whats important in a solar warranty

Solar panel warranty: what’s covered, and what’s not?

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As you’re comparing LG, Panasonic, SunPower, Canadian Solar, and other types of solar panels, you may notice that all of these manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty for their products. However, simply comparing one warranty term to the next doesn’t give you the full picture: what is and isn’t included in a 25-year warranty actually differs quite a bit from one company to the next. And when making a long-term investment for your home–like buying a solar panel system–you want to go in with eyes wide open to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2021

So, we’re here to break down the most important factors of a solar panel warranty, as well as what’s the norm for the industry.

Solar panel warranties at a glance

CategoryIndustry standard
Product10 years
Power80% at year 25
Labor costsNo
WorkmanshipNo
Shipping of partsNo
Limitations and exceptionsVariable
Warranty fulfillment & manufacturer reputationVariable

Product warranty

Industry standard: 10 years

Also known as a materials warranty, a solar panel product warranty covers the integrity of the equipment itself. If any of your solar panels have a defect, mechanical issue, or experience unreasonable wear and tear, that’s where your product warranty comes into play.

Fortunately, when issues like this happen, it’s usually evident “out-of-the-box”: either you or your installer should be able to tell that something is amiss from the get-go, and fix the problem quickly–even before the panel makes it on to your roof! 

As you’re shopping around for the perfect solar panel, you should expect each one to come with a product warranty, and of course, longer product warranties are more favorable. These days, most manufacturers offer at least 10 years of coverage under a product warranty, while some premium options have 25 or 30 years of protection against product defects. 

Panel replacement: what happens if your module is no longer available?


Unlikely, but let’s say your solar panel breaks after nine years – by then, your manufacturer will probably have a brand new product stock. Will they be able to replace your broken panel?

Many companies will keep older products in stock for a good amount of time, or will otherwise offer to replace your panel with a comparable, newer module. Alternatively, some manufacturers guarantee that they will compensate you financially for lost electricity production on the chance they can’t replace your product.

Power warranty

Industry standard: 80% at year 25; 3% in year 1, 0.7% from year 2-25

Whether you’re talking about cell phones, televisions, or other home appliances, you can expect the performance of electronics to degrade over time; unsurprisingly, solar panels are no exception to this rule. Because of this, solar panel companies offer a power (or performance) warranty, guaranteeing that their products won’t fall below certain output levels after set periods of time. 

Every power warranty has two core components to pay attention to: the term and the warrantied degradation rate. 

Term

Similar to their solar panel product warranty, manufacturers also offer a power warranty for a set amount of time. Frankly, there’s not a ton of variability as far as power warranty terms are concerned; nine times out of 10, your panels will come with a 25-year power performance warranty. However, some manufacturers–like Silfab–offer 30 years of protection.

Degradation

Solar panels degrade at slightly different rates depending on the technology used to capture sunlight–i.e., the structure of the silicon cell–and the way the panel aggregates the electricity within the panel–i.e., the layout of the actual circuitry of the solar panel. Generally speaking, most solar panel manufacturers will guarantee at least 80 percent of the original output by the end of the warranty term, or about 0.7 percent degradation each year. However, you’ll notice that most warranties expect the highest amount of degradation (either 2 or 3 percent) within their first year. Interestingly, this is because panels degrade at the highest rate when first exposed to solar radiation. After an initial adjustment period, the panel’s degradation levels out to a more stable rate.

After year one, manufacturers typically ensure that power output won’t fall an additional 0.5 to 0.7 percent each year of the warrantied term (or, if you’re Sunpower, as low as 0.25 percent each year). When comparing one panel to another, remember to take a look not only at the guaranteed output by the end of year 25, but also the protected degradation rate from one year to the next. 

Also, keep in mind that a warrantied degradation rate is different from what you’ll experience in real life conditions. All solar panels go through stringent testing to evaluate performance, and when manufacturers establish their power warranties, they stick to conservative numbers they feel confident in. For any warrantied degradation rates you’re evaluating, think of it as the upper limit of expected degradation throughout the warranty period.

Comparing product and power warranty terms: the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide


Looking for a solar panel with a 30-year power warranty? Or one with a 20+ year product warranty? Or maybe both? Using the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide, you can compare the warranties, performance, and aesthetics of top solar panel models. There’s a lot in there, so we recommend using the filter and sorting functionalities to find the right solar panel for you.

Labor for diagnostics, repairs or replacements

Industry standard: most manufacturers do not cover labor costs as a part of their warranty agreement.

Like we mentioned, a solar panel manufacturer may provide a product or performance warranty of 25 years that will cover a replacement panel should you need it. However, while the manufacturer may cover your replacement part, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll cover the labor costs necessary to re-install that equipment. In fact, most manufacturers do not reimburse for labor associated with replacements or repairs of their products.

This addition to a warranty is a moot point for some solar shoppers: many local installation companies will cover maintenance and repair costs within their own warranty agreement. That said, installer warranties also vary from one company to the next, and often only cover their own work – not maintenance costs for properly-installed equipment. 

