Are Second-Hand Solar Panels a Good Investment?

Harvesting natural solar energy and using it to light and heat up millions of households and offices proved to be very cost-efficient in the long run. However, the initial investment to get and install a solar panel discourages most people from catching the green bug and helping both their wallets and Mother Earth.

Since the market prices are still over the roof, many have been turning to second-hand solar panels, thus avoiding the significant starting investment. Are these used systems worth the trouble, though? 

This brief-yet-thorough guide analyses the essential aspects of owning used solar panels, weighs the pros and cons compared to getting new ones, and provides you with all the details needed to ease your decision-making process.

Let’s light it up!

Things to Know Before Buying Used Solar Panels

First things first: Solar panels are among the most fragile products on the market, and they must be handled very carefully during transport and installation; otherwise, microcracks might occur, eventually decreasing the module’s efficiency. So, if you’re thinking of buying used solar equipment, you need to keep a few very important things in mind.

Most often, our readers ask us, “Which solar panels should I buy?” We invariably advise them always to inspect the age of the product first. Solar panels have a guaranteed lifespan of at least 20 years. The less the original owner used the product, the more you can use it.

The panel’s mileage goes hand in hand with the amount of maintenance conducted by the previous owner. The warranty rarely covers second-hand modules, meaning you’ll be the one paying for any type of mechanical or electric repairs to the product. Therefore, inquire with the previous owner about how they used and preserved the panel before making any shopping decisions.

Also, before you search for used solar panels for sale, you should figure out the average energy output you’d require. That way, you’ll save time and money by picking the right size and type of system for your specific needs. Afterwards, you can figure out the exact installation specifics with a trained professional, such as the various types of connections that apply in your case.

Benefits of Used Solar Panels

The appeal of solar power goes beyond the altruistic intentions behind it. Simply, solar power ultimately proves cost-efficient.

Saving Money on Electricity

Reducing your power bill by 80% sounds amazing, right? Well, that’s the main reason that people switch to solar power anyway. However, the money you save by buying solar panels depends on your location since solar panels require unobstructed daylight to produce electricity efficiently. Therefore, you will reap the full benefits of buying a house with solar panels if you live in an area that gets more sun exposure throughout the year.

According to a recent study, Manchester households can save up to £230 per year on electricity bills. In contrast, solar panels in London and Stirling can help you save up to £240 and £220, respectively. However, if you reside in an area with fewer sunny days, you might not be able to profit from switching to sun-based power generation, despite the technological advances in the solar industry. Therefore, consider if you can optimally use solar modules before making this substantial investment.

Fixed Electricity Costs

After buying your new or second-hand solar panels in the UK, you will continue enjoying fixed electricity costs in perpetuity since the sun was, is, and always will be free for anyone. Even the potential costs for solar panel maintenance in the UK are relatively low. Thus, as soon as you install the system, your energy costs will remain fixed for a long time.

Compared to conventional electricity costs, which seem to fluctuate every year due to their dependence on fossil fuels, the cost of using solar energy hasn’t changed in decades. Solar modules impose a high up-front investment, but they also offer you stability, peace of mind, and money-saving opportunities for years to come—especially important for commercial uses.

Increasing the Property’s Value

In addition to offering a great way to save money, solar modules also improve the value of your home. Some people think that solar panels might reduce the price of their house because they are aesthetically unappealing; but, the truth is that energy-efficient homes are way more attractive to buyers. Imagine buying a house with solar panels without spending a penny for the initial solar panel instalment.

If you’re planning on leaving your current home, on the other hand, installing solar panels might not be the best course of action, even if you are trying to increase the estate value. Installing new or used solar systems is an expensive and time-consuming process, and it’s not worth it if you’re planning on abandoning them at your old home. Transporting them to your new home is a risky venture as well since you might damage their cells. So, if you’re planning on moving to a new home soon, consider getting solar panels after you’ve settled over there.

Drawbacks of Second-Hand Panels

We can spend hours listing and discussing the advantages of second-hand solar panels; however, the truth is they are inconvenient to purchase and install in certain circumstances. To illustrate, let’s take a closer look at some of the main cons of converting to solar energy.

Ineligible for the Feed-In Tariff

The feed-in tariff is a special subsidy offered by the government to raise awareness about renewable energy sources. The feed-in tariff works by offering citizens a certain amount of money or a tax cut-off if they choose to invest in renewable energy sources. Well, this financial assistance applies to solar panels only if you purchase them brand new. Therefore, those in the market for used solar equipment cannot apply for the feed-in tariff. In any case, buying brand new solar energy panels might even be the better choice if you are eligible for the feed-in tariff, depending on your circumstances.

