For the most part, solar panel systems are “set it and forget it,” requiring very little (if any) maintenance over time – but what costs can you potentially encounter after installing your solar panel system? In this article, we’ll discuss four factors that could impact post-installation costs, and what you can do to avoid some of these costs from the get-go.
1. General solar panel system maintenance
Generally, most solar panel systems do not require active or routine maintenance. However, some homeowners proactively purchase a solar operations and maintenance (O&M) package for added peace of mind. O&M service packages are essentially an insurance plan for your solar panel system; these plans often include cleaning, electrical system checks. These types of plans are not as common with residential installations as they are with larger commercial projects. Should you decide to add this protection after installation, it will likely cost you a few extra hundred dollars a year.
Keep in mind that your installer may offer their own service plan, or include annual servicing as a part of their warranty package. Before purchasing an O&M service package, check to see what your installer does their own annual checkups, whether it’s sufficient for your needs, and if they charge extra for that service.
Additionally, some homeowners pay for professional solar panel cleaning alone. This is not necessary for many installations: if your solar panels are installed at a tilt, rainfall helps to naturally clean them. However, if you live in a particular sandy area or there is debris on your system, routine solar panel cleaning can help improve your annual electricity production. The cost of cleaning panels is often less than $10 per panel; as such, you’ll pay less for cleanings on smaller and simpler installations.
2. Replacing or repairing solar equipment
Most solar panel systems require very little to no repairs or replacements. This is because, outside of solar tracker systems, the components of your system are stationary. If any part of your solar equipment is most likely to fail, it’s the inverter: string inverters may burn out and require replacement 10 to 12 years into their lifespan.
Fortunately, solar equipment–from panels to inverters to trackers–comes with manufacturer warranties that help protect you in case of faulty equipment. However, the extent of this protection can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
At the very least, most manufacturer warranty agreements cover equipment replacements: so, if your inverter fails after 11 years and you’re covered by a 12-year warranty, you’ll receive a replacement. However, many manufacturers do not cover the cost of labor required to re-install the new equipment. Before choosing which equipment to install, it’s important to read the warranty documents thoroughly so you’re not caught off-guard by these future costs. These costs can range considerably depending on the type of equipment you need to repair or replace, the cost of labor, and what your warranty covers.