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The Palmetto Guide to Understanding and Comparing Solar Warranties

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Solar companies offer warranties for their solar panels and related equipment since consumers want assurances and guarantees on such a large purchase. However, most solar warranties can be a little confusing for the average person to understand, as they contain complicated technical and legal jargon.

When investing in solar, it’s important to understand the difference between the manufacturer's warranties, and what your solar installation company guarantees. This post provides a thorough walkthrough of the different solar warranty offerings, including their coverage details, length, and typical benefits, so you can make an informed decision about what’s right for your needs.

An Introduction To The Solar Panel Warranty

A solar panel warranty is a guarantee that a solar panel manufacturer or solar panel installer gives a customer, offering protection for panel reliability, production output, and more. Warranties provide financial security for consumers, as they can protect your solar panel system from defects, performance issues, or other concerns.

Thus, every purchase of solar equipment and installation services typically includes some kind of solar warranty. The details of that warranty can be an important part of the decision when comparing systems and manufacturers before you make a purchase.

What's In The Average Solar Panel Warranty?

Most manufacturers offer a standard solar warranty on their products, but the coverage provided in these contracts can vary. By understanding the standard features of a solar panel warranty, and the period of coverage, you can better determine the right solar power warranty for your needs.

Before committing to a manufacturer, you should read all of the fine print and review these details:

  1. Solar panel performance warranty: Usually 25 years
  2. Solar panel product warranty: Typically 5 or 10 years
  3. Inverter warranty: Usually 5 years
  4. Installation warranty: Typically 1 or 2 years, but up to 10 years in some cases

Is A Solar Panel Warranty Transferable?

If you buy your equipment, the solar power warranty is usually transferable to the new homeowner if you sell your home. You may need to take steps to ensure the transfer of the warranty goes smoothly, so if you’re thinking of selling your home, contact your solar warranty provider and let them know about your plans to find out what’s needed.

If you lease your equipment, the warranty will usually be transferred to the new owner when they take over the lease. However, if you buy out the remainder of the lease before selling your home, the situation can be more complicated. We recommend you contact your solar lease warranty company to find out the specifics of what will happen.

What Does a Solar Panel Warranty NOT Cover?

A few big-ticket items are not typically covered by most solar warranties:

  • A guarantee of a specific amount of solar production from your system
  • The cost of labor to diagnose and replace equipment, or the shipping costs to get replacements on site
  • Damage to solar panels due to power failure or surges, fire, flood, direct or indirect lightning strikes, or other acts of nature
  • Damage caused by accidental breakage, explosions, vandalism, acts of war, or other events outside the manufacturer's control

Additionally, some warranties include labor costs, while others offer labor at a separate charge. If labor is not covered, you may need to pay your solar installer to get on your roof, remove the old panels, and install new equipment.

How to Compare Solar Panel Warranties

When examining the contents of a solar warranty, we recommend asking the following questions to get into the specifics:

  • What happens if something breaks?
  • What time period is covered by the installation warranty?
  • What is the average response time if I need work done?
  • Can the warranty be transferred to another person if they buy my home?
  • Is the warranty an additional or ongoing/recurring cost?
  • Is there a limit on the number of warranty claims that can be made?
  • Who is responsible for each system component?
  • Do you offer a "replacement" warranty for inverters?
  • Is there any warranty on the components you’ll use on your installation?
  • What happens if my solar panel system doesn't produce the amount of energy specified in the proposal?
  • What do I do if one or more of the manufacturers of my components goes out of business?

What's The Difference Between A Performance Warranty And A Product Warranty?

There are two main types of solar warranties: performance warranty and product warranty. A performance warranty is a guarantee that the total system output will not drop below a specified degradation percentage. A product warranty guarantees the solar panel's capability to produce energy, and it’s also known as a lifespan warranty.

What is a Performance Warranty?

A solar panel performance warranty guarantees that a home solar panel installation will meet or exceed a baseline of electric power output over the panels' lifetime and warranty period.

Solar panel output production will naturally degrade during its lifespan, though typically not more than 10-20% over 25 years, and usually by around 0.5% to 1% for each year of service. Thus, a standard performance guarantee might be at least 90% production for the first ten years, and at least 80% for up to 25 years.

A performance warranty would kick in if the panel’s production dropped below these figures within the specified time frame. If this occurred, most warranty providers will repair or replace the problematic panel(s).

Linear vs Step Warranty

Most companies offer a linear warranty, which means that the amount of guaranteed production decreases by a constant rate year-over-year. For example, it might be 98% the first year, then 97% the second year, then 96% the third year, and so on.

Some manufacturers offer a step warranty, where the amount of production is guaranteed to be above a certain level for a specific period, and then above a lower level for the remainder of that panel’s lifespan. For example, it might be 90% for the first 10 years of the panel’s life, and then it “steps down” to 80% for the remaining 15 years.

What is a Product Warranty?

