It’s very common for people to shop used solar panels. I personally have had the experience of buying both used and new, and learned a lot.
If you’re interested, I produced a video a while back that includes commentary on this subject (posted to the right). On with the article!
Used Solar Panels
The most obvious benefit is potential cost savings of used panels.
However, it’s also possible to waste lot of money: imagine buying used panels on an online auction site with a dishonest or inexperienced seller. By the time you realize they are selling junk, too late – you lose a bunch of time. Then there is potential return shipping, phone calls, emails and so forth.
One of the most critical aspects of used solar panels is how they were handled and chain of custody. Wrong handling will cause cracking and micro cracking in the crystalline cells. The fact is, used panels are usually thrown around quite a bit; taken off a roof, stacked and re-stacked, loaded and unloaded from a truck.
Used panels should be purchased in person and not remotely. The fact is if you cannot examine the panels for yourself and determine their history, how they were handled and cared for, the risk of a bad transaction is greatly increased.
Sellers may be dishonest or misinformed about power output of used panels (well it can happen with new ones too). It is critical to have power testing done on used panels. If they have very low output, they might take up too much space per Watt to be of any value.
Finally, backing failure is very common on older panels. It is critical to check the backing on all used panels and verify it is in good condition. The backing can often be very hard to repair and the cells may have already been damaged, making the panels almost worthless.
New Solar Panels
In my experience, it is better to order new and good quality panels with a warranty, and take good care of them. That way the history and what the panels have been through is well known.
New panels have higher output power than used ones, which partially offsets their higher costs. Typically they will be built with newer technology and may have higher efficiency as well.
In many cases, brand new panels can be sent back free of charge if there is a problem, with less hassle. There is still a time loss incurred, but the seller should replace damaged or faulty panels.
The market is flooded with cheaper new imported panels. This makes it very important to do research, check reviews and gather adequate information before buying.
Used or New?
The best advice is to not make impulsive uninformed decisions.
Used panels can be very tempting, new panels might aggressively priced, on sale or on closeout.
Taking time first to do research, read unbiased reviews and network with other people who are knowledgeable about solar is a good idea – and may save a lot of trouble.
In short, whether used or new, the buyer should take time to self educate before making any move.
I hope this article helps you out. Thanks for reading! DD