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How long do solar panels last?

So Energy

How Long Do Solar Panels Last in the UK?

Whether you’re considering investing in solar energy or want to know more about the lifespan of your installation, one of the most important questions to ask is: How long do solar panels last in the UK? The good news is that regardless of where you’re situated, solar panels have an expected lifespan between 25-30 years, with well-maintained panels potentially lasting for many more years. 

But there’s a lot more to solar panel lifespan and how long they last.

If you’d like to learn more about the lifespan of different types of solar panels, as well as what affects the longevity, signs that your panels may be ageing, and how to extend their lifespan, continue reading.

The average lifespan of different types of solar panels

If you’ve already begun learning about how solar energy works, you might already know that there are three different types of solar panels. Each of these has its own expected lifespan.

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from monocrystalline solar cells. They are easily identifiable by their black colour.

On average, they are expected to last 25-30 years, but newer mono panels can last up to 40 years or longer. They last the longest out of all the different types of panels because they are made using a slice of a single silicon crystal which reduces the potential failure points in the photovoltaic (PV) cell. These are the most expensive solar panels due to the cost of producing monocrystalline cells.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are made from polycrystalline solar cells. They are easily identifiable by their blue colour.

On average, these panels last between 25-30 years, but they can last up to 35 years. They don’t last as long as monocrystalline solar panels because each PV cell is made of multiple silicon crystals, which means an increased number of potential failure points. However, they cost less than monocrystalline cell panels due to their lower manufacturing costs.

Thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar panels are made from various photovoltaic materials. The four most common materials used are amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS), and organic photovoltaic cells (OPC). They are easily identifiable by their physical flexibility.

These panels have the shortest lifespan of the different types of solar panels, averaging between 10 and 20 years, due to the quality of the materials used in producing the PV cell. However, they are also the cheapest of the three types of solar panels.

Factors that influence solar panel lifespan

 In addition to the materials used to produce the different types of solar panels, other factors can affect the lifespan of a solar panel. These factors are:

Quality of materials

 As previously discussed, different types of solar panels are made from different materials. The higher the quality of the materials that are used, the longer the solar panel will last. On the other hand, if lower-quality materials are used, the lifespan of the solar panel will be shorter.

Quality of manufacturing

The quality of the manufacturing is another important factor that determines the lifespan of a solar panel, which is why we use a manufacturer with an excellent track record. Manufacturing a solar panel is a complex process involving numerous highly technical steps.

Typically, the manufacturing process involves:

  • purifying the silicon from sand

  • turning the silicon into ingots (or blocks) of silicon

  • slicing the silicon ingots into wafers

  • turning the wafers into solar cells

  • converting the solar cells into panels,

  • and finally, testing the solar panels. 

If a manufacturer rushes any of these stages or doesn’t adhere to best practices, this can affect the quality of the solar panel, which in turn can reduce its lifespan.

Installation quality

The workmanship that goes into a solar installation is important to ensure you get the most out of your solar panels. That's why we only use accredited installers, who undergo thorough training and ongoing quality checks.

For example, solar panels are mounted using brackets onto rooftops or into the ground. If the installation of these brackets is done poorly, the panels could become dislodged and damaged during adverse weather conditions. An installer in a rush could damage the panels during the installation. Poor wiring can also lead to a potential electrical fire, which could damage your solar panels.

Weather and other environmental conditions

Without a doubt, the main factor that reduces the lifespan of solar panels is the weather and other environmental factors. While it may seem obvious that extreme weather, such as high winds, intense hail storms, or freezing blizzards, as well as rapid temperature changes, or regular exposure to high humidity or extreme heat, could lead to damage to your solar panels or the supporting infrastructure, there are other less obvious elements that could damage your solar panels. These include:

  • Branches or even twigs hitting the panels and damage the surface

  • Animals damaging the panels by nesting or moving over the surface

  • Exposure to ultraviolet light and other airborne pollutants that cause micro-cracks, also known as micro-fractures 

Cleaning and maintenance

To minimise the effects of time and the environment on your solar panels, you’ll need to clean and maintain the panels. This will help prevent physical damage to the panels, or at least identify it when it has occurred so the necessary components can be replaced.

Signs that you need to replace your ageing solar panels

Even if you're enjoying the economic benefits of solar panels, there will come a time when your panels need to be replaced. If you are concerned about the lifespan of your solar panels, here are some signs that you might need to consider replacing your ageing solar panels.

Dramatically decreased energy production

While solar panels do become less effective over the years, the most obvious indicator that you need to change your panels is that their energy production has dramatically decreased. This can be done by assessing the output of your solar panels over time manually by tracking the energy production on your inverter over time, or you can take advantage of the energy production monitoring that comes with the apps for certain inverters. The latter is particularly useful as you should be able to see production from previous years and compare it with your current energy production.

