Foldable solar panels are eco-friendly, low-maintenance, and can reduce electricity bills, making them popular alternatives to regular power sources. Of course, before you invest in them, you may be interested in how long foldable solar panels last.
Foldable solar panels typically last from 25 to 40 years. Their efficiency decreases to 80% after 25 years of use due to the weather and other causes of degradation. That said, you can prolong your foldable solar panel’s lifespan by keeping it well-maintained.
This article explores how long foldable solar panels last, the factors that lead to their degradation, and some tips to increase their lifespan.
The Lifespan of a Foldable Solar Panel
Foldable solar panels are primarily monocrystalline, meaning the panels are made from a single crystal of silicone. This results in a much higher crystalline purity than polycrystalline ones. As mentioned earlier, their lifespan ranges from 25 to 40 years.
Solar panel manufacturers usually issue a warranty of 25 years for each of their models. Your foldable solar panel can last long after the warranty expires — though, after 25 years, the efficiency of the foldable solar panel will start to deteriorate.
A foldable solar panel’s efficiency rate is defined as the percentage of sunlight it can convert into electricity. Over time, it will experience efficiency degradation, i.e., a subtle decrease in the efficiency rate each year of about 0.5% to 1%. In other words, the solar panel’s energy output gradually decreases as the years go by.
For example, if your solar panel had an efficiency of 95% when you bought it, it would still have an efficiency rate of around 80% after 25 years — assuming it’s degrading at roughly 0.5% per annum.
Reasons Behind a Foldable Solar Panel’s Efficiency Degradation
The more you know about why your foldable solar panels degrade over time, the better equipped you’ll be to stall that degradation for as long as possible.
Here are the main reasons why your foldable solar panel’s efficiency degrades.
Gradual Wear and Tear Due to Weather
As foldable solar panels age, they experience damage from the elements. For example, rain, snow, or high heat can cause the hardening of crystalline silicons, corrosion of frames, and contamination of solar cells. Dangerous weather conditions (such as hail, dust, sand, or ice) can also cause microcracks on the surface of the foldable solar panel.
Another reason microcracks occur is the regular expansion and contraction of the solar cells due to ever-changing temperatures. The weather can also damage the solar panel’s seal, causing water to get inside.
Lastly, remember that a foldable solar panel is manufactured using semiconductor materials. When reactions in these materials occur due to weather-induced wear and tear, it can lead to shadowing, decreasing the amount of sunlight entering the cells that can be converted to electricity.
As the foldable solar panel is exposed to light throughout its lifetime, it experiences various types of light-induced degradation (LID), which occurs when the solar panel’s crystalline silicon cells react with the external environment. LID can last from days to weeks.
There are two types of LIDs:
- Direct light-induced degradation (DLID) occurs when the solar panel is exposed to direct sunlight during installation. The heat damages the solar panel’s electronics, and the damage lasts a few hours.
- UV light-induced degradation (UVLID) occurs when the initial exposure to sunlight results in the crystalline silicon oxide on the solar panel’s surface forming a boron dioxide layer. This reaction reduces the efficiency of the foldable solar panel.
All solar panels have an adjustment period of approximately 1000 hours. During this time, their photoconductivity reduces, causing a 1% to 3% decrease in efficiency. After this period, the foldable solar panel stabilizes.
Potential-Induced Degradation (PID)
Unlike LID, PID doesn’t happen to all foldable solar panels. However, if the components of the solar panel (such as the frame, solar cells, etc.) function at different voltages, it can cause voltage leaks. Consequently, the amount of electricity the solar panel can send to the inverter decreases.
How To Increase the Lifespan of a Foldable Solar Panel
Now that you know why foldable solar panels don’t last forever, you should have a better idea of how to maintain them. Here are my tips on making your foldable solar panels last as long as possible.
Purchase the Foldable Solar Panel From a Reliable Manufacturer
The more reliable the manufacturer, the longer your foldable solar panel will last. Before you buy your solar panels, make sure you get authentic reviews and recommendations from reliable sources. This way, you can be at peace knowing you’re getting the best quality possible.
Replace Any Defective Components ASAP
Even though foldable solar panels generally last for 25 years or more, their components may need to be replaced after a few years to ensure effective performance.
Here are a couple of the solar panel components you may need to replace.
Although your solar panel should last for at least a quarter of a century, its inverter likely wouldn’t last as long. You may have to replace the inverter after 10 to 15 years. It’s a good idea to get an extended warranty for the inverter’s parts and labor costs to minimize replacement expenses.
Your solar panel’s batteries will usually come with a warranty that lasts from 3 to 10 years, depending on the brand. If you’re not careful, however, you might damage your batteries before the three years are up.
Even low-maintenance batteries (such as lithium and sealed lead acid ones) need to be inspected every few years. You may also need to completely recharge your batteries; otherwise, you may permanently damage them.
To properly care for your solar panel batteries:
- Operate them at the optimal temperature.
- Use a battery management system to prevent overcharging or discharging.
- Hire a professional to install your batteries.
Hire a Professional for the Installation
Speaking of professionals, they can make all the difference in your foldable solar panel’s performance. Get a professional to assess your solar panel system thoroughly. They should also check the racking by ensuring the panel and wiring are secure.
Clean the Foldable Solar Panel Regularly
To prevent cracks from forming on your solar panels:
- Regularly clean dust, debris, and water droplets off them.
- Don’t use harsh cleaning products that may scratch their surface.
- Keep the solar panel in an open area free from obstructions (such as trees, etc.) to ensure it absorbs the maximum amount of sunlight.
If you own a foldable solar panel or are thinking of getting one anytime soon, you may find it helpful to know how long they last. By reading this article, you should also have a better idea of why these solar panels deteriorate in the first place, and how you can keep that deterioration at bay for as long as possible.
- Quebec Solar: What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels?
- RatedPower: Why and how do solar panels degrade? 5 key factors
- Let’s Go Solar: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- Wikipedia: Photoconductivity
- Unbound Solar: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- Treehugger: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- Portable Mentor: Average Lifespan of Portable Solar Panels (Tips to Make them Last Longer)
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