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How to Tell if It’s Time to Replace Your Solar Panels

Solar panels are a long-term investment. Most solar panels come with 20-30-year warranties and can maintain over 90% of their original output at the 20-year mark if well-maintained. 

However, solar panels will eventually show signs of decreased performance and physical wear and will need replacing. Knowing when it’s time to replace your solar panel system can optimise solar production and save on expensive electricity bills.

There are a few key indicators to watch out for when assessing if your solar panels need replacing:

  • Decreased energy output and performance compared to a panel’s original specifications.
  • Physical signs of damage like cracked glass or discoloured/burnt spots
  • Panels reaching over 20 years old
  • Other red flags upon inspection, like low-quality parts

If you notice one or more of these issues with your solar panels, it may be best to replace them sooner rather than later. Replacing deprecated solar panels with a brand-new system can provide higher efficiency, meet your household’s current energy needs, and maximise savings on electricity costs for decades to come.

Changes in Energy Output and Performance

One of the best indicators that your solar panels need replacing is a decrease in energy production over time, especially when output is less than 80% of the specifications. 

There are a few techniques to accurately measure the performance decline:

  1. Compare output to original specifications: Use a multimeter to check your solar panel system’s electrical output on a sunny day around noon. Compare the voltage and current readings to the rated outputs listed in your system’s original documentation. Performance that measures below 80% of rated output signals deterioration.
  2. Check for degradation over time: Solar panels can lose around 0.5% of production efficiency per year. A 20-year-old system in good shape should still produce at least 90% of what it did originally. Faster degradation likely means pending failure.
  3. Test output at peak sunlight hours: For the most accurate test, measure your solar panel output at the sun’s peak — typically noon on a sunny day with lots of direct sunlight. Position your multimeter leads across different points of the solar circuit to check the current, voltage and power production. Compare results to specs. Low peak output indicates an issue.
  4. Make note of the decrease in electrical output: Catching decreasing electrical output early on allows homeowners to replace solar panels before output drops too far. Newer, upgraded panels paired with batteries can offset rising electricity costs for decades to come.

Physical Signs of Damage

Wear and tear, and signs of visible damage e to your solar panels can indicate a need for replacement. Some physical indicators that your solar panel system is failing include:

  1. Cracked Glass or Frames: Extreme weather, falling debris, accidents, or improper handling can cause glass cracks or broken panel frames. Even minor fractures allow moisture intrusion, which leads to internal corrosion and electrical shorts.
  2. Discolouration or Burnt Spots: Yellowing, dark brown, or black discoloured patches hint at laminate deterioration and uneven heat distribution, which reduces energy output. Burnt spots also accompany such damage.
  3. Signs of Corrosion: Corrosion along the white conductor strips on panels appears as oxidation decay. Specialists can test system components during an inspection and detect unhealthy corrosion levels in need of replacement.
  4. Don’t ignore broken panels or visible solar cell decay. Replacing damaged modules right away prevents cascading system failures. It also avoids the need for expensive part replacements down the road when the problems spread.

Age and Changing Energy Needs

As solar panels age past 20 years, their efficiency and output naturally decrease each year. Additionally, most homes use more appliances and electronics now than decades ago.

Upgrading deprecated panels solves both issues:

Panels over 20 years old see drastic output drops as the photovoltaic material loses conversion capacity. Testing reveals many older panels underperform over 20% below original ratings.

Outdated panels may not provide enough energy to operate modern high-drain devices like electric vehicles, home batteries, smart appliances and expanded AC needs.

Newer panel technology offers higher watts/unit, efficiency ratings of over 22%, sleeker aesthetic options and integrated monitoring. Plus, federal tax credits on new solar apply.

Replacing old solar panels after 20+ years brings households energy independence with today’s electricity demands in mind. Homeowners gain upgraded capacity, efficiency and savings potential.

Other Indicators That it’s Time to Replace Your Solar Panels

Aside from decreased output and physical damage, a couple of other red flags should prompt solar panel replacement:

Flaws Visible Upon Inspection: An expert solar inspection every five years helps detect problems early. If an inspector notices odd temps, corrosion, complex wiring issues or extensive cracks, replacement may be recommended.

Use of Low-Quality or Counterfeit Parts: Some installers cut corners with generic or counterfeit solar parts which fail prematurely. Underperforming panels paired with 3rd party equipment should raise replacement flags.

Reputable brands paired with routine maintenance help minimise these issues. But when underlying problems exist, homeowners risk safety hazards, void warranties and compounding expenses down the road. Replacement using high-grade equipment prevents added costs long-term.

Don’t Let Your Solar Investment Go to Waste

Knowing when to replace solar panels protects your investment in renewable energy.

Key red flags include a 20% drop in peak energy output, visible panel damage, systems over 20 years old and flaws caught during inspection. Acting quickly prevents safety issues, steep performance declines that cost you money and voided warranties.

Upgrading to today’s cutting-edge solar technology allows households to meet rising electricity needs for electric vehicles, smart devices and battery storage. Higher efficiency panels make the most of available sunlight. Plus, robust warranties provide peace of mind, while tax credits and incentives sweeten purchase deals.

Give your home a second solar life rather than throwing decades of potential savings away. Contact the professional solar panel installers at Trione Energy for quotes leveraging the latest innovations so your solar investment powers on for years to come.