Installing a solar system is an excellent way to virtually eliminate your power bills and use clean energy to power your home. A well-designed and installed solar power system with quality equipment is designed to last decades. Purchasing a residential solar energy system is an investment. It is crucial to protect that investment so you can get the most value from your solar panels.
Premature equipment failure can erode your financial returns, causing you to get less value from your solar panel system. Thankfully, equipment warranties, labor warranties, solar system monitoring, and homeowners insurance can all work together to ensure a solar system is working well for decades. Let’s explore how these all work, so you can make an informed decision about going solar and protecting your investment.
How do solar equipment warranties work?
All the solar panels, inverters, and batteries that Smart Solar Energy installs come with equipment warranties. When selecting which solar products to use, we examine warranties, performance, durability, and value. Keep in mind that equipment warranties don’t usually include labor. For this reason, Smart Solar Energy offers an industry-leading 25-year labor and service warranty!
Solar Panel Warranties
Obviously, one of the most crucial components of a solar energy system is the solar panels. If you don’t have a solar battery, the solar panels are likely the most expensive component of your solar energy system. How much electricity your solar system will produce relies largely on how the panels are performing.
Unlike a solar battery that we typically install indoors, the solar panels are on your roof during the dog days of summer and winter storms. Your panels get exposed to the elements and UV light, so how they hold up over time is essential.
At Smart Solar Energy, we are dedicated to using high-quality equipment so the systems we install will produce clean power for decades. Thus, our solar panel installers use only Tier 1 solar panels because they have a proven track record in successful solar projects. We believe that one of the best ways to avoid needing to use product warranties is to install highly reliable equipment that stands the test of time.
Panel manufacturers typically offer two different types of warranties. One is related to solar power production and the other protects against equipment defects.
Solar Panel Performance Guarantees
Over the years, even the best panels will generate less clean energy due to module degradation. Although all PV panels become less efficient over time, the rate of degradation varies by the model and the technology.
Solar panel performance guarantees ensure that the modules generate a certain percentage of their original capacity after a certain time period. Many panel manufacturers guarantee 90 percent production after ten years and 80 percent after 25 years.
Power performance guarantees are among the strongest in the industry, but there are four things that can void them. These are excessive soiling of the panels (such as bird droppings, tree sap, or dirt), a measurable increase in shading since the solar system was installed, loss of internet connection to the solar system monitoring, and disconnecting the system.
Solar Panel Product Warranties
Most solar module manufacturers also offer protection from equipment defects, environmental issues, and premature wear and tear. Many solar panels have a 10 or 12-year equipment warranty on the integrity of the panels themselves. This means that if a solar panel fails within this period, the Smart Solar Energy team can just swap it out for you, free of charge. Smart Solar Energy looks for solar panel manufacturers that offer long warranties so our customers are protected from defects for many years.
Solar PV Inverter Warranties
Your solar system inverter is like the brains of the operation. Your solar panels can’t send power directly to your household loads or the electric grid without some help. The inverter converts Direct Current (DC) power to Alternating Current (AC), which is what your appliances, electronics, and lights consume. Smart Solar Energy technicians commonly install a string inverter (also known as a centralized inverter) manufactured by SolarEdge.
Our team typically installs inverters that come with a 10 to 12-year warranty, depending on the model. The SolarEdge StorEdge inverter is often used in solar systems with energy storage, like the LG Chem battery, and it comes with a 10-year warranty. For solar systems without batteries, our installers often use the SolarEdge inverter with HD-wave Technology, which has a 12-year warranty.
SolarEdge inverters also come with the option to extend the warranty to 20 or 25 years for a one-time fee. This must be filed within 24 months, for the inverter to qualify for an extended warranty. All SolarEdge warranties start four months from when the inverter was shipped or when it was installed (whichever comes earlier).
To learn more about installing a solar system on your home, contact the Smart Solar Energy team. We conduct free solar audits and help you determine if solar panels are right for you.
Solar Battery Warranties
Similar to the battery in your cell phone or laptop, solar batteries become less able to hold a charge over time. Gradually, solar batteries degrade and become less effective. Fortunately, solar battery manufacturers offer warranties to ensure a certain level of performance over a given period.
