Learn about Power Output Warranties, Inverter Warranties, Installer Warranties
Solar systems have surprisingly few components and are built and installed to handle the elements for decades. However, sooner or later, you will have some parts fail, so before you find yourself in that situation, it’s important to know upfront where you’re covered.
Power Output Warranties
If you’ve been researching solar for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt seen the figures that state the output of specific panels and systems. This number is key when installing your setup and in fact, this is the part of the cell that most manufacturers warranty. A typical name-brand solar cell will have a 1-2 year manufacturer’s warranty, but the long-term warranty (as long as 20-25 years) is there to guarantee that you’ll stay above or around 80% of the quoted power output. Understand that most solar panels are pretty resilient; and barring a tree falling on the roof or a massive hail storm, the panels should stay intact. Make sure as you’re selecting components that you pick a panel with a long warranty on power output and make sure to read the fine print.
Perhaps the most important component in a solar panel system is the inverter. Solar cells soak up energy from the sun, turning it into DC power. Since your house runs on AC power (110-120v in the US), you’ll need an inverter to change the power from DC to AC and to step up to the proper voltage. You can probably understand that since all of the power goes through the inverter before it can be used in your house, having a quality component that’s as efficient as possible is very important. This is not the area in your system where you want to try and save a couple bucks, so go with a name brand unit like Fronius who, for example, offers a 10 year warranty on their inverters with an option to add an additional 5 years for an additional charge.
Finally, you want to make sure that the installer is competent and comes highly recommended (especially if you plan to install it yourself). While the panels themselves are fairly resilient, using cheap wiring or any other number of things that can go wrong during installation will not only result in a less efficient system but could ultimately cause system failure and voided warranties. Most installers will guarantee their work for a year or two, but just like a good mechanic, your best bet is to talk to someone you trust who has had first-hand experience with the installer. You’re likely going to be spending between $10,000-$40,000, so saving a few hundred in the short term by going with an inexperienced installer or by trying to install yourself will most likely not be worth it long term if you ever have problems with your system.