Here's some pictures of what can happen to a solar panel when it is poorly
manufactured or inferior materials are used.
These panels probably looked just like any other
solar panel when they we're first purchased, but looks can be deceiving. When
burns and contamination like this occur it turns solar panels into worthless
glass and aluminum.
Although extremely unlikely, if this we're to
occur with a major name brand solar panel, the manufacturer would simply replace
it. If this were to occur with a small, non name brand manufacturer who has shut
down due to the current financial crisis, your chance of having it replaced
under warranty is pretty much zero.
For obvious reasons, we cannot disclose who
manufactured the solar panels that are pictured below, but we can assure you
that these manufacturer's solar panels are not used in any of our grid tie solar
By no means are we saying that you have to pay
more for a solar system that includes name brand product. In light of the
current economic crisis it simply doesn't make sense to be buying cheap, no name
solar panels when there are so many great deals available from major
manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Suntech, Trina, Sanyo, Kyocera and Sharp.
Even to someone who is experienced in the industry, a non name brand solar
panel looks pretty much the same as a major name brand solar panel. But
given time, a cheap non name brand solar panel will always rear its ugly
head. Burns like these may appear to be minor, but this solar panel is
Here's a picture of the back side of a solar panel
where a burn has penetrated the protective Tedlar® backing of this solar
panel, rendering the solar panel useless.
Here's a picture a solar panel's junction box where a loose connection
started an arc which melted the solar panel's terminal strip and
associated wiring. This manufacturer has shut down its U.S. office which
requires that warranty claims now be shipped overseas.
Here's a photo of a relatively new solar panel that displays some sort of
contamination on the surface of multiple cells. Mind you now this is under
the glass surface and cannot be repaired.
the solar panels that the other dealer is offering you being manufactured in a
ISO 9001 certified facility ?
consider the amount of money that you're about to invest, you had better ask
because it can make all the
difference in the world.
Over the next few months during the Summer of 2018, tens of
thousands of consumers throughout the U.S. and Canada will make one of the biggest
investments in their lifetime. Unfortunately many of those consumers will allow
their sales person to talk them into saving a few cents per watt by purchasing
one of the thousands of non-name brand solar panels that have started to flood
Hundreds of shipping containers from all over the world that are loaded with
cheap, non name brand or clone solar panels enter our ports every day. With the
worldwide economy in the worst shape that its been in the past 80 years, many of
the hundreds of new solar dealers that have cropped up in the last couple of
years will begin to offer these lower cost products in an attempt to bolster their
During the peak of the financial incentives that were being offered in 2007 and
2008 for solar installations in Germany, Spain and Italy, it was difficult to
find solar panels anywhere at any price. This enormous demand fed the creation
of solar panel manufacturing startups all over the world. Small overseas
companies that were makings toys and even lawn furniture one day transitioned into
solar manufacturing the next.
With the advent of all the do it yourself videos that are
floating around that demonstrate how to make your own home made solar panels, it
became more than just enticing for these small inexperienced companies to jump
on the solar manufacturing bandwagon. Unfortunately for these manufacturers and
their customers, designing and building a solar panel that can produce reliable
power while being exposed to the Sun, Wind, Rain and Snow for the next 30 to 40
years let alone survive during the 25 year warranty period is entirely another
We operate an in-house factory authorized
repair center and
are currently averaging about 5 to 6 calls per month from consumers who bought
off brand solar panel and are seeking repairs because their solar panels no
longer work and hey can no longer reach the solar panel's manufacturer.
What most people don't realize is the vast majority of
solar panel failures cannot be repaired.
Solar cells are permanently laminated to the panels glass surface and it is
virtually impossible to remove a solar panel's Polyvinyl fluoride backing without damaging
the solar cells. So without a warranty, these consumers are simply left with
nothing but worthless glass and aluminum.
After more than twelve years of watching solar
manufacturers come and go leaving customers without warranties, it is our
conclusion that even saving 10% to 20% when comparing a name brand solar system
to a non-name brand solar system is simply not worth the risk.
Here's The Tale Of Mr. Frugal And
The Great Deal He Got On Solar Panels.
Here's a fictitious example that is based on a
compilation of actual events that we have witnessed over the past 12 years.
Obviously the names and the events depicted here differ from the original
occurrences, but are representative of actual past situations.
Mr. Frugal buys his solar system from a local solar dealer that just opened up
in town. Due to inexperience and maybe a little bit of greed, this dealer
convinces Mr. Frugal that he can save $2,500.00 U.S. by purchasing non-name brand
solar panels instead of name brand product that has been manufactured by a large
publicly traded company. The dealer installs the system and the system begins
spinning the customer's meter backwards.
Three years later Mr. Frugal notices that his electric bills have risen. There
have been no dramatic electric fee increases so he calls his solar dealer and
finds that the dealer is no longer working in the solar industry and has gone
back to his previous profession of installing windows.
Mr. Frugal needs answers so he picks up the yellow pages and finds another local
solar dealer. The new solar dealer arrives at Mr. Frugal's home and inspects Mr.
Frugal's solar panels. What he discovers is that nearly half of the solar panels
have suffered from high voltage arcing which caused an open circuit between
several cells due to cold solder joints during the manufacturing process.