While most manufacturers won’t pay for labor, some companies do! The best solar panel warranties will cover these costs entirely, or up to a certain amount (i.e., $600 over the course of your warranty term).

Shipping of parts

Industry standard: most companies will pay for a replacement part, but may not pay the costs associated with getting that part to your home.

Say your solar panel breaks, and you can get a free replacement panel under your manufacturer’s material warranty – but what about shipping that part to you or your installer?

This is an aspect of the solar maintenance process often overlooked in panel warranties. Many manufacturers will cover the material costs associated with the replacement part, but not necessarily the fees to ship the equipment. Or they may be able to ship the product to a local or regional distributor, but require you or your installer to get that product to your home. And, as is the case with labor fees, some may offer to cover shipping, but have an upper spend limit for what they’re able to pay.

Workmanship 

Industry standard: most solar panel manufacturers leave the workmanship warranty up to the installation company.

More often than not, solar installers are the sole party responsible for providing workmanship–or labor–warranties for your solar installation – they’re performing the actual installation work, after all! However, a small number of solar panel manufacturers offer an extra safeguard by tacking on their own workmanship warranty coverage. When applicable, it’s typically only an option if you work with specific installers in a manufacturer’s certified network: they’re putting their brand name and reputation behind their work, and want to make sure they can stand by the installer performing the installation. 

Limitations and exceptions

Industry standard: every warranty–including a solar panel warranty–has limitations and exceptions.

If you’ve taken the time to read any warranty document–solar panel or otherwise–you won’t be surprised to find that manufacturers include limitations and exceptions to their warranty agreements. These limitations aren’t meant to make it difficult for you or other customers to take advantage of the offering; at the end of the day, companies need to protect themselves from unreasonable claims. 

Warranty limitations and void clauses vary from company to company, but here are a few to keep an eye out for:

  • Transferability: If someone buys your home (and, therefore, your solar panel system), will you be able to transfer the warranty over to them?
     
  • Installer endorsement: Do you need to work with one of the manufacturer’s certified installers to take advantage of the warranty offering? If someone outside of their network repairs your system, does that void your warranty claim? And are you able to take advantage of the warranty if you do a DIY installation?
     
  • Proximity to the ocean: Live on a beachfront property? (Lucky!) If so, confirm that this won’t void your warranty. Salt water corrodes solar equipment at a quicker rate, so some panel manufacturers will void a warranty if their products are within a certain distance from saline bodies of water. 
     
  • Acts of nature: this is a common one – most solar panel manufacturers will not cover any damage caused by extreme weather events outside of their control, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. Fortunately, solar panels are pretty durable and can withstand most storms without the added protection–you can read more about that here. Even better, should damage happen to occur during a storm, most homeowner insurance policies cover solar panels!

Warranty fulfillment & manufacturer reputation

Industry standard: there really isn’t one! Reputation and warranty fulfillment standards/processes vary from company to company.

Let’s say you need to submit a warranty claim – how easy is it to do so? And can the manufacturer stand by their warranty?

When comparing one solar panel warranty to another, consider the following:

  • How old is the company providing the warranty? There’s a difference between a 100-year-old company offering a 25-year warranty, and a 5-year old company offering a 30-year warranty – and both exist in the solar industry. Is it a bankable company, and do they have their own insurance policies or escrow that ensure their warranties will be upheld even if they go out of business?
     
  • Who is on the hook for actually fulfilling the warranty? Does the manufacturer have a parent company or subsidiary who backs the warranty, or processes claims?
     
  • How easy is it to make a warranty claim? Does the manufacturer allow you (the product owner) to submit the claim directly, or do you need to contact your installer to do so? Does your installer need to come out to your property and perform a diagnostic assessment prior to submitting any claims?

Unfortunately, answers to the questions above can’t always be found in warranty documents. But we’ve started publishing some manufacturer and warranty reviews that answer these questions for top manufacturers! 

O&M plans: extra peace of mind


Are the warranties for your solar panel system a bit shorter than you’re comfortable with? You have some options here! 

Before diving into those options, we want to reiterate that solar panels are extremely durable: most require very little to no maintenance over their 25+ year lifespan. However, if you want some extra peace of mind–and are willing to pay more for it–consider a solar operations and maintenance (O&M) plan, which is like an insurance plan for your solar panel system.

You can read more about the pros and cons of a solar O&M plan here.

The best way to compare solar panel options – warranties included!

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, simply note it in your account when you sign up so installers can quote you accordingly.

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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry has worked in solar for more than 6 years, starting out as an Energy Advisor helping customers compare their options and make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

One thought on “Solar panel warranty: what’s covered, and what’s not?

  1. Semper Solaris

    This is a great article Kerry! Most home owners don’t realize the difference in warranties when it comes to solar panels and this hits it right on point. It’s detailed enough to understand the different variables before making a solar purchasing decision.

    Most people see the 25 year number, but not what it specifically covers like the 10 year product warranty. The big suggestion is always to read the fine print to see what exactly is covered as some warranties may seem like they are fully covered for a certain time period, but that may not be the case.

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