Choosing the right equipment for your solar panel system, and the right company to install it, are both crucial decisions to a successful home solar installation. Solar energy systems come with multiple warranties that apply to different parts of the installation, and trying to keep track of them all can get confusing. Here’s a simple guide to the different warranties for your solar energy system, and which ones you should really pay attention to.
Types of solar warranties
Some of the warranties that back your solar energy system are related to the equipment, and some are related to the installation itself. Below are the main solar warranties that you should consider before signing on the dotted line.
Solar equipment warranty
Rooftop solar energy systems have no moving parts, and solar panels are extremely durable. Aside from an occasional rinse (if you live in a dry or dusty area), your panels don’t require any day-to-day maintenance, either.
While issues with a solar installation are extremely rare, your panels will come with a solar equipment warranty. Also referred to as the “materials” warranty, the solar equipment warranty guarantees that your solar panels will be free from problems caused by manufacturing defects or durability issues. If your panels fail as a result of one of these problems, the manufacturer will provide you with replacements at no cost. The industry standard for the materials warranty is 10 years, although the best solar panels offer up to a 25-year warranty.
The inverter, which converts electricity from your solar panels into a form that can be used in your home, also comes with a warranty. Inverters generally aren’t as long-lasting as solar panels, so you’ll likely have to replace your inverter at least once over the lifetime of your solar energy system. Materials warranties for inverters typically range from five to 10 years, with some companies offering 12-year or even 25-year warranties.
Solar power production warranty
Solar panel performance naturally degrades over time at a relatively slow and steady rate. To give you a sense of what to expect year-over-year, your solar panels also come with a power production warranty. Production warranties are based on lab tests that reproduce the conditions your panels will have to endure over 25 years.
Solar panel manufacturers offer a power production warranty, which guarantees that their panels will retain a certain percentage of their production capacity over the first 25 years. Most power production warranty will guarantee that, after 25 years, a solar panel will operate at around 80 percent of its original output. For this metric, a higher percentage guarantee is preferable to a lower percentage.
The production warranty should also offer a guarantee that your panels only lose a certain percentage of their production capability each year – typically no more than 0.7 percent. In this case, you should look for a warranty that guarantees a relatively low rate of decline (in percentage terms).
Solar installer workmanship and roof warranties
In addition to the equipment included in your installation, many solar installers offer a warranty on their workmanship. Installing a solar panel system on your roof is a smart decision and a big investment. If your solar installer offers a workmanship warranty, it is a sign that they are ready and willing to stand behind the work that they do on your house, from system design to installation.
Properly installed solar panels will not void any existing warranty that you have on your roof, and the work done to install your panels is typically covered under your installer’s warranty. In fact, solar panels can actually extend the life of your roof by protecting it from wear and tear caused by the elements.
Importantly, workmanship warranties can vary from one company to the next, even if the warranty duration is the same: some installers cover labor costs for any equipment servicing required during their warranty period, while others do not. It’s important to read any workmanship warranty thoroughly before signing a contract with a solar company.
What happens to your solar warranties if your installer goes out of business?
One of the most frequent questions asked by homeowners who use the EnergySage Solar Marketplace is, “what happens if my installer goes out of business?” The short answer is that the most important components of your system – the equipment – will still be covered by manufacturer warranties, even if your installer isn’t around to honor their workmanship warranty. Additionally, in the unlikely event that there is an issue with the workmanship for your solar PV installation, it will become apparent almost immediately.
Think about the last time you bought a new dishwasher or other home appliance: did you focus more on the brand name of the appliance, or the contractor that installed it? While both are important considerations, chances are you focused more on getting that new Maytag dishwasher or GE French Door refrigerator. Solar is no different, and pairing your equipment warranty with a strong power performance warranty is the best way to be certain you’ll have a high-quality product that performs well into the future.
In the rare event that something does go wrong, many of the companies that manufacture solar energy equipment – such as LG, Panasonic, Hyundai and Kyocera – are long-standing, reputable electronics manufacturers. This means you can be confident that they will be around to honor their equipment warranties if and when the time comes.
Compare your options to find the best solar panels for your home
Finding the right solar panel system for your home means comparing multiple quotes from solar installers. Use a website like the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to find local solar installers near you, and make easy side-by-side comparisons of all your solar options, including equipment, installers, and financing. By shopping around first, you can find the right option at the right price – warranties and all.
This post originally appeared on Mother Earth News.