Mr. Frugal calls the initial solar dealer who is now in the window business and
asks him for the solar panel manufacturer's phone number. The ex-solar dealer
now window dealer provides Mr. Frugal with the only phone number that he has for
the manufacturer but unfortunately the number has been disconnected. After weeks
of research Mr. Frugal determines that the manufacturer has gone out of business
and that his solar panels no longer possess a warranty.
Mr. Frugal decides to pay the dealer that he found in the yellow pages to remove
the defective solar panels and replace them with new solar panels only this time
he decides to buy name brand solar panels that are from a large, publicly traded
company but there's a problem, no other solar panels on the market will fit on
the solar panel mounts that are bolted to Mr. Frugal's roof so the solar
installer informs Mr. Frugal that his solar panel mounts will have to be
re-arranged or replaced.
The cost to remove the defective solar panels and purchase new solar panels and
have them installed: $16,000.00 U.S.. The cost to re-arrange the solar panel mounts
and purchase extra rails and mounting clips: $1,400.00 U.S.. Grand total $17,400.00 U.S..
After completing the lengthy removal and re-installation process the installer
turns on the system and to Mr. Frugal's dismay, nothing happens. As it turns out
the excessive arcing caused by the solar panels damaged Mr. Frugal's inverter to
the point that it was more cost effective to purchase a new inverter rather that
have it repaired so Mr. Frugal was out an additional $2,400.00 U.S. plus an
additional $250.00 U.S. removal and installation fee from the installer. New grand
total $20,050.00 U.S. !
Mr. Frugal saved $2,500.00 U.S. up front by purchasing non-name brand solar panels
but it cost him $20,050.00 U.S. to correct the resulting problems which resulted from
his decision to save money by buying non-name brand solar panels.
It's been two years and Mr. Frugal has all but forgotten his solar nightmare
when one day he notices that his electric bill has once again shot skyward. It
appears that the remainder of the non-name brand solar panels that he did not
replace have also failed. What of the name brand solar panels that Mr. Frugal
added to his system ? They're doing just fine......
SOLAR PANEL MYTHS AND REALITIES
Q. If the non-name brand solar panels that I bought fail and the manufacturer
has gone out of business but the dealer that I bought them from is still in
business, isn't the dealer then responsible for the warranty ?
A. No, all product warranties are provided by their respective manufacturers. It
is no different than buying a refrigerator from a home improvement center. If
the refrigerator fails it would have to be repaired or replaced by the
manufacturer under the terms of their warranty not the home improvement center.
Q. My dealers tells me that his "Ying Yang brand" solar panels are U.L.
or Canadian U.L. approved. Doesn't this mean that they are high quality products ?
A. No. A U.L. listing only signifies that the solar panel meets electrical
safety standards and is not an indication of performance, reliability or
Q. My dealer tells me that his brand "Bumbo Solar" is really popular in Europe.
Doesn't that mean that they're a name brand.
A. Not necessarily, remember that you're talking to a salesman. If the dealer
claims that his solar panels are popular overseas, ask him to prove it. Ask him
to show you evidence that proves how many of his solar panels were manufactured
last year and what country they were shipped to. There is a big difference
between solar panels that are popular in Germany and solar panels that are
popular for humanitarian purposes in Africa.
A. The dealer that I spoke to told me that his "Dimwatts" solar panels use solar
cells that are manufactured in the U.S. Doesn't that prove that they are higher
quality product ?
A. Absolutely not. A solar panel's reliability does have a little to do with the
quality of the cells that are used in its construction but the majority of a
solar panel's reliability has more to do with how that panel was constructed and
what other materials were used to build the solar panel.
Among these considerations are:
1. The quality of the glass and how well the glass
is prepped before lamination.
2. Are the cell interconnections manually soldered or
robotically soldered ?
3. The type of inspection processes that are used during
each phase of the solar panel's assembly.
4. Is the laminated backing of high
quality or is it one of the inexpensive "clone" brands that will not stand up to decades
of exposure ?
5. Is the solder a generic type that is full of impurities that will
lead to cold solder joints or is it a high quality name brand product.
the module gaskets will they weather and crack after just a few years worth of
use or will they last 30 to 40 years.
Paying a few cents more per watt for high quality U.S. made cells and then
skimping on the remainder of the solar panel's construction is a common way for
manufacturers to create a false sense of quality in the consumer.
It's important to note here that not all non-publicly
traded solar manufacturers are necessarily in financial trouble or won't be
around to honor their warranties. But when you consider that for a few cents
more per Watt you can purchase name brand solar panels from large, well vested,
publicly traded or government sponsored companies, does it really make sense to do anything else. ?
If you have any doubts about the shear number of overseas solar
manufacturers that are currently vying for the U.S. market, then take a moment
and visit alibaba.com and type in the words solar modules in the the
search box and take a look a just a small sampling of the number of overseas
manufacturers that are out there.
Then ask yourself
which brand is that other solar dealer is really trying to sell you. Is it
really a high quality brand like they claim or are you simply handing your money
over to a small importer who has contracted with a tiny overseas manufacturer to
private label low cost solar panels with an American sounding name.
A simple rule to remember is this: When it comes to buying a high quality, high
performance high reliability solar panel, there is no middle road. No matter
what a salesman tells you, the solar panels that you're about to invest tens of
thousands of dollars into is either big name brand product or its not. When
you consider that solar panels typically makes up almost 90% of a system's cost
and performance, it's really not an area that you want to skimp on.
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