How Long Can Solar Systems Last?
Solar systems are made up of multiple components, with the key ones being solar panels, solar inverter and racking (mounting structures that hold the panels). There are warranties associated with these solar components, and it is helpful to familiarise yourself with them if you are looking to install a system for your property. The two common types of warranties are performance warranty and product warranty, which we will cover in greater detail further in this article.
We understand solar systems are a significant investment, even with government incentives to alleviate the overall cost. However, considering that they are designed to last for multiple decades, solar systems can more than pay for themselves. For residential homes, the average breakeven point (or payback period) for a solar investment occurs around 4 to 8 years after installation.
The industry standards for most solar panels' lifespans are 25 to 30 years. Most reputable manufacturers offer performance warranties (or production warranties) for 25 years or more.
Now is probably a good time to dive into how performance warranty and product warranty differ from each other:
Performance Warranty is the number of years the manufacturer guarantees their product's performance, commonly shown on a linear chart. This is typically relevant for solar panels with an expected annual degradation in performance of about 0.50 to 0.60%. Simply put, a solar panel at it's 20-year mark should be performing at 90% of its original output.
Product Warranty is the number of years the manufacturer guarantees their product's material and workmanship defects. The coverage period varies depending on the brand and specific product, but the solar panel industry standard is 10 years or more. Inverters and the racking system should also be covered for about 10 years. The reason why inverters have a shorter warranty is due to how hard inverters continually work to convert energy from the solar panels to usable electricity for your property. On average, replacing a quality solar inverter can cost between RM6,000 and RM8,000. This is why we always urge our customers to opt for a quality inverter as they are likely to last longer than lower-tiered inverters.
Although these warranties typically last for 25 years, it doesn't imply that your solar system reaches its end of life at the 25-year mark. Solar panels can safely operate up to 40 years if its been cared for. The good news is solar panels can continue to generate electricity after its performance warranty, however degradation (or reduced energy production) may start to be noticeable. Note that there are systems that were installed in 1980s that are still running today.
Which Solar Panels Last Longest?
The key factor that determines how long solar panels can last is the quality of the product itself. Solar panels exist in the market are classified in three tiers:
Tier 1 manufacturers have been producing solar panels for more than 5 years and have stable finances. They are highly regarded for service and quality of their products. Not only do Tier 1 manufacturers have higher standards, but their solar panels often have higher power output after 25 years versus Tier 2 or Tier 3 panels. The power degradation rate of Tier 1 panels are lower than Tier 2 and Tier 3, however the catch is they also generally cost about 20% more. The cost however can be easily recouped in time given it's quality and longevity.
How Does Solar Panels Degrade Over Time?
Solar panels naturally experience a decline in efficiency due to exposure to sunlight, humidity, temperature fluctuations and mechanical stress. While degradation is inevitable, advancement in solar technology have led to more durable and reliable panels with reduced degradation rates so they are more long-lasting after installation.
How To Make Your Solar System Last Longer?
Here are some tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your solar investment:
Quality - Solar systems are long-term investments, it is important to opt for a system that fits your budget however it is also important not to skim on quality where possible. Lower tiered or grade solar components (even solar cables) may bring down the total project cost at the beginning but may not be as reliable in the long run. Investing in better quality today would give you a peace of mind through your ownership.
Cleaning and Upkeep - The cleaner the solar panels, the more effectively they can absorb sunlight and convert them into energy. Consumers are advised to clean their panels every 2 to 5 years.
Regular Maintenance and Servicing - One of the biggest selling points of solar panels is that they are quite low-maintenance. Like many home appliances, they tend to last longer if they are well-maintained. Monitor your system's performance and reach out to your solar installer if it starts to show unusual performance, a common first sign is when you notice your electricity bill shoot up for no apparent reason.
Installation - Lastly, one of the most critical consideration to ensure a safe, optimised and reliable solar system is by working with a reputable installer. A solar system needs to be properly designed, installed and wired; otherwise, your system won't maximise the savings and may degrade faster. The best solar companies should offer some form of workmanship warranty and maintenance service as needed. Suncatcher is a registered solar service provider with the knowledge and experience to design, install and commission a solar system. Our support staff have a long experience in the Mechanical & Electrical field dating back to the 80s.
Hit us up if you would like to know more!