Smart Solar Energy primarily installs two solar batteries: the Tesla Powerwall and the LG Chem battery. These are both advanced lithium-ion batteries that require no ongoing maintenance.
Both the Tesla Powerwall and the LG Chem battery offer a couple different types of warranties.
- End of warranty capacity rating: This guarantees that your solar battery will hold a certain amount of its original capacity throughout the warranty period.
- Throughput warranty: This relates to the total energy the battery is expected to deliver in its lifespan. This warranty uses the measurement of megawatt-hours (mWh), and the warranty is valid until the battery has delivered that amount of energy.
Keep in mind exposure to extremely hot or cold conditions can void your solar battery’s warranty. The Smart Solar Energy installation team can assess the best place to install your solar battery bank for optimum performance and longevity.
Tesla Powerwall 2
The Tesla Powerwall 2 has a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh, and is a very popular home energy storage solution. This solar battery comes with a ten-year warranty. The Powerwall warranty ensures that the solar battery retains 70% of its ability to hold a charge during this ten-year period. It has a throughput warranty of 37 MWh.
LG Chem Solar Battery
The LG Chem RESU battery has 9.3 kWh of usable capacity and is an excellent option for backup power during grid outages. LG offers a ten-year warranty on the RESU battery and ensures the battery will retain at least 60% of its original capacity to hold a charge during that period. It includes a throughput warranty of 22.4 MWh.
Solar System Power Optimizers
In some cases, we recommend installing solar power optimizers on each panel to boost your solar energy output. Power optimizers are especially helpful if you have a complicated roof or you experience some shading during the day.
For example, the Smart Solar Energy team might recommend installing panels on two different roofs with varying azimuths or pitches or if trees or buildings partially shade your roof. Power optimizers are installed on the back of the solar panel, so they would be located on your roof but out of sight.
SolarEdge optimizers come with a 25-year warranty. If one needs to be changed, one of our solar technicians will disconnect the solar system and remove the optimizer from the back of the panel. We will do this free of charge under our labor and service guarantee.
24/7 Solar system monitoring
One great advancement in recent years in the residential solar energy industry is the ability to monitor your solar panels. These systems work with the solar system inverter to track real-time and historic solar production data. Monitoring systems are an excellent way to understand what is going on with your solar energy system and to not just guess based on electricity bill credits.
The SolarEdge monitoring system allows you to see panel-level data, so you know if a module is underperforming. This monitoring data can even help our technicians assess issues remotely for speedier repairs.
SolarEdge Monitoring Systems
SolarEdge offers a web-based monitoring portal and an app that works on Smartphones and tablets. When we install solar systems, we provide the login information to our customers. You can then log into the system to access production data, system layout, weather, system size, and more. It’s even possible to compare energy production between years and to learn about the positive environmental impact of using solar energy compared to grid power.
Monitoring System Warranties
Smart Solar Energy offers a 25-year warranty on monitoring systems. Keep in mind, it requires an internet connection to communicate with your inverter. In our experience, most issues with the monitoring system are related to the internet connection creating communication problems between the inverter and the monitoring portal. If there is a hardware issue with your monitoring system, we will clear it up at no cost to you.
To find out more about installing a solar energy system on your home, request a free solar audit from Smart Solar Energy. We have years of experience and have hundreds of families in Oregon and Washington go solar.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage Of Solar Energy Systems
We highly recommend determining that your solar system has adequate insurance coverage. While warranties protect against premature equipment failure, they don’t protect homeowners from damage caused by natural disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, or storms.
The good news is that most homeowners insurance policies do cover solar energy systems because they considered them a permanent attachment to your home and roof, like adding a patio or porch. This means that most homeowners insurance policies include solar panel insurance, without getting a special plan.
The Smart Solar Energy team does recommend checking with your homeowners insurance agent to make sure your system is properly covered by your policy. Also, ensure that the amount of coverage or the claim limit is enough to include the value of the solar PV system. It might be necessary to increase your coverage to include the value of your system.
