Here is an example of some of the standard exclusions that you will find in Product Warranty Document.
This is an LG solar product warranty document but most manufacturers have similar terms:
- Fair wear and tear;
- Modules where the serial number has been removed or made illegible;
- Modules which have been subject to misuse, abuse, neglect or accident;
- Alterations, improper installation or re-installation;
- Damage and/or failure caused by improper wiring;
- Damage and or failure caused by other parts of the solar system;
- Modules which have been installed in mobile units such as caravans and motor homes;
- Modules installed in extreme corrosive environments e.g. boats (Please note: Panels installed in residential or industrial areas near the coast are covered);
- Incorrect system configuration and damaging installation environments, e.g. installation of mutually incompatible modules, inadequate system design, permanent installations under constantly moving harsh shadows e.g. palm tree leaves;
- Modules which have been installed by someone other than a qualified or licensed technician in the solar or electrical business field;
- Non-observance of LG's installation and maintenance instructions as outlined in the LG installation manual;
- Repair or modifications to the module by someone other than a qualified solar installer approved by LG;
- Power failure, surges, lighting, flood, fire, accidental breakage, acid rain, vandalism, acts of war, natural disasters like tornadoes or other events outside LG's control;
- In addition, the warranties do not apply in relation to any cosmetic change of the module in appearance over time, if and to the extent such change does not result in an impairment of the functioning of the product;
- External marking in the modules such as mold and lichen e.g. transferring from nearby roof tiles, and which occur after delivery to the customer shall not qualify as a defect hereunder
Firstly it is up to you to have the panel tested and returned to the manufacturer. It is not possible for you as a consumer to remove and test a solar panel and so you will usually have to pay the solar company who installed your panels to do it for you. They might agree to do it for free if they are a nice company (and happen to still be in business when a problem occurs) but technically it is not their responsibility as your warranty on the panel is from the manufacturer not from them.
Secondly, a manufacturer will usually argue that damage to the panel was caused in installation and it is impossible for you to prove if this is or is not the case.
A third issue, and the issue most likely to arise is what is a cosmetic defect and therefore not warrantable and what is a material and warrantable structural defect. In this respect an issue arises with snail trails visible in modules and microfractures visible in cells within the module.
It is common that when snail trails and microfractures first appear in cells that manufacturers claim that these defects are cosmetic rather than structural and do not replace the panels under warranty. Usually when these issues first become noticeable the panel is still performing within an acceptable power output range and so you can not have it replaced under the power output warranty.
The problem with this is that there is growing evidence that these snail trails and microfractures can actually develop into hot spots. A hot spot is a short circuit within a cell causing a DC arc (electrons jumping from one side of the fracture to the other) which is effectively the same as an arc welder. A hotspot can get get extremely hot and being driven by DC power can burn continually causing fires. I have seen many burnt out solar panels and solar cells but fortunately in my experience these have never set a house on fire. However, I think it is definitely the case that there is enough evidence that snail trails and microfractures can lead to hot spots that manufacturers should replace panels that display these issues.