Solar Panel Warranties: What Installers Need To Know
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
When going solar, customers invest tens of thousands of dollars. Typically, the most expensive equipment on a solar system is solar panels. But the job of a solar panel is not easy.
They are in the sun day after day, exposed to large temperature swings and extreme weather events. Depending on the climate, solar PV modules must endure hail, ice storms, and even hurricane-strength winds.
Solar panel warranties and homeowner’s insurance can help protect your customer’s investment in solar energy. Let’s explore this important topic so you can pass relevant information along to solar shoppers.
What Is A Solar Panel Warranty?
Solar warranties sometimes vary a decent amount between photovoltaic module manufacturers. Typically, premium panels offer longer product warranties and higher power performance guarantees. Many solar companies sell both a value panel and a premium panel, so customers can choose which one they want. The biggest difference between value and premium panels is usually the efficiency of the solar cells.
In general, there are three different types of warranties that cover solar panels. Also, homeowners insurance is an option to cover damage from weather, fires, or vandalism.
Solar Panel Performance Guarantees
PV modules are exposed to the elements every day. As they age, they gradually become less efficient in converting sunlight into solar electricity due to light-induced degradation.
Power performance warranties ensure that PV panels produce a certain percentage of their original capacity during a certain period. A common power performance guarantee is that the panels will generate at least 90% of their initial capacity for 10 years and 80% for 25 years. This is the percentage of the maximum power output as specified by the manufacturer.
In some cases, the guarantees vary by the product line of a given solar panel manufacturer. For example, the Jinko Tiger N-type panel has a lower rate of light-induced degradation and the power performance guarantee spans 30 years instead of 25. Therefore, the warranty on these panels is at a higher level than other panels that Jinko produces.
Understanding these warranties can be a bit difficult to decipher without a basic understanding of how they work. The guarantee is generally stated as a percentage of the nominal power in the first year and then a yearly decrease in power up to a certain percentage.
For example, Q Cells states 98% nominal power in the first year and then nominal decrease in output is not to exceed 0.5% annually from years 2 to 25. To calculate this, remember that the nominal power in year one is calculated differently than in years 2 to 25. Therefore, the minimum nominal power after 25 years is 86%. To calculate this: 0.86 = 0.98 - (24 x 0.005)
If you want to calculate the nominal power output after 11 years is: 0.93 = 0.98 - (10 x 0.005)
Keep in mind that sometimes solar panels underperform because they need to be cleaned. Heavily soiled modules can produce less electricity because the solar radiation is blocked.
Solar Module Product & Materials Warranties
These cover the integrity of the solar panels and protect against solar defects. Although most major module manufacturers offer equipment warranties for at least 10 or 12 years, some premium panel manufacturers or lines have longer protection, such as a 20- or even 25-year warranties.
Gradually, some manufacturers have been offering longer product warranties. Just 5 years ago, few offered product warranties of 25 years. Now it is relatively common. Be careful to not assume that the warranty product is consistent across various models from the same manufacturer. In fact, the product warranty varies and is longer with some panels compared to others. Sometimes, higher-performance models may have longer warranty periods.
Some manufacturers offer the option to extend the warranty period. For example, Silfab offers a standard 12-year warranty with the option to extend it to 25 years when using a registered and approved Silfab installer.
Duration of Product Warranty (in Years)
Power Performance Guarantee Over 25 Years
* Minimum, warranty period length varies by the series
Although most solar PV panels comes with warranties, they typically only cover the equipment and not the labor associated with swapping out the module. Many solar panel repairs are fairly involved and require solar technicians going to the roof, removing panels, then mounting and wiring them.
Typically, solar companies offer their own labor and service warranties. These warranties vary considerably between installers, but often last 3 – 10 years. This information is usually written on the proposal and clearly stated to potential customers. Offering no labor and service warranty could be a disadvantage, making your solar company less appealing to potential customers.
What Do Solar Panel Warranties Cover?
Solar manufacturers offer warranties for the vast majority of solar products on the market. However, what’s covered varies by the manufacturer and the type of equipment.
Basically, solar panel warranties protect against defects from the manufacturer and premature light-induced degradation. Manufacturers will commonly warranty claims by either remedying the issue, replacing the panel, or refunding the original purchase price of the module.
Keep in mind that proper installation is critical to avoid damage to the solar panels. For example, ensure that the racking system can handle the wind load of the project site. Also, it is vital to determine if it is indeed the solar panel that failed or perhaps the issue is related to the inverter or power optimizer.
Beware that there are many things that can void solar panel warranties, such as altering the panels, improper installation, or faulty equipment. Unfortunately, many manufacturers do not protect against hail, lightning, vandalism, and fire, but homeowners insurance can protect your customer’s investment.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Or A Home Warranty Cover Solar Panels?
Typically, solar equipment warranties don’t protect your clients fully from the unexpected. Thankfully, most homeowners policies do cover solar power systems, but clients should confirm this with their agent. Also, it might be necessary to increase the policy’s limit to ensure that the PV system is adequately covered.
For commercial solar installations, commercial property insurance can cover clean energy systems. Likewise, it is critical for your clients to ensure that the solar installation is covered and that the policy has adequate coverage.
Typical Cost Of Solar Warranties
Warranties are included in the cost of purchasing the solar panels. The only exception is the option of extending the warranty, but this option is relatively rare. A more likely scenario is that your clients will need to increase the coverage on their homeowner’s insurance policy which could have a modest impact on their insurance premiums. If your customers do file a homeowner’s insurance claim, they will likely first need to meet the deductible.
For example, if their deductible is $500 and their solar PV system incurred $3,000 in hail damage, their insurance could cover $2,500 of that total.
Why Solar Panel Warranties Are Important
Most solar panel systems cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Although solar systems pay for themselves in savings, this will not happen if the system stops functioning. Solar panel product warranties offer your customers peace of mind that their solar investment is safe. In addition, it’s important to offer a labor, workmanship, and service warranty for at least a few years.
Being able to explain equipment warranties will help with closing solar deals and ensure that your customers are well informed. When procuring solar equipment, consider solar warranties before making a final decision.