[Explore] How Often Do Solar Panels Need to Be Replaced?

Even with tax rebates and additional incentives, the initial cost of solar panels can be a bit high. But, in six to ten years, they can expect to fully pay for themselves in electricity bills savings. So, it is important to do your research and find out how long solar panels last and how often they need to be replaced.

Well, the good news is that solar panels are extremely durable and you can expect them to last for about 25 to 30 years before needing a replacement. But the entire system contains several other units like the inverter and batteries, which you might need to replace every 5 to 15 years.

Below we’ve discussed how often you need to replace each part of a solar panel system and how to find out if they need replacement at all.

How Often Do Solar Panels Need to Be Replaced

How Long Before Your Solar Panels Need Replacement?

Solar panels are gaining popularity as a sustainable and cost-effective solution for lowering energy bills and minimizing carbon footprint. While they typically require little maintenance, it’s important to know how frequently you need to replace them and why it is important to do regular maintenance to optimize for efficiency.

1. Solar Panels

The photovoltaic panels lose their ability to effectively convert sunlight into energy over time, just like any other technology. This is called cell degradation, where the photovoltaic cells in the solar panel die. However, depending on the quality, different panels degrade at a different rate. On average, solar panels degrade at a rate of 0.3 to 0.8 percent with each passing year.

With proper installation and maintenance, you can slow down the degradation process significantly. However, when it drops down to a certain point, you might want to replace them. Fortunately, you don’t need to do anything about it until they drop down to the 20% mark. This usually takes about 20 to 25 years, or more in some cases.

2. Inverter

The inverter in the solar panel system is responsible for converting DC current to AC. They too need replacement from time to time. But how often exactly? Well, depending on the type and quality of the inverter, you can expect it to last for more than a decade. In fact, most inverters don’t even need a replacement before 15-20 years.

3. Batteries

If your solar power system comes with a battery, it may need replacement sooner than any other parts. As lithium-ion batteries degrade faster than other electrical components, you can expect to replace them every 5-10 years, depending on your usage and battery quality. However, the good news is that you don’t need to change the controllers and charging system with the battery, as they tend to last way longer.

Factors that impact battery life are the environment, depth of discharge, battery cycle life, maintenance, etc.

Why Solar Panels Degrade and Need Replacement?

Here are the top four factors that contribute the most when it comes to the degradation of solar panels over time.

1. Thermal Cycling

Thermal cycling occurs when there are extreme temperature fluctuations between hot and cold. This affects the soldered connections within the panel. 

2. Damp Heat

Damp heat refers to prolonged exposure to high humidity and high temperatures. This can lead to the separation of the insulation material around the cells. 

3. Humidity Freeze

Humidity freeze happens when sudden freezing takes place in a highly humid environment. It can potentially impact the adhesion of the junction box.

4. UV Exposure

UV exposure, from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, can cause discoloration and degradation of the back sheet, which is the protective cover on the side of the panel facing away from the sun. The back sheet safeguards the photovoltaic cells and electrical components from external stresses and acts as an electrical insulator.

How to Make Your Solar Panel Last Longer?

With proper knowledge and routine maintenance, you can expand the lifespan of your solar panel. The first step you should take is to contact an experienced and certified installer. Proper installation and wiring are a must if you want your solar panel to last for years to come.

Monitor the production rate of your solar panel regularly. If it’s not, check if the panels need cleaning or if the wirings have gone bad. Physical deterioration is the clearest indication that you might need to replace the component.

If your unit came with a battery, check for backup when there’s no grid power. A significant drop in backup time indicates that you’ve used up most of its charging cycle and therefore it needs a replacement.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers 

How often do solar panels need to be cleaned?

It depends on the area your live in and its weather condition. Typically, cleaning your solar panel once or twice a year is fine. But if your panels face hard weather frequently, clean and inspect your solar panel every 3-4 months.

What happens after 25 years of solar panels?

Although solar panels are rated for 25 to 30 years, they simply won’t die after that time. Rather, their efficiency decreases significantly. At that time, you can replace the unit, or simply keep using it for another 5-10 years with reduced capacity.

What are the signs that my solar panels need replacement?

Low and irregular power output, cracks or broken glass casings, inverter issues, aging solar panels, wiring problems, accumulated debris, burnt marks, discoloration, unexpected shutdowns, etc. can indicate that your solar panels need replacement.

Final Thoughts

Even if solar panels need replacement, it is very unlikely that you need to change any component before 10 to 15 years. At that time, your solar panels will have way more than makeup for the upfront investment. With regular maintenance, you can extend your solar panels’ life up to 20-25 years. Also, you don’t need to replace everything all at once, so it can be significantly cheaper than you’d think. In fact, most companies offer 15-20 years of warranty with their panels. So, it’s totally worth it in our opinion.

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