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How to Tell Good Solar Warranties from Bad

The solar warranty will be an important factor in choosing which contractor will install your system. Did you know that some solar rebate programs mandate that your system be covered by a written 2-year parts and labor warranty? To cut corners, some sub-par installers may install a cheap inverter that cannot handle the power load and will inevitably fail. Then they will provide a warranty that does not cover inverter failure! As a consumer, you need to be sure you know that EVERY component is covered – and for how long.

 

 

Bare Bones

As with anything for the home, there are two different warranties – one on the parts, as dictated by the manufacturer, and one on the labor, as dictated by the installer. At minimum, you should expect:

  • A manufacturer guarantee of at least 80% output

  • An installer guarantee on “materials and workmanship” for at least 1-2 years

Solar Manufacturer’s Warranty

Your solar power system is made up of many separate components and each one may carry its own separate warranty (much like an automobile). Typically, there will be solar warranties for the PV panels themselves, the batteries and the power inverters.

  • Panels: While the PV cells are very fragile, they are covered by glass panels that are built to withstand inclement weather from strong winds to hail storms. It’s rare for the functional chips to break down, but most solar manufacturers like BP Solar and Yingli Solar offer a comprehensive 20-25 year warranty on this component. In some cases, you may even find 30 year warranties. Most solar manufacturers will also guarantee a minimum of 80% peak power output, guaranteeing up to 90% power output for the first 10-12 years. They also offer a limited “materials and workmanship” warranty for 5 years to protect consumers against defective manufacturing.

  • Batteries: The battery is usually installed with a solar power system to help store the energy produced. This component very rarely needs replacing because it is well-protected and does not have any moving parts. Most solar manufacturers will guarantee batteries for 5-10 years, although most will survive the full 15-year lifespan.

  • Power Inverters: The power inverter is the most expensive part of your system, and unfortunately, the part that is most likely to fail. This complex component is responsible for converting the irradiation electricity into power for your home. They are usually mounted outside the home near your electricity meter. A common rookie mistake is for consumers to install a power inverter that cannot handle the capacity of the solar panels, which causes the inverter to malfunction and may even damage the home. Sometimes installers will use a cheapo inverter to low-ball other solar bidders, but it ends up costing more in the long run when the component fails. A bad power inverter warranty will last 2 years, but a good inverter warranty will cover you for 10-15 years. Top-of-the-line Enphase inverters all come with a 15-year warranty, for example.

Solar Installer’s Warranty

Solar installer warranties range widely, but most will cover at least two years on parts and labor. Some of the top solar installers like Borrego Solar will give you 10 years of parts and labor coverage, however. You want to ask your installer if the initial bid covers your warranty service plan (as some offer this as an additional surcharge). You also want to ask if the warranty covers the removal / shipping / repair / reinstallation of parts. Find out if the installer sends your warranty paperwork to the manufacturer or if you are responsible for that process. Also find out what rights or guarantees you have, should the company go out of business.


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