Solar Maintenance FAQ
This content was developed in collaboration with Amicus O&M.
Looking for more? Check out our 20-page Solar Owner’s Manual available for download.
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There are three main warranty categories:
- Product warranties:
- Cover potential defects with your solar modules and inverter.
- Offered by the manufacturer, not your installer.
- Modules typically carry a 10-year workmanship warranty but can range up to 25+ years.
- Inverter warranties may range from 10 to 25 years. They can often be extended for an additional fee. Check with your installer on availability and pricing.
- Power production warranties:
- Guarantee the output of solar modules won’t decrease by more than a certain percentage per year.
- Guarantee your panels still produce some percentage (usually 80% or more) of their initial rated capacity for a minimum number of years.
- Offered by the equipment manufacturer (not your installer).
- Labor/installation warranties:
- Cover the craftsmanship of work done by installer to assemble equipment into a working system on your property.
- Typically includes warranty on all roof penetration points as well.
- Installer workmanship warranties cover issues related to their installation work such as wiring and conduit, racking assembly, and roof penetrations. Typical timespan is 3 to 10 years, though some can be as long as 20 years or more.
Manufacturer warranties explicitly cover the faulty parts. In many cases, they include a stipend for the labor. Unfortunately, this is not always enough to cover the true repair costs. Ask your installer whether their workmanship warranty covers additional labor for product warranty replacement work.
Most rooftop solar systems should be covered as part of your standard homeowner’s insurance policy. This finding comes from a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). In some states, larger “Tier 2” systems (Tier 2 size varies by local rules) require additional liability coverage. Contact your insurance company before you install your system to let them know about the addition to your property. Ask:
- Will it affect the premium?
- In the event of damage, will solar system replacement costs exceed my current policy coverage limits?
- What deductible will the solar array fall under?
- Will any supplemental liability coverage be required due to system size?
- If your system is on the ground, does it require additional insurance?
Before installation, your installer will give you a clear estimate of how much electricity your system should generate (kilowatt-hours or kWh) yearly and for each month which varies, depending on time of year. It can also vary year-to-year somewhat based on weather and other factors. If you have monitoring set up, checking your system production through your online monitoring platform or phone app periodically is a great way to make sure your system is performing as expected. If you don’t have online monitoring, you can confirm your system is working properly by checking the inverter or monitoring unit display screen. These display screens should show cumulative production (kWh) over the year and the lifetime of the system.
Depending on the weather severity, the inverter might produce very low values, but could also be completely off with no lights or in sleep mode. It is always best to wait out the weather and confirm production on the next sunny day or when the snow melts.
If you ever need help with your solar installation, contact your solar installer first, unless they’ve instructed you otherwise. Your contract should include information for the correct department to call for maintenance requests. If your installer has gone out of business or is unresponsive, you may need to find another qualified solar company to service your installation. If you’re having trouble finding someone, contact Solar United Neighbors, a national non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners.
A rooftop solar array can last more than 20 years. During that time, you may need to repair or replace your roof. If so, you’ll want a qualified solar installer to uninstall the array from your roof — and then reinstall, test, and re-commission it when your roof work is complete. The cost for this work varies by installer and by the size of the array. It’s typically between $2,000 and $5,000. This charge is mostly made up of the labor cost of removing and reinstalling all the modules. Solar equipment can usually be stored on site while it’s not on your roof.
Solar is a reliable technology. It has no moving parts. There is not a lot that can break. But like all appliances, we do see manufacturer defects from time to time. And the system as a whole may need service at some point. We recommend you set aside a small budget for inspections every 3 to 5 years and eventual service work. After all, you expect to service your refrigerator or washing machine at some point, right? And those appliances aren’t sitting outside in the elements every day!
For the most part, natural precipitation will clean your modules sufficiently to maintain electricity production. Your modules may benefit from being cleaned from time to time if they are installed at a shallow tilt angle or you live in a dusty and dry climate. Never use chemicals or soap of any kind. If your modules are easy to access and/or spray water on, you can do this with little risk. We strongly recommend calling in a professional if you have to climb on your roof to clean them. The hospital bill if you fall off the roof will never be offset by the additional electricity production!
It is more likely that you will see roof damage before you see damage to the solar modules themselves. Solar electric modules are built with high‐impact tempered glass. This is like the windshield of your car. If your modules ARE ever damaged by hail or other severe weather, it’s very likely that your roof is as well. You would include the removal and reinstallation of the solar array along with your insurance claim.
Animals do sometimes cause damage to the array. We have seen birds, squirrels, raccoons, and the like go underneath the modules to nest or find shelter. They will, on occasion, chew wires or cause other issues. The best way to prevent this is to install an animal guard along with the array.
Most solar arrays are “grid-tied.” This means they’re connected to the local power grid. This allows solar homeowners to use their solar electricity when the sun is shining, and to switch seamlessly to utility-provided electricity on cloudy days or at night. For grid-tied solar arrays, your system will stop producing electricity when the grid goes down unless it is connected to a battery storage system.
This is a required safety feature. In the event of a power outage, inverters are designed not to feed electricity into the grid and potentially injure the utility workers who are servicing the wires. As a result, when the grid is down your inverter(s) stops converting the electricity for your home from your solar modules’. Your home will not have power (even if the sun is shining). When grid power returns, you don’t need to do anything at all. Your inverter will sense that grid power has returned, wait for a few minutes to make sure everything is okay, and then start producing power again when the sun is shining.