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by Nurin Ilyana

Solar panels can last for decades, however every year the solar panels will slowly degrade, meaning less and less electricity will be produced. However it can still produce electricity, regardless.

The standard solar panel degradation in the industry is now around 0.5% or lower, every year, according to a few brands such as QCells and Panasonic.

Make sure you inquire about this to your solar provider as it might differ, depending on the brands and models. Don’t worry too much about it though, as the degradation can be lessened, depending on how well you maintain it.

The industry standard for the lifespan of a solar panel, set by manufacturer in the warranty, is around 25-30 years, however that does not mean after that period, your solar panels will stop producing energy. It just means that after 25-30 years, your solar energy production will degrade by around 12.5% - 15%, thus your energy production will be around 85% - 87.5%, still producing solar energy.

So does this mean that after the warranty period, your solar panels become unusable? Not at all. As mentioned, the only thing is that the production rate will decrease, however it can still generate electricity.

With proper quality, maintenance and care, solar panels could last up to decades. The oldest solar panel known is around 60 years old. However the electricity generated is only enough to power a digital watch and needs direct sunlight.

The reason why solar panels have a degradation rate is from external factors such as wind, dust, debris. Even not maintaining or not cleaning your solar panels, can cause dust and debris to settle onto it, bothering the solar energy production.

Big branches falling onto the panels due to the rain, bird nests, and even monkeys or other animals monkeying around could possibly damage the surface of the solar panels, which will lead to more problems, thus faster degradation.

How do you assure a long lifespan for your solar panels?

1. Brand of solar panels

Make sure to find a brand and company that is trustworthy, verified, as well as of quality. Depending on the brand, the yearly solar panel degradation could be much less than 0.8%. Thus allowing your energy production to be better in the long run.

2. Type of solar panels – Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline

Source: Energy Sage

Depending on your needs and what your manufacturer offers, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels both function the same way but each with their own pros and cons, either in terms of efficiency, or price. The higher the efficiency, of course the longer the lifespan. It is very important you enquire about them before buying.

What are Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels?

They are both types of silicon solar cells that are made differently, which both are then cut to form into wafers.

- Monocrystalline

  • Monocrystalline solar cells are each made of a single crystal of silicon. Making it a purer composition of cells, even though a bit wasteful to produce, due to each cell made of a single crystal and all the waste is thrown out.

  • Better performance in high heat or lower light environments, meaning they can have a good energy output even though the weather and environment isn’t ideal.

  • Has an even, nice and sleek look as well as black in colour, as each cell is made of a single cell.

  • Higher efficiency.

  • More expensive than polycrystalline, even though similar wattage.

- Polycrystalline

  • Polycrystalline solar cells are made of a lot of fragments of silicon, grouped and melted together. This is less wasteful as there is close to zero waste.

  • Has a bit of texture and coloured unevenly, with a blue hue, due to the fragments of silicon melted together.

  • Slightly less efficient due to the unevenness.

  • Much cheaper

Extra fact: There is another type of solar panel called thin film. They are usually targeted to non-residential customers that have an abundance of space. This is as thin films, are much less efficient and has a lower lifespan, compared to monocrystalline and polycrystalline. They are very cheap however. Making it much more worth it on a larger scale.

Source: Energy Sage

They can actually also be used on boats, RVs and even on certain backpacks that you might have seen. Despite the lack of space, they are flexible due to their thinness, thus being able to fit onto non flat surfaces.

3. Verified solar installers

Make sure you get a verified solar installer as they can assure proper installation onto your rooftop as well as know how to handle and take care of the solar panels during installation. As unverified solar installers, might accidentally damage the solar panels during the installation and thus bothering the solar energy production.

4. Warranties

Assure your warranties are legitimate and check on what kind of offers and services that they provide in the warranty. Make sure that you are also covered when it comes to maintenance.

Three types of warranties that should be offered.

- Solar panel product warranty by manufacturer

Solar panel - 20 to 25 years

Inverter – 5 to 10 years

- Performance guarantee warranty

Assures energy production matches up to what has been specified in the warranty document

- Workmanship by solar installer

1 to 2 years

However does not cover theft, fire or other damages

A good idea would be to invest into a solar insurance policy. In Malaysia, Allianz is the only solar insurance company that offers solar insurance. You may contact us and let us put you through to Allianz.

5. Maintenance

Maintenance is very important to assure your solar energy production is working as it should.

If accessible, even regularly cleaning your solar panels with a quick hose down or a gentle wash with a soft sponge, can help the dust not settle and create a layer onto the solar panel. However make sure that you clean it during early mornings, late evenings, or anytime when the sun isn’t out yet. In Malaysia, our regular rain can also be of help to wash off the dust and debris.

You could also hire a solar panel cleaning service.

In conclusion, your solar panels, according to the standard manufacturer warranty will be efficient around 85% in 30 years. It will still work, but will decrease in efficiency steadily, as it has done so in the past 30 years. This is where maintenance is very important to lengthen the solar panels efficiency and life.

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