Editor’s Note: In 2020, SunPower announced the completion of the strategic spin-off of its manufacturing division into a separate business named Maxeon Solar Technologies, Ltd. As a result, SunPower has expanded its offerings to drive future growth. The SunPower Equinox® system now offers multiple panel options, including front- and back-contact panels, all of which are responsibly and rigorously quality tested to provide the best energy solution for your home.
In February 2022, SunPower’s Commercial and Industrial Solutions business was acquired by TotalEnergies. Learn more about sustainability options for these industries.
Because commercial solar panels are a significant and long-term investment, business leaders who take the leap will want to know that their investment is covered. Enter a solar panel warranty.
Solar warranties mitigate the risk of faulty equipment, breakage and/or underperformance that might occur. Luckily, problems with solar panels are statistically rare, particularly when you choose solar equipment from proven solar providers like SunPower. However, it doesn’t hurt to have documented assurances on your side to help you understand the long-term financial impact of solar ownership and help gain stakeholders’ buy-in for a proposed solar project.
When researching commercial solar options, you’ll likely encounter a wide variety of warranties with different types of coverage and term lengths, plus a lot of fine print that might make it unclear on what’s covered and what’s not. In addition, depending on the company, warranty definitions can vary greatly.
For example, did you know that there’s a difference between solar panel product warranties and power warranties? Although the options can get confusing, it’s important to understand the differences when you’re deciding between solar companies.
Here’s a closer look at the different types of assurances that might come with your organization’s solar system.
Solar panel product warranty: This type of warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship. If a solar panel suddenly stops working after a few months because of a flaw in a solder joint, for example, your product warranty will most likely cover it.
Solar panel power warranty: Over time, the power output of all solar panels diminishes or “degrades.” Knowing this degradation rate (which is stated in the warranty document) will give you a clear sense of the minimum amount of power you’ll be guaranteed for the first 5, 10 and 25 years of your panels’ life. Then, if a panel’s output is lower than promised, the manufacturer will replace, repair or reimburse you for the panel—depending on the warranty terms.
Comprehensive third-party studies have shown SunPower panels degrade more slowly than conventional solar options.*Jordan, Dirk “SunPower Test Report,” NREL, Apr 2015; Campeau, Z. et al. "SunPower Module Degradation Rate," SunPower white paper, 2013. In fact, we guarantee that our panels won’t lose more than 8% of their original power output in a 25-year timeframe when compared to 19% for conventional solar.
Combined power and product warranty: Many solar manufacturers offer power and product warranties that provide coverage for different amounts of time. Others offer both warranties for the same timeframe. Note that for many solar providers, only their product warranty covers failure due to product defects or workmanship—and their power warranty doesn’t mention defects at all. So be sure to do a side-by-side solar panel warranty comparison, paying close attention to how the power and product sections are worded.
For example, you might think a panel’s power warranty covers any situation where its performance or output has been compromised. But be sure to take a closer look. Most panel manufacturers focus solely on their power warranty, because it often appears to guarantee a working panel for an even greater length of time than their product However, many of these power warranties are not supported by their accompanying product warranties. Case in point: If a panel is not producing the amount of power expected, but the reason is because of a product flaw, the manufacturer may refuse to cover the problem under its power warranty. If the product warranty doesn’t cover it either, or it has run out, you’re out of luck.
SunPower offers the solar industry's strongest panel power warranty.*Jordan, Dirk “SunPower Test Report,” NREL, Apr 2015; Campeau, Z. et al. "SunPower Module Degradation Rate," SunPower white paper, 2013. We cover 100% of repair or replacement costs, when many conventional solar warranties don’t.*Representative of standard efficiency solar manufacturers such as Trina, YingLi and Canadian Solar. Competitor warranty information provided from latest warranty documents, as of 2017. That means labor, shipping, parts are all covered for 25 years.*Shipping covered by some conventional warranties.
As you can see, there are good reasons why a lot of confusion exists around commercial solar panel power and product warranties. But now that you know the differences between the various types of assurances and what to expect, you’ll be able to more effectively compare and contrast your options. As always, it’s a good idea to work with a solar energy consultant for an additional helping hand in this area. They can help you understand the complexities of the warranties up for question. Plus, they can assist you in comparing and contrasting how different warranty terms could impact your organization financially, both in the short and long term.