How Long Do Solar Panels Last? Lifespan of Each Type, Batteries, & More

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Woman looking at her watch and a calendar wondering how long do solar panels last and what is the solar panel lifespan and life expectancy of solar panels so she can learn how often do solar panels need replaced?

If you’re considering solar panels for your home, you may wonder, how long do solar panels last?

The investment of solar panels can have a number of benefits, including lowered energy costs (over time) and removing your dependence on the power grid, but knowing exactly how long solar panels last can have an impact on measuring the return on your investment.

To understand it, it helps to have a clear breakdown of the lifespan of each type of solar panel and battery options available, as well as the maintenance tasks that can ensure they last as long as they’re supposed to.

It also helps to know how to test a solar panel using a multi-meter to check the total power output.

Fortunately, solar panels are easy to maintain and don’t easily break down since they lack moving parts.

So if you’re wondering, ho long do solar panel last, this complete guide explains everything you need to know.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels are more energy efficient than some other energy sources;12 and although the upfront cost can be considerable, it’s a long term investment that can reduce utility bills, improve the value of your home, and make you energy independent.

Most solar panels last as long as 25 -30 years or more, considering various factors, after which they start deteriorating.

But, it’s important to know how to clean solar panels so that they don’t age prematurely.

Most panels are reliable and more efficient thanks to improved technology over the decades. Note that the 25-year time-frame doesn’t mean that your panels will stop working, only that they will not be as efficient as when they are brand new.5

They will still convert sunlight to energy, but perform below their optimum. The only downside is that they will keep degrading to the point where you must replace them.

What Are the Causes of Solar Panel Degradation?

One of the likely causes of photovoltaic panel (PV) degradation is the prevailing climate in your region.

The panels in parts experiencing harsh weather and climatic conditions usually degrade faster than in other areas.

Photo of thousands of solar panels installed in the middle of a desert.

(Image: Kelly13)

Overexposure to freezing temperatures, snowfall, and strong winds strain the solar panels over time, wearing them out faster. The same case also applies to desert climates.

The sheets in regions with excessive UV exposure degrade at about 1% annually compared to other areas where the rate is almost 0.2% yearly.

With proper maintenance and protection from harsh elements, some solar panels can serve up to 40 years, retaining more than 90% of their performance after 20 years.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Solar Panels?

Knowing how long do solar panels last and life expectancy of solar panels gives a picture of how energy-efficient they are, unlike other energy sources.

Panels will serve you at their optimal level within their first 25-30 years of use, but afterward, the efficacy will gradually decline until a replacement is the last resort.

Their life expectancy doesn’t mean they stop working in 25-30 years; they will still run but at a low power output level. The great news is that within that time, your PV cell will have saved you a lot of money by offsetting your electricity bill.

How Fast Do Solar Panels Degrade?

According to a 2012 report by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory),9 the average solar panel degrades at about 0.8% annually.

This degradation rate means that your panels will perform at a 99.2% optimal level, and by the end of the 25-year mark, they will work at 82.5%.4

Therefore, the high-quality and most effective panels will have a lower degradation rate and perform at a higher percentage than their counterparts towards the end of their service times. The rate will vary based on the panel type, the brand, and other factors.

Which Solar Panels Last the Longest?

The following is a breakdown of how long do solar panels last based on the type.

Panel Type Efficiency Cost Lifespan
Monocrystalline High High 25-50+ years
Polycrystalline Medium Medium 25 years
Thin-film Less Lowest 10-20 years

The solar panel quality also determines its lifespan.

Solar Panel Tier Degradation Rate (Annual)
Tier One 0.30%
Tier Two 0.50%
Tier Three 0.80%

Factors Affecting the Life of Solar Panel

Your region’s climate and weather are usually to blame for deteriorating your PVs and the life of solar panel, but they are constant factors.

Below are some aspects within your control:

Panel Quality

The quality of the panels is different within the tiers, and it makes a massive impact in determining how long yours will serve. Various types of solar panels perform differently, and it influences their lifespan.

While the highest quality lasts longer, the low-quality versions will deteriorate faster.

Installation Method

Like any other equipment, solar panels last longer if you hire experts. They install it properly and ensure that the racking supports the setup longer.

Unlike other DIY projects, your PV cells need experts to correctly install them to improve their service. However, you can learn how to make a solar panel if you are crafty and tech-savvy.

Care and Maintenance

The best part about installing solar panels is that they are easy to maintain, and the more you care for yours, the better its performance.

