Most modern solar panels are extremely durable, with peak output measured in decades rather than in years. Even after their warranties expire, most of today’s better panels are expected to only show the slightest decline in efficiency over the course of decades. Needless to say, a well maintained solar array should provide you with plenty of electricity for quite a while.
This durability has made panel manufacturers confident. Today, most of the better panel brands, such as SunPower, offer warranties up to 25 years. And most of the time these warranties cover failure as well as some degree of performance.
But a solar energy system is comprised of much more than panels alone. So if you’re looking to purchase solar, look closely at warranty coverage for every component of the system, as well as the installation coverage offered by the installer. Here are 5 tips to help get you started:
1. More than just panels
Solar energy systems are comprised of many different components. Solar warranties typically cover four main categories – panels, inverters, batteries (if you have them) and installation (labor + materials). Duration and scope of coverage for each category will vary between manufacturers and installers. The panel warranties are generally the longest (up to 25 years), but inverters typically cap out around 10 years. Be sure to ask your installation partner for the full system warranty details at the time of purchase.
2. Know who to call if things go south
Manufacturer warranty repair and replacement is typically handled by an authorized solar installer. Ideally, this should be the same company that sold and installed your system. When shopping, it’s worth finding out about your potential solar partner’s capabilities and longevity. Do they do their own installations or subcontract with other companies? Do they operate their own service department? What are their hours and emergency after-hour resources? Is the company healthy, and will they be around 10 to 25 years down the road? Remember, if properly maintained, a solar energy system will last for many decades, so be sure to choose your partners and products wisely.
3. Warranty and cost-sharing details vary widely
Some manufacturers will exchange a unit at the first sign of trouble, while some prefer to attempt a field repair first. There can also be ancillary expenses, such as shipping fees or removal/re-installation costs, that are not covered by a manufacturer’s core warranty. In these instances, most reputable installers will work with their customers to minimize any inconveniences. This is another good reason to select a reputable partner, and carefully research their installation warranty and reputation.
4. Where warranties fall short, homeowner’s insurance can help
Like most technology in our lives, solar warranties generally do not cover problems resulting from natural disasters, such as fire or hailstorms, or harmful acts like vandalism or neglect. Think of this carefully if you live near a golf course, for example. Sun Valley Solar Solutions always recommends that home owners look into insuring their systems as an extension of their home owner’s policy.
5. Leases can change the rules…a bit
If you choose to purchase solar through a lease, you are essentially buying a warranty for the full period of the lease agreement through the lease holder. In many lease programs, maintenance or performance issues fall to the lease holder rather than the manufacturer (unless the lease holder IS the manufacturer). As many leases have a term of 20 years, it’s important to inquire how the lease program impacts manufacturer’s warranties that may fall short of that timeframe.
This list is hardly comprehensive, but it will hopefully get you on the right track and prepared to ask the right questions. As always, Sun Valley Solar Solutions is here to answer any questions you may have about going solar.
If you're interested in learning more about solar, and how you can put Arizona’s most abundant natural resource to work for you, we invite you to download our complimentary solar whitepaper: Is Solar Right for You? You can also contact one of our solar experts for a custom solar quote.
*This blog has been updated since it's original publication of 10/25/2017.