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Understanding Solar Bids: Warranties

Warranties make your costs of ownership for a rooftop solar installation predictable. They’re a major reason why you might not want to buy the cheapest bid you receive. A more expensive system might save you time and money later.

Bids from rooftop solar installers typically include several warranties. This post should help you understand what each warranty is, why it matters, and what you should look for.

This article is part of a series of posts on understanding solar bids. See more on the HC3 Blog.

What are the options?

Solar installations are made up of several pieces of hardware, and each one has its own warranty.

Your bids will likely include each of the following warranties:

  • Panel performance warranty (solar panel): Typically 25 years
  • Panel product warranty (solar panel): 10-25 years
  • Installer labor warranty (roof and wiring): Typically 10 years

Depending on your inverter setup, you may also have the following warranties:

  • Inverter product warranty (inverter): 12–25 years, extension sometimes available
  • Optimizer product warranty (optimizer): Typically 25 years

What are the differences?

Warranties ensure that you have minimal unexpected expenses from your rooftop solar installation.

  • Performance warranties are generally offered only for panels. They make sure your panels produce the advertised amount of electricity. If your panels are not producing enough, this warranty covers the cost to fix it. You may have to buy some electricity from the utility while your panel underperforms. Some performance warranties cover the cost of this electricity.
  • Product warranties outline what is covered (replacement, shipping, labor) if a component fails. If a panel (or inverter or optimizer) stops working, the warranty should cut the cost of replacing it.
  • Installer labor warranties cover you if your roof leaks or you have any electrical issues in your home due to solar installation.

How do you choose?

There is a lot of variety in warranties, and it’s worth looking closely. Performance warranties are often offered by the panel manufacturer. Installer labor warranties are offered by the solar installer. Some product warranties cover the shipping and labor costs of replacing a part; others do not.

Here are some useful things to check:

  • Roof leaks are typically discovered within two years of installation. Does your installer labor warranty give you enough time?
  • Inverters usually fail after 10–15 years. Inverter warranties often stop at years 12–25. Is there a warranty extension available? Does the warranty cover labor and shipping?
  • Some solar panel manufacturers offer monitoring services as part of their warranties. If a panel is underperforming, they should contact you. Who provides your panel performance warranty, and who monitors it (the manufacturer, the installer, or you?)?

For more information on how to minimize your risk, check out our post Understanding Solar Bids: What is the Cost of Maintenance?

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Hackers Combating Climate Change: http://hc3.io

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Kelsey Breseman

Kelsey Breseman

An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.

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