Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Solar Installation, How Long Will it Last?

Our home like the majority of houses has uPVC framed double glazing. When the house was built in the mid 1960's that wasn't an option, you moved in with standard single glazed wooden framed windows which were hopelessly energy efficient and the frames needed painting on a regular basis to prevent them rotting away.

In the 1990's we did the same as everybody and succumbed to a double glazing sale men's pitch which went something like "Install these and your home will be warm and cosy for the rest of your life." "No more painting, white uPVC frames require no maintenance and will  look good forever."

The reality is that after 20 years we have some windows which have misted up because the seals are leaking, all of the sparkling white plastic is now distinctly grey and technology has made the original installation obsolete. You can choose, triple glazed, argon filled, or low emissity glass units which have an "AAA" list energy efficiency rating. The salesmen told me they will pay for themselves before I know it. It all sound very familiar to the original quote for windows all those years ago, and not too dissimilar to the solar panel salesman last year.

My solar installation has 14 Schuco 190W monocrystalline PV panels rated at 17.25% cell efficiency. The latest offerings from the big Japanese and Chinese manufacturers are now projecting a 20% efficiency whilst using a smaller area to produce the power. We have a 20 sq mtr array which should be generating 2185kWh year. The latest panels with their smaller size, but bigger Wattage and increased efficiency could generate an additional 700kWh pa for the same roof area.

Like our double glazing, we might need to consider that our solar installation which we thought was going to last us for at least 25 years with the possible need to replace the inverter at some stage, MAY actually be making a case that in 10 years time it should be upgraded to a more efficient set-up? Many of us have payback periods which make this a realistic financial scenario at some stage.

It will be interesting to see what reaction your current provider of the FiT payments would make if you were to upgrade your existing system in the future. Would a 20% increase in your output go unnoticed if you didn't report any changes? Would it be put down to global warming? Realistically, many of the installations carried out over the past two years could suffer from a faulty panel or inverter at some stage, whilst most manufacturers offer a guarantee, will they be able to replace the faulty item with an exact copy? I assume we might see a newer and more efficient product being offered as an alternative, what implication would that have on your 25 year guaranteed FiT contract?

Have you considered how long Your systems going to last?


Twitter: (@solaricarus)

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