Smart Solar Energy’s Labor And Service Warranties
Solar installers typically offer labor warranties when they install a solar system. Although they vary by the solar company, they are often in effect for only five years. Bear in mind that product warranties and power performance guarantees are associated with the solar equipment but not the labor to replace the product. Although the solar panel manufacturer might cover a bad solar panel, it probably won’t cover the labor to swap it out.
At Smart Solar Energy we stand behind our work! We offer a 25-year labor and service warranty, setting us apart from other solar energy companies in Oregon and Washington. If you need to replace a solar system while your warranty is in place, we will do it for you free or charge.
Remember that labor warranties are only as good as the installer itself. If a company goes out of business, they will likely not back their labor warranty. The solar industry has actually created the term “abandoned solar system” for this reason. By contrast, Smart Solar Energy is in the industry for the long haul, and we stand behind our work with our 25-year labor and service warranty.
To get a solar system with a 25-year labor and service warranty, contact Smart Solar Energy. Requesting a free solar audit is an excellent way to get started.
Why Are Solar System Warranties Important?
Going solar is a multi-decade investment, so the lifespan and proper operation of the system is crucial for many years. Equipment warranties help protect that investment, reducing your investment risk.
The greater your solar energy production, the higher your return on investment. The more clean energy your panels produce, the greater the savings you will experience on your utility bills. As the cost of electricity increases over time due to rate hikes, the value of the energy becomes even greater. Likewise, the less energy your solar system produces, the more you will be reliant on the power company and fossil fuels.
If you want a solar system with excellent warranties, contact Smart Solar Energy today. The first step to going solar with us is to request a free solar audit. We’ve helped hundreds of families across Oregon and Washington dramatically reduce their energy bills while helping the environment.
How do I Know If My Solar Panel System Is Working Properly?
Most solar systems chug away quietly, producing power with no issues. There are two primary ways to determine if your solar system is operating correctly: looking at the lights on the inverter and viewing your solar monitoring data. We do not recommend looking at your utility bill for guidance because the solar energy you feed to the grid is less than what the solar system is generating.
SolarEdge Inverter Lights
An easy way to determine if there is an issue with your system is by looking at the lights on your solar inverter during daylight hours. The front of your SolarEdge inverter has indicator lights that help communicate what is going on with your solar PV system.
A steady green light means the solar system is producing electricity. A blinking green light indicates the system is not producing. This blinking light should display when it is dark outside or if the panels are completely covered in snow. Otherwise, seeing this blinking green light during the day can be an indication that there is an issue.
Blue or red lights
The blue light on the SolarEdge inverter indicates it is communicating with the monitoring system. A red light indicates a system error, and we recommend troubleshooting solutions.
Often, solar systems with red lights are still generating electricity but we recommend figuring out the root cause. Common reasons for the red light include: the internet is down, the wi-fi password changed, a new router was installed, a change in internet service providers, or the inverter or networking components need to be power cycled.
Viewing Your Solar System Monitoring Data
Logging into your web-based solar monitoring portal or Smartphone app will provide a wealth of information on how your solar system is performing.
Keep in mind that weather plays a big role in solar panel output. For example, if you see big spikes and dips in how much electricity your system generated in an afternoon, it was probably a partially sunny day. Likewise, if your solar PV system produced more electricity this April compared to last, it is likely due to a variance in the weather.
Panel-level solar data
The monitoring data may show how many watts each solar panel is producing at a given time. If there is a big difference between panels, this could indicate an issue. To determine if your system needs attention, consider if there is a logical explanation. Do dormers, a chimney, other buildings, or trees shade some of your panels more than others? If it has recently snowed, one panel might have more snow covering it than another.
Snow-covered solar panels
Luckily, snow usually clears quickly off of solar panels and does not significantly reduce solar system output for long. Also, many parts of Oregon, such as Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, and Ashland, are not prone to significant snowfall. Hood River, Bend, La Grande, and Seneca, by contrast, tend to get a moderate amount of snow.
Remember that the angle of the sun varies throughout the year. The sun is lower in the sky in the winter months and higher in the summertime. This means that an evergreen tree might shade your panels in the winter months but not in the summer months. Some trees only shade a system for part of the day. Teasing out this information can often explain differences between solar panel output.
