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How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

cleaning solar panels to increase energy output and lifespan

If you are planning to go solar, you need to know that your solar PV panels have a life expectancy between 25 and 30 years, and their efficiency will decrease with time, but the energy output will not go below 80% even after 20 years of use.

All solar panels manufactured today are built to withstand extreme weather conditions such as heat waves during the summer, very cold temperatures and snow during the winter and also wind and rain during storms.

The Real Lifespan of Solar Panels Manufactured Today

Today, the solar panel manufacturers are producing several different types of solar modules using new technology that aims to increase the efficiency and lower the price of solar.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels Lifespan and Efficiency

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive solar PV panels on the market today because a monocrystalline solar cell is made by cutting into thin wafers a single silicon ingot of high purity.

The manufacturing process produces a lot of waste because the edges of the solar cell are cut to make the cell look perfectly round.

These types of solar panels provide the best efficiency on the market today (between 17 and 24%) and have a lifespan between 25 and 35 years.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels Lifespan and Efficiency

Polycrystalline solar panels represent the affordable version of solar PV panels made of silicon, and they have a lower price than the monocrystalline solar panels due to the fact that they use solar cells made of melted silicon grains that are poured into wafers with a perfectly square shape.

Polycrystalline solar panels have a bluish tint and they are less efficient and less expensive than monocrystalline solar panels.

Their efficiency varies between 15 and 21%, and the lifespan between 23 and 27 years.

Thin Film Solar Panels Lifespan and Efficiency

Thin film solar panels represent today some of the most affordable versions of solar PV technology that can be used to generate clean electricity for your home or business.

Some of the advantages provided by this cheaper solar technology is the lighter weight and the flexibility of the modules, but there are also some drawbacks to the technology because thin film solar panels are less efficient than conventional solar PV modules (monocrystalline and polycrystalline).

All types of thin film solar panels have a shorter lifespan than conventional solar PV modules and they are also less efficient.

1. CIGS Thin Film Solar Panels

CIGS thin film solar panels have a base made of plastic or glass that is covered with a thin layer of elements such as copper, iridium, gallium and selenide.

These solar modules are quite affordable for homeowners, but they provide a low efficiency between 7 and 15%, and have a lifespan between 10 and 15 years.

2. CdTe Thin Film Solar Panels

CdTe Thin Film Solar Panels use a similar base made of glass or plastic, which is covered by a thin layer of cadmium telluride (CdTe) that is a semiconductor that can absorb and convert the sunlight into clean electricity.

These types of PV panels are affordable and provide an efficiency between 10 and 15%.

The lifespan of these PV panels is also pretty short 10 to 15 years due to the fast degradation in conversion capability.

Amorphous Thin Film Solar Panels Lifespan and Efficiency

Amorphous silicon solar panels are made of a noncrystalline form of silicon that is used as semiconductor for thin film solar cells.

The thin layer of noncrystalline silicon is seated on a flexible base made of plastic, metal or glass.

Amorphous silicon solar panels feature low efficiency (between 8 and 13%), and also a pretty short lifespan (14 to 17%), but they are considered the most environmentally friendly solar PV modules because they don’t use toxic heavy metals such as cadmium or lead.

The warranty conditions for solar PV (photovoltaic) panels sold today on the market guarantees that the panels will still produce at least 80% of their peak energy output even after 20 or 25 years of usage, which means that the manufacturers expect that the solar modules will last 20 or 25 years (depending on the model) and their efficiency will not decrease by more than 1% for each year of usage.

If the solar panels can last for 25 years or even more, you need to know that the inverter used by your solar PV system to turn DC electricity into AC electricity that can be used inside your home needs to be replaced after about 10 years of usage. is a U.S.-based online retailer that provides grid-tie solar inverters for U.S. customers.

The battery system used to store solar energy for later use could work properly for about one decade.

When choosing a solar PV system you don’t need to choose the cheapest system on the market because cheap it will always mean less efficiency and a short lifespan of the panels.

A small efficiency means that the cheap panel will convert a small amount of sunlight into electricity and compared to a premium solar panel will let a large part of the sunlight unused, which means that the difference in energy output will be paid by you year after year.

Knowing that you can lease the solar PV system means that you always need to choose what is best for you, but don’t forget that if you pay less today on a cheap solar PV system, you will pay more in time.

By choosing a premium solar PV system your panels will generate the most amount of energy, you will feel this in your monthly bills, and the system will work well for 25 years and even more.

What Happens To Your Solar Panels After 25 Years Of Usage?

Quality solar PV panels will work well even after the expiration of the warranty period (25 years) because they represent cutting edge technology that is built to resist even in heavy weather conditions for a long period of time.

There are several reports made by old solar manufacturers such as Arco Solar and more recent ones such as Kyocera saying that solar panels built more than 30 years ago are still working well, and the first solar panel ever built is still producing solar energy after more than 60 years of usage.

What Can You Do To Increase The Lifespan Of Your Solar Panels?

After installing the solar PV system on the rooftop of your house or in the yard there are several tips to increase the lifespan of your solar panels.

  • Avoid all kinds of physical damage made to the panels by the branches of the surrounding trees or by bushes that can scratch the panels under the action of the wind.
  • Try to keep the panels clean all the time because the dirt that accumulates on them will reduce the energy output of the panels.Always check with your solar panel manufacturer if they have specific recommendations for cleaning the panels.

    Under the action of the Sun, your solar panels can become extremely hot, which means that you need to clean them early in the morning or late afternoon when the Sun is no longer that strong.

  • You can start cleaning the panels using the garden hose, but if a lot of dust and dirt are covering the panels you may need to fill a bucket with warm water and soap and start cleaning the solar panels with a sponge or a soft cloth.

Never try to clean the wires underneath the panels!

Keeping your panels as clean as possible all the time will increase the energy output of the system and will save more money on you energy bills.

  • If you avoid cleaning the panels even if they are dirty you may lose between 15 and 25% of the energy production of the system, and all these losses will be supported by you.
  • If you live in an area with bad weather and winds your solar panels will degrade faster, that’s why you need to consider a surface with shelter from the wind when installing the solar PV system.

You always need to look after your solar panels, you need to protect them from bad weather and strong winds, and you need to keep them clean for maximum energy output of the system.

Final thought

If you understand that the solar PV system mounted on the rooftop of your house or in the yard is a long-term investment which you need to take care of, you will fully benefit from all the advantages provided by the system such as clean energy, low or zero energy bills (which means some energy independence) and a reduced carbon footprint of your household.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

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