Inverters convert DC electricity from your solar panels into AC power that can be used in your home and typically come with some manner of material warranty. The details of these warranties are many and varied, so provided below are some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why do I care about an inverter warranty?
Simply put, if your inverter is not functioning properly, you are missing out. If you have a grid-tie system, you are not producing the energy to create credits in your account. If you have an off-grid system, you are producing no power for your immediate needs and your batteries are not charging. There is great peace of mind in having that vital component of your PV system covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.
How long is an inverter warranty?
Solar inverters are usually warrantied for a period ranging from 5 to 15 years, with an average standard warranty period of 10 years. Some companies offer the possibility to extend this period to up to 20 years. See the table below for a sample list of inverter manufacturers and the warranty terms they offer.
|Inverter Manufacturer||Standard Warranty||Optional Terms|
|Enphase||15 years (25 for new IQ 7 series)||N/A|
|Fronius||5-10 years depending on model||Extendable to 10-20 years depending on model|
|Magnum||2 Years||Extendable to 5 Years if the user upgrades to a Magnum power panel|
|SMA||5-10 years depending on model||Extendable to 10, 15 or 20 years depending on model|
|Outback||5 years||Extendable to 10 years|
What is covered and what is not?
Every warranty is a little different and there are several important aspects to consider.
- Material. Generally, every manufacturer’s warranty covers the cost of the materials required to get your inverter functioning. Sometimes the problem can be fixed with a simple firmware upgrade while other times components will need to be replaced. Manufacturers may, at their own discretion, opt to replace the entire inverter.
- Labour. Some manufacturer warranties (such as Fronius) will cover the labour required to effect a repair, while many will not. In the event that labour is not covered by the warranty you, as the system owner, are responsible for paying your solar service provider to install the new components/inverter.
- Travel. Most service providers have a travel charge for service calls outside their immediate service area and no warranties cover this amount. The system owner will be responsible for these charges.
- Shipping/handling/customs charges. As many inverter replacements/materials need to be shipped from international destinations, there may be shipping and or customs/duties charges associated with getting the required materials. If these amounts are not paid by the manufacturer (and sometimes they are not), the charges will be the responsibility of the system owner.
Given the great variety in warranty terms, it is important to understand your warranty and any costs that you may incur when having warranty work performed by a service provider.
When does my warranty start?
The warranty start date varies according to the manufacturer: it can be the date of production, the date of purchase, or the delivery or installation date. Consult your warranty documentation to determine which applies to your purchase.
How do I make a claim?
When you receive a notification that an inverter is not functioning properly, your first step is to contact your service provider. If you have given them access to your monitoring system, they can determine the nature of the issue and begin the appropriate warranty claim on your behalf. The cases below offer different examples of how the issue may be handled going forward.
Case 1: Fronius/FSP
A client was performing a routine inspection of his inverters when he noticed an Error State 212. He called his service provider, they concluded that a service call was necessary and began the warranty claim on his behalf. Because the service provider was a certified Fronius Service provider (FSP), the service technicians had the required materials in the van and the issue was resolved with minimal downtime during the initial service call. Because his Fronius warranty included both materials and labour, the client was only invoiced for the travel charge.
Case 2: Enphase
The client received an email from Enphase that one of her microinverters was not producing and she called her service provider. After some investigation, it was determined that the inverter was in need of replacement. Her service provider initiated the warranty claim on her behalf and said she would be notified when the replacement unit arrived from the manufacturer. When the unit arrived, a service call was scheduled and the new unit was installed. As only the cost of the replacement unit was covered under warranty, the client was invoiced, by her service provider, for the labour and any travel charges associated with the service call.
Case 3: Magnum
A client noticed that her off-grid system was not functioning properly and called her service provider. Over the phone, they were able to narrow down the problem to a few possible issues and the most likely was her Magnum inverter. As the provider does not stock Magnum materials, a replacement inverter was ordered and a service call was scheduled once the new inverter arrived. When the technicians reached the site, a malfunctioning inverter was the culprit and the new unit was installed. Because the inverter was no longer covered by warranty, the client was invoiced for the new materials, labour and a travel charge.
Who provides the service?
People sometimes ask if they can do a repair/replacement themselves and will it affect the warranty? It is generally a good idea to have a qualified service provider perform the service as manufacturer warranties may be voided if the installation is not performed correctly. Consult your own inverter warranty to determine the best course of action.
Can system oversizing affect my inverter warranty?
You may choose to oversize your PV array to maximize the amount of time that the inverter is operating at full capacity. Inverter manufacturers are aware of this practice and often include provisions for what percentage of oversizing is allowed before the warranty becomes invalid. Some manufacturers allow up to 50% oversizing while others allow almost none. It is important to be aware of these limitations when designing the PV system and selecting an inverter.
I see that I can have communications enabled on my inverter. Is this important for my warranty?
With communications enabled on your inverter, you can be notified in real-time when a unit is not functioning properly. This minimizes the amount of time you are experiencing reduced production. Communications also allow a certain degree of remote trouble shooting by your service provider and some firmware upgrades may be installed remotely. The Tesla Powerwall warranty requires that the unit has internet access so that the firmware may be upgraded remotely from time to time. The warranty contains an exclusion that states that failure to have an internet connection for extended periods of time may cause the usual ten year warranty to be reduced to four years.
Heck, how am I supposed to remember all of this?!
While all of this information may seem overwhelming at first glance, take comfort in knowing that you only need to fully understand your own inverter warranty. When you purchase an inverter, keep your warranty in a safe place and, when in doubt, consult your warranty. If you still have questions, a good service provider will be happy to help
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