Buying unwarranteed panels

charlyhorscharlyhors Registered Users Posts: 3
Hello all, I'm in the final stages of my solar project - installing panels and controller. Shopping for panels, I've noticed that shipping adds about a third of the cost to panels (most require truck shipping). I've looked online, and also on Craigslist locally. Found a local individual selling panels that would work for me. They are new Chaori 230W panels which I could buy locally, no freight, for $210. The downside is the seller is an individual with a small home business, so returning if they later failed would be very iffy. Also, when I researched the Chaori chinese manufacturer online, I found this Large chinese mfr is undergoing bankruptcy restructuring and may or may not be around for warranty purposes down the road.

I am wanting to go with this purchase just due to cost savings, and my understanding that most solar panels typically last if they are good at the start. Also the freight savings really makes these a good deal. What are your thoughts, O Ye of More Experience.

Also, to test them, just hook up a voltmeter to them on a sunny day?

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,517 admin
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels

    It is getting dicey if any manufacturer will be around in 19 years to warranty the panels.

    On the other hand, paying less than a $1 a watt and having to replace one set of panels is better than paying $5 per watt for panel with a "free" replacement (if needed).

    In the end, it really depends on the quality of the panels too. And panels can fail (I had an entire array replaced after 6 years. And now BP is out of the solar business (have nto checked to see if if their warranty program still exists or not). Hmm, looking and find:

    http://www.bp.com/en/global/alternative-energy/our-businesses/solar-power.html
    BP has completed its previously announced wind down of its solar operations.
    Warranty and Recycling support
    All valid warranty claims will continue to be honored. For warranty and recycling support, please contact your installer. In the event that your installer cannot be contacted please refer to the relevant country information below for further information.

    And, even a large manufacturer with lots of experience still can mess up:
    This product advisory is being issued to communicate a potential risk when using certain BP Solar modules in specific types of installations. Testing has shown there is a limited risk of cable to busbar disconnection in the junction box that, in rare cases, may lead to a thermal event in certain applications of the products referenced below. A thermal event, depending upon the severity, can cause secondary damage to surrounding materials that are not fire resistant.

    The products and applications affected are as follows:

    Products:
    Limited to BP Solar modules shown in Appendix I that were manufactured between March 1, 2005 through October 31, 2006 with a serial number Fx050301xxxxxxx through Fx061031xxxxxxx.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • AguarancherAguarancher Solar Expert Posts: 282 ✭✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels

    Welcome to the forum. Don't really like to post the competitors products, but these my be cheaper even with shipping and you might get some warranty as well. Good Luck

    http://sunelec.com/chaori-230w-solar-panel.html
  • HandyBobHandyBob Banned Posts: 31
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels
    charlyhors wrote: »
    Also, to test them, just hook up a voltmeter to them on a sunny day?

    You will find that almost nobody reads anymore. Yes, test for open circuit voltage and you will know they are good "now". You can even tell when cloudy. If they are all the same, they are all good. IMHO, any warranty today isn't worth the paper it is printed on. The manufacturers are dropping like flies. You pays your money and takes your chances. I just bought some unknown brand panels to use for heating water, paying under a buck a watt including shipping and this was not from one of the low price places. These happened to be Korean & mono. They look beautiful, but will they last? Who knows. I just know they'll be out of business if I have a problem. The tariffs being added to the cost of foreign panels are too late to save US industry. SOP for our worthless law makers. I bought Helios for my home system, paying a premium and they went bankrupt within a year.... What warranty? Jaded? Who, me?

    I would like to steer you to US or Canadian panels if you can swing it, but will it really matter? Probably not. Take everything you read anywhere with a grain of salt.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,517 admin
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels

    Testing wise, Open Circuit voltage is the first one... Very quick no-go test.

    Second is the short circuit current test. Connect to a DMM in 10 Amp current mode (assuming Isc is less than meter rated current) and put in full sun. If >~50% of rated Isc, probably fine. Of course, if cloudy day/etc., you will end up with much less than Isc. If you have multiple panels, generally most will read fine, and a few (if any) will have dramatically lower Isc in the same test condition (passing both of these tests should find 80-90% of the "bad" panels).

    The last way to test a panel is to put them on a 12 volt battery bank and measure the current (for a Vmp~18 volt panel). If it passes this test, then the panel is for sure good (at that point in time).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 4,996 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels
    Welcome to the forum. Don't really like to post the competitors products, but these my be cheaper even with shipping and you might get some warranty as well. Good Luck

    http://sunelec.com/chaori-230w-solar-panel.html

    I want to double this suggestion, though I think they were requiring pallet size purchases, you might look at the other available panels since if installed on your home and contributing you can also claim a 30% tax credit off any tax liability. You can't do this with the local panels since they are 'used' by definition. Only the original purchaser should qualify for the tax credit.

    Ooops, looks like they do at 68 cents a watt, shipping will be quite high for small quantities, but the after tax price might well be less...
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • Ken MarshKen Marsh Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels

    I purchased four crates of 72 cell panels over the last four years.
    These are from several mfgs most of which are out of business now.
    Some of them are refurbished.
    We moved so I pulled them down and decided to test 60 of them before re-installing.


    The testing happened a month ago.
    Two things were learned:


    1. There wasn't a single bad one.
    I know the array was hit by lightning at least three times.
    It burned out a charge controller once and components in a combiner box twice,
    but there are no bad panels.


    2. They are all very close in output.
    Even though panel ratings go from 270 to 305 Watts,
    you can not see any difference between them.


    This was a surprising commentary.
    We accumulated over 100 panel years with out a single bad panel!
    I did have several problems with the connectors.
    I can remember at least three times there would be an open string
    and it turned out to be a MC-4 connector.


    As for testing:
    Yes, the best way is to test open circuit voltage and short circuit current.
    But remember to disconnect the charge controller before you test for current.
    If you don't remember, you burn out your amp meter.
    I'll let you guys figure out why.
    You probably can also guess how I found out...
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 4,996 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels
    Ken Marsh wrote: »
    I know the array was hit by lightning at least three times....

    A direct lightning strike? I'd believe near by lightning, direct lightning will take all paths and there are a lot of small wires!
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • solarixsolarix Solar Expert Posts: 713 ✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels

    Its hard to get vendor financing from any distributor, so as a result most small dealers have to pay cash in advance same as a retail customer so get set up as a dealer yourself. Wholesale pricing is now around 70 cents/w and there are lots of distributors after your business. Probably need to buy in pallet minimums but the shipping is really not too bad then. I agree that panels are pretty much a commodity now and quality is good and warranty is a non-issue
  • CDN_VTCDN_VT Solar Expert Posts: 492 ✭✭✭
    Re: Buying unwarranteed panels
    Ken Marsh wrote: »
    But remember to disconnect the charge controller before you test for current.
    If you don't remember, you burn out your amp meter.
    I'll let you guys figure out why.
    You probably can also guess how I found out...

    Lost the meter or burn the internal fuse. ?
    I have had spikes that have burnt the 10 amp fuse.



    My Canadian Solar come in 24 panels per pallet and are stacked in two pallet boxes on top of each other. So when shipping is figured it's the floor size taken overall . One pallet from the California Canadian Solar Landing custom house to WA 380.00 24 or 48 panels , same floor size. Now if you work it correctly 58-65 / watt plus shipping.

    When a new shipment arrives into that house , all of the older stock needs to move out , so they(Canada Solar or whoever) must pay to move it & store in there Warehouse , the distributors setup get calls on these deals .
    At least that's how my deals worked .


    VT
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