Varying degrees of physical damage to the panels

Whether it’s microcracks, chipped or even shattered glass, any damage to the surface of a solar panel will reduce its energy production, which might mean it’s time to replace the damaged units. Depending on the extent of the damage, the panels might even stop functioning entirely, which is definitely a sign that you need to look for a replacement.

Your solar panels are old

 As we have already discussed, the age of solar panels affects their energy production, with panels simply producing less as they reach the end of their lifespan. If your solar panels are old and are no longer producing enough energy to meet your needs, you might want to replace them.

Your solar panels use outdated technology

Solar panel technology is evolving at a rapid rate, with new advancements improving the efficiency of the latest solar panels. If your panels are only a few years old, you may not want to upgrade them just yet, but if your panels are getting closer towards the end of their lifespans, you may want to install new panels. Even if your current panels still have a bit of life left in them, it might be a good idea to upgrade to a solution that is simply more efficient.

Extending the lifespan of solar panels

 While the performance of your solar panels will decline with age, there are ways to ensure that you get the most out of your solar investment. Here are some actions you can take to protect your solar panels and extend their lifespan.

Regular professional maintenance

If you have done an assessment and think the job is too much for you to handle, you can call in a professional team to clean your panels for you. If you were happy with the service provided by the company that installed your solar panels, consider reaching out to them for recommendations, or look for a company that specialises in this sort of project. Otherwise, you might risk hiring a team that could damage your panels.

 Protecting your panels against severe weather conditions

If you live in an area with extreme weather, you may want to consider taking extra steps to ensure your panels are protected. Steps you can take include:

  • Getting a professional to apply solar panel protective coatings to increase the durability of your solar panels

  • Getting solar panel protective covers for periods when you are away from home and not using your solar installation

  • Installing a wire mesh around your panels that allows sunlight through but protects it against larger objects like hail

  • Ensuring your solar panel brackets are made from composite materials that will withstand the weather

  • Working with your solar installer to make sure that your panels are properly anchored to any surface, and that surface is capable of withstanding the extra stress of bearing the solar panels

  • Trimming nearby trees to ensure that branches or twigs don’t fall onto your panels in storms or under windy conditions

Making the most of your solar panels

 By following the advice that we have shared in this blog, you will be able to extend the life and get the most out of your solar panels. However, it’s important to remember that if you ever have any doubts, you should seek professional advice from a certified renewable energy company..

Choose So Energy as your renewable energy partner

Interested in powering your life with green energy? At So Energy, renewable energy is at the core of our business. Whether you’re interested in purchasing your energy from us directly or are interested in becoming energy-independent with a solar installation, our team of energy experts are ready to help.

FAQ

How does the type of solar panel affect its lifespan?

 The different types of solar panels offer different lifespans. On average, monocrystalline panels can last between 25-30 years, polycrystalline panels 25 years, and thin-film panels up to 20 years. 

What is the average lifespan of monocrystalline solar panels?

 The warranty of many monocrystalline solar panels is between 25 and 30 years, but the newer panels can last up to 40 years or longer under the right conditions.

What is the average lifespan of polycrystalline solar panels?

The warranty of most polycrystalline solar panels is 25 years, but the panels are expected to last between 25 and 35 years.

What is the average lifespan of thin-film solar panels?

Thin-film solar panels have the shortest lifespan of all solar panels, with the panels expected to last between 10 and 20 years. However, some manufacturers offer a warranty of up to 25 years on these panels.

What factors influence the lifespan of solar panels?

The five main factors that affect the lifespan of solar panels are their material quality, manufacturing quality, if they were installed correctly, the environment they are in, and the steps you take to maintain them.

How does the quality of manufacturing impact the lifespan of solar panels?

 As with many complex man-made objects, the quality of the materials that are used and the time and care that is put into manufacturing it will affect how long a solar panel will last. Panels that are made using cheaper materials and cheaper manufacturing processes will produce solar panels that simply don’t last as long.

How can I tell if my solar panels are ageing?

 The most obvious sign that your solar panels are on their way out is a major decline in solar energy production. Other signs that you may need to consider replacing your solar panels are physical damage, such as cracks in the glass or discoloured panels, the age of the panels themselves, and more frequent maintenance being required to keep the panels operating.

How do weather and environmental conditions affect solar panel lifespan?

As with many other objects that are exposed to the elements, solar panels that are exposed to the weather and other environmental factors will experience minor damage over time which will gradually lower their performance. When these different elements combine, it could also lead to major damage.

For example, temperature changes, humidity, large snowfalls, and continued exposure to sunlight, will affect the lifespan of your panels.

How do I extend the lifespan of my solar panels?

 You can follow these simple steps to extend the lifespan of your solar panels: 

  • Hire a reputable service provider to install them correctly

  • Regularly clean the panels

  • Keep an eye out for damage

  • Have a trained professional inspect them regularly

How important is regular maintenance and cleaning for a solar panel’s lifespan?

Regular maintenance and cleaning are vital to ensuring your solar panels last for as long as possible.  It will also ensure that your solar panels operate at their optimum performance for the duration of their lifespan.