Buying used solar panels is a lot like buying a used car, if you’re confident it was well cared for and the proper maintenance has been done, it can be a real bargain!
Buying used solar panels can be a tempting offer, but is it worth your investment?
Have you ever considered buying a used car? You might determine that buying used saves you enough money that you would deal with a used vehicle. Some of the things you would consider when inspecting a used car are the current condition, how well was it cared for, maintenance, seller, the current mileage, and its estimated lifespan.
If you can verify all those details, and they all come back positive, you’d call it a steal, right? You’d drive off into the sunset, pretty excited about the deal you just got.
Let’s apply that to solar panels, you would want to know the current condition of the panel, how well has it been cared for, has there been maintenance on the panel, is the seller reputable and how long will it keep working?
One of the benefits of buying a used solar panel is that the price is often lower. This gives you some wiggle room. Imagine a brand new solar panel (around 300 watts) sells new for $300 (this is actually still really cheap, the average price per watt for new panels is $2.67. This example new panel is $1 per watt).
If you can buy that same solar panel used for $75 (price per watt is $.25 here), you have some wiggle room to pay for 4 more panels before you reach the price of the new panel. Imagine this $75 panel ends up producing 275 watts instead of 300 for some reason. You can scrap that panel and buy a new one 3 times before hitting the cost of the new one. You could also just buy 4 panels and be generating between 1,100 – 1,200 watts. That makes sense but for how long will the panel produce?
Most manufacturer’s warranty their panels anywhere from 10-25 years. That means they expect the panel to be functioning as intended for that length of time. Imagine you get a panel that’s been used for 5 years. Depending on the panel quality, you could still have 20 years of power generation from that panel (most often when you buy used it doesn’t come with the manufacturer’s warranty, but that doesn’t mean the panel isn’t expected to work for the same amount of time!)
“…the solar industry is growing fast…”
All solar panels degrade over time, just like cars. You might get fewer miles per gallon as time goes on, and so it is with solar panels. The reason manufacturer’s offer their long warranty is because they expect the panel to degrade a certain rate (about 1% per year). This means that these manufacturers expect that when a panel is 20 years old, it will still be close to 80% effective! So, if you come across some used panels that aren’t very old, you can expect them to perform well!
One of the big factors that makes a panel unfit to be sold as “new” are the cosmetics. Maybe the frame has a small dent (doesn’t affect production), maybe the spacing on the panel is off (doesn’t affect production), or maybe there is a little line where the sealant is visible on the glass, aka a snail trail (doesn’t affect production). Panels with problems like these are where you make off like a bandit, because the production is unaffected, they just have minor cosmetic flaws.
Because the solar industry is growing so fast and the technology is improving so quickly, panels quickly become outdated, just like how when a new Jaguar comes out, the model from the year earlier is now “outdated”, but you’d still drive it if you could.
In conclusion, as long as you know that the used seller has done their due diligence and knows that the wiring and wattage of the panel are all in working order, it’s basically like buying new. Check out SanTan Solar where due diligence is always done and the panels are quality!
Want to know how many solar panels you need? Check out our solar calculator!