What Exactly Are Solar Panel Warranties?
A solar panel warranty is a guarantee from your solar PV company, be it a manufacturer or installer, that guarantees the panel reliability and production output of your solar panel. A warranty ensures that if your solar PV system breaks or malfunctions during it lifespan, the manufacturer and/or the installer will compensate you for the damages.
Warranties in the solar industry are of two main types. They are:
- Performance Warranties
- Workmanship Warranties (also called Product Warranties)
Workmanship or Product warranties cover solar panels against potential equipment failures, environmental problems, and panel defects.
Performance warranties, on the other hand, protect the customer from drops in power output. This ensures that panels maintain a minimum output over a given set of years.
Typical warranties run from 10 – 25 years, depending on the type(s) of protection provided and on the provider. Warranties are an essential part of any Solar PV system. They provide vital financial security to the end user and should be thoroughly examined and compared by every customer. Before making any purchases, customers should discuss warranties extensively with their solar providers.
Why Do You Need Solar Panel Warranties?
Solar panels are getting cheaper as time goes by, and by all projections, this trend will continue. There is no denying the fact that the market is moving towards cheaper and better panels. However, the fact of the matter is that modern solar panels are still rather expensive pieces of equipment, and they are designed to last well over a decade at least, and as much as over two decades in many cases. They are designed to withstand the elements and maintain a reasonable level of output throughout their lives. Modern solar panels truly are a marvel of science, but they are not immune to failure. On the contrary, they can fail from time to time, and can be expensive to repair. So, instead of being stuck with a hefty repair fee for a hefty panel, customers are better off getting a warranty. This will not only give them peace of mind but will also ensure that their substantial investments are protected.
What is Covered in Your Solar Panel Warranty?
So, what exactly does your solar panel warranty cover? Depending on the aforementioned warranties, there are two areas covered by solar panel warranties. They are as follows:
Performance warranties cover solar panel outputs. They cover for failures in a solar panel’s output. Solar panels must meet or exceed a minimum baseline of electrical production throughout its lifespan. Degradation of performance is natural, and panels will invariably degrade over their lifespans. However, panels must not lose more than 10-20% of their generation capacity over the years. Ideally, a panel will lose no more than 0.5-1% of its capacity a year. So, within the first 10 years of its life, a panel will generate 90% of its rated output. This number will drop to 80% for the next 10-15 years.
Performance warranty kicks in if panels drop below this baseline. The company will step in and replace or fix the defective panels.
A product warranty (also called a workmanship warranty) addresses defective equipment in solar panels. This type of warranty covers hardware failures or production defects.
Solar panels are durable. They are made to last as much as 25 years, and newer panels are pushing this boundary ever more. That is why solar panel companies have no qualms about offering product warranties of as much as 10-12 years for their panels. Some companies offer premium warranties for as long as 25 years.
So, what do these warranties cover? In most cases, a production warranty will cover defective panels, panels that suffer from premature wear, faulty wiring, and corrosion. Some warranties cover labour costs, and it’s best to make sure you know whether yours does or does not. If labour cost is covered, you won’t have to pay anything to get faulty panels replaced. If labour cost is not covered, then you will potentially have to pay hundreds of dollars to get a company to replace your panel. But at least you won’t have to pay for the new panel!
It is often best practice to understand what is covered and be aware of any limitations in your warranty to avoid unwanted surprises.
Warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For Tier-1 manufacturers, the industry standard is a 25-year performance warranty. Product warranties are typically shorter, with 10 years being the standard. Nonetheless, this number will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
It is best to keep in mind that warranties are not uniform. Some companies, for instance, will only cover shipping, handling, and installation, while others will cover your PV system for its lifespan. And while solar panels are reliable and robust pieces of hardware, they are by no means invincible. It is often best to ante up and pay for a warranty than to be stuck with a massive repair bill. Remember: the idea behind solar panels is to save money.
On the bright side, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found in a recent study that 4 out of 5 solar panels tend to outperform their slated warranties. This means that you can expect your panel to produce even after 25 years of life.
Be Wary of the Company!
Before investing in a solar PV system, be sure to study the company and look at its financial health. A Bloomberg Tier-1 Ranking is usually an excellent indicator of a company’s health. Remember that a warranty is only as good as a company’s ability to honour it! If a company offers you a comprehensive and favourable warranty but goes out of business within 25 years, you’re left with a useless warranty.
What Makes a Warranty Void?
Follow the guidelines. A warranty will remain intact if you install, operate, and maintain your system as per the guidelines. Any amount of tinkering or using the system for unintended purposes will void your warranty. Be sure the installer knows about the system size, the inverter size, the battery size (if any) that need to go with your panels. If the system produces more energy than the inverter can handle, it may short-circuit your entire system!
A rule of thumb is to never use an unlicensed company or individual to maintain or repair your solar PV system. Always use licensed installers and workers.
Also, this is self-explanatory but merits mentioning: do not walk on your solar panels. If you damage them by accident or on purpose, your warranty will be void.