Determine when it’s necessary to replace your solar panels and how to dispose of the old ones | Make alterations gradually
Over 3.5 million rooftops in Australia are utilizing solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, with over 1 million of them having been doing so for over 10 years. As a result, how long can one anticipate their solar panels to endure?
I have observed old solar panels that have endured thirty years of exposure to the sun in Australia and are still functioning well. On the other hand, I have also witnessed some poorly made installations that have failed after only a few years. In the middle, there are numerous systems that are still working but with significantly reduced efficiency.
If you have solar panels on your roof, you may be concerned about your increasing electricity costs and questioning the efficiency of your panels.
This guide will help you determine if your solar system is experiencing issues and provide steps to take, such as properly disposing of old panels.
How can you determine if your panels are malfunctioning?
It is advisable to have a professional inspect your solar panels every five years, regardless of their apparent performance. This is important because unlike other household electrical systems, solar panels use high-voltage DC electricity which can be hazardous if not maintained properly. Exposure to the elements can cause malfunctions that may result in fires, so it is recommended to schedule an inspection if it has been more than five years since the last one.
An in-depth examination performed by a certified solar electrician will have a price range of $200-$300. This will cover the cleaning of panels and a detailed report to verify the efficiency of your system. If any issues are found, they will provide recommendations for required repairs or replacements.
Quick desk check
If your system is less than five years old or has recently undergone inspection, you can assess its efficiency without having to leave your desk.
Although there are external monitoring systems available to notify you of poorly performing systems, many individuals simply depend on the app of their solar inverter or, for older systems, the diminishing LCD screen on the inverter.
Averaged over 12 months, the amount of sunshine falling on your roof is fairly consistent. For solar that’s mostly shade free, we can estimate how much energy you should have generated and compare that with the generation reported by your inverter.
First, locate the multiplication factor for your closest city.
Alice Springs: 5
Step 2: Calculate the expected average daily generation by multiplying it with your system size in kW, then multiply it by 365 to get the expected total for 12 months.
For instance, I currently possess a 6.6kW system located in Adelaide.
The expected energy output over 12 months is 10,117kWh, calculated by multiplying 6.6, 4.2, and 365.
For systems facing east or west, multiply by 0.85 to adjust for the panels’ sub-optimal orientation. In my case, where the system faces both east and west equally, I will multiply by 0.85.
The expected yearly output is 8,600 kilowatt-hours from a calculation of 10,118 multiplied by 0.85.
Step 4: Evaluate the information against your inverter’s display or monitoring app to compare it with your system’s actual output from the previous year. If there is a difference of more than 20%, it may be necessary to contact an installer and consider obtaining a report on your system’s performance and condition.
The warranties for solar panels are extensive.
In the event that your solar electrician discovers a decrease in performance, their report will indicate the source of the problem. Your first step should be determining if it falls under the warranty. Installation issues, such as wiring, are typically covered for a period of five years. Inverter problems are usually covered for 10 years, while panels purchased recently come with a 25-year warranty. If your panels are older, they may still be covered for 10-25 years.
In Australia, the company responsible for selling you the solar system is held accountable for the warranty, regardless of the manufacturer’s policies or any unfair terms and conditions. If the company goes out of business, the manufacturer is then responsible for upholding the warranty.
If the installer or manufacturer is not cooperative, you can use this ACCC letter to communicate your grievances. Send it via email and traditional mail – from my own experience, it has proven to be effective.
Is it time to replace your panels? Consider going for larger ones.
If your solar panels are no longer covered by warranty, it may be necessary to replace them. As the push towards electric transportation and transitioning away from gas continues, and with the integration of home batteries, it is likely that your future solar energy needs will exceed those of a decade ago. Therefore, it may be beneficial to install the newest, most efficient solar panels on your roof. The average size of solar systems sold in Australia today is 9kW.
Disposing of the old system
There may still be some use in your previous inverter. You could try selling it on the internet. The solar racking, which is made of aluminum, can be recycled and can be taken by any scrap metal dealer.
Panels, however, are trickier. If you’re getting a new installation, the installers typically handle the old panel disposal. But if you’re stuck with the panels, or don’t trust your installer to do the right thing, you can:
List them online (Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, etc): some folks want second-hand panels. Give it a shot.
Certain locations offer free disposal of e-waste, while others may require a fee.
There are several solar recycling companies located in different cities in Australia, such as Solar Recovery Corporation in Biloea and Townsville, Lotus Energy Recycling in Melbourne, and WA Solar Recycling in Western Australia. Some companies may have a fee for their services, including Elecsome in Richmond Valley, NSW; Wellington shire, Victoria; and Toowoomba, Queensland, Ecoactiv operating in “every major city”, and PV Industries in Melbourne and Sydney. It is recommended to contact them beforehand if you plan on bringing old solar panels.
Choosing a knowledgeable and environmentally-conscious installer will result in high-quality panels that can last for over 30 years. You can also have peace of mind knowing that your previous panels will be disposed of responsibly and recycled when feasible.
Finn Peacock is the creator of solarquotes.com.au and holds a degree in engineering.
comes from Michael O’Rourke
This week’s tip from a reader is from Michael O’Rourke.
When it rains, we place buckets and other containers on the edge of our deck to collect rainwater from the roof. This water can then be used for watering plants, flushing the toilet, or running the washing machine. I affectionately refer to these containers as our “Hope Buckets.”
– Diana Fairbairn, Clifton, Queensland (where we need more rain)