Solar panel maintenance is a breeze. With no moving parts to actively keep an eye on, solar panels are very reliable and worry-free. 

Cleaning is not required, as Mother Nature can typically take care of any dirt or debris that may build up. Removing snow and ice is not required or recommended, as the power loss during a snowstorm is quite minimal and it can be dangerous. However, you can choose to clean your panels if you please – try to avoid any harsh detergents or brushes that could damage the glass.

As with any technology, however, it’s always good to check in from time to time. When you go solar with Brooklyn SolarWorks, you’ll receive access to our 24/7 monitoring system which allows you to track your system’s output and determine if there are any issues. And we’ll do the same – our team actively monitors our entire fleet of solar installations should any issues arise. 

Want to learn more about our customer service and system monitoring? Schedule a free consultation today.

Can you extend the life of your solar panels?

While there’s no real way to improve the technological efficiency of your panels after they’re installed, the best way to ensure long-term performance and ROI is to invest in high quality panels that are installed with care from the get-go. If you choose a reputable solar provider, you’ll most likely have little to no issues for the lifetime of your solar panels.

What happens to your solar panels after 30 years?

When solar panels reach the end of their energy-producing lifetime – whether that’s year 25, 30 or 40 – they’re still valuable. Solar panels can be broken down and recycled to create new panels, solar batteries, or other electronics. 

Maintaining Your Solar Panels in NYC

Overall, solar is a reliable, long-lasting form of energy that requires very little maintenance. Even considering the reality of solar degradation, it’s still an excellent investment for your home and the environment. Once your panels are installed, you’re looking at decades of clean energy to come. 

Brooklyn SolarWorks has been NYC’s trusted solar provider since 2015. We want to help you make the switch to clean energy! Get in touch today.

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