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Not all solar warranties are created equal

Francisco CastroApril 18, 20192890

When installing solar panels in your home, you’re making a financial commitment and to mother nature.

For one, you’ll be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching to solar and reducing the amount of fossil fuel-created electricity that you purchase over the grid, reaping the benefits of sunlight to power your electronics.

And you’re also putting an investment to good use.

But as with any investments, you want some type of warranty and when it comes to solar systems, not all warranties are created equal.

Solar panels are exceptionally durable and dependable. But it doesn’t mean that problems don’t arise.

That’s why evaluating and comparing the product warranty coverage of panel manufacturers can help assure that your service and support needs will be covered if a solar panel problem ever occurs. And with solar panels expected to last between 25-30 years, you have to take a long-term view.
 
Just as you should discuss the quality and other aspects of your solar installation, so you should talk about the warranty of those parts with your solar installer.

Ask how many years your system will be covered, and more importantly, make sure it is a comprehensive warranty (parts, labor, travel). If their warranty is just ‘parts-only’, you might find out the hard way that it takes a lot of labor to diagnose and repair one of the rare solar problems that can occur. 

Different types of warranty

Solar panels come with two types of warranty: performance and equipment.

In terms of performance, over time, the power output of all solar panels diminishes or “degrades.”

Knowing this degradation rate (which is stated in the warranty document) will give you a clear sense of the minimum amount of power you’ll be guaranteed for the first 5, 10 and 25 years of your panels’ life. 

A typical solar panel will lose about 0.6-0.8% efficiency each year. This means your solar panels will not be able to generate the same amount of energy as they did brand new.

For example, the performance guarantee will promise 90 percent of energy production at 10 years and 80 percent at 25, for example. Then, if a panel’s output is lower than promised, the manufacturer will replace, repair or reimburse you for the panel—depending on the warranty terms. 

An equipment warranty covers the panel, inverter, or battery itself and protects you against problems such as manufacturing defects in materials or workmanship: faulty wiring, corrosion, premature wear. If either of these parts stops working after a few months because of a problem, your product warranty will most likely cover it and the company will replace it.

Most solar panel warranties are for 10-15 years; some premium panels will offer a 25-year protection. Inverters are typically guaranteed for 5-10 years. More often than not, you will have to replace an inverter during the lifetime of your solar system. Batteries also carry a similar 5-10 year warranty.

Depending on the configuration of your system, you could end up with different warranties for each individual part from different manufacturers, or one from a single company (if all the parts come from the same manufacturer). 

Sometimes, solar panel manufacturers offer performance and product warranties at different amounts of time. Others offer warranties for the same timeframe. 

The solar installer company you choose may also give you a separate warranty for his services and workmanship covering issues associated with errors or damage during installation, such as faulty connections, roof damage, etc. Workmanship warranties often signify that the installer has a long track record of work and is reliable. 

Voiding your warranty

Your warranty or warranties may be voided if you repair or modify your solar system on your own. To avoid this, consult with your installer first whenever maintenance of your system is needed. 

Hiring a new contractor to work on your solar power system can similarly make the warranty null.

Other reasons may be for not protecting the system problem. For instance, if you fail to cut a branch from a tree that throws shade on your panels or stepping on the system while putting Christmas lights on your roof. 

What to do if a problem arises?

First, call the installer to do a thorough revision of the entire system. If it’s determined that the problem is related to one of the parts or the performance of the time and then contact the manufacturer of the item and communicate the issue. Most likely, they will replace the part, covering shipping and installation costs.  

Caveats

Nothing in life is guaranteed, except for death and taxes. Even solid companies may experience problems and close shop for a number of issues. In that case, your warranty may not be of any use.

Also, don’t forget about the warranty. Solar power systems last for so long that people often don’t remember they have them. Keep the documents associated with your solar system where you keep other important information. 

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