Guide to Understanding Solar Warranties

The key to understanding the warranty on your solar power system is considering each component separately, as well as recognizing that the installer’s work is also a separate matter. Solar Installers levels of workmanship and their parts/labor warranties differ from state to state. Typically, a parts and labor warranty will cover two years, in addition to the regular manufacturer warranties on the individual solar components. A name brand solar panel will have a 20- to 25-year warranty. This figure, however, applies to power output.

  • Most manufacturers guarantee at least 80% output (for the specified number of years).
  • The warranty for “materials and workmanship” is one or two years.

The fact is, though, that power output is your main concern, and the units’ construction is simple and straightforward enough to last a long time.

Solar Panels: Full Warranty 20-25 years

The panels comprise a number of photovoltaic cells (PV). These silicon wonders are actually somewhat fragile, but they are encased and protected by tempered glass, and the cell arrays are typically framed by sturdy, non-corroding aluminum. Solar panels really are built to last and are not the component that is most likely to fail.

This is because the PV technology results in very little breakdown of the materials over time, much like transistors and computer chips. However, solar panels are the components most susceptible to damage from hail, hurricanes and other weather born threats.

Batteries (non-grid tie systems, and hybrids only): Coverage 5-10 years

Although there may be some exceptions, batteries typically have limited warranties of 5-10 years, but their lifespan can be as much as 15 years. The good news is that there are no moving parts, and, absent the manufacturing errors that would show up during the warranty period, not a lot can go wrong.

Inverters: Coverage 5-10 years

Inverters are often the most expensive single part of a solar energy system, and besides physical damage to the panels (hail, tornadoes, etc.) they are the most likely component to fail. To save money, some people (and some unscrupulous installers) may specify an inverter that will not handle the calculated capacity. You should avoid this mistake at all costs, and if you need to reduce the up-front costs of your solar energy system consider buying fewer solar cells at first and adding more down the line. Do not skimp on the inverter. You will find that lower-cost, lower-quality units have correspondingly short warranties, whereas top brands have warranties of up to 10 years. Average lifespans also vary, with top manufacturers claiming upwards of 20 years.

A few solar warranty questions to ask Installers:

You want to get a few things straight with the installer during their site visit. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is your installation warranty included in the bid or is it added later?
  • Does the warranty cover all aspects of removing, shipping, repairing and/or reinstalling components?
  • Who is responsible for the various parts the system—the installer, the manufacturer or the dealer?
  • Are there any safeguards to deal with a dealer or manufacturer going out of business during the warranty period?