When buying a solar panels system, one of the most important things to check is the warranties.
Talking to prospective customers, we find there’s often confusion when it comes to solar warranties. A lot of people think the 25-year performance warranty that’s heavily advertised on many solar systems is all they need to worry about. Wrong!
There are several different warranties that come with a solar panels system; some are more important than others. The 25-year performance warranty is notoriously difficult to claim on, and certainly not the most important warranty for your solar panels system.
This article provides tips on what to look out for with the warranties on a new solar panels system including:
- The #1 misconception about solar panel warranties
- The four most important warranties for solar panels systems
- Minimum industry standards for each warranty
- Best solar warranties you can find on the market
- Why Australian customer service offices are a must
- Why choosing a Clean Energy Council Solar Retailer with solid credentials provides you with the best warranty protection
The #1 misconception about solar panel warranties
You’ll see a lot of solar advertising promising a 25-year performance warranty. A lot of people think that means their system will be fully covered for 25 years.
Sounds great, right?
The solar panel performance guarantee is pretty much worthless if you need to make a claim. That’s because it is extremely hard to claim on; most solar panel manufacturers are great at wriggling out of it! More than likely, they’ll ask you to ship the panels all the way back to their factory, at your cost, to check them. If there’s no fault, you’ll have to cover all costs – and pay higher electricity bills whilst your solar panels are off your roof.
So, what does the solar panel performance warranty cover?
The solar panels performance warranty provides a measure of the degradation rate of the solar panels over 25 years. Typically, this is around 80 per cent compared to day 1 performance. The best solar panels like SunPower guarantee 92 per cent of day 1 performance at the end of 25 years.
The solar panels performance warranty is an indicator of product quality, nothing more.
Luckily there are other warranties that come with your solar panels system that provide a lot more protection.
The four most important warranties for solar panels systems
Here’s a ranked list of the four most important warranties to check when you’re buying a new solar panels system:
|Importance ranking||Warranty type||Provided by|
|#1||Solar inverter product warranty||Solar inverter manufacturer|
|#2||Workmanship warranty||Solar retailer or solar installer|
|#3||Whole of system performance guarantee||Solar retailer or solar installer|
|#4||Solar panels product warranty||Solar panels manufacturer|
#1 Solar inverter guarantee
The solar inverter is likely to be the first component on your system to fail; that’s because it’s the workhorse of your solar system, converting DC current to AC current day in, day out. Picking a solar inverter with an excellent product warranty backed by a leading manufacturer is essential if you want hassle-free solar for years to come.
#2 Workmanship warranty
The workmanship warranty is provided by your Solar Installer or Solar Retailer. If you select a Clean Energy Council (CEC) Accredited Solar Retailer (the highest level of solar industry accreditation in Australia), you will receive a workmanship warranty that’s a minimum of 5 years covering you for:
- any fault in the system caused by the products supplied
- any defect in the system caused by workmanship during installation
- rectification of any damage to your property or leaks caused by the system or the installers.
Even the best solar installers can unwittingly cause leaks during installation. This is particularly true if you have a tile roof as tiles can easily break. If the breakage isn’t noticed and fixed during installation, it can result in water leakage into your home, damaging walls and ceilings as well as paintwork. Having a rock-solid workmanship warranty from a reliable CEC Solar Retailer is the best protection you can have should problems of this type occur.
A word of warning: watch out for workmanship warranties that only go half the way. For example, solar companies that charge you a call-out fee or don’t cover the full cost of replacing parts. With a good workmanship warranty, you won’t be landed with an invoice for shipping or labour.
Useful tip: Select a CEC Accredited Solar Retailer that also has in-house CEC Accredited Solar Installers and A-Grade Electricians on their payroll. That way, you’ll be less likely to be hit with high charges for the use of sub-contractors to fix your system.
#3 Whole of system performance guarantee
Only a handful of CEC Solar Retailers provide a whole of system performance warranty. That’s a shame, as this warranty is worth having!
Solar companies who provide a whole of system performance guarantee demonstrate that they have gone above and beyond industry standards. The performance guarantee provides their customers with total peace of mind that their solar panels system will generate the power it’s supposed to over the specified period. If it doesn’t, the customer will be compensated for any loss caused by the shortfall in solar production – i.e. higher electricity bills – and the system will be rectified at the solar company’s cost.
The best system performance guarantees run for a duration of 10 years, or even longer. Specialized Solar & Electrical provides a whole of system performance guarantee on every single solar panel system lasting a minimum of 10 years or longer. So if the solar panels are warrantied for 15 years, Specialized Solar will provide a whole of system performance guarantee for the full 15 year period.
#4 Solar panels product warranty
The solar panels product warranty is the most important warranty to check when choosing a panel brand; more important than the solar panels performance warranty. This warranty covers defective materials or workmanship in the manufacture of the panel. It is provided by the solar panel manufacturer, not by the solar installer.
The solar panels product warranty should be for a minimum of 10 years, ideally longer. Some of the cheaper panels only provide a 5-year product warranty and this is something to avoid!
