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How Safe is Your Solar Panel Warranty?

Author
Tom Sedgwick
Updated at
Reading time
3 min

You notice a few of your panels aren’t performing as they should, but not to worry, you remember your solar system came with a 25-year warranty.

You dial the number of your installer, but nobody picks up. It turns out the company has gone out of business. The peace of mind that came with getting a solar system backed by a warranty turns into frustration as you realise you have been left high and dry.

Unfortunately, the scenario above is far too common and we often get calls from people desperately trying to get help after their original installer has gone bust.

In fact, it is estimated an incredible 1 in 3 solar systems are what we call ‘orphans’, where the installer and/or the manufacturer has gone out of business. If you’re not careful you could be joining 1 in 3 solar households known as Solar Orphans that have no support from the company that installed it.

Why is this happening in Australia of all places?

Well, unfortunately, anything that is Government-subsidised opens the door for companies looking to make a quick buck from consumers

Solar power is an amazing technology and incredibly efficient when installed by qualified and experienced installers.

Look at how many manufacturers are no longer operating in Australia compared to just a few years ago:

Grid Version Cheap Solar Companies Don't Last

On top of this, since 2011, more than 750 solar installation companies have gone into liquidation or stopped trading.

This is why it is essential to avoid the allure of cheap solar; systems that are often backed by hollow promises and unreliable products, or a quote that appears to be for the same system but is much cheaper than other quotes.

There are various factors you need to consider when looking at the warranties that come with your system. Below we will outline the various warranties that come with a solar system so that you can ask the right questions before you decide on both a system and an installer.

Solar Panel Warranties

When choosing solar panels for your home or business it is important to use panels from the industries leading manufacturers.

The solar panel manufacturers we recommend is 1KOMMA5°, Trina Solar and REC Solar. These solar panels are consistently voted by the industry as the best solar panels in Australia. Not only are their panels better quality, but they also have better output in all weather conditions and they are backed by a 25-year product warranty.

So how do you minimise your risk and make sure your investment is secure for the next 25 to 30 years? It’s actually never been easier. As illustrated in the graph above, there are now only a few dozen solar manufacturers selling solar panels in Australia, and of these, we recommend 1KOMMA5°, Trina Solar and REC Solar.

Otherwise, opt for a manufacturer that has:

  • A strong financial position

  • An Australian Office – this may end up being your point of contact if your installer goes out of business, so make sure it’s more than just a serviced office in the CBD with a telephone and a receptionist.

  • Established supply chains with Australia’s largest distributors, or even better a company that is large enough to deal directly with the top installers

  • A global portfolio of large-scale solar projects (the required due diligence on these projects ensures the best solar panels are selected)

  • A large manufacturing base that is vertically integrated (rather than just an assembler)

  • An established Research and Development department

If you are trying to compare panels, we recommend giving the 1KOMMA5° Team a call on 1300 525 451.

If you buy cheap brands, there are two main things that we see happening over and over again. Either the output isn’t what it should be, or the components simply break and need to be replaced. It’s rare for a cheap system to show any signs of trouble in the first year or two (by which time you have left a glowing review of the system), but it is at around the three to four year mark (just when you are getting your money back) that things start to go wrong.

This is where many people find out why some of these systems are so cheap. Not only does the system break, but there is no customer support or any way to make a warranty claim.

Panel Performance Warranty

The solar panel performance warranty is typically 25 years. But what is a panel performance warranty?

It refers to the energy-producing capability of your panels as the output from solar panels slowly drops off over time. Most suppliers guarantee around 80% production capability after 25 years, while the top panels typically guarantee around 90% output after 25 years.

This warranty ensures you are getting the output that you paid for. Importantly, however, other aspects of product malfunction like defects are not included in the panel performance warranty, so if your panels break or stop working this would need to be covered by the product warranty.

Panel Product Warranty

A solar panel’s product warranty covers the panel itself. It covers defects and issues with the panel. Typically a panel’s product warranty is either 10 or 12 years. 

Make sure to get clarification on the length of the product warranty as customers can incorrectly assume the materials are covered for a full 25 years, which usually isn’t the case unless you opt for panels from suppliers like 1KOMMA5°, Trina Solar and REC Solar.

Inverter Warranty

The inverter converts power from direct current (DC) to alternative current (AC) that can be used inside your home.

Generally, inverters are covered by a five-year warranty, and if you register your inverter online most of the top manufacturers will extend the warranty to 10 years for you. It is sometimes also possible to pay for a warranty extension. 

This extended warranty can be very important. In the last few years, we have started replacing a lot of cheap inverters from other installers that don’t offer a replacement service. It typically costs around $2000-$3000 to replace a broken inverter with a good quality inverter, not something you want to do if the system is only a few years old, or out of warranty at the 5-6 year mark.

The best option in terms of choosing an inverter that will last a lot longer than these cheaper string inverters is to look at Enphase Microinverters. As a platinum Enphase Installer, all microinverters installed by 1KOMMA5° come with a 15-year product warranty. We have a blog post on the reliability of microinverters here.

Installation Warranty

A solar installation in Australia is guaranteed by your installer, not the company who manufacturers the panels. Typically, these last from a couple of years up to 10 years, however nearly all issues will be apparent within a few months of the system being installed.

The type of issues covered by an installation guarantee can include broken tiles, a leak in the roof when it rains, or the mounting kit squeaking in high winds.

You should be able to pick up the phone at any time and get in contact with the installer. This is also why it is important to deal with an installer that has a dedicated service department. With smaller installers, we have heard of service jobs taking months to get fixed, something you can’t afford to put up with if the system has been turned off in the meantime.

We also know of solar companies passing off the responsibility of the installation to sub-contracted installers. This can make it very difficult to get things fixed, especially if you have only been dealing with the solar company when purchasing the system.

Make sure you ask about the length of the installation warranty and get a good idea of what it covers. Some companies may also charge call-out fees of $200 or more just to take a look at your system.

Here at 1KOMMA5°, we give our customers a direct line to our support team and we offer free technical support when needed.

In the unlikely event that a warranty claim is required, we service warranty claims at no cost to you. This is worth many hundreds of dollars, but we don’t charge extra for this. It is a part of the service we included with every 1KOMMA5° Installation, and it’s one of the main reasons we are voted by the world’s largest solar companies as the best installer in Australia.

What To Do If You Have Any Issues? 

If you notice your panels aren’t performing as expected or issues keep cropping up, the first step is to contact your installer. They’ll have all of the installation and warranty information at hand to safely and effectively direct you towards a solution.

Safety is always of paramount concern so always make sure to follow the advice of your installer. If you don’t have an Enphase system this will often mean turning the system off until it is fixed.

For more information contact the 1KOMMA5° Team today on 1300 525 451.

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