They usually degrade faster when dirty, scratched, chipped, filled with debris, and are generally unkempt.

How To Increase Your Solar Panel Lifespan

The following are effective ways to improve your solar panels’ life expectancy or solar panel lifespan:

Protection

Inspection is crucial to ensure no nearby trees shade or drop leaves on the sheets.

If you can shield your equipment from damage, cracks, scratches, and debris, it will serve you better for longer.

Cleaning

The sheets are constantly exposed to the elements, explaining why dirt, bird droppings, and leaves keep accumulating, interfering with sunlight absorption.

If you don’t know how to clean solar panels, you can always call in a professional.

Depending on where you live and how dirty your panels get, you may have to clean them once a week or once every month.2

Maintenance

Besides regular cleaning,6 your solar panels also need an occasional check-up to help improve their performance.

It is crucial to check for any changes in the energy usage and utility bills that would mean something is wrong with the meters or inverter; an expert will determine the problem and fix it.

Find a Reputable Installer

One of the most vital decisions you can make when installing solar panels in your home is deciding who will handle the task.

If you have a trustworthy and reputable installer, you are sure of high-quality equipment, excellent customer service, and routine maintenance.

How Long Do Solar Panels Batteries Last?

So, how long do solar panels batteries last?

Most solar panel batteries last 5-15 years based on the type, usage level, temperature, and maintenance.

Battery Type

Solar batteries come in three forms, lithium-ion, lead acid, and salt water.

The Li-ion batteries are the most popular and energy efficiency of the three, guaranteeing up to 15 years of use.

Battery Usage

Like any other battery, your panel’s life expectancy depends on how you use it or its cycles.

Most are deep cycles, able to discharge 80% of their power before you must recharge them.

Battery Temperature

Where you live, and your climate determines your battery’s lifespan.

It needs optimal operating temperatures, and you can place it indoors or in your basement based on the prevailing conditions.

Maintenance

A well-maintained battery will last longer, and you can call professionals occasionally to check and fix it to improve its performance.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last on a House?

Solar panels can stay intact in your house for 25-30 years based on their type, quality, installation method,11 care, and maintenance.

Well-installed, high-quality monocrystalline panels can improve how long do solar panels last on a house, with some still effective after 50 years.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last Before You Replace Them?

The best solar panels in the market can last up to 30 years, after which you can start making replacement plans. It doesn’t have to be immediate because your panels should still be working, although less efficiently.

Thanks to government intervention,7 it is now easier to acquire solar power.

Photo of 3 electricity meter usually installed in residential establishments.

(Image: Pixelharvester15)

You don’t have to exchange it if it is in great shape and still energy-efficient.

However, if you notice that your electricity and utility bills are excessive, your panels are no longer doing their job, and it may be the perfect time to make replacements.3

How Often Do Solar Panels Need To Be Replaced?

Installing clean energy is a massive investment, given how much do solar panels cost. Knowing that your panels perform best in their first 30 years also helps to know when and how often to replace them.

You will know the right time and how often do solar panels need to be replaced when the panels are not adequately covering your electric bills.

You can also find applications online that track how much electric energy is coming from your setup, and if you notice significant changes, you may want to start planning for the future.

Do Solar Panels Go Bad?

Solar panels don’t expire or stop working unless something is wrong; the only common issue when do solar panels go bad is that they deteriorate with age. However, the following are issues to expect with the equipment:

  • The panel may have poor or irregular electricity output, calling for immediate repairs.
  • The sheets may crack due to poor weather and improper handling, reducing performance.
  • The inverter can malfunction.
  • Your panel may have wiring issues after installation.
  • Dirt and other materials fall on the panels, blocking sunlight and interfering with output.
  • Errors may occur when your panels have hit the 20 or 30-year mark.
  • Your system might have complications if the installation involves subpar materials.

What Will Happen to Solar Panels After Their Use?

With solar panels viable for 25-30 years, it begs the question, what happens to them after use?

They deteriorate after the timeframe and are disposed of when the owners replace them with new ones, bringing to attention the carbon footprint solar panels concern.

Photo of 2 workers during the installation of solar panels on a house's roof.

(Image: Raze Solar16)

Every day, sheets are pulled off houses in exchange for new ones, and this number keeps rising yearly, soon adding to millions of tons of materials.

The problem with dealing with these panels is that they are complex to recycle due to their components.

