California Solar Law: Mandatory Warranties

by Robin Yeager on 05/22/2009

in California Solar Law, Renewable Energy

There’s a reason that solar installers typically warrant their services for 10 years. California law requires it.

To be specific, for California home and commercial building owners to take advantage of the financial incentives provided by the California Solar Initiative (CSI), their solar systems must have new components certified by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and a minimum 10-year warranty.

The warranted components include PV panels (aka modules), inverters, solar collectors, tracking mechanisms, heat exchangers, pumps and heat-driven cooling systems associated with the solar system. Manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) panels typically warrant their panels for their expected 25-year life. Most inverters, the device that converts direct current (DC) from the module into alternating current (AC) for your home or building, have a 10-year warranty as required by California law.

Meters must have a one-year warranty unless they are integrated in the inverter in which case they must carry the 10-year warranty. The warranties may be provided in combination by the manufacturer and installer. California’s Public Resources Code §§ 25404, 25781, 25782.

The 10-year system warranty must protect against defective workmanship, system or component breakdown, or degradation in electrical output of more than 15% from the originally rated electrical output during the 10-year period. The warranty must provide for free repair or replacement (including labor) of the system or system components.

For self-installers, the equipment to be installed must have a 10-year warranty that protects against breakdown or the degradation of electrical output. Labor isn’t covered under this warranty since Do-It-Yourselfers are expected to make the repairs or pay someone else to make the repairs.

Under California law, program administrators (investor-owned utility companies) have discretion over how the 10-year warranty provisions are implemented under their programs.

As part of the paperwork submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the homeowner or system owner declares under penalty of perjury that he or she has received the proper warranties for his or her solar system. Southern California Edison’s CSI Incentive Claim Form (ICF) can be found on its website. (See Step 2 of the Two-Step Application Process or Step 3 of the Three-Step Application Process).

Most installers and PV manufacturers provide warranty information on their websites.

5.22.09

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