Can you purchase used solar panels and are they worth it?
Written by Andrew Sendy
Updated March 12, 2020
5 minutes read
Residential solar power systems yield big savings on monthly utility bills. However, they do require a large upfront investment of cash. Homeowners may consider purchasing used solar panels to decrease out-of-pocket costs. Are used solar panels the best choice for your residential power system? Keep reading to learn more about used solar panels, where to find them, and whether you should use them in your home power system.
What Makes a Solar Panel "Used"?
Solar panels that have previously been used in a power system often find their way to online auction and resale websites. This discount equipment costs much less than brand new parts from the manufacturer and makes it easier for cash-strapped homeowners to afford new home installations. However, it's important to know why the used panel is up for sale. Some common reasons for offering low-cost used solar panels are:
- The panels sustained damage that reduces efficiency. They may still work, but you won’t produce as much power as a from-the-manufacturer unit.
- The previous owner decided to dismantle their solar power system. These panels may have no defects beyond normal wear-and-tear. If the equipment is not removed by an expert installer, however, there could be some damage done in the process.
- The equipment is removed to make space for an upgraded system. Solar panels from these sources are usually based on older, less efficient technology. They can require more maintenance than newer system components, making it more difficult to recoup your initial investment.
Find out why the solar panels have been put up for purchase before you buy to ensure you’re getting the right equipment for your system.
How Much Can You Save with Used Solar Panels?
A quick internet search yields a long list of online retailers selling used solar panels. Prices vary by manufacturer, condition, location, and suggested mode of usage. Follow these steps to estimate your savings from a used panel purchase.
- How many solar panels will you need to run your household? Use this handy calculator to find the answer.
- Find the average cost of solar installation in your area.
- Contact a solar company in your area. They can give you a customized quote to use as a baseline for your research.
Refer to this information when researching used equipment. Compare the cost of each used panel to what you would pay for the brand-new version. Considering the potential problems you may experience with used panels—you may find the savings don’t justify the risks.
Where Can You Find Used Solar Panels?
With the mass of online retailers offering used residential solar equipment, it can be difficult to know which one to trust with your investment dollars. If you’ve decided to go the used solar panel route, use these tips to get the best deal on your panel purchase:
- Pick a reputable online merchandiser. Read customer reviews on third-party sites to get a better understanding of how the merchandiser does business.
- Use a bidding website like eBay. You’ll be able to ask questions and see honest feedback from previous buyers.
- Check your local classifieds. Buying from a local source gives you the ability to test the equipment before you commit any funds. That’s something you can’t do with online retailers.
- Listing sites like Oasis Montana let private owners put their used equipment up for sale online.
Be careful when dealing with third- and private-party dealers. Research their reputation and the equipment before sending payment.
What are Some Alternatives to Used Solar Panels?
There are many variables that affect the usefulness of used solar panels. These alternatives offer similar cost savings with less potential problems.
- Solar panel manufacturers make surplus stocks of older or left-over equipment available at deeply discounted prices. These panels haven’t been used. However, their advanced age can make them less efficient.
- Refurbished panels are used equipment that has been professionally serviced to repair any damage or defects. They cost a bit more than other used panels, but the increase in efficiency and lower maintenance costs are worth it. You can find these panels on manufacturer and reseller websites.
- Factory-defect panels suffered light cosmetic blemishes during transport or manufacture. The damage has little to no effect on how the panel functions. Manufacturers give deep price cuts to consumers who are willing to deal with the slightly-less-than-perfect exterior.
Alternatives to used panels often cost a little more than the used panels. However, the increased efficiency and peace of mind they offer means you won’t have to invest as much in maintenance or improvement efforts.
New or Used Solar Panels: Which Is Best for My Home?
Used solar panels cost less than newer equipment. However, there are a number of drawbacks that make them a questionable investment.
- Used panels don’t offer warranties. If your equipment is found to be defective after installation, you will be solely responsible for the costs of replacement or repairs.
- Solar technology continues to grow. As new innovations are released, homeowners may wish to upgrade their existing systems. You may find you aren’t able to take advantage of some of the latest technology with older panels.
- Do you plan on a DIY solar installation? If not, you might have a tough time finding a trustworthy installation team willing to use second-hand panels. The unknown nature of the equipment can make job outcomes unpredictable, which can scare away professional teams with high-quality standards.
- As part of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, solar users receive a 30% rebate on the purchase of their equipment. Used panels are excluded from this calculation, reducing the overall value of the rebate for homeowners.
For homeowners who want to install a power system that covers their entire home, used panels may not be the best option. However, for those who only want to power areas like detached sheds, single rooms, or small boats, used panels are a great alternative to new equipment.
Still not sure if used solar panels are right for your project? Find a solar expert in your area to get personalized answers to your questions about residential solar energy.