Some are too toxic, while others contain adhesives that are tasking to release. The only way out is to mechanically and chemically break the parts down to remove the crystalline silicon and semiconductors.1

How To Recycle Solar Panels

Although complex, you can recycle solar panels.8 The silicon in the panels features glass, aluminum, and plastic, which you can recycle, although it is a tasking process and needs advanced equipment.

The process entails removing the metallic frame and detaching the glass on the conveyor belt, easily reusable materials. The next step is thermal heating at 500°C, which evaporates the plastic materials and facilitates the separation of the cells.

Lastly, the silicon etches off, and manufacturers can smelt them into reusable slabs.

The energy intensive process is one of the drawbacks to this ‘green’ technology.

How To Test a Solar Panel

If you know how to test your panels using a multimeter,10 you can check whether the system produces sufficient power and has no short circuits.

Start by adjusting the multimeter to the DC setting, connect the positive end to the panel’s positive terminal and vice versa.

The reading from the equipment will show the voltage output, and you can repeat for each panel, comparing the results to the voltage rate.

The outcome should be at least 10% in the range of the voltage rated; otherwise, something is wrong with your setup.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Most current-generation solar panels maintain optimal performance within 25-30 years after installation.

Afterward, their output diminishes, and you may have to seek replacement soon.

Aerial photo of a massive residential area with several houses with installed solar panels on their roofs.

(Image: Kindel Media14)

While they still work even after the time frame, they are less efficient, unlike when newly installed.

Why Do Solar Panels Degrade?

Solar panels degrade each year by a small margin until decades later when the rates add up and become significant. The climate, weather, and excessive UV exposure are to blame.

Fortunately, you can increase the lifespan of your panels through regular cleaning and maintenance. Solar panels are the answer to clean and affordable renewable energy.

It is kinder to the planet and saves you more money in the long run. However, like any other equipment, PV cells also get exhausted, and it shows reduced performance.

Your panels will be effective for 25-30 years, after which the yearly degradation will add up and interfere with the overall performance. If your electricity bill starts rising, it indicates that you need to exchange them.

The setup can serve you for long if you clean and maintain it and call in experts to help. If you are worried about how long do solar panels last before investing in one, make sure to obtain the information from the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Do Solar Panels Last

How Long Can Solar Panels Last Without Sun?

Solar panels are unique designs that work even without direct sunlight, in all weather conditions, absorbing UV rays. Depending on other factors, they will still serve you for 25-30 years, not the presence or lack of sunlight.


References

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2Glover, E. (2022, November 21). How Long Do Solar Panels Last? Forbes. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/#which_solar_panels_last_longest_section>

3Gobler, E. (2021, December 14). Find out how long your solar panels will last. CNET. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from <https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/>

4Sunrun. (2023). How Long Do Solar Panels Really Last? Sunrun. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from <https://www.sunrun.com/go-solar-center/solar-articles/how-long-do-solar-panels-really-last>

5Walker, E. (2022, December 12). How long do solar panels last? Solar panel lifespan explained. Energy Sage. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from <https://news.energysage.com/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/>

6Chandler, D. L. (2022, March 11). How to clean solar panels without water. MIT News. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://news.mit.edu/2022/solar-panels-dust-magnets-0311>

7Department of Energy. (2021, July 15). DOE Kicks Off ‘Summer of Solar 2021’ With Tool That Fast-Tracks Solar Power For Communities Nationwide. ENERGY.GOV. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/articles/doe-kicks-summer-solar-2021-tool-fast-tracks-solar-power-communities-nationwide>

8Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, March 7). Solar Panel Recycling. United State Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www.epa.gov/hw/solar-panel-recycling>

9Jordan, D. C., & Kurtz, S. R. (2023). Photovoltaic Degradation Rates — An Analytical Review. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/51664.pdf>

10Lemmon, M. (2009, February 1). What is a Multimeter? University of Notre Dame. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www3.nd.edu/~lemmon/courses/ee224/web-manual/web-manual/lab1/node10.html>

11New South Whales Government. (2023). Installing and connecting solar panels and battery systems. NSW Climate and Energy Action. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www.energy.nsw.gov.au/households/guides-and-helpful-advice/installing-and-connecting-solar-panels-and-battery-systems>

12Northwestern University. (2023). What are solar panels? Qualitative Reasoning Group. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from <https://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/power/1-what-are-solar-panels.html>

13Kelly. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/solar-panels-on-brown-sand-under-blue-sky-9227733/>

14Kindel Media. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-landscape-water-skyline-9875681/>

15Pixelharvester. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/power-energy-electricity-counter-7776311/>

16Raze Solar. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/pIcseKMisrs>