Key takeaways


olar panels are a great step toward greener living. Imagine that your household can be a source of clean electric energy! And this is without considering the financial benefits – you can substantially reduce your electricity bills by taking advantage of solar power.

However, the flip side of the coin is that the initial cost of installing solar is relatively high, and not everyone can afford it. But what if you decide to buy used solar panels that are cheaper than new equipment? In this article, we will give you some food for thought in case this opportunity seems enticing. Keep on reading and find out how to pick the used photovoltaic panel as good as it gets for your budget.

Types of used solar modules

In this article, we will frequently refer to "used solar panels." You may be wondering what exactly we mean by a used solar panel, as the word "used" can have a broad definition. By this term, we mean any solar panel that has previously been installed and used for generating electricity from sunlight, no matter how long.

Besides, the term “used” panel includes refurbished solar panels. These are the panels that were previously owned by a person or a business for some time and then restored to an acceptable condition by a professional refurbisher or manufacturer. By restoring and replacing worn-out or faulty parts, previous owners can make their solar panels pretty similar to new ones.

Utility scale solar refers to large solar power plants that generate electricity for utilities or large-scale consumers, harnessing solar energy efficiently.

The cost of second-hand solar modules

The lower cost is the apparent reason why someone may prefer buying used solar modules. The price for second hand solar panels varies widely, as there is a significant difference in the performance of damaged or heavily used panels and like-new or refurbished solar modules. In general, expect to pay between $0.10 to $0.75 per watt. This is much less than the American national average price of new solar panels, which is currently between $2.75 and $3.35 per watt. For a refurbished solar panel, in particular, you will typically need to pay 50%-70% less than for brand-new solar panels.

For some people, when the price of a product or service is very low, it might seem suspicious, but it could actually just be a deceiving perception. If a used solar panel costs less than other used panels on the market, it doesn’t necessarily mean that its lifespan will soon come to an end.

Indeed, the price of solar modules can be low because they have operated for many ages. But even if a solar panel has functioned, for example, for 9-10 years, it still has a high-efficiency rate since solar panels are made to last 25-30 years with approximately the same performance they were designed with (namely, producing roughly 90 percent of the electric energy it produced when it was new).

A renewable energy goal aims to achieve a specific target for increasing the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Consideration points when you decide to buy used solar panels

Here's some general advice for you: try not to jump to easy conclusions and, instead, do research to find the best option for your case. Choosing a used solar panel should not be limited to choosing the price you are able to pay without much thought. When you buy a used solar panel, your task is to understand whether the panel is worth the money asked by its reseller.

If you are unsure whether to buy used photovoltaic panels or new solar modules, or if you have already decided to purchase a used photovoltaic device, you need a checklist to ensure that your decision is the right one. Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious tips for homeowners willing to buy used solar panels.

Clarify why the device is being sold

The question about the reason for selling a solar panel can be the first screening criterion when you try to find a used photovoltaic panel for your home electricity needs. Ask the reseller to provide you with a comment on this without any detailed explanation. If they simply move or decide to buy more powerful photovoltaic panels, then you should have no worries. But avoid accepting the offers of panels with damaged parts and significant panel performance problems.

Test whether the panel actually works

Before purchasing, test the used solar panel to ensure it functions properly. First, take a voltmeter and do a voltage test to check whether the panel produces the promised voltage. If the reseller can’t give you this information, search for it on the web. Knowing the actual and the must-be voltage, you will be able to understand whether the price of the panel is fair. Secondly, use an amp meter to identify the panel performance in terms of DC amps; you should get at least 80% of the promised LSC performance.

Ask about its length of service

Regardless of the panel’s testing results, it is important to know how long the solar panels were in operation before being offered on the used solar panel market. Commonly, a short service period will mean that the photovoltaic panels have fewer worn-out parts and most likely no faulty parts compared to panels with a long service period. Therefore, if you know that the panel has many years of operation, you can use it as a reason to bargain for lower prices.

Check for any visible damages

Look for any type of damage, starting with possible cracks on the surface of a solar panel - these are often caused by severe weather conditions. If you can immediately recognize some visible damages, it is most likely that your purchase will be unsuccessful. Surely, the failure in the panel operation won’t happen overnight, but there is a high chance that the panel won’t last long. Not all damages are, unfortunately, easy to spot. But you may find some of them during the volt and amp output panel testing, such as the sustained moisture within the photovoltaic panel.

Are there any loose connections between the cells?

Here is another tip for you: pay attention to the connections between the solar cells of the used photovoltaic panel. If you don’t look specifically for them, loose connections between the cells in the panels can remain unnoticed. Loose connections will have an impact on the performance of the photovoltaic panel. If you think you can fix the connections, it could be another reason for a bargain. But remember that fixing them requires special skills and can be more trouble than you imagine.

Availability of warranty

In contrast with purchasing new photovoltaic modules, you shouldn’t expect to receive the manufacturer’s warranty for a used panel. But keep in mind that you might get some kind of warranty for a refurbished photovoltaic panel. These warranties have shorter coverage periods than for a new device, which ranges from three months to nine years. Still, it is much better than nothing. So, if the second-hand option you have found has a warranty, you should give it a high priority in your selection process.

Is the reseller reputable and credible?

Reputable resellers come with recommendations and positive reviews that can be easily found online. They often have professional websites, Google business listings, and social media profiles. Ideally, you should only purchase from a seller with established credibility as a repairer. Otherwise, the seller should guarantee that the offered product complies with generally accepted safety parameters, such as the IEC 61730 international standard. This standard confirms that the product has been tested for general inspection, electrical shock hazard, fire hazard, mechanical stress, and environmental stress. So, do as much as you can to keep your purchase safe.

What websites should I check if I want to acquire second-hand modules?

So, where can you find used solar panels? Our advice is to start by checking in your neighborhood. You might already know someone from whom you can buy their used solor panels. If you find nobody among your neighbors, you can always surf the Internet to look for used solar modules. Here are the most common sale platforms where you can find second-hand solar panels:

  • Facebook (Marketplace or groups)
  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Alibaba

Bottom line: is purchasing a used solar panel a good idea?

Buying a used solar panel has both its pros and cons. On the one hand, when you are limited in budget, it is possible to find a decent low-cost option on the market of used photovoltaic panels if you do thorough research on its features. On the other hand, you may end up being disappointed by the quality of the used photovoltaic panels. You should also bear in mind that renewable energy tax credits and rebates cannot be applied to used photovoltaic devices.

Key takeaways

Jul 11, 2023
Solar News

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