Is it worth buying used solar panels?

By ·Published On: October 16, 2023·Categories: Residential Solar·Last Updated: June 3, 2024·10 min read·Views: 142·

Solar energy is catching on fast.

More and more people are looking to the sun to power their homes, cutting down on electricity bills and helping the planet at the same time. It’s a win-win, right? Well, mostly.

There’s just one little hitch – the price tag. Setting up a brand-new solar system can run up quite a bill, enough to make anyone think twice.

But what if there was a way to enjoy all the benefits of solar energy without having to fork out a small fortune? The answer might be “used solar panels”.

They promise the same sunny advantages but at a fraction of the cost. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Before you jump in, though, there’s a lot to consider. Are these second-hand panels really the bargain they seem to be?

Let’s dive in and find out if going for used solar panels is the bright idea it appears to be.

The Appeal of Used Solar Panels

The biggest draw to used solar panels is pretty straightforward: they’re cheaper. When you’re looking at the high cost of new solar setups, the price of used panels can look incredibly tempting.

We’re talking about slashing your upfront costs significantly, which is no small thing when you’re trying to make your home greener without going into the red.

used solar panels

And it’s not like these used panels are hard to come by. The internet has made finding used solar panels easier than ever. Sites like eBay are treasure troves of second-hand solar equipment, where deals and discounts await at every click.

But it’s not just eBay; there are loads of online marketplaces and specialized solar equipment vendors that stock used panels. Whether it’s panels that were over-ordered for a project, slightly damaged but still functional, or simply replaced by newer models, there’s a whole world of used solar panels out there just waiting to be tapped into.

This variety not only means you’ve got options but also that you can shop around to find the best deal possible.

With a bit of patience and some savvy shopping, snagging a bargain on used solar panels can seem like a no-brainer for anyone looking to cut costs on their solar installation. But as we’ll see, the initial cost is just one part of the picture.

Take the first step towards energy independence. Get your complimentary solar quote now!

New vs Used Solar Panels: Is It Really the Sophie’s Choice?

The cost difference between new and used solar panels is pretty striking. On average, you might find used panels priced as low as $0.10 to $0.75 per watt.

Compare this to the going rate for new panels, which hovers around $2.86 per watt in the U.S., according to EnergySage, and it’s clear why the used market is tempting.

At first glance, the savings are substantial, potentially cutting your initial investment by more than half.

But, as with any good deal, there’s more to it than just the upfront savings. While snagging panels at a lower cost per watt can significantly reduce your initial outlay, it’s crucial to consider the bigger financial picture.

Used panels, by their nature, have already seen some action. This means they’ve started their inevitable decline in efficiency, which translates to less electricity generation over time.

Moreover, this degradation affects not just how much energy you’re able to generate, but also the payback period of your investment.

While new panels come with the promise of peak efficiency and longer lifespans, used panels might not offer the same return on investment. They could reach the end of their useful life sooner, potentially necessitating replacements earlier than you’d face with new panels.

In essence, while the short-term savings of used solar panels are indeed appealing, they come with a trade-off. The long-term financial benefits of new panels — including higher efficiency, longer lifespan, and often accompanying warranties — might outweigh the initial cost savings of going used.

It’s a classic case of weighing immediate benefits against future gains, and it requires careful consideration to make the best financial decision for your solar energy setup.

How to Tell if The Used Solar Panels Are Good to Buy?

Here’s what you need to know:

Degradation Over Time

All solar panels, even the spanking new ones, slowly lose their efficiency over time.

It’s like how a brand-new car loses a bit of its shine and performance after years on the road. For solar panels, this degradation means they generate less electricity as they age, typically around 0.5% to 1% per year.

So, a used panel won’t be as sprightly as it once was, affecting how much you can save on your energy bills in the long run.

is it worth getting used solar panels

Risk of Damage

Used panels come with their own history, and sometimes it’s a bit of a rough one. They might have been exposed to harsh weather, been slightly damaged during de-installation, or just worn out.

This damage can further reduce their efficiency, meaning they’ll produce less power than an undamaged panel would under the same conditions.

It’s a gamble, and you might end up with panels that save you less than you hoped.

Technological Advancements

Solar technology isn’t standing still; it’s running a marathon. New models are more efficient, more durable, and often come with better features than their predecessors. So, an older panel, even in great condition, might still lag behind newer ones in terms of how much electricity it can produce.

This gap means you could miss out on additional savings that come with the latest advancements in solar tech.

Take the first step towards energy independence. Get your complimentary solar quote now!

Warranty Concerns

One of the biggest catches with used panels is the warranty—or often, the lack thereof. New panels typically come with a warranty that covers defects and ensures a certain level of performance over time. Used panels, though, might not offer this safety net. If something goes wrong, you might be out of luck (and out of pocket).

