Although solar panels have very few moving parts and are known to have a long lifespan, they can wear out due to various factors e.g. weather, age, mishaps, etc. You can increase the lifespan of your panels with proper cleaning and maintenance. However, even then the silicon semiconductors that generate the power slowly degrade over time and eventually no longer produce their rated current and voltage. In that scenario, you will need to replace your solar panels.
The following are 3 ways you can tell it’s time to replace your solar panels:
1. Physical Deterioration
It is a very obvious sign that you need to replace your solar panels, but it is easy to miss if you aren’t looking in the right place. When inspecting the solar panels, don’t check the structure holding the panels, instead look at the panels themselves for physical deterioration. Shattered and scratched panels are likely to operate at reduced capacity. In this scenario, replacement might be the only viable solution.
There could be a number of reasons behind solar panels’ physical deterioration. The panels can deteriorate physically from weather as well as impacts from windblown debris and tree limbs. Apart from this, the extreme temperatures throughout the years can lead to cracks in the panels or solar cell material. Careful inspection of the panels for physical deterioration is highly recommended.
2. Reduced Voltage and Power Output
Measure the output of your solar panels and compare it with their nominal rating and specifications. It is recommended that you measure the output at noon on a sunny day as it will allow you to ensure an optimal reading. You can monitor the panels’ electrical performance by viewing the voltage and current displays of the solar system, if they are available. If not, then use a multimeter to measure the output. The panels may be wearing out if the current and voltage readings are over 20% less than the rated output. While there could be other reasons behind low voltage and power output of the panels, if it’s due to the panels wearing out, then it’s a clear sign that it’s time to replace them.
3. Reduced Performance of Related Components
As mentioned above, reduced performance and power output of the panels could be because of some other reasons. Sometimes these include reduced or malfunctioning of related components. There could be a problem with the inverter or the inverter electronics. Apart from this, the batteries being used to produce electricity may have worn out. The wiring of your solar panels is also subject to corrosion and weathering. So, it is recommended that you check for these related components during your routine inspections. Often, you won’t have to replace the panels if one of the related components are malfunctioning.
Solar panels are a great investment and you can increase their lifespan with proper cleaning and maintenance. However, the panels degrade over time and sometimes replacing them is the only viable solution. Knowing when to replace the panels can be very helpful. The signs mentioned above will help you in this regard.
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