Solar panels can be a big investment, so it makes sense to take some time considering whether or not they’re the right choice for your business.
We all know that using solar energy can help cut electricity bills. But, the unknowns of this newer technology may have you worried that the life expectancy of the solar panels isn’t long enough to make the cost of installation worthwhile. Afterall, even with federal tax credits, solar panel installation can be a big expense.
If you’ve been considering switching to solar energy, you’ve likely asked yourself, “How long do commercial solar panels last?” Well, let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- Factors Impacting the Lifespan of Solar Panels
- How Long Do Other Parts of Solar Energy Systems Last?
- Slowing the Solar Panel Degradation Rate
- Regular Maintenance and Maintenance Checks
- Solar Panel Warranties
- How Long Do Solar Panels Take to Pay for Themselves?
- Select Smart Installation
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Rising electricity bills are causing many commercial business owners to use solar energy systems to supply some or all of their power. In addition to helping cut back on utility bills, solar power offers a variety of other incentives, too (such as reducing your business’s carbon footprint).
Clean energy production is becoming more reliable; still, some are hesitant to rely on it due to worries about power output overtime. But, if you’re concerned that solar panels’ life expectancy is too short to pay for their initial installation cost, you can rest easy. New models of high-quality solar panels are expected to last for decades – 40 to 50 years, in fact, and the power output of solar panels never completely stops.
Like all systems, though, solar panel systems are not immune to the test of time. As solar panels age they become less effective, known as solar panel degradation, but the average rate of solar panel degradation is pretty low.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that most solar panels lose about .5% of their efficiency per year. That means that even after the expected 40 year lifespan, your solar panels still have 80% of their original power output. This rate can change due to other factors, however.
Factors Impacting the Lifespan of Solar Panels
Solar panel degradation does happen – eventually – and there are several other factors that can also impact the lifespan of your solar panels.
Since solar panel installation can be fairly costly, you want them to have the longest life expectancy possible. To do so, it’s important to understand the efficiency of solar panels and what affects their lifespan.
Weather conditions can have a big impact on solar panels. And not just in the sense of how much sun the solar cells are exposed to. Hot weather causes quicker solar panel degradation. Solar panels operate best in mild climates from around 60 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Extreme weather can also damage solar panels. Solar company installers need to take extra precautions in certain areas prone to severe storms, because if the solar panel system is not installed properly extreme weather can damage the solar panels.
Solar panel manufacturers typically rate solar panels into three tiers. Tier 1 solar panels are high-quality products that have the longest lifespan and the most efficiency. Tier 2 is of moderate quality, and Tier 3 is the lowest quality.
Each tier has a slightly different lifespan. Tier 1 solar panels have a typical degradation rate of .3%. Tier 2 has a standard solar panel degradation rate of .5%, and Tier 3 a slightly higher rate of .8% per year.
Tree branches or other debris can gather on your solar panels, which blocks them from the sun and decreases their efficiency. Debris can also scratch and damage the solar panels over time. If your commercial building is near a forest or an area with a lot of trees and wildlife, it’s a good idea to clean them regularly or invest in panel critter protectors.
To get the most out of your solar panels, proper installation is key. Improper solar panel installation (which can include installation on an old or damaged roof) can negatively impact solar panel lifespan.
The solar panels need to be securely mounted to the racking system, and they need to be oriented and tilted in the right direction. If your solar panel installer places them the wrong way, it could cut down on solar panel efficiency.
Panels also need to have the proper ventilation to make sure that they’re not overheating, and they need to have the appropriate-sized inverters.
Long story short, solar panel systems have a lot of moving parts, and if your solar panel installer is inexperienced or cutting corners, it could cost your solar panels’ lifespan some years.
How Long Do Other Parts of Solar Energy Systems Last?
Solar panels themselves are only one part of a solar energy system. There are several other components that you should assess for their respective life expectancy. Here are some of the other parts of solar energy systems and their industry standard life expectancy:
Solar inverters convert the DC solar energy into AC energy. Their industry standard life expectancy is typically 10 to 15 years. After this point, usually repair or replacement is necessary.
Accumulators act as a solar battery for your solar energy system. They charge up during the day and provide power when there’s no sun power to be had. They remain efficient for 2 to 5 years before they begin to store less energy.
Slowing the Solar Panel Degradation Rate
Solar energy systems can last a long time before they begin to suffer from solar panel degradation or need serviced. As with many other commercial building components, the best business move is to take care of your investment. To extend the life expectancy of your solar panels, there are a few steps you can take.
Regular Maintenance and Maintenance Checks
It’s important to make sure that all the moving parts of your commercial solar panels are operating properly. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and changing inverters or accumulators, is key to extending the life of your solar energy system.
If you invest in solar, be sure to schedule regular maintenance checks with professionals so they can identify any issues that might impact the life expectancy of your solar panels. (Also, if maintenance requires you to get on the roofing system for assessment or repair of the solar power system, then it’s definitely a good idea to call professionals).
Solar Panel Warranties
Most solar panel installers offer warranties on their product. The industry standard for a solar panel warranty is at least 10 to 12 years on equipment, and there are some even more extensive warranties that cover the solar power system for up to 25 years.
Many companies offer warranties that guarantee a certain level of solar panel performance over the period of the solar panel’s lifetime.
Make sure that your solar panel installer offers warranties and maintenance on your commercial solar panel and can help you protect your investment in clean energy (and ultimately get the most out of it in the long run).
How Long Do Solar Panels Take to Pay for Themselves?
It can take as little as three years to see an ROI for your commercial solar panel installation.
This can vary based on the upfront costs of installation, the amount of sunpower your solar panels are exposed to, and the size of your solar power system. In addition to federal tax credits for installing solar panels, some states also offer tax incentives that can reduce the upfront costs and lead to a quicker ROI.
Even after you see a ROI, your solar panel system should produce enough energy to realize significant savings over the lifetime of the investment. (Not to mention the fact that rising electricity bills will only lead to greater savings down the line.)
Select Smart Installation
Now that we’ve answered the question “How long do commercial solar panels last,” you’re one step closer to saving on your energy production.
When you are ready for your solar panel installation, make sure you hire solar panel installers with years of experience – like us. TEMA offers commercial solar panel installation for commercial properties nationwide. If you’re ready to cut the cost of your electricity bill, contact TEMA today for a free quote on solar panel installation.