Purchasing a solar energy system for your home can be a daunting task. Whether you hire a company to install solar panels for your home or whether you do-it-yourself, you still have to understand whether you are getting a good product that will last over time. With so many choices out there, it’s hard to know where to start.
The good news is that almost all companies that sell solar panels for your home have a 25-year warranty or more. The trick is purchasing the panels from a reputable company that will be around for the long haul. Yes, you might be able to purchase the panels a little cheaper off the internet from a fly-by-night company, but the truth is that you’ll regret it in the long run. Even though purchasing solar panels for your home from a more well-established company may cost a bit more, the slight increase in solar panel costs may be worth it if a panel goes out and you need to replace it. Cheaper solar panels are not giving you any bonuses in the short term aren’t always cheaper in the long run.
If you aren’t installing solar panels for your home on your own, find a reputable company that has a long-standing reputation, even if they charge a bit more. The added customer service and labour warranty that these companies provide will benefit you in the long run. Just having a single panel go out could cost you over $1000 in parts and labour to replace it, but it if is under a parts AND labour warranty you simply need to make a call. In addition, when leasing solar panels instead of purchasing them (see our article about Financing Solar Energy), the solar company that leased you the panels is on the hook for making sure the panels are working in optimal condition.
Local or Foreign
Some people are afraid to purchase panels from foreign countries. While it is always better for the economy and local manufacturing to buy American when you can, the truth is that most of the leading solar panels manufacturers are not from the US. China, Japan, and Europe have many of the top solar panel manufacturers (see Top 10 Solar Panel Manufacturers) and expect China to keep capturing market share. The US is still one of the top exporters of solar panels and has the number one solar panel manufacturer in the world, First Solar, however First Solar sells thin-film panels for utility-scale solar and since the panels don’t have a very high efficiency, they typically aren’t sold into the residential solar power market.
Expect a lot more change in the solar panel industry in the next five years. There will be a lot of consolidation of companies and prices will continue to fall which means many companies will go out of business. Solyndra is just the beginning. However, this shakeout is inevitable when you are dealing with such a booming market that demands rock bottom prices in order to compete (albeit with subsidies for now) with coal. Purchasing solar panels for your home is a good investment both financially as well as environmentally, and we can only hope the trend of solar panel costs keeps going down so that someday in the near future the costs are on par with coal without any subsidies.