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Investing in Solar: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

house with white vinyl siding and solar panels on roof

Solar panels are designed to provide homes and businesses with years of clean energy — plus a certain amount of savings that come with that energy. 

However, solar panels (and solar shingles) are also known to be quite an investment. Therefore, the most important question for anyone thinking about switching over to the green side is how long do solar panels last?

If you’ve been looking into installing solar roofing panels, keep reading to find out if investing in solar panels or shingles will be worth it in the long run.

Solar Panels Vs. Solar Shingles

two modern houses next to each other with solar panels on roof

To better understand how long your choice of solar panel system will last, you’ll need to learn the differences between each of them and how they work.

  • Solar panels consist of a series of photovoltaic cells arranged on a rectangular plate (or panel). Multiple panels are typically installed together to generate enough energy to power homes and buildings, and they must be linked to one another in positions that allow for optimal sun absorption. The panels generate a direct current from said absorption that’s converted and stored in batteries for later.
  • Solar shingles are also referred to as solar roof tiles as they’re similar in appearance to traditional roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles. Not only do solar shingles work to protect your roof, they also generate electric power in the same way that solar panels do. Of course, solar shingles are installed as part of your roof rather than simply on top of it, and they can be installed in isolated areas of your roof or throughout the whole thing.

The Key Differences Between Solar Panels and Solar Shingles

Solar panels and shingles are essentially the same thing, conceptually speaking. However, their notable differences include:

  • Cost. Solar panels are more affordable than solar shingles as the shingles are technologically newer and are more complicated to install.
  • Efficiency. Solar shingles are less efficient due to the fact that they’re installed directly onto the roof. This means they’re fixed in position, which may or may not be advantageous when it comes to capturing sunlight. There’s also no airflow beneath them, which results in more heat dissipation and less energy generation (although not by much).
  • Flexibility. Solar shingles are designed to fit sloped roofs, while solar panels are designed to fit both sloped and flat roofs. Solar panels can also be easily relocated, whereas solar shingles remain affixed to both their position and location.

How Long Do Solar Shingles and Solar Panels Last? 

Let’s get straight to the point — well-made and properly installed solar panels will last an average of 25 to 30 years. Solar shingles will also last between 25 and 30 years. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that your solar panels or shingles will stop working once they hit the ripe age of 25. This time will, however, mark the beginning of a significant drop in both efficiency and energy production. 

Solar panel efficiency is an indication of how effectively your panels are able to convert sunlight into energy. Here’s what you need to know about solar panel degradation rates:

  • The solar panel degradation rate is a measurement of how much your solar panels or shingles’ power output decreases over time. 
  • Solar panels and shingles have an average yearly degradation rate of 0.5%.

Therefore, if your solar panels or shingles have been operational for five years, your home or building’s power production would essentially be 25% lower compared to your power output. When you apply this degradation rate to 20-year-old panels or shingles, the production rate will have dropped down to 90% of their original output numbers.

Factors That Affect the Life Expectancy of Solar Panels

There are several factors that can impact both the lifespan and efficiency of your entire solar roofing system. These factors include:

  • 🌦️ Climate. Exposure to harsh weather, such as hailstorms, extreme temperatures, high winds, etc., will degrade your solar roofing much quicker compared to an area with a more mild climate. 
  • 🛠️ Installation. Installation is a key factor to the longevity of any type of roofing system, but solar panels must be installed correctly to be kept in place and ensure maximum sun exposure. Improper installation can easily lead to damage as your panels can slip from their mounts and crack or break.
  • 🏅 Panel quality. Not all solar panels or shingles are created equally. While all panels and shingles will degrade over time, the higher quality products will have a lower degradation rate as they’re manufactured with more durable materials and better solar cell technology.

How Much Will Solar Power Save Me on Average?

suburban house with front yard and solar panels on asphalt shingle roof

Now you know that your solar panels or shingles will essentially last as long as the average asphalt roof — which is pretty good. Now, the real question is whether the initial investment will yield worthwhile savings.

For starters, the average cost of solar installation will vary based on your location and the size of your roof, among other factors. This means the cost of solar installation can range from $5,000 to $40,000.

While solar panels are a significant investment, there are federal and state rebate programs that help to offset the cost:

  • Federal tax credits are offered as rebates for up to 26% of the initial cost
  • State incentives will vary by state and zip code

While there’s no specific answer for how much you’ll actually save by switching to solar energy — although, it is considered to be a lot — there are certain factors that will influence your savings, such as:

  • Local grid prices
  • The number of panels you choose to install
  • The type of panels or shingles you choose to install

The general rule of thumb is that the more powerful your solar system is, the more power you’ll be able to offset in your home — which equates to more savings.

Are You Thinking About Going Solar?

Switching to solar energy for your home or your business can be incredibly beneficial — both financially and environmentally.

If you’re on the fence about going solar, it’s a good idea to contact the experts at Bay Valley Roofing. Our team will walk you through the pros and cons of going solar. We also offer free roofing inspections!

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