A solar panel system for your home is no small purchase, so how can you make sure to protect such a big investment? The good news is that top-rated solar panels are designed to withstand heavy winds, punishing rainstorms, mounds of snow, sizzling summers, and freezing winters. In other words, solar panels are pretty durable!
The vast majority of solar panel systems can operate for decades without a problem, but that doesn’t help if you happen to be in the small minority of customer to receive a faulty panel. That is why solar panel warranties should be an important factor in your solar purchase decision. What types of warranties do solar panel manufacturers offer, and how can you effectively evaluate different types of solar warranties?
Why a Solar Panel Warranty Matters
It isn’t exaggerating to say that a solar panel system is a multi-decade investment. But although it might seem like a lot of money, solar panels offer savings in the long run by dramatically lowering or eliminating your monthly electric bill. (They also increase the value of your home!)
The tradeoff of an upfront investment in exchange for net savings over time depends upon a solar system that functions as promised. If your panels fail, or if their efficiency quickly diminishes over the years, then you’ll never get the savings you expected.
A solar panel warranty is a guarantee that your solar system will operate as advertised so that you can enjoy the savings you were promised. Too often, when customers compare different solar panel models, they only look at upfront factor: the efficiency of the panels and the price tag. It’s easy to overlook the value of a warranty because it only comes into play when something goes wrong.
Don’t make this mistake. A warranty is a valuable feature of a solar panel brand and should definitely factor into your solar panel purchase decision.
The Different Types of Solar Panel Warranties
When you start shopping for solar panels, you’ll discover that top-rated solar panels offer more than one type of warranty. The two more common types of warranties are the product warranty, which covers all the parts of the solar panel and the performance warranty, which guarantees a certain level of performance over time.
Additionally, you may be able to snag warranties on other related parts, including a warranty on your system’s inverter and on a solar battery. Let’s look at each of these warranties in more detail.
What Is a Solar Panel Product Warranty?
Solar panels are designed to take a lot of punishment from the environment, but sometimes even they fail. A product warranty (also called a materials warranty), covers the integrity of each of your solar panels.
Product problems can occur as a result of:
- Manufacturing defects (such as faulty wiring)
- Other types of premature wear
- Environmental issues
Many solar panel manufacturers offer 10-year product warranties. Top solar panel companies like Panasonic and LG both offer 25-year product warranties. Consider the added value that longer warranties offer. A typical solar panel would cost you a small amount to replace out-of-pocket. A 25-year warranty protects your solar investment for 15 years longer than a more standard 10-year warranty. In fact, a 25-year warranty will essentially guarantee the integrity of your panels for the life of your roof.
Keep in mind that a 25-year product warranty also signals that a company has extremely high confidence in the quality of their product.
How to Use the Warranty
If you notice that a solar panel or multiple solar panels aren’t working, your first step should be to contact your solar installation company. If they determine that a solar panel is faulty, then it’s time to reach out to the manufacturer. If all goes smoothly, the manufacturer will ship a new panel or panels to you. Ideally, they will also cover shipping and installation costs.
What Is a Solar Panel Performance Warranty?
As with almost all technological products, solar panel performance degrades over time. Each year, a typical solar panel loses about 0.7% of its efficiency. This means that, over time, your solar panel system won’t be able to produce as much electricity as it did in its first years. (Youth is so fleeting!)
Solar panels lose efficiency at a relatively reliable rate, which means that manufacturers are able to anticipate the rate of loss and offer a performance warranty to protect against extreme degradation. Performance warranties guarantee a certain level of performance over a certain amount of time. For example, a typical performance warranty will guarantee 90% of production for 10 years and 80% production for 25 years.
When evaluating a performance warranty, it’s important to also understand the efficiency rate of different solar panel brands. For example, even though Panasonic and KYOCERA solar panels both offer an 80% production warranty over 25 years, Panasonic’s maximum efficiency rate is 21.6%, while KYOCERA’s max efficiency rate is only 16.1%.
How to Use the Warranty
It can be tricky to tell if your solar panels are losing performance at a faster rate than what the warranty guarantees. If you notice a sudden dip in energy production, it’s most likely to be an issue with the panel materials. However, if your panels seem to be producing noticeably less energy over time, then contact your installation company for an assessment. If they feel that performance is the issue, then contact the manufacturer who should provide you with replacement panels. Some manufacturers will cover the shipping and replacement costs.
Other Product Warranties
You may also be able to receive a warranty on your solar system’s inverter and solar battery. An inverter is a device that changes the direct current that your panels produce into an alternating current, which is what all of your electronic devices need to function. Without an inverter, your solar panels would just be odd roof decorations that create a form of energy you couldn’t use!
Inverters typically don’t last as long as solar panels, and most homeowners have to replace a system’s inverter at least once over the life of the system. As a result, inverter warranties tend to cover a shorter time than solar panel product warranties. Most inverter warranties last between five and ten years.
The other type of warranty you may be interested in is a solar battery warranty. Solar batteries are increasing in popularity as they become more reliable and cost-effective. Solar batteries allow you to store the excess energy your panels generate for use at night or during other times your panels aren’t operating at peak efficiency. They can be useful if you live in an area without reliable utility power, or if you are making an effort to live off the grid.
Most battery brands offer a warranty of five to 10 years, and you can expect top solar batteries to last around 15 years.
Don’t Void Your Warranty!
Investing in top-rated solar panels with the best warranties won’t help you one bit if you do something that voids your warranty. Read the fine print of the warranty document to ensure that you don’t put your warranty at risk.
Generally speaking, you may void your warranty if you or an unlicensed worker modify or repair your system, or if you don’t provide basic protections to your system, like cutting back trees. Unrelated mistakes, like stepping on your system while putting up Christmas decorations, also won’t be covered by your warranty!
It’s always a good idea to reach out to your original solar panel installation company if you notice a problem with your system. Make sure that a licensed installer assesses your panels and provides any needed modifications or repair in order to maintain your warranty.
Choose Top Rated Solar Panels with Great Warranties
A solar panel warranty isn’t useful… until it is! That is to say that a warranty can become extremely valuable if something goes wrong with your system. Most systems operate flawlessly, but it’s always smart to have a Plan B just in case. Your warranty is that Plan B. The better the warranty, the more protection you get on your solar investment, so consider paying a little more for top industry warranties.
At Semper Solaris, we work with a wide variety of solar panel brands (unlike many other installation companies that only offer one or two brands). We are happy to provide solar panel recommendations and to help you choose the right solar panel for your roof, budget, and energy needs.
Contact us for a free solar panel assessment today.