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How Long Do Solar Systems Last?

Solar power is growing fast. In 2023, solar accounted for 49.3% of all new energy sources installed, more than every other energy source combined. At Exact Solar, prospective customers often ask us questions about solar systems, and among the most common is, “How long does a solar system last?”   

Like most things in the solar world, the easy answer is “it depends.” Many factors influence how long your solar system will last, including where you live, the quality of the components used, and how well your solar company does on the original installation. 

How Long Does a Solar System Last?

According to SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), the average lifespan for a PV module, or solar panel, is 20-30 years. Solar panels are designed to take a beating. The industry standard warranty for solar panels made by reputable manufacturers is 25 years. However, a solar system is made up of much more than solar panels. 

A solar system has several parts that must all be made of top-quality materials if it is going to last and outlive its warranties. If your installer uses high-quality panels but doesn’t adequately protect the wiring from the elements, your system could need repairs much sooner than expected. 

If the system is adequately protected from small animals that could get under the panels and chew the wires, and built with top-of-the-line parts, you can expect 25-30 years of low-maintenance power. 

How Long Does a Solar System Last with Battery Backup? 

SEIA estimates that by 2030, 30% of behind-the-meter solar systems will include battery backup, up from just 20% in 2022. Battery backup is booming, but it may not make sense in your situation! We’ve put together a guide to battery backup for homeowners:

Solar Battery Backup: A Homeowner’s Guide

The best way to know if battery backup suits your home is to consult a reputable local installer. As it stands, solar panels far outlast batteries. Your battery bank will likely be warrantied for 10 years and last 10-15 years, meaning that your panels will outlast your batteries by at least a decade. 

Now that EVs are commonplace, an interesting new solution is coming online. V2H (Vehicle-to-Home) technology has just hit the market. Since your EV batteries carry enough power to run your home for 2+ days, there are now bidirectional chargers that take energy from your car and put it back into your home in the event of an outage.   

Sadly, the bidirectional charging that makes this system work is only available in certain EVs. It will probably be a few years before the technology is widely available. 

When this technology hits the market on a broad scale, you’ll be able to use your EV as your battery bank instead of buying a separate battery bank for your home! Because batteries don’t last as long as solar panels, if you drive EVs anyway and need to replace your car once every decade or so, this could be a much better solution than buying a whole battery bank. Combine this with sunlight backup, and you have a fantastic system if your power is out and you need to leave during the day! 

Solar Panel Degradation Rates 

Solar panels degrade (defined in this case by losing the ability to produce power) very slowly. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panels degrade at about .5% yearly, meaning that at the end of their 25-year lifespans, they’ll have dropped to about 85-90% of their power-generating capacity. For the first few years, this will likely not be a noticeable change. 

Most solar panel warranties have a certain degradation rate threshold, meaning you can swap out a poorly performing panel if it degrades faster than expected! When you work with your chosen solar company to plan your system, they’ll ensure that it will produce slightly more power than you need (depending on your unique situation) so that you’re covered for the system’s lifetime. 

Maximizing Your Solar System’s Life

The best way to ensure that your solar system lasts a long time is to find someone who will install it correctly.

When shopping around for a solar installer, make sure you work with someone reputable and well-reviewed. An experienced installer is not only more likely to give you excellent service and build you a quality system that will stand the test of time, but they’ll be far more likely to stay in business throughout the whole life of your system and service your warranty claims. If your solar system is installed correctly, you can expect cheap power for a very long time with almost no maintenance. 

Solar panels need almost no maintenance. At Exact Solar, we don’t even recommend cleaning your panels since rain and snowfall in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are regular enough that the panels don’t build up enough dirt and dust to affect performance. 

A panel or two may malfunction over the system’s lifetime. When your system is installed, you’ll be given an app to monitor its performance. If you see that a panel produces less electricity than it should, your installer can swap it out for a new one (which will be covered by your warranty). 

Solar Panel Recycling

Now, you may be wondering, “It’s great that my solar system will last 25 years, but what happens to it after it’s been on my roof? Does it all just get thrown away?” 

It’s a fair question that the solar industry is working hard to address. 

Technical advancements make solar panel recycling better every year. According to SEIA: 

Since solar panels only degrade but never really stop producing electricity, some panels installed in the 1980s are still performing at effective levels. Technology has come a long way since then, and today’s panels will produce power for far longer! 

Ready to Go Solar? 

Exact Solar has the best track record in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We’ve been installing solar systems for 19 years, and during that time, we have earned more than 400 verified five-star reviews. There’s no one better suited to build your home solar system. 

If you’re ready to discover how much you can save with a roof-mounted energy-generating asset, set up a free consultation with one of our sales engineers today! 

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