Have you looked into what is actually covered by a solar PV (PV) warranty? Unlike a desktop computer where the entire unit is covered by a warranty, PV systems are often offered with separate warranties for each component, and these warranties are anything but simple.
The warranty provided with a PV system will typically be itemised in the following manner:
- PV modules: typically 10-12 year defect warranty, and 25 year performance warranty
- Inverter: 5-10 year warranty with further extensions available
- Mounting frame: 10-15 year warranty
- Installation: 1-5 year warranty
While most of these warranties are straight forward, the PV modules have two warranties: one to protect against faults and failures, and the other to protect against efficiency performance of the panels. The latter can be a ‘stepped’ performance warranty, however the panels don’t get to 10 years old and suddenly experience a drop in performance (and manufacturers know this), so the more marketing-friendly performance warranty will offer ‘linear’ performance. This is supposed to ensure higher panel performance.
In some instances a warranty extension is available. While this probably isn’t going to be necessary for the PV modules, opting for an extension on the inverter warranty is a very good idea. The most common failure in a PV system is the inverter, and in a single-inverter system will result in a complete shutdown of the system. Increasing the inverter warranty to 15+ years means you are nearly guaranteed to get a good return from your investment in PV.
Choosing the right inverter brand is very important. We highly recommend SMA, as they are the largest solar inverter manufacturer in the world and German made. If you’re looking to save some money on the system, the inverter is not the place to do it.
There have been a few instances where cheaper inverters have failed after 1-2 years and in that time the manufacturing company has gone out of business, or simply refuse to honour service claims. Even if this doesn’t occur, you can be left without a functioning system for months unless you have chosen a reputable brand. This lost revenue from your system can completely negate any savings at time of purchase, and even when it’s finally replaced, you’re still left with a low quality product.
Pick one of the larger inverter manufacturers and make sure they keep stock of their products in Australia. At least if something does fail, you will be able to receive a replacement quickly.
How can you avoid all of this complexity? Choose a retailer that complies with the Clean Energy Council’s (CEC) Retailer’s Code of Conduct. Retailers that are CEC accredited retailers must abide by this code, and that means they must offer a complete whole-of-system warranty. This means that buying your PV system is no different to buying your next computer; if it fails within the warranty period, you’re covered for all parts, materials and labour to get it fixed.
Out of the thousands of solar retailers in Australia, only 36 are CEC accredited retailers. A complete list of these retailers can be found here: Solar Accreditation