Plus, without a warranty, there’s no guarantee on how well these panels will perform, adding a layer of risk to your purchase.

In a nutshell, it’s about balancing the initial savings against the possibility of reduced performance and savings down the line.

Considerations Beyond Cost

There are also some other factors to weigh that extend beyond just the initial savings.

Incentive Eligibility

One of the biggest perks of going solar is the array of incentives available, like the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which can significantly reduce the overall cost of your solar installation. However, there’s a catch when it comes to used panels: they may not qualify for these benefits.

The ITC, for instance, requires that the solar PV system is new or being used for the first time. This stipulation means that opting for used panels could disqualify you from claiming a 26% deduction on your installation costs, potentially negating the upfront savings you thought you were getting.

Before making a decision, it’s essential to understand how choosing used panels impacts your eligibility for such incentives and whether the cost savings still hold up when factoring in the loss of these financial benefits.

used vs new solar panels

Installation Challenges

Finding a professional willing to install used solar panels can be another hurdle. Many installers prefer working with new equipment for several reasons: reliability, warranty coverage, and the assurance that the system meets current standards.

Used panels, with their unknown history and potential lack of warranty, present a risk that some installers might not be willing to take.

This reluctance can make it harder to find a reputable professional to do the job, possibly leading to higher installation costs or the need to settle for a less experienced installer.

Moreover, if you’re considering a DIY installation to circumvent this issue, be aware that it comes with its own set of challenges, including ensuring the installation is up to code and navigating the permit process.

Potential ineligibility for significant solar incentives and the difficulties in finding an installer willing to work with used equipment are important considerations.

These factors can complicate the installation process and may diminish the financial attractiveness of opting for used panels.

Making the Decision: New vs. Used Solar Panels

Let’s explore when it might make sense to opt for used panels and when going for new ones is the smarter choice.

When Used Solar Panels Make Sense

For small-scale DIY projects, like powering a shed, a garden lighting system, or a tiny off-grid cabin, used solar panels can be a budget-friendly solution.

These scenarios often don’t require the latest technology or maximum efficiency; instead, the goal is to achieve sustainability or off-grid power at a minimal cost.

In these cases, the lower efficiency and potential lack of warranty associated with used panels are less of a concern, making them a viable option.

The Case for New Solar Panels

For most homeowners looking to reduce their energy bills or carbon footprint, investing in new solar panels is often the more prudent choice. New panels come with the latest technology, offering higher efficiency and longer lifespans.

They also come with warranties that protect your investment for years, ensuring that your panels perform as expected. Moreover, new panels qualify for solar incentives, like the federal ITC, which can significantly offset the initial cost. When you consider these factors, the long-term savings and reliability of new panels often outweigh the upfront cost savings of used options.

Weighing Long-term Value Against Upfront Cost

The decision between new and used panels boils down to evaluating long-term efficiency, reliability, and the overall value of your investment.

While used panels may offer immediate cost savings, they come with risks like reduced performance, potential incompatibility with your existing system, and the absence of warranties.

New panels, on the other hand, provide peace of mind with guaranteed performance and are supported by incentives that can make solar more affordable.

buy new or used solar panels

Ultimately, the choice should align with your specific needs, budget, and long-term energy goals.

If you prioritize sustainability, reliability, and maximizing your return on investment, new solar panels are likely the better path.

However, for smaller, less critical projects where initial cost is the primary concern, used panels could be a suitable choice.

Is It Worth It?

For Upfront Savings: Yes, opting for used solar panels can significantly reduce your initial installation costs.

This route might be appealing if you’re working on a small-scale project or if your budget is tight. But, remember, this cost-saving comes with its set of caveats: no warranty, no guaranteed service or maintenance, and the onus of managing any issues that arise falls squarely on your shoulders.

For a Worry-Free Experience: If you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it type of solution, new solar panels are the way to go. Not only do they come with warranties that protect your investment, but you also benefit from the expertise and support of your solar installer.

This peace of mind, coupled with the promise of peak efficiency and long-term savings, makes new panels an attractive option for those willing to invest a bit more upfront for a smoother solar journey.

Regardless of which path you choose, the key to a successful solar panel installation lies in asking the right questions, doing your homework, and consulting with experts.

Whether it’s weighing the pros and cons of used versus new panels, understanding the financial implications, or navigating the technicalities of installation and maintenance, informed decision-making is your best tool.

In the end, the goal is to make a choice that aligns not just with your financial constraints but also with your energy needs, sustainability goals, and the desire for a reliable power source.

By taking the time to thoroughly explore your options and seeking advice from experienced professionals, you can ensure that your leap into solar energy is both a wise and rewarding one.

Take the first step towards energy independence. Get your complimentary solar quote now!

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

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About the Author: Nate Rodda

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

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