There are a lot of solar panel manufacturers out there. How do you know which one to choose? We’ll break it down so you know what to look for and what pitfalls to avoid.
Warranty: One place to start is your warranty coverage. Given that your PV system is constantly exposed to the elements, there are a number of things that can break down over time. You want to know exactly what’s covered so you don’t get caught off guard with unexpected expenses. Look carefully at how long the warranty lasts and know the difference between parts and labor. They may claim a 25-year warranty on parts, but only a 5-year workmanship warranty on the product, meaning you could end up paying out of pocket for repairs when you thought you were completely covered. You need to talk to your installer on their install warranty as this is a whole other aspect that we are not going to discuss on this blog.
Stability: You want to pick a stable company that will be around over the long haul. Remember, a company that goes out of business can’t honor your warranty, no matter what they promised you. If they go under, you’re out of luck. When comparing manufacturers, how diversified are they? If they’re a large, well-known company that deals in multiple industries, they might have a greater chance of survival even if there’s a downturn in the solar industry, as opposed to one that’s solely dependent on solar.
Fair comparison: Cost is always a consideration, but when shopping around and comparing prices, make sure you compare apples to apples. Some manufacturers claim that they produce more watts of electricity per panel, but it might just be because the panels are bigger. A better way to compare is to look at the price per watt produced. There are several websites that are out there they do comparative analysis of the PV panels.
Flexibility: Finally, the big one that catches so many consumers off guard and should be avoided at all costs…make sure there is no proprietary workmanship clause. In other words, you want to be able to pick ANY licensed contractor who is allowed by the state you are in to install, maintain, and repair your panels. Some manufacturers actually restrict you only to companies that are licensed to sell their product. This greatly limits who you can call. You might have someone in mind who does great work but find yourself stuck with a company that has poor workmanship, bad customer service, or costs a lot more. They may claim it’s because their panels are unique and use proprietary technology but be wary of what they tell you. All PV panels are basically built the same and produce electricity the same way, so a licensed contractor who can do the work in your state should be able to do the work.
In conclusion, we want you as the consumer to be aware so that you can make an informed decision from the start, and don’t get locked into a deal that’s not in your best interest. Your PV system is a long-term investment that can often outlast the life of your installation company. Make sure you get what you pay for and retain your rights so that you’re in control and get the best bang for your buck, even years down the line.