Let’s face it – warranties aren’t the easiest (or most gripping) documents to read. There are often a lot of details and fine print included that can be hard to digest, leaving many to wonder: what does the warranty actually cover? Am I vulnerable? Anything I might be missing?
To make it as easy as possible, we’ve read warranty documents for the top solar equipment manufacturers–and talked to them to confirm what is and isn’t included–and plan to point out the most important aspects of each in a series of articles. We’ll kick things off with a warranty review of a popular Northern-American solar panel manufacturer: Silfab.
Quick overview: Silfab’s history and warranty
Silfab is a North-American based solar panel manufacturer with almost 40 years of experience. Silfab operates two manufacturing facilities–one in Toronto Canada and another in Bellingham, WA–and is one of only a few companies that manufacturers solar panels in the U.S.
Before releasing products to the market, Silfab puts its solar panels through stringent testing with a third-party to ensure the new products meet high performance standards and can withstand the test of time. And, if their warranty is anything to go by, these solar panels are built to last: Silfab offers one of the longest warranties in the industry.
Silfab’s warranty at a glance
|Product||12 or 25 years|
|Power||79.5% - 82.6% at year 30|
|Shipping of parts||In most cases|
|Extended warranty offering||Yes|
Silfab’s product warranty
Also known as a material warranty, a solar panel manufacturer’s product warranty covers the integrity of the equipment itself – if your solar panels have a defect, mechanical issue, or experience unreasonable wear and tear, that should be covered by your product warranty. Oftentimes, if there’s a defect with your solar panel, it’s apparent “out-of-the-box”. In other words, you or your installer should be able to tell that something is amiss and fix the problem immediately. Regardless, it’s good to consider products with longer warranties for the peace of mind it provides.
Silfab includes a standard 12-year product warranty for all of their solar panels, which is easily and freely extendable to 25 years as long as your installer is a registered, qualified Silfab installer. (Fun fact – Silfab was the first North American solar panel company to bump their product warranty to 25 years!)
Silfab’s power warranty
Like every other type of electronic, the performance of your solar panels will degrade over time: fortunately, solar panel manufacturers offer a power (or performance) warranty for their products. Power warranties help protect you against atypical degradation of your solar panels, ensuring that the output of your panels won’t fall below a certain level after a set period of time.
Different types of solar panel technologies degrade at different rates. Generally speaking, the highest quality solar panels offer long power warranties (25 years or more) that guarantee at least 80 percent output by the end of the warranty term.
Silfab provides a 30-year power warranty for their panels, the longest standard power warranty in the industry. You can expect different degradation rates and/or guaranteed levels of output depending on whether you install a monocrystalline module or a polycrystalline (multi-crystalline) module:
- 97.1% at the end of year 1
- No more than 0.5% degradation from years 2-30
- Power output of 82.6% by year 30
- 97.5% at the end of year 1
- No more than 0.7% degradation from years 2-30
- Power output of 79.5% by year 30
You can review and compare Silfab’s monocrystalline and polycrystalline product offerings in the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide.
Does Silfab offer extended warranties?
Need a little extra protection for peace of mind? Many solar panel manufacturers offer extended warranties for their products. Depending on the company and the product, extended warranties can come at an extra cost, or only be available for certain installers who have been certified and endorsed by the manufacturer.
As mentioned above, Silfab offers an extended product warranty of 25 years for their panels, so long as you work with an installer that is a registered and approved Silfab installer. You can take advantage of Silfab’s extended warranty offering at no cost.
How to make a warranty claim with Silfab
Ideally, your solar panel system will continue operating smoothly for 25+ years, and you never have to worry about Silfab’s warranty. However, if you experience any defects or performance issues with your solar panels, Silfab will be there to help.
If you notice an issue with your system, your first phone call should be to your installer; having designed and installed your system, they are the most equipped to diagnose (and potentially fix!) any potential issue.
If your installer determines that you need to replace a piece of equipment–like a solar panel– they can file a warranty claim directly with Silfab on your behalf. The company has an automated system where installers can submit descriptions and pictures of the failure, as well as serial numbers for the equipment for processing.
When fulfilling the warranty claim, Silfab will most often work with one of their distributors in your area who already has the replacement product in stock. They’ll credit the distributor directly for the product costs and shipping fees, and the distributor will ship the product to you or your installer.
Your original installer will be the best-suited to replace the equipment. Importantly, Silfab does not cover any labor costs to un-install or re-install solar panels. This shouldn’t be an issue if your installer covers repairs in their workmanship warranty and you’re still within their warranty term, but be aware that workmanship warranties vary from one installation company to the next (so remember to read your installer’s workmanship warranty thoroughly before signing any contract!)
Unfortunately, solar installers can go out of business, and you may find yourself in a position where you can no longer call the business that installed your system for help. In this case, you can work with Silfab directly to make a claim. Because Silfab does not provide coverage for labor costs in their warranty, you will likely have to pay for the labor to replace any solar panels.
Limitations and exceptions to Silfab’s warranty
Every warranty has its exceptions – Silfab’s is no different. Warranty limitations aren’t meant to make it harder for you to take advantage of the offering; companies simply try to protect themselves from unjust or unreasonable claims.
Here are a few things that could void your warranty from Silfab:
- Moving panels away from the original install location
- Installing your solar panels within 5 meters of a body of saline water
- Having your panels modified, serviced or repaired by anyone that is not Silfab or a third-party (i.e. an installer) approved by Silfab
Finding the right solar panels for you
Finding the right solar panel system for your home means comparing multiple quotes from solar installers. Using the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can find local solar installers near you, and make easy side-by-side comparisons of all your solar options, including equipment. By shopping around first, you can find the right option at the right price – warranties and all. If you have a preference for one type of equipment over another–Silfab or otherwise–simply note it in your account when you sign up so installers can quote you accordingly.