Let’s face it – warranties aren’t the easiest (or most gripping) documents to read. There are often a lot of details and fine print included that can be hard to digest, leaving many to wonder: what does the warranty actually cover? Am I vulnerable? Anything I might be missing?
To make it as easy as possible, we’ve read warranty documents for the top solar equipment companies–and talked to them to confirm what is and isn’t included–and plan to point out the most important aspects of each in a series of articles. In this article, we dive into one of the most popular companies in the solar industry: SunPower.
Highlights of SunPower’s warranty
- Includes a labor warranty
- Covers replacements and/or repairs at no cost to you
- Is an all-encompassing warranty (i.e. includes every component of your SunPower system)
- If your SunPower affiliated installer goes out of business, SunPower will still honor their labor warranty
- SunPower warranties are easily transferrable
- SunPower does not require homeowners to register their system to have full warranty coverage
Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to compare solar options from local installers.
Note: SunPower’s warranty term is 25 years for their panels, microinverters, and racking system. SunPower’s monitoring hardware is for an industry standard term of 10 years.
Quick overview: SunPower’s history and warranty
SunPower’s co-founder, Dr. Richard Swanson, began his research into solar in 1970 as a possible solution to the ongoing oil crisis at that time. Following this research, in 1985 Dr. Swanson founded SunPower with funding from the DOE, the Electric Power Research Institute, and venture capitalists. Since that time, SunPower has worked to create innovations in the solar industry, with notable achievements including creating the solar panels on NASA’s Pathfinder rover, setting world records in solar panel efficiency, and powering a solar plane on a trip around the world.
SunPower’s warranties are also strong offerings when compared to other installers. SunPower product and labor warranties are all provided by a single company, as only SunPower affiliated installers work with SunPower products. This provides extra security for homeowners because both the labor warranties and panel warranties are backed by SunPower.
SunPower's solar panel warranty at a glance
|CATEGORY||SUNPOWER'S COVERAGE||INDUSTRY STANDARD|
|Product||25 years||10 years|
|Power||92% DC power at year 25|
90% AC power at year 25
|80% at year 25|
|Shipping of parts||Yes||No|
|Extended warranty offering||No||No|
SunPower’s product warranty
Also known as a material warranty, a solar company’s product warranty covers the integrity of the equipment itself–if your solar panels have a defect, mechanical issue, or experience unreasonable wear and tear, that should be covered by your product warranty.
If there’s a defect with your solar panel, it’s typically apparent “out-of-the-box”. In other words, you or your installer should be able to tell that something is amiss and fix the problem immediately–often before the panel even makes it to your roof. Regardless, it’s good to consider products with longer warranties for the peace of mind it provides.
SunPower includes a 25-year product warranty for all SunPower rooftop items, including panels, microinverters, and racking.
SunPower’s power warranty
Like every other type of electronic, the performance of your solar panels will degrade over time: fortunately, solar companies offer a power (or performance) warranty for their products. Power warranties help protect you against atypical degradation of your solar panels, ensuring that the output of your panels won’t fall below a certain level after a set period of time.
Different types of solar panel technologies degrade at different rates. Generally speaking, the highest quality solar panels offer long power warranties (25 years) that guarantee at least 80 percent of the original output by the end of the warranty term.
SunPower provides a 25-year power warranty for their panel technology, which guarantees that their products will still produce at least 92 percent of their original output by the end of the warranty term:
- 98 percent output at the end of year 1
- No more than 0.25 percent degradation from years 2-25
- DC Power output of 92 percent in year 25
- AC Power output of 90 percent in year 25
You can review and compare SunPower’s solar panels in the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide.
SunPower labor warranty
More often than not, solar installers are the sole party responsible for providing labor warranties for a solar installation. However, some solar companies offer additional protection by tacking on their own labor warranty for a limited number of certified installers in their network. SunPower’s warranty is unique because they have a dealer network that installs their solar panels, so their warranty covers any repairs for their panels as well as the cost of shipping and installing new panels for all of their installers.
How to make a warranty claim with SunPower: shipping & labor costs
Ideally, your solar panel system will continue operating smoothly for 25+ years, and you never have to worry about SunPower’s warranty. However, if you experience any defects or performance issues with your solar panel system, SunPower will be there to help.
If you notice an issue with your system, your first phone call should be to your original installer: having designed and installed your system, they are the most equipped to diagnose (and fix!) any potential issue.
If your installer determines that you need to replace a piece of equipment–like a solar panel– they can file a warranty claim directly with SunPower on your behalf. Importantly, because SunPower covers labor and shipping costs under their warranty, you don’t need to worry about paying any additional costs to get your system fixed.
Unfortunately, solar installers can go out of business, and you may find yourself in a position where you can no longer call the business that installed your system for help. In this case, you can work with SunPower directly to make a claim. Even in this situation, SunPower will cover any costs associated with the warranty claim, including site visits from a new installer to determine the problem, the shipment of any necessary replacements parts and labor for the repair.
It’s worth pointing out that SunPower’s labor coverage and repair offer is an outlier in the industry, and a good one at that: most solar panel companies do not cover any labor costs associated with replacing or repairing their products. If your solar panel warranty doesn’t cover labor reimbursement, this cost (and whether you’re responsible for it) might fall under the umbrella of your installer’s labor warranty. Be aware that labor warranties vary from one installation company to the next, so remember to read your installer’s labor warranty thoroughly before signing any contract!
Limitations and exceptions to SunPower’s warranty
Every warranty has its exceptions–SunPower’s is no different. Warranty limitations aren’t meant to make it harder for you to take advantage of the offering; companies simply try to protect themselves from unjust or unreasonable claims.
Here are a few things that aren’t covered in SunPower’s warranty:
- Defects or damage caused by extreme weather events (i.e. lightning, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, fires, flooding)
- Damage caused by unapproved maintenance, repair or alteration
- Damage from any structural changes or additions made to your roof after your solar panel system was installed
- Cosmetic defects, dents, or markings that do not impact the performance of the products
- Systems that are installed within consistent contact with large bodies of saltwater (i.e on a boat in the ocean). However, systems installed near the ocean are often covered (at SunPower’s sole discretion)
- Movement of the system from the original installation location that was not approved by SunPower
Other warranty considerations, and how SunPower stacks up
- Bankability: SunPower is one of the oldest companies in the solar industry, and is the only solar company that has been around longer than their 25-year warranty period. If your installer goes out of business, SunPower will send another SunPower installer to provide maintenance and services for your system.
- Escrows/insurance policies: SunPower does not have any escrow or insurance policies to protect consumers if they go out of business.
- Customer reviews: Another critical aspect of understanding a solar company’s warranty offering is investigating how their customers feel about their equipment and the services that they provide. Any warranty can look promising on paper, but how the installer or solar company performs when honoring their warranty is also critically important. If you are interested in reading SunPower’s reviews, you can do so here.
Finding the right solar panels for you
Finding the right solar panel system for your home means comparing multiple quotes from solar installers. Using the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can find local solar installers near you, and make easy side-by-side comparisons of all your solar options, including equipment. By shopping around first, you can find the right option at the right price–warranties and all. If you have a preference for one type of equipment over another–SunPower or otherwise–simply note it in your account when you sign up so installers can quote you accordingly.