Can I determine if there is an issue with my solar system from looking at power bills?
system output information. If you have an interconnection agreement with the local utility company, your bill will show how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power you fed to the grid. All your electricity bill really measures is how many kWh you pull from the grid and how many you supply.
Keep in mind that first your home consumes power and then surplus is sent to the power grid. Therefore, if you are using a lot of electricity during the day, there will be fewer credits on your electricity bill because your panels weren’t generating much surplus power.
Seasonal Energy Consumption
Comparing summer and winter energy bills can be like comparing apples and oranges. It can also require you to put on your detective hat to tease out information. In western Washington and Oregon, we get far more sunshine in the summer months. This is often when our customers bank the most solar energy credits on their electricity bills.
If you have an air conditioning system, this can consume some of your extra summer energy production. If you use electric heat, this can also have a big impact on your power bills in the winter months. Solar system owners may get concerned when they see a big seasonal shift in their power bill but this is often a reasonable explanation.
New Power Loads
Solar system owners may get concerned when there is a big change in their electricity bill. Sometimes, this can be explained by changes in the home. For example, if you convert from a gas water heater to an electric water heater, your gas bill will go down but your electric bill will go up. If you install a mini-split heat pump to heat and cool your home, your electricity consumption will likely go up but you will probably save money from running your other heating system less.
If you get an electric vehicle and start charging at home, you may see a spike in your electricity usage from the additional load. If you install a hot tub, get an aquarium, add an appliance, or have an increase in occupants, this can impact how much solar electricity your home feeds to the power grid, regardless of how well your solar panels are producing energy.
The best way to determine if there is an issue with your solar system is by looking at the lights on the string inverter and viewing solar system monitoring data.
Is there a problem with my solar panels if I never see them producing at 100% capacity?
Your solar system will not operate at 100% capacity. For example, if you installed a 6 kW solar system, it would not generate 6 kW of power. Although the Smart Solar Energy design team does everything we can to minimize power losses, some are unavoidable.
Power Losses Are To Be Expected
Power losses occur with the inverter, cables, and even the performance of the solar panels. Climatic conditions, the season, and the angle and direction of the solar panels can all impact solar production. If you have a steep roof, it will generate a bit more power in the winter months (when the sun is lower in the sky) than a similarly sized system installed on a gently-pitched roof.
If your solar system has a slight easterly orientation, it will produce a bit more power in the morning, but a bit less in the afternoon. Also, solar panel efficiency decreases slightly during extremely hot weather. Contrary to popular belief, solar panel efficiency can actually be a bit higher in the winter because ambient temperatures are lower than in the middle of summer. Unfortunately, the days are also shorter in the winter which hinders total solar energy production somewhat.
Also, time of day impacts how much power your system is producing. For example, your system will produce less in the early morning and late afternoon than it will in the middle of the day. For this reason, middle-of-the-day shading can be especially detrimental to total solar system output. Thankfully, a little early morning or late afternoon shade will not have a big impact on total energy production.
Estimated Solar System Output
What is more important to consider is if your solar system is producing in line with the solar installer’s estimates which should take power losses into account. At Smart Solar Energy, we use conservative power production estimates because we don’t want to overpromise. Many of our customers report that the solar panels are generating more electricity than we predicted.
If you would like a Smart Solar Energy audit, please let us know. We can estimate how much energy your solar system will produce and your anticipated energy bill savings.
What Will Happen If I Need To Replace A Solar Panel?
The majority of the solar systems we install never experience equipment failure. If you have determined there is an issue with your solar system (and not a mere anomaly liked described above), contact Smart Solar Energy. We are dedicated to your solar system working at peak performance and want to fix the issue right away.
If a solar panel, inverter, or battery needs to be replaced, Smart Solar Energy will handle filing warranty claims with the manufacturers on your behalf. Once we have the new component, we will contact you to schedule the repair. Because your solar system warranty includes labor and service, most repairs are free of charge to our customers.
One exception could be something that requires a homeowners insurance claim. For example, if a tree falls on a home and damages the system, this is beyond the scope of the product warranties but the homeowners insurance policy will likely cover the repair.