You’ll also want to check that the solar panels manufacturer has been in business for at least 10 years. You want a panel manufacturer who’s likely to be around for the long-term in case you need to make a warranty claim. Picking a well-known panel brand from a Tier 1 solar panels manufacturer is highly advisable. The Tier 1 rating system has been created by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to provide a measure of the financial strength of solar panel manufacturers.
Minimum industry standards for solar warranties
Here are the minimum industry standards for each type of warranty for a solar panels system:
|Warranty type||Industry standard: minimum warranties|
|Solar inverter product warranty||5 years.|
|Workmanship warranty||5 years.|
|Whole of system performance guarantee||Only provided by the best solar companies. This guarantee exceeds industry best practice standards.|
|Solar panels product warranty||10 years.|
|Solar panels performance warranty||80% of day 1 solar generation after 25 years.|
Cheaper solar systems will provide the minimum warranties as shown above. Where possible, we recommend purchasing a system with warranties that exceed these minimum standards.
Your solar panels system should last 25-30 years and save tens of thousands of dollars off your electricity bills over that time. Paying a bit extra upfront for a solar system with industry-leading warranties is an investment that will reap dividends over the long term.
Best solar warranties you can find on the market
What are the best warranties you can get for each of the components of your solar power system and who provides them?
It’s a great question! Here are the answers:
|Warranty type||Best warranty||Provided by|
|Solar inverter product warranty||15 years (out of the box; without purchase of a warranty extension).||SolarEdge|
|Workmanship warranty||5 years; backed by whole-of-system performance guarantee for a minimum of 10 years.||5 year workmanship warranties are provided by many solar companies.
Only a few solar companies (including Specialized Solar Electrical) also provide a whole-of-system performance guarantee for 10 years or longer.
|Whole-of-system performance guarantee||10 years or longer if the product warranty on the solar inverter or solar panels > 10 years.
For example, if the solar inverter has a product warranty for 15 years, the whole-of-system performance guarantee will also be for 15 years.
|This guarantee is not common in the Australian solar industry.
To our knowledge, only a handful of CEC Accredited Solar Retailers provide a guarantee of this type.
Specialized Solar & Electrical provide this guarantee.
|Solar panels product warranty||25 years.||Sunpower Maxeon 5
Sunpower Maxeon 3
Sunpower Performance 3
LG Neon R
|Solar panels performance warranty||92 per cent of day 1 solar generation after 25 years.||Sunpower Maxeon 5|
Why Australian customer service offices are ‘a must’
If something goes wrong with your solar panels system, your first port of call should be the solar company who sold you the system. Whilst they are directly responsible only for the workmanship warranty – and whole-of-system performance guarantee if applicable – they should help you claim on any of the manufacturers’ product warranties.
Before you buy a system, ask the solar company whether they would take on the role of sorting out any product warranty claims with the manufacturer on your behalf. If they say yes, be sure to get this in writing. It could save you a lot of hassle down the track.
Having said this, the longevity of solar companies in Australia hasn’t been good. Since 2011, over 750 solar installers have gone into liquidation, had a change in trading conditions or simply stopped trading. Assuming each of these companies operated for four years installing 250 systems a year, that comes to over 750,000 Australian solar panels systems that are no longer supported by the solar installation company.
Choosing a solar company that’s got a strong trading record, has been in business for 5-10 years and is fully accredited to the highest industry standards makes sense. It means that if you need to make a warranty claim, chances are that your solar provider will be around to help.
However, as a back-stop measure it is vital to select solar panels and a solar inverter made by manufacturers who have a proper customer service office in Australia. By proper, we mean one that is staffed by a customer service and technical field support team who can fix systems quickly and professionally.
Check they have an Australian phone number for customer support, staffed by representatives in Australia. Also check that the address isn’t just for an admin office, or their tax accountant’s address. This does happen!
Why a Clean Energy Council Solar Retailer is essential
The first step in choosing a solar system is choosing the right solar company to supply, install and maintain it. In Australia it makes sense to purchase your system from a Clean Energy Council (CEC) Accredited Solar Retailer. This is the highest level of accreditation in the Australian solar industry and demonstrates that the solar company has signed up to best practice industry standards for all aspects of their operations, including warranty support.
It’s also highly advisable to select a CEC Accredited Solar Retailer who has CEC Accredited Solar Installers on their payroll, as well as A-Grade electricians. That way, you know that they are managing all aspects of the installation in-house and not outsourcing to sub-contractors.
Finally, given the importance of getting the electrical work done right on a solar panels system it pays to sign up with a solar company that’s also a Registered Electrical Contractor. That way, you know that they will install your solar panels system to the highest electrical safety standards, without taking any shortcuts.
Get in touch for a quote
Specialized Solar & Electrical is an CEC Accredited Solar Retailer, a CEC Accredited Solar Installer and a Registered Electrical Contractor. Contact us if you’d like an obligation-free quote for a solar panels system and/or battery storage.
We’ve been in the Australian solar industry for many years, as part of the Specialized Heating & Cooling Group which was established in 2000. Now, we are a Melbourne-based family business with six offices in Victoria and NSW. Meeting and exceeding best practice standards in the solar industry is what we’re known for. That’s why we’ve been selected by thousands of households and businesses – as well as councils throughout Victoria – as their solar retailer and installer.