A good deal might be buying discarded or used solar panels from a manufacturer. Usually such panels are cheaper due to loose or disconnected wirings (which is not a problem, as they can be easily soldered), while efficiency is almost the same as in new panels. Another place to get second hand solar panels is eBay or Amazon.
We recommend buying secondhand panels produced by a reputable manufacturer. Here are some other ideas of where to get secondhand and cheap solar panels:
- Local solar installers — they can advise you where to search them.
- Building contractors specialized in house renovation — they often remove panels from houses they work on, and you can get such panels free of charge if you take part in removing them from a site.
- Insurance companies — an insurance company has a lot to do in areas after a windstorm, a hailstorm or a hurricane, as there are lots of damaged houses and, therefore, damaged solar panels. Some of those panels can be easily fixed, and they might be useful in a DIY solar panel system.
- Secondhand electrical shops
- Newspaper ads
Warranty and warranty support
Usually, second hand solar panels do not come with a warranty. New cheap solar panels, however, normally come with some warranty, although it’s much less than 25 years. Therefore, you should check to see how the warranty would be applied.
This means that you need to ask who will take care of the panel in the event of a problem (malfunction or damage) — a vendor’s representative or you personally.
Furthermore, if a panel gets damaged, it is important to know:
- Whether the vendor is going to bear the expense of transportation and repair,
- In what time they can do that.
Remember that, regarding warranty issues, big solar suppliers are more reliable.
What to remember about secondhand solar panels
- Having your solar panel system built with secondhand panels, you might not be eligible for any grants, rebates or incentives.
- You will not be allowed to have your solar panel system connected to the grid.
- If panels are not provided with a certificate, this will be a problem for your insurance company.
- Do not buy secondhand panels before having a look at them. During the survey ask: where they were used, what their age is and what is the efficiency degrade.
- Buy secondhand panels only when you’re either on a very tight budget or when you need them for small electrical appliances (laptops, lamps, fans, water pumps).
- Secondhand solar panels always require a larger area to install.
- Avoid buying thin-film secondhand panels, try to find crystalline (monoorpoly-) ones.
- Filter out scams — some ‘vendors’ might even try to sell you apparently promising solar panels manufactured by technology no one has ever seen!
What to do before buying second hand solar panels
- Insist on having a look at the panels — arrange a survey.
- Take a fellow electrician, technician or a technology-skilled person with you, and ask him to bring a multi-meter.
- Carefully examine each panel and be careful about breaks, chips, scratches, water condensation (see above).
- Have the voltage, power, and current measured (see above).
What to ask during the ‘solar panel survey’?
- How old are the panels?
- In what kind of environment were they mounted? (the best case is to have been stored in a warehouse)
- How much is the efficiency degradation?
- Do panels come with any warranty and how long is it?
Anyway, is it worth using second hand solar panels? Using secondhand solar panels is not advisable, unless either you are on an extremely limited budget or you need to power a small appliance rather than an entire household.
It’s a good idea to evaluate first what rebates and incentives you are entitled to in your area. In some cases, such benefits might drag down the total system cost by 30%! Therefore, you should choose the preferable option for you:
- To have a brand new solar panel system, with warranty and post warranty support, provided with insurance, at no risk, no unpleasant surprises, with at least 25 years lifespan, at a price reduced by 30% (certainly in the case that you are eligible for solar rebates/incentives) from the initially stated one, or
- To have a system built of cheap solar panels — well, probably cheaper than
30% or more but… lacking any warranty support, insurance, always prone to risks and hazards, of unknown lifespan and most importantly — not eligible to benefit from any rebates or incentives?
Mind you, an often forgotten yet proven way to reduce the price of your solar panel system — reducing your electricity needs.
Please, don’t laugh! The less electricity used, the cheaper the solar panel system needed — inclusive of compose installation, commissioning, insurance and maintenance. If you buy secondhand or cheap solar panels, your system cannot be insured under a guarantee, so if a panel breaks down or is damaged, you will both have your money lost and your system non-operational. If you care about warranty support, then buying secondhand or cheap solar panels is not an option for you.
Moreover, by using secondhand or cheap solar panels, you could expect possible failures and breakdowns, as well as occasional time-consuming repair work.