Both generators and solar panels can provide power-on-demand and will come in handy when you’re camping, on the road, or in the event of a power outage. But how long do portable generators and solar panels last? If you search around online, you’ll often get different answers.
Considering there are so many factors that can affect the lifespan of both types of power sources, this isn’t a real surprise. We’re going to cover all the bases and dig deep down to get the real answers for you.
How long do portable generators and solar panels last? Let’s start with generators. The best portable generators on the market are built to exacting standards and designed for long life.
Inverter Generator Operating Life
An inverter generator will usually last for three to four thousand hours. This can depend on how often you use the generator and the length of use, typical engine load, whether you provide regular maintenance, and the overall quality of the generator. All of these factors will all have an impact on how the generator lasts.
Now, onto solar panels. The solar panels we are talking about are those for RV’s or camping as opposed to residential solar panels. Residential solar panels have a lifespan of twenty-five years, on average.
Solar Panel Lifespan
Portable or fixed solar panels for camping or mounting on vans or RVs tend to have a much shorter lifespan than residential ones since they’re more susceptible to damage. Most outdoor solar panels have a lifespan rating of nine to twelve years, depending on the quality of the panels and whether or not you stay on top of repairs and maintenance. Even when solar panels do last for a long time the cells in panels will start to degrade over time.
As you can see, both types of power sources can last for a significant amount of time, with proper care and maintenance. Read on to learn how you can get the most of out your inverter generator and solar panel setup.
The Longevity of Inverter Generators
How long an inverter generator will last can depend on the make and model, it’s power capability, how well you take care of it, and how often you use it.
Because you can’t get by in today’s world without electricity, inverter generators are among some of the best machines ever made. While these generators can be used in the event of an emergency power outage, they can also be used when you’re traveling across the country in your RV, when you’re camping, or in an emergency. Portable generators typically run off of unleaded gas and can provide enough power to run several devices and appliances at the same time.
However, there is some debate regarding how long these machines can really last.
Generally speaking, generators are not designed to run continuously on a permanent basis. Instead, they’re utilized as a source of backup power. Some inverter generators are designed to provide continuous power for ten to twelve hours, while others can only work for two to four hours per tank of fuel. However, these generators should never be used to run for a period of several weeks or months without a break. A portable generator requires fuel in the form of unleaded gas and when that tank runs dry, the generator will usually shut down completely and automatically, in order to prevent serious damage.
Can An Inverter Generator Last a Lifetime?
Some of the leading inverter generators are designed to run for hundreds of hours with no problems. But this doesn’t mean that engine can handle it, even with a constant supply of fuel. Many manufacturers currently cover their generators for a period of just two to five years. Typically, manufacturers that provide a product warranty also offer maintenance services or repairs if your generator has up and died with no explanation. But most manufacturers also admit that these machines really aren’t designed to last a lifetime.
Moderately priced models even come with an hour life rating that ranges from two to six thousand hours. This means the manufacturer guarantees that their generators will last for a specific amount of hours. While this is merely a suggestion in terms of the longevity of the generator, the true lifespan of any given model will depend on many factors.
Just keep in mind these machines are definitely not designed to run continuously for the guaranteed amount of hours.
The fact remains that most generators will only last for a period of three to four thousand hours. This is excellent if you only use the generator for RV’ing or camping, but not so much if you need to solely rely on an inverter generator in the event of a widespread power outage for a week or two.
If you’re in the market for a new portable generator, check out our our portable inverter generators recommendations. In this guide you’ll find information regarding what types of applications these generators are able to handle, the average runtime you can expect, and the other features these machines have to offer.
The Lifespan of Solar Panels
Now, before we delve into how long solar panels can last and why it’s important to mention that we will cover solar panels on homes and solar panels on RVs. The solar panels on RVs will not last quite as long as the solar panels on homes. This is due to the amount of wear and tear that comes with driving across the country, on freeways, where the solar panels are exposed to the elements and falling and flying debris. Additionally, the solar panels on homes are more durable than the solar panels in an RV solar panel kit.
With solar panels that are installed on the roof of your home, these panels have an average lifespan of twenty-five years or more. However, this doesn’t mean after that period of time the panels stop producing electricity. It typically means that the panels will stop working as efficiently as they used to.
This also applies to the solar panels on RVs. These panels usually have a lifespan of nine to twelve years. However, they can last a couple of decades with proper care and maintenance.
Both types of solar panels will experience some level of degradation rate each year. The energy system degradation rate tends to vary from brand to brand and model to model. Whether the panels are installed on your RV or your house and the climate in which they’re exposed to will also have an impact on cell degradation.
What is Cell Degradation?
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, also referred to as the NREL, some panels will experience an impressive degradation rate of just 0.3% a year. Lower priced solar panels usually have a degradation rating of 0.8% or more.This means, on average, if you purchase a set of solar panels then you can expect at least an average degradation rate of around 0.5%. This means that the solar panels will function at about eighty-eight percent after their warranty expires. Most sets of solar panels come with a warranty that ranges from five to twenty-five years depending on the manufacturer and solar panel type.
Maintenance Can Extend the Life of Your Solar Panels
While modern solar panels are more efficient and reliable compared to solar panels of the past, they still require routine maintenance in order to perform efficiently. This means you have to stay on top of keeping them clean, making repairs, and removing debris. If your solar panels aren’t exposed to damage caused by falling debris due to high winds, then, with proper care, they can potentially last for decades.
To be on the safe side, we’ll say that the RV solar panels should last approximately nine to twelve years with proper care and maintenance, while the heavy-duty solar panels that are installed on roofs have an average lifespan of about twenty-five years, with proper care and maintenance.
Protecting Your Solar Panels
If you leave your solar panels outdoors year round, without any type of protection, then it will be at the mercy of the elements. If you don’t stay on top of maintenance, then the solar panels will be more susceptible to failure.
If you want to properly care for your solar panels and extend their life, check out the following tips:
- The best way you can ensure your solar panels last for the long haul is to stay on top of wiping them down throughout the year. If your solar panels are mounted on an RV that is left parked in your driveway during the off-season, it’s exposed to inclement weather, dirt, rocks, debris, and bird droppings. If you allow dirt to build up on the panels, it can make its way inside the panel housing. While the panels won’t need as much maintenance and care like they do when you’re traveling, make it a point to spray down the panels once a month, even when not in use.
- For RV’s, buy an RV cover. A cover will not only keep your RV looking great, but it will also help to provide additional protection to the solar panels, especially if you live in a part of the country that experiences harsh winters or high winds.
- For van or other vehicle owners, park the vehicle in a garage whenever possible when not in use. There are high quality car covers as well as van covers on the market, but be sure they have enough clearance to cover the vehicle and the solar panels.
- Install plexiglass panels over the solar panels if you’re concerned about water damage.
To learn more about solar panel protection during the off-season, click here to read our article on how to protect solar panels from hail.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. There are a few great options out there. One model line worth consideration is Renogy’s Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panels. The extremely flexible panels are designed to withstand extreme wind of up to 2400 Pa and snow loads of up to 5400 Pa.
Being flexible, they are also very easy to mount temporarily or permanently on an RV, boat or SUV. Their flexibility makes them easily storable for portable applications as well.
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, also referred to as the NREL, some panels will experience an impressive degradation rate of just 0.3% a year. Lower priced solar panels usually have a degradation rating of 0.8% or more.
This means, on average, if you purchase a set of solar panels then you can expect at least an average degradation rate of around 0.5%. This means that the solar panels will function at about eighty-eight percent after their warranty expires. Most sets of solar panels come with a warranty that ranges from five to twenty-five years depending on the manufacturer and solar panel type..