Solar panel reliability: How reliable is solar power?


The question of solar panel reliability has been around since the start of the industry itself. You could say that it’s always there, casting a cloud over solar power.

Solar panel reliability: How reliable is solar power?

What exactly are these concerns? Well, they take 2 main forms: concerns over performance of physical solar panels, and questions over solar power as a dependable source of energy.

These reliability concerns were quite valid in the early days of solar panel adoption. But the fact of the matter is — as we’ll discuss in this article — these issues have been solved through advancements in technology and policy. Solar panels are very much a reliable power source, which has led 2 million Americans to install solar panels on their homes.

Let’s take a closer look and see how solar energy is produced, how reliable solar panel modules are, and how reliable an energy source solar is.

How is solar energy produced?

Solar energy refers to the energy produced by the sun. To turn this energy into usable electricity we use solar panels. Each panel is comprised of photovoltaic (PV) cells made of silicon, when sunlight hits the surface of the cell it dislodges electrons causing them to flow. In essence electricity is just flowing electrons.

The electricity then flows to a solar inverter where the DC electricity from the panels is converted into AC electricity that can be used in your home. The percentage of light converted into electricity is known as the efficiency of the panel, most solar panels have an efficiency of 15-18%. High efficiency panels use higher-quality photovoltaic cells and require less physical space to reach a desired power output.

How reliable are solar panels?

The reliability and lifespan of solar panels is excellent, according to a recent study by NREL. The researchers looked at 54,500 panels installed between 2000 and 2015. They found that each year, a scant 5 out of 10,000 panels failed.

That means that solar panels have a failure rate of only 0.05%. When you consider that the modern manufacturing process is more advanced than it was back then, you can be confident that the current failure rate is even lower!

Solar panels’ high level or reliability allows solar panel manufacturers to offer power output warranties of either 25 years or 30 years. In other words, the odds of your solar system experiencing failures is extremely unlikely. And if it does happen, you’ll be covered by the warranty and the panel will be replaced free of charge.

Will solar power be a reliable source of energy for my home?

Since solar panels depend on the sun they won’t be much good at night and will produce less energy depending on the season. Luckily, there two easy ways to overcome this obstacle:

  • Net metering: A law known as net metering requiring utilities to compensate those who export excess solar power to the grid. In most cases you will be credited at the same rate you purchase power at on a cents per kilowatt-hour basis.
  • Batteries: Your solar panels will charge your batteries throughout the day and at night the batteries will power your home.

In most cases homeowners elect not to install batteries with their solar system. This is because net metering allows you to harness the economic value of your solar energy without the large financial investment in batteries.

It’s hard to overstate just what an amazing incentive net metering is. It gives you the benefit of 24/7 grid connectivity while allowing you to sell surplus solar production during the day, canceling most or even all of your power bill.

How can I maximize the output of my solar panels?

There have been cases where homeowners are disappointed with the amount of power generated by their solar panels. This is usually the result of unprofessional and sub-optimal installation which prevents the solar panels from reaching their full power potential.

Here is what you should do to maximize the output of your solar panels:

  • Face south: Make sure your panels face as close to directly south as possible. South-facing panels produce up to 30% more energy.
  • Mount on the ground: Install a ground-mount solar system. Ground-mount solar isn’t dictated by the characteristics of your roof and only costs about 15% more.
  • Up the efficiency: Install higher-efficiency solar panels. Although more expensive higher efficiency panels are great when available roof space is limited.

A quick note: when it comes to saving money on installation costs, try to install solar on your roof as this is nearly always the cheapest option.

How much do solar panels cost?

Depending on your location and the installer, you can expect to pay $15,000-$18,000 for an average-sized residential solar system. You can receive a free estimate on the cost of your solar system with local incentives by entering your zip code below.

Enter your zipcode to see solar panel prices in your area

What solar incentives am I eligible for?

Generally speaking, you should be eligible for at least two incentives, which are:

  • The federal solar tax credit: A deduction to your federal income taxes for 30% of your solar system's price. This is essentially a 30% discount available anywhere in America.
  • Net metering: A law mandating your power company to compensate you for excess solar energy production. Often your solar system will produce too much power for your home, this energy is exported to the grid and net metering requires your utility to pay you at the same rate you purchase power at.

Many states offer additional tax credits on the purchase of a solar system, while your utility may also offer rebates. You can get up-to-date information for solar in your state on the solar incentives page.

Ready to save money and the environment?

Now that you know how solar energy is produced, the next step is to start looking for solar installers. Solar is a long-term investment and choosing the right company is important.

The good news is that it’s surprisingly easy to find reputable solar companies in your area. You can elect to receive between 1 and 4 obligation free quotes by entering your zip code below.

Request obligation-free quotes from solar installers near you!
 - Author of Solar Reviews

Zeeshan Hyder

SolarReviews Blog Author

Zeeshan is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong focus on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.

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