When buying solar panels, one important aspect that most of you will want to understand concerns the warranty terms and conditions. However, solar panel warranty is a difficult, yet nebolous issue – some people even call solar panel warranty the curse of the PV industry…
Why is the problem with solar panel warranty?
Can you name one single electronic product that comes with a 10 years product warranty and a 25 years performance warranty?
Even world-leading pacemaker brands only offer max. 7-10 years warranty on its pacemakers. So did solar modules reach the point they’re more reliable and durable than a pacemaker?
We don’t think so…
Most people realize today’s manufacturers probably won’t be around in 25 years. Thus, do PV panel warranties have any serious meaning?
Whom will you contact with your complaint and replacement request regarding a malfunctioning module after 15 years, when the manufacturer is no longer around?
And: if one day you unfortunately have a warranty claim, will you actually be compensated by the manufacturer or will the company seek for tiny loopholes in the warranty certificate to wind out itself from its warranty obligations?
The key to understanding the warranty on your solar power system is considering each component separately. The warranty for a single component of a solar system – and this is no different for solar modules, inverters, batteries and mounting racks – come from the actual manufacturer. Any warranty offered on the complete solar system comes from the solar installer.
Also: solar panel warranties are often misunderstood by buyers as many people neglect the small prints. This is something you should pay specific attention to and ask questions, our advise to you is: get those explanations and/ or clarifications in(signed/ stamped) writing.
Of course, there are a number PV manufacturers that offer valuable warranties, however even these warranties only partly protect you as buyer.
Most warranties offered to solar module buyers can under no circumstance be relied on as a complete safety net.
Why solar panel warranty can not be relied on:
1. The solar panel manufacturer may not be around by the time your PV system is failing.
2. Warranty policies are complex, not sufficiently transparent legal documents that only cover your modules under specific circumstances.
Here are two examples of solar module warranty statements that illustrate to be careful with manufacturer warranties:
Example #1 – Not following the manufacturer’s installation manual will void solar panel warranty.
This is a tricky one, as there are many ways and solutions used to install solar modules. The only way to be safe is to take the installer manual from a manufacturer and follow each step exactly how it is described and document this.
And better you document your installation process to show you did as required by the installer manual.
Common installation mistakes where installers go wrong is:
- Inappropriate sizing and installing too many modules in a string
- Improper grounding
- Wrong number and position of rails / clamps used
- Unqualified technicians to install the system
Once you encounter problems with your solar panels and file a claim with a manufacturer, the manufacturer will – following clarification discussions – and ask for proof of your claim and in larger damage cases even dispatch technical staff or hire a 3rd party inspection company to review the installation. You will want to make sure that any of those defects are not caused by negligence of the installation manual’.
In smaller warranty cases, for example a hand full of affected modules only, you may – depending on how the warranty policy is written – be required to send back the module for replacement on your own cost. This may in many cases actually not be worth the time and money spent and your supplier is aware of this.
Here another sample extract from Yingli Solar’s warranty policy (most manufacturer have this clause in their warranty policy):
“The Limited Warranty does not apply to any PV Modules which have been subjected to Non-observance of Yingli Solar’s Installation and User Manual”.
Amongst those installation guidelines, several manufacturers now also specify the way their products need to be maintained.
Not following the proper maintenance guidelines in the installation manual will void your solar module’s warranty as well.
Example #2 – Exposure to extraordinary salt or chemicals will void solar panel warranty.
This point is extremely important when you’re installing modules in maritime locations near the coast, which will inevitably expose your modules to salt mist. If the salt mist is degrading your solar modules (which it will over time), most manufacturers are not going to cover this. Ask the manufacturer upfront about their exact policy.
Here’s a quote from Trina Solar’s Warranty policy (this clause can be found in nearly all manufacturer’s warranty policies):
…”Limited Warranty” does not apply to any Products which have been subjected to extreme environmental conditions or exposure to corrosion, oxidation”.
The goods news is that certain insurance products can help the solar module buyer reduce risks.
Have you had good or bad experiences with solar panel warranties? Please share with us your experience.