Understanding warranty claims for flexible solar panels
Don't be fooled by deceptive flexible solar panel warranty claims. It is not uncommon for seller of flexible solar panel to claim their panels have a 10 or 25 year warranty!
These warranty claims are often not substantiated. If fine print is provided it will state that the warranty is actually a power output warranty, not a manufacturer's warranty.
What is the difference between an output warranty and a manufacturer's warranty?
The product warranty covers defective materials or workmanship in the manufacture of the panel whilst the output warranty (performance) refers to the reduction of power output over time which occurs with all PV panels regardless of type and manufacturer.
The longevity of the cells varies depending on who manufacturer's them. For example GoPower in the US have a 10 year warranty, although by saying it is a 10 year warranty it can easily be misinterpreted as a manufacturer's warranty even though it is an output warranty.
The performance Warranty for the Sunpower cells used in our RADpower flexible panels and the Sobian SP series flexible panels is that power output is guaranteed by SunPower to be at least 90% of the rated output at Standard Test Conditions (STC) for ten years.
Panels can fail because of defects in the parts of processes used during manufacturer (covered by manufacturer's warranty), or they can fail because of handling, installation or operation after manufacturer (usually not covered by manufacturer's warranty.
Under Australian consumer law, importers are responsible for manufacturers’ warranties so it is important to know who your importer is and their likelihood of still being in business to honour any warranty claims.
Why do panels fail?
1. Defects in component parts (covered by manufacturer's warranty):
A defect in a cell such as chips, cracks and burnt areas
A defect in a diode
defective top sheet, bottom sheet or lamination
2. Manufacturing processes (covered by manufacturer's warranty):
lamination not carried out at correct temperature
cell spacing is not appropriate and cells may overlap
vacuum seal not created during manufacturer
scratches on the surface from tools and drums
Poor soldered connections between cells and into junction box
Junction box not sealed properly
3. Stressors during handling, installation, operation (usually not covered by manufacturer's warranty):
- Thermal cycling
- Mechanical stressing, eg flexing
- Thermal-mechanical stressing between panel and substrate (such as installation on canvas over metal bar)
Examples when a damged panel will not be covered by the manufacturer's warranty:
- Installation has not been carried out according to the instructions e.g. Panel is installed on canvas over a support beam causing stress to the panel.
- Mounting structure (e.g. caravan roof) has contracted and expanded and cracked the cells (note that using Very High Bond (VHB) tape is recommended in our installation instructions usually circumvents this cracking).
Why is the warranty for flexible solar panels different from rigid residential house panels?
The lifespan of flexible solar panels is not clear as they have not been in use as long as rigid residential panels.
The typical manufacturer warranty for a flexible panel is 1 year.
- RADpower: 1 year manufacturer's warranty plus Solar 4 RVs provides an extra 1 year warranty becauses they have an ETFE top layer. The Peak Power Warranty is 85% of initial power after 10 years.
- Solbian: 5 year manufacturer’s warranty which is supported throughout the world through authorised distributors. Solar 4 RVs is the authorised Australian and New Zealand importer and distributor for Solbian. The Peak Power Warranty is 85% of initial power after 10 years.
- eArche: The manufacturers warranty is 10 years plus a 25 year Linear power output warranty
What impacts of how long flexible panels to last?
Weather - constant full sun or not
Installation methods to improve longevity: