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Are used solar panels worth using?

When deciding on components to use in your solar energy system, you may consider picking up some solar panels from the used market. Whether you are browsing through online marketplace sites or even locally, the low prices seem pretty appealing. Buying and using solar panels can come with their own set of challenges and issues.

New vs. Used solar panels

When purchasing a new solar energy system, the components that will be included in your system are brand new parts. Everything from your solar panels, inverter, solar battery, and even the wiring. Your system is designed to fit your home and meet your electricity usage. Components including solar panels are chosen to suit your system. The designing, permitting and installation are handled by our team of specialists to ensure that your system is good to go for the coming years from the moment it’s turned on. Your components are covered by their respective warranties and we also provide a service warranty on your system.

With used components, a lot of work will be on your end to search and purchase the second-hand solar panels and other components needed for your solar energy system. You will probably find panels sold on online marketplaces through bidding, direct selling, or even wholesale used panels from vendors. These panels are sold for a variety of reasons, slight damage, lowered efficiency, degradation, or maybe the previous owner is upgrading their system with new solar panels.

You will need to research and calculate the number of panels you would need for your solar energy system and which panels are suitable. Which inverter would be suitable for your system, and so on. There is also the matter of installing your system. Which can either go to an installer willing to work with used components, or it can be done on your own as a DIY project (which we don’t recommend). While the lower prices, when compared to a brand new system, are enticing. There is no real warranty on used parts and don’t expect to get a replacement for free if your used component doesn’t function or meets its supposed condition on its listing.

Are used solar panels more trouble than they are worth?

While you can get a good deal for used solar panels. If you’re looking for a system to reliably generate power, chances are you will run into issues for a variety of reasons.

Damage / Defects / Degradation

Used solar panels can come with a few gremlins in the form of damage, degradation, and/or imperfections. Solar panels can get damaged for several reasons, and the extent of damage can range from cosmetic to potentially serious. 

Some used solar panels can have defects, either from manufacturing or from their time spent running. Defects such as delamination, micro-cracks, hot spots, and snail trails can affect the performance of the solar panel or even lead to complete failure of the panel over time.

Degradation occurs in every solar panel from the moment it is used and exposed to the sun. The power generated by the solar panel will be less than it was brand new. While degradation is something manufacturers and warranties cover, the degradation in used solar panels can be hard to calculate and figure out.

Damaged or otherwise already used solar panels produce energy at a lower efficiency than advertised. This is because, over time, the output of a solar panel drops incrementally. Many large commercial solar projects will have damaged panels from time to time, and an easy way to minimize a financial loss on those panels is to resell them at a discounted price. 

Solar Generation

Outdated when compared to current solar panels

The solar industry is constantly moving forward, with improved panel models and even new technologies which result in higher efficiencies and better power generation. The effect of this advancement is that the prices of current panel models will drop in price. On the other side of the coin, your used solar panel will also be outdated by the time you get your hands installed on it. You’d end up saving more money in the long run with newer, more efficient solar panels when compared to outdated, used panels.

Unable to claim incentives

One of the reasons why purchasing a solar energy system is appealing is due to incentives offered by federal, state, and local governments. These incentives can come in the form of tax credits or rebates that can lighten the financial load of purchasing a solar energy system. One issue you may run into when using used components is that you may not be eligible for some incentives.

The Federal Solar Tax Credit is the most well-known tax credit provided for solar energy. This tax credit can be claimed on your federal income taxes for a percentage of your solar photovoltaic (PV) system’s cost. The program provides a 26% tax credit for systems installed between 2020 – 2022, and 22% for systems installed in 2023. One criterion for the credit is: “The solar PV system is new or being used for the first time. The credit can only be claimed on the “original installation” of the solar equipment.” This means your used components could make you ineligible for the tax credit. Other incentives come with specific criteria, so you will have to check if they will accept your used solar panels as part of your system.

Lack of warranty coverage

New components will mostly come with production and equipment warranties provided by the manufacturer. These warranties guarantee that your new solar panels will produce power at their listed efficiencies and are covered in the case of physical damage or failure. Used panels don’t always come with that kind of post-purchase support and coverage. You might even have a hard time verifying if the panels work as intended or operate with acceptable efficiencies when you purchase them. 

Where can used solar panels work for me?

While used solar panels aren’t the best choice to power your home and have you start saving on your electricity bills. They can still be a good choice if you’re looking to power smaller, non-critical appliances or parts of your home. For example, if you’re looking to make your shed solar as a DIY project, it would be a feasible and less risky option to get used. Used portable solar panels can be an ideal choice for power when camping. Other opportunities for used solar can be a good choice. Although, it would still require plenty of research and care to find used panels that will suit your needs.

Get started with solar energy today

If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.