A 'Meaningful' Solar Panel Warranty
When it comes to solar panel warranties, the warranty period of the product and performance warranties should not be the only thing a discerning consumer should factor in. Those warranties should be assessed alongside the experience and stability of the manufacturer, their track record in the market, and the local warranty support. The factors all combined comprise a ‘meaningful warranty’.
Bankability & Experience
As discussed in Part 1, the bankability of a manufacturer is key to peace of mind against orphaned systems, but even amongst Tier 1 manufacturers, further considerations must be made. It is true that Tier 1 panel manufacturers are ranked by Bloomberg to specifically address bankability, but that doesn’t account for the whole picture. Even Tier 1 players have failed. Truly savvy consumers ought to peel back the Tier 1 labels and claims of bankability to look a little closer in order to get the full picture.
Ultimate peace of mind can come from a manufacturer that has a strong, diversified, and stable backer. The years that the company has been in operation is also a strong indicator for stability.
How long the manufacturer has been in the industry is as much a testament about the integrity of the product, as the integrity and trustworthiness of the company. If really pressed, a manufacturer will probably be able to wiggle out of honouring a warranty if they wanted. That’s where trust and reputation comes in.
Consumers should pick a manufacturer with a strong track record in the industry and a reputation of trustworthiness and integrity. A strong track record of technology leadership and R&D is a sure sign of quality, reliable performance of cells, and thus the module itself. Manufacturers, like Q CELLS that actively invest in R&D and testing (the highest investment in the industry, in fact) have the experience and testing results to stand behind their products.
Awards like the EUPD Research Top Brand PV award is a strong indicator of such trust as the award honours the brand most likely to be recommended by the experts themselves, solar installers, to friends and family. Q CELLS has won that award in Australia three years in a row and is the only manufacturer to boast that accomplishment.
Similar to how it doesn’t matter if a manufacturer offers a 100 year product warranty, if the company fails, the warranty is meaningless — the same goes for if a warranty issue arises and the manufacturer doesn’t have the resources to service the warranty. In that case, the peace of mind provided by the warranty is basically nil.
It would probably be surprising to Australian consumers how many of the most bankable and biggest brands in solar don’t actually have any local offices in Australia. Or, if they do, it is one person, or a small team operating out of a home office. These individuals are more likely to be focused on business development than on providing after-sales/warranty support.
Consumers who were once delighted at a 25-year product warranty may be sorely disappointed when they can’t reach the manufacturer by email for phone for days, and are then passed to overseas technical support to handle their warranty claim.
If a manufacturer has an office in Australia, then they have a responsibility to fulfil the warranty they provided. But if the manufacturer doesn’t have an office in Australia, the responsibility for the warranties lies with the importer of the solar panels.
By contrast, Q CELLS has been in Australia since 2009 and the over 30-member staff offers full-service local support for installers and customers alike. Multiple, dedicated, in-house engineers are available to handle any warranty or technical questions that may arise.
Stock & Availability of Product
The final consideration for assessing a meaningful warranty in terms of support is whether the manufacturer can quickly dispatch and install new product if a warranty claim does exist.
A panel can sit for weeks, even months, not producing power while the manufacturer orders replacement parts from overseas. Having locally available product stock means replacements can be dispatched quickly which means less time offline and not saving the system owner money.
Luckily, warranty claims are not common, but when they arise, Q CELLS is one of the most agile manufacturers who can quickly dispatch product from one of our six warehouses across Australia and have it serviced by a highly skilled and vetted Q.PARTNER installer.
Solar power is a long term investment with many benefits including cheaper electricity bills and even raising your property value. Because of the length of term in investment, it is important to carefully consider what the manufacturer offers in terms of the peace of mind provided by their warranties. This peace of mind goes beyond evaluating just the product and performance warranty.
Problems issuing from solar panels, are fairly rare with reputable manufacturers. However, even amongst so called Tier 1 panel manufacturers, a consumer ought to also consider the reputability and stability of the manufacturer and the local support available should a warranty issue arise.