Crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules are often stated as being the most reliable element in PV systems. This presumable high reliability is reflected by their long power warranty periods. In agreement with these long warranty times, PV modules have a very low total number of returns, the exceptions usually being the result of catastrophic failures. Up to now, failures resulting from degradation are not typically taken into consideration because of the difficulties in measuring the power of an individual module in a system. However, lasting recent years PV systems are changing from small isolated systems to large grid-connected power stations. In this new scenario, customers will become more sensitive to power losses and the need for a reliability model based on degradation may become of utmost importance. In this paper, a PV module reliability model based on degradation studies is presented. The main analytical functions of reliability engineering are evaluated using this model and applied to a practical case, based on state-of-the-art parameters of crystalline silicon PV technology. Relevant and defensible power warranties and other reliability data are obtained with this model based on measured degradation rates and time-dependent power variability. In the derivation of the model some assumptions are made about the future behaviour of the products—i.e. linear degradation rates—although the approach can be used for other assumed functional profiles as well. The method documented in this paper explicitly shows manufacturers how to make reasonable and sensible warranty projections. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.