How to Know When It’s Time to Replace Solar Panels

Ever since the 2006 launch of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, solar technology has seen rapid growth in the U.S. In fact, the industry has contributed to an average annual solar growth of around 42%!

How to Know When It's Time to Replace Solar Panels

Of course, in the years that have followed, many homeowners have started to wonder when it’s the right time to replace solar panels. After all, don’t these systems need regular upgrades, just like any other home appliance?

If you’re wondering when you’ll need to splurge on a new solar panel installation, here’s what you should know about replacing them.

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Consider Their Total Lifespan

Solar panels last a long time, allowing you to offset your electricity usage for decades. In fact, this long-term ability to control the cost of your electricity is one of the key advantages of solar power. Learn more about the advantages here:

Most systems have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years, though many will last for up to 40 years if you maintain your solar panels well. In most cases, manufacturers will even offer a performance warranty of 20-30 years. This guarantees that your system will continue producing electricity within a set range.

Make sure to check your solar panel manufacturer’s literature to learn more about the expected lifespan of your specific brand.

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Understand How Solar Panels Deteriorate

It’s important to note that solar panels won’t simply shut off at the end of their lifespan.

Like other forms of technology, they’ll deteriorate little by little with constant use. In other words, even at the projected end of their lifespan, your solar panels should still be producing electricity. However, this production will be less than it was when you first bought your system.

One classic study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that solar panel energy production degrades at a rate of 0.8% each year. However, some manufacturers claim lower rates—down to 0.3%, in some cases. Again, it’s important to check with your manufacturer for details about your specific unit.

Judge Your Panels’ Deterioration Against the Cost of New Units

Due to this slow degradation process, deciding when to replace your solar panels depends on the production loss you see with your system. You’ll want to compare your solar panel’s current output with its expected or ideal output to make a decision. You’ll also want to take note of any physical damage or imperfections that affect your system’s output.

In general, the choice depends heavily on your budget and personal preferences. You’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis to decide when the cost of a new home solar installation outweighs the lowered efficiency of your current system.

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Replace Solar Panels With Care

In general, most homeowners will have no reason to replace solar panels within their expected lifespan. Though most home appliances need an upgrade at least once a decade—if not sooner—your solar panels can offer great performance for 25 years or more. However, make sure you remember the expected lifespan and deterioration rate and feel free to keep track of your solar production as your unit's ages!

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