The Pros and Cons of Installing Used Solar Panels

Although there is a definite financial advantage to be gained when installing a solar powered alternative energy system for your home, it can be expensive. In order to get the system working in an average home you will likely need four 100 watt solar panels, a combiner, a charge controller, a pair of circuit breakers, a power inverter, an AC breaker panel, a battery bank, an AC generator and a meter. All this equipment amounts to a hefty up front investment in a system that will probably take quite a few years to start paying for itself. If you hunt around, some of this equipment can be found second hand and this can reduce the cost of your initial investment. The most expensive piece of equipment required is the actual solar panel, of which four is a good number for a domestic installation. The advantages and disadvantages of using used solar panels is thus the focus of this article.
Obviously saving money is the main reason for buying used solar panels. The key here is to purchase the most efficient module that you can afford that will last the longest time, to recoup the maximum amount of money. The technology employed in the latest solar panels is far superior to the modules that were available a few years ago. Even so it’s still a hard task to estimate the life span of such a relatively new technology and a lot of earlier models are still in use today. A used panel will not last as long as a new one will, but there are methods that can help you to pick a better panel over a poorer quality unit.
When solar panels were first introduced it was estimated that their lifetime would be around thirty years. However, some panels in use today have lasted much longer than that already. A good rule of thumb for the bargain hunter, is to be to look for panels that are the newest models that they can afford. When examining a used solar panel it’s a good idea to check the general condition for cracks and damage that may effect the module’s operation. In particular the internal cells that are visible through the black glass should be unbroken and organized in regimented rows. There should be no condensation inside the glass and no scratches on the surface. Always take a multimeter with you when viewing panels and check them in good sunlight to ensure they are generating a good charge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about where and how the panels were deployed and how old they are.
There are some disadvantages to consider when choosing to use used solar panels. It may be the case that you have thoroughly checked the panel that you’ve purchased and a few months later it stops working. Obviously as a second hand purchase there is no way to get your money back and you may end up out of pocket. When installing an older module you will find that they take up more space per wattage than the latest models do. This may be a major issue if you’re installing the panels in a small area, as there may not be enough space to accommodate the panels you need. If you wish to expand your system in the future with more panels this will also have to be planned for. When installing the panels it may be necessary to invest in new brackets and fixings to attach them to your roof, as the older second hand ones may not be fit for purpose.
Once you’ve installed the panels and have the system up and running you can maximize the efficiency by periodically cleaning them. A recent industry study found that solar panels that are not cleaned, can lose up to 25% of their efficiency, this could increase the time that the system will pay you back for your investment. Firstly brush off any loose debris with a soft brush, clean with a course cloth and clean warm water. If there are any tough deposits a plastic scourer can be used. Then rinse with clean cold water and use a squeegee to dry the panel. Cleaning solar panels in the morning is advised before they get a chance to heat up and the morning dew will have softened up some of the dirt.
There is no doubt that great savings can be made if choosing to install a used solar panel. The process however is not without financial risk. There is no safety net of warranties or guarantees, if the panel stops working you’re out of luck. Hopefully the tips outlined here can help you to come to an informed decision on whether to install new or used solar panels.

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