Small Solar Panels

Do Small Solar Panels Wear Out? 5 Things to Know

Solar panels are becoming more popular as primary power sources for businesses and homes. But do solar panels wear out over time? In particular, are small solar panels any better?

Small solar panels do wear out over time. Numerous external factors can cause small solar panels to decrease their electricity production exponentially. Moreover, solar panels (including small ones) last for about 30 years. After that, their potential starts to decrease.

In this article, I will cover five things you should know about solar panels’ lifespan and if the same applies to small solar panels.

Things to Know About (Small) Solar Panels’ Durability

Small solar panels operate in the same way as ordinary solar panels. The only distinction is that they are, well, smaller in size. This means smaller panels produce less electricity since they don’t have as many solar cells as ordinary panels have.

However, the real benefit of small panels lies precisely in their size. While large solar panels are permanently stuck on top of your roof, small panels are usually portable.

For example, you can carry them when you go camping and charge some smaller devices (like your phone) while you’re in nature.

Also, small solar panels are regularly used to charge some home appliances, as well as post clocks and fountain features in public spaces across the world.

I should note that there’s not just one size of small solar panels. Their different sizes translate to different power potentials.

Small solar panels are just another type of ordinary solar panels. This means that the same limitations, durability-wise, apply to both of these types. 

That being said, let’s see 5 things you should know about solar panels’ durability and efficiency.

1. Solar Panels Can Last Up to 30 Years (or More)

An average solar panel can produce the optimal amount of electric energy for about 25-30 years. This is impressive considering the fact that solar panels are made out of metal, plastic, and glass components, not counting the chemicals in solar cells.

With new technology being developed daily, future panels will probably exceed this 30-year limit. There are even some panels that can last double the usual span of older panels.

However, just because a solar panel lasts for about 25-30 years doesn’t mean it automatically stops working. They simply become less efficient and don’t produce as much electric energy as they used to three decades before. 

2. Microcracks Can Decrease a Solar Panel’s Durability

Microcracks are one of the most common reasons solar panels wear out, and small solar panels are no different.

Even though hail or pebbles aren’t necessarily a major issue for solar panels, these can cause small cracks in the glass cover if the panels are hit on a regular basis.

Small solar panels are even more susceptible to getting damaged. There are small panels used for electric gate opening systems. These are usually mounted close to the gateway, and small pebbles can damage the glass cover on the front of those panels.

Microcracks can also occur because solar panels expand and contract depending on the temperature around them, which can also create small cracks in the panels.

3. The Sun Affects Solar Panels’ Efficiency

It might sound hard to believe (given how solar panels work), but the sun affects solar panels’ durability. 

Solar panels are always facing the sun, and the constant exposure to its rays decreases their efficiency. The amount of damage is minimal, though. There are some solar panels with UV protection that can usually take care of this problem.

Over time, solar panels kind of get used to the sun and aren’t affected by it that much. However, when you start using them for the very first time, they’re unaccustomed to the sun’s rays and need to be “broken in” in a sense. So, the biggest loss of solar panels’ efficiency happens when they’re first used.

4. Not Much Maintenance Is Needed for Solar Panels

Solar panels are pretty sturdy for the most part — so much so that even hail can’t damage them too much. Considering where and how they’re used, solar panels are designed to endure a lot of abuse from the likes of terrible weather conditions or dust.

Speaking of dust, you don’t have to clean your panels. If you notice that the glass is covered with dust and there’s no rain in your area, you should clean it.

However, it still depends on the quality of your solar panels. If you buy high-quality panels installed by a professional team, there shouldn’t be any problems.

On the other hand, small panels are usually sold by smaller businesses and not big companies. This means that they don’t have as many resources to hire professional installers.

So, in most cases, you need to assemble your small solar panel on your own, and the panels will probably need more regular maintenance checks.

5. Small Solar Panels Can Be Used for Telecom Systems

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published a paper in 2019 showing that small solar panels can be used efficiently enough in telecommunication systems or radio access networks. 

By using small solar panels for radio access networks (RAN), it’s possible to use renewable solar energy with less cost for RAN providers. This is an important advancement for the future use of small solar panels.

Moreover, as the technology in this sector develops, small solar panels will only increase their power potential and frequency of use. They’re becoming quite useful in public spaces, such as parks and public buildings, and not just for charging phones or camper trailers.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on buying small solar panels and you’re unsure if they wear out, the answer is yes, they do. Every solar panel wears out over time. However, the lifespan of solar panels is 25-30 years.

The 5 things that are important to know about solar panels, including small panels, are:

  • They last a long time.
  • Small cracks can appear over time on your panels.
  • They are affected by the sun’s rays.
  • Minimal maintenance is needed for solar panels.
  • Small solar panels are becoming widely used.


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