Second Hand Solar Panels
DISCLAIMER: Our partners no longer take appointments for homeowners looking to benefit from the Feed-in Tariff, which is due to end on 31st March 2019
Should You Buy Second Hand Solar Panels?
The cost of buying new solar panels has reduced dramatically in recent years. Lower prices, paired with long warranties and government cash incentives, have made new solar panel installation widely available to many UK homeowners. If you are worried about committing to solar panels, you can see the potential return on investment here.
However, if you believe that the initial investment is still too steep, you could consider purchasing solar panels second hand. Buying pre-owned solar panels could be a way to receive some of the benefits of solar power, such as reduced energy bills, without the initial costs. However, there are many things to consider before purchasing second hand solar panels.
How Much Will Second Hand Panels Cost?
How much pre-owned solar panels will cost depends on a variety of factors. What size the system is, how old it is, what type of panel it is and what condition it is in will all greatly affect the price. Second hand solar panels can cost up to half as much as brand new equivalents. However, there may be additional costs with pre-owned panels such as the inverter.
You will also have to pay for an MCS accredited installer to set up the system as it is a specialised job. With new panels, all of the installation and equipment costs are included in the initial quote.
What You Need to Know When Buying Second Hand Panels
When buying second hand solar panels be sure to shop around and ask a lot of questions. How old the panels are is hugely important as you need to know how long you can expect them to produce cheap energy for you. It is always better to buy panels which are still under the manufacturer's warranty. If they are not under warranty, they may still work efficiently for many years but you will be taking on that risk with no guarantee. Ask the seller what the panel’s average energy output is, you need to know whether they produce enough energy to suit your needs.
One of the problems of buying second hand solar panels is that there isn’t a huge amount of them around! If you look online you will mostly find small panels, suited to powering one appliance, or ones for a specific use, such as camping. When installing a full solar panel system on your roof you would normally have a team come out to assess your property and discuss your energy needs. This team would then recommend what size system you will need. If you are buying pre-owned panels, you will have to work out what size and type of system you need and then try to find a supplier yourself.
Look out for obvious damage when viewing second hand solar panels. If there are cracks or damage to the surface then water may have leaked in and the panels will not work properly. Solar panels are expensive to fix so they will likely not be a viable purchase if you buy them damaged and have to fix them up. Look out for less obvious damage too. Ask if the panels provide a stable current throughout the day. If there is a fluctuation in the electricity output they supply or it drops in the middle of the day it could be an indication that there is damage on the inside of the panel.
Where Is the Best Place to Get Them From?
There are two main ways to buy second hand solar panels; either used or surplus. Used solar panels are sold by another person who has used them themselves or an installer/contractor who may have some extra panels left over from a job. Surplus panels are panels that are sold in bulk by manufacturers to surplus retailers, usually because they are an older model or leftover stock. There are pros and cons to buying both used and surplus solar panels.
If you are looking to buy used panels you may find newer models. However, you are taking on some risk as the product itself not brand new. You can find used solar panels on sites such as Ebay or Gumtree, or possibly in your local classified ads. When purchasing used panels it is always better to find a reputable seller, perhaps a contractor or installer with left over supplies. If you are buying from a member of the public, be sure to look at their seller’s rating and ask whether you can test the panels before buying.
Buying solar panels from a surplus trader may be a safer option as the product is brand new and industry tested. However, these are usually models that companies no longer sell so you may find that they are older and slightly less efficient. There are currently no specialist solar surplus traders in the UK, therefore you may have to keep checking with general surplus sellers for if/when they receive a solar panel shipment.
What Are the Disadvantages of Second Hand Panels?
No Feed-in Tariff
One of the main reasons many people install solar panels on their houses is the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) incentive. The FiT was set up in order to encourage people to install solar panels. They will pay you for all of the solar energy you produce at a fixed, tax-free rate over 20 years. This scheme is only available for new installations, carried out by certified MCS installers.
Another huge draw of new solar panels is their long warranties and lifespan. New solar panels are fairly expensive to install but these costs are expected to be recovered due to the long lifespan and efficient output of the panels. Depending how old the used panels are, you may not see long term benefits. Also, if the panels are out of warranty you risk heavy repair costs if something goes wrong.
No Expert Help
Installing solar panels is a skilled process. If you invest in new panels you will have an installation team assess your house and needs, recommend the best system, install the system and the inverter, connect the panels to the inverter and check that it works. All of this work should be included in one quote. If you buy second hand panels you will not necessarily have access to this expert service. Costs may still add up as you will have to buy the parts yourself and hire an MCS installer [LINK].
It is worth reiterating that you may have to buy the inverter separately if you opt for second hand panels. The inverter is often the most expensive part of the whole solar power system. Inverters are specialist equipment and it is often tricky to know which one will suit your needs best.
Solar panels are very hardy and long lasting, often requiring little maintenance. However, if you buy second hand solar panels it is possible that they will be damaged. Damage to the glass front of the panels can be very dangerous. Repairs are often costly and, if you are not covered by the original warranty, you will have to fund these repairs yourself.