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What Makes for a Good Solar Warranty?

by: Jesse Feinberg
Posted on: November 12, 2018

If you’re going solar, make sure you get a good solar warranty.  Aside from the obvious benefit of a warranty – to protect you against manufacturing defects as well as premature wear and tear – a good warranty is validation that a solar system is built to last.

What makes for a good solar warranty?  Let’s discuss the key considerations.

A good solar warranty gives you confidence in your solar system

If someone offers you a 25-year solar warranty, what they’re really saying is, “Your system’s going to be in good shape for 25 years.”  If there were a high likelihood of major problems inside of 25 years, then that 25-year warranty couldn’t be offered – it would be too expensive to service.

On the other hand, if someone offers you a 10-year solar warranty, what does that say about the likelihood of major problems after year 10?

A good solar warranty covers both equipment and power

Many companies claim to offer a 25-year solar warranty, but do they actually?

In many cases, an advertised “25-year warranty” only covers the power, not the equipment, for 25 years.  The equipment is covered by a separate, shorter warranty (usually 10 or 12 years).  Confusing, right?

For example, consider the power warranty for Hanwha Q-CELLS: “…for a period of twenty-five (25) years…the Peak Power Output…of the mono PV modules will not reduce to less than eighty-three percent (83%) of the label power output classification.”

But the equipment warranty is different: “If, during a period of twelve (12) years from the ‘Warranty Start Date’, the PV modules fail to conform to the warranty…then Hanwha Q CELLS will, at its sole discretion, either repair or replace…”

Let’s break down what that means.  A power warranty limits degradation of the solar system.  The Hanwha power warranty says that the system’s power can degrade no faster than 2.5% in year 1 and then 0.6% each year thereafter.  So, a 10.00 kW system at install can be no less powerful than 9.75 kW in year 1 and 8.30 kW by year 25.  So far, sounds reasonable.

But, that power warranty only applies if the system is still working!  If the system breaks in year 13 after the 12-year equipment warranty has expired, that power warranty won’t do you much good.

The take-away: Don’t settle for a “25-year” solar warranty that doesn’t also cover the equipment (and especially not for equipment subject to harsh northern Illinois winters).

A good solar warranty covers panels, inverters, and racking

Suppose you’ve got a 25-year solar warranty that covers both power and equipment.  So far, so good.

But, which equipment does the warranty cover?  Most people think about solar panels first, because they’re the most visible part of the system, but what about the inverter(s) and the racking?  Your system won’t work if the inverter malfunctions, and it won’t work if the racking breaks.

Because most solar installers combine equipment from different manufacturers (panels from one company, inverters from second, racking from a third), the warranties are rarely all 25 years.  You may have 25 years on the panels, 12 years on the inverters, and fewer still on the racking.

What you really want is a warranty that covers all of these parts for the full 25 years.  Otherwise you’re going out of pocket in year 13 or 18 or 22 for a $2,000 (+ installation) replacement inverter.  Does your system have multiple inverters?  Then multiply the costs.

A good solar warranty includes labor and shipping

Last but not least, don’t settle for a solar warranty that doesn’t include labor and shipping.  It’s good to have the parts paid for, but if you have to pay to ship a pallet of panels from California to Illinois, you’re not going to be happy about it.  And then, if you have to pay even more for them to be installed on your roof, you’re going to be doubly unhappy.  Don’t let these hidden costs turn your solar experience into a burden.

Introducing the 25-Year SunPower Complete Confidence Warranty

Comparing solar warranties can be tricky.  What do they cover?  For how many years?  Are the inverters covered?  What about shipping?  SunPower makes it very simple.

Inspires confidence?  Check.

Covers power and equipment?  Check.

Covers panels, inverters, and racking?  Check.

Includes labor and shipping?  Check.

Read more about the 25-Year SunPower Complete Confidence Warranty.

by: Jesse Feinberg
Jesse is Certasun's Vice President of Sales & Marketing.



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