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What is a solar panel warranty?

A solar panel warranty is a guarantee from a solar manufacturer or an installer that protects the customer for panel reliability and production output.

The two main types of warranties are a product/workmanship warranty and a performance warranty. The product warranty covers the actual panels against defects, equipment failure, and environmental issues. A performance warranty ensures a minimum base of electricity production is maintained during the warranty period.

Depending on the provider and type of protection provided, warranties typically run from 10 to 25 years.

Warranties provide essential financial protection for consumers and should be an essential part of the discussion when comparing systems before you buy.

What problems can solar panel warranty insurance prevent?

If you install a solar PV system for your home or business, by far your most likely scenario is that your panels will perform trouble-free for decades. But solar panel problems do occur from time to time, so if you happen to experience an issue with a solar panel after it’s been installed, it’s important for you to understand that the rest of your system will not be rendered inoperable—not by a long shot.

In all likelihood, depending on the nature of the panel failure, the rest of your system will just continue running with the failed panel left in place. But occasionally, panels fail in ways that impact the performance of neighboring panels. In either case, it’s the solar panel’s product warranty insurance that will cover you if you ever need to get a bad panel swapped out for a new one.  A point to note, the cost of a single solar panel generally ranges from $150 to $300.

Evaluating and comparing the product warranty coverage of panel manufacturers can help assure you that your service and support needs will be covered if a solar panel problem ever occurs. Manufacturers’ product warranties are therefore an important complement to other considerations in assessing not only a panel manufacturer’s technical specifications but also its business practices. In case a solar panel fails, the manufacturer will ship you a replacement panel and in some cases, even pay for shipping cost and labor cost to replace it

How the top solar panel manufacturers stack up

A solar PV system represents a multi-decade investment. Your return on that investment is directly related to the amount of electricity your solar energy system generates year-after-year. The electricity generated by your solar panel system allows you to either buy little or no electricity from your utility. The less energy your solar system produces, the greater your dependence on the utility. It’s a zero-sum game. If the panels in your solar system degrade quickly over time, then you’ll derive less long-term value from your system than if your panels degraded more slowly.

Solar panel product warranty by manufacturer

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Why does a solar panel warranty matter? How it impacts your PV system

The table below summarizes the product warranty duration for the leading manufacturers who sell solar panels in the U.S. as of 2019. For panel manufacturers who have varying product warranties depending on the module, the highest value is listed. Most manufacturers offer a 10-year product warranty from the date of installation.

What is a solar panel performance warranty?

The amount of electricity a solar panel produces declines slightly every year. That’s true of all solar panels, but to varying degrees. A common practice in the solar energy industry is to guarantee that the panels will not lose more than 10%-20% of their power output capacity over the first 25 years and is a crucial benefit of a good solar panel warranty. Said another way, panel manufacturers generally guarantee that their panels will produce electricity at 80%-90% of their power output rating at the end of 25 years.

Performance warranty coverage is yet another indicator of a panel manufacturer’s service and support policies in the event that you ever encounter a problem with your solar system. Whereas product warranty issues are fairly straightforward to demonstrate (either your panel is working or it’s not), proving that you’re experiencing a panel performance problem that should be covered by warranty can be far more subtle, the reasons for which are beyond the scope of this brief article. Suffice it to say that higher 25-year performance warranties (i.e., slower degradation) are viewed more favorably than lower performance warranties, but as a practical matter, the performance warranty may be a better indicator of a panel’s intended degradation behavior than of its manufacturer’s support practices. If your solar panels degrade faster than what the warranty specifies, the manufacturer will either repair the solar panel or provide you with a replacement panel. Some manufacturers even pay to ship the solar panel to you and labor cost to replace the panel.

How the top solar panel manufacturers stack up

The table below summarizes the 25-year performance warranties for the leading manufacturers who sell solar panels in the U.S. market.  For panel manufacturers whose performance warranty offerings vary depending on the module, the highest value is listed. As you can see, most manufacturers warranty an 80% performance output after 25 years, with some manufacturers doing somewhat better than that.

Solar panel product warranty by manufacturer

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