A product warranty is often called a lifespan, equipment, or material warranty. The solar lifespan warranty covers the actual panels against defects, equipment failure, and environmental issues that may cause the panel to stop producing electricity. Most manufacturers give 10- to 12-year equipment warranties, and some premium warranties cover the full system for as long as 25 years.

Solar panels are designed to be very durable, but unexpected problems do sometimes occur. Typically, the product warranty will cover the cost of replacing one or more faulty panels with new panels for issues such as faulty wiring, corrosion, and premature wear. 

Combined Product and Performance Warranties

Some solar panel manufacturers offer warranties that unite performance and product. Such warranties cover the degradation of key performance characteristics and guarantee the minimum performance level over the warranty period. Be sure to review the details of each part of the combined warranty, and verify that the contract meets your needs.

What Is The Average Length Of A Solar Panel Warranty?

A 25-year performance warranty is the industry standard for top-tier solar panel manufacturers. Material warranties can be shorter, and while 10 years is fairly typical, that number can vary by manufacturer.

Here is a breakdown of the warranties provided by four of the top solar manufacturers:

Company Length Annual Degradation Performance Warranty
Q CELLS 25 Years < .54% > 85.00%
Panasonic 25 Years < .26% > 90.76%
SunPower 25 Years < .30% > 92.00%
LG 25 Years < .40% > 90.02%

What Can Void A Solar Panel Warranty?

When using your solar panels, you must follow the terms and conditions of your sales contract. You may void your warranty if:

  • You install the panels yourself.
  • An unregistered contractor installs the solar panels.
  • An unlicensed worker makes repairs to your system.
  • The solar panels are repaired without the company's authorization.
  • Tampering occurs without the company's knowledge.
  • You hire a different company other than the original installer to do the repairs.
  • The solar panels are subject to extreme chemical exposure.
  • You fail to maintain your solar panels correctly.

For a more complete list, be sure to ask the sales representative from your solar installer for details about the specific causes and conditions that might nullify your product or performance warranty on your solar panels.

Does Homeowners Insurance Offer The Same Coverage As A Solar Panel Warranty?

In most situations, solar panel installations are considered a permanent attachment to a home. Thus, many homeowners insurance policies provide some overlapping coverage, so you might not need a separate solar power warranty for certain issues.

However, you should still determine whether or not your current homeowners’ insurance provides enough coverage. In many cases, the homeowners’ insurance might cover against panel failure, but not against expected levels of performance, as one example.

You should compare the coverage offered by a separate solar power warranty against adding your solar panels to your current homeowner's policy. There may be gaps in coverage that make it necessary to buy additional coverage for maximum protection.

Will A Solar Panel Warranty Really Help Me?

Solar panels are designed to withstand extreme climate conditions, but problems can still happen, so a warranty provides essential financial protection for solar equipment consumers.

The Benefits of a Solar Warranty

A solar power warranty isn't like a short-term warranty for a new smartphone or another electronic device. These warranties give you long-term security for a significant investment in your home, including:

#1. Peace of Mind: Alleviate concerns about costly repairs to your solar panels. 

#2. Convenient Help: Just make a call or send an email to request repairs.

#3. Long-Term Cost-Effectiveness: Reducing the long-term repair costs can lead to big savings.

#4. Incentive to Home Buyers: More and more buyers want homes with solar panels already installed, and a warranty ensures that any unexpected problems will be covered.

Does A Solar Panel Warranty Cover Other Parts Of My Solar Power System?

The typical solar power warranty covers most parts of the system, including inverters, racking, and other equipment:

  • Most solar energy inverters have a 10- to 25-year warranty.
  • Racking often comes with a 10- to 20-year warranty on material defects.

If you add solar storage to your system, most solar batteries come with a separate 5- to 10-year warranty.

However, you should always double-check with your manufacturer to confirm the specific terms of their coverage.

Guarantee Your Equipment With A Solar Warranty

Once you get a free solar savings estimate, the next step is often to review what’s covered by a solar warranty.

Solar panel manufacturers offer long-term warranties on solar panels to prove the strength and durability of their products, and to provide consumers with confidence in their investment. It's essential to learn what goes into a solar system warranty and what does not, so you know how to compare and contrast competing warranties.

Taking the time to research your warranty and become familiar with the different options available for your needs can help make sure you’re covered if something happens. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Solar panel warranties protect your monetary investment and the actual hardware.
  • Panels typically come with a 25-year performance warranty. 
  • Solar panels also come with a product warranty that typically lasts for 10 to 25 years.
  • You should examine any warranty you plan to purchase to know what is covered and what can void it.
  • Warranties are cost-effective, can increase a home's resale value, and give you peace of mind.

In addition, you may also want to consider a protection plan like Palmetto Protect to complement the coverage provided by your warranty. With real-time energy monitoring, one-click customer support, comprehensive energy recommendations, and best-in-class service, your system can run at peak efficiency while your mind can rest at ease. This service is available to any homeowner with a solar power system, even if another solar company installed it.

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