Reduced Lifespan

Naturally, used solar cells have a shorter lifespan, which will vary depending on how long the original owner used them. Moreover, the guaranteed lifespan of most solar modules is a minimum of 20– 25 years, after which the degradation rate of the module will intensify, and your overall power output will decrease. Therefore, if you buy a 5-year old panel, you’ll be enjoying its benefits for additional 15–20 years at least, provided the product wasn’t damaged somehow.

Invisible Damage to the Solar Cells

To say that solar modules are easily breakable would be an understatement since they’re among the most delicate products around. For that reason, most manufacturers offer warranties that also cover the transport and installation of the product. That said, you cannot conclusively determine whether the used solar panels for sale in the UK have been considerably damaged before purchasing them.

After all, most used and refurbished solar panels do not show damages visible to the naked eye, which become apparent only after the unit has been installed and activated. The most common issue with used solar cells is microcracks, which significantly decrease the panel’s efficiency. Electrical problems are also likely to crop up, but they’re easily manageable; whereas, microcracks in the cells are irreparable and usually “kill” the whole product. At the end of the day, you rely on the honesty of the original owner to provide you with the panel’s full history.

Where to Buy Solar Panels

Even if you find cheap solar panels for sale, you should exercise caution before getting one since second-hand purchases are inherently risky. If you are still keen on buying used PV products, we’ve reviewed some of the best places to find them in the paragraphs below.

First of all, you can search for used solar panels on eBay or other similar marketplaces. The best thing about these consumer-to-consumer sites is that they list plenty of products for your perusal. They also offer you the option to filter your search results in various ways, such as per location, price, date of listing, etc. Eventually, you can always contact the seller for more details about the product’s age, operation, maintenance, and more. 

Before buying an old solar panel through an online marketplace, you should also seek the advice of a professional who knows what to look for and how to detect hard-to-notice damages. Such a person will help you avoid potential scams by dishonest sellers of second-hand solar hardware, who might be tricking you into purchasing a product that’s not half as good as described.

Looking into surplus solar panels in the UK is your second option. Numerous companies buy new and old solar modules to resell them later for residential and commercial uses. However, businesses subject these units to a series of tests and maintenance work, so you get completely refurbished solar panels when they resell you the product. While definitely better than buying from strangers on the internet, these surplus solar units are generally more expensive than buying off eBay. On the other hand, you can rest assured that you’re going to receive a product that’s almost as good as new.

Watch Out For…

If and when you set your mind to buy second-hand solar panels, you should pay attention to several potential issues related to the sale, explained in further detail below.

Damage

Chances are that most of the second-hand solar panels in the UK will be at least slightly damaged. You don’t want that. As this guide already covered, you should remain vigilant for any type of mechanical or electrical damages incurred to the module during its use. Most of them won’t be visible, so take an experienced professional with you and take the time to discuss the product history with the UK solar seller. Otherwise, you might be making a seriously pricey mistake.

Loose Wires and Connections

Even though loose connections is a minor problem, you still want to avoid it when buying a used solar energy unit. So, steer clear from poorly maintained panels—evident from their overall condition. While you may not encounter difficulties fixing loose wiring, why waste time on it? You can easily find used units with properly completed solar panel maintenance in the UK; you just have to put some effort into your search.

Power Output

Do you know how to test second-hand solar panels? It’s easy: all you need is a multimeter and 10 minutes to spare. In return, you will reassure yourself of the quality of the panel you’re buying. What you need to do is take the multimeter, set it up on volts or amps, and touch the device’s positive and negative wires with it. If the product is working properly, the volts reading should be about 60, while the amps should be 3.5.

Warranty

If you dig a little bit deeper, you might be able to find old PV panels for sale whose warranty transfers to the new owner. Only a few companies do this, so it’s difficult to find a used solar panel that checks all the boxes; however, it certainly isn’t impossible. Simply research the panel manufacturers that offer this type of warranty and adjust your search for a used solar energy device accordingly.

Second-Hand vs New Solar Panels

We can easily compare used and new solar panels by setting them side by side and analysing their features:

New Solar Panel Old Solar Panel
Costs £400-£500 £145-£190
Lifespan 25 years Depends on its previous usage
Damages Covered by warranty Rarely covered by warranty
Performance Warranty Fully applicable Often nullified
Average Efficiency 20% The same in damage-free units

 

One of the biggest advantages of second-hand solar panels is the significantly lower price. You can buy two old panels for the price of a new one. Moreover, if you manage to find a well-preserved product, you’ll be enjoying both the efficiency and the lifespan of a new solar panel for half the price. However, you will generally be unable to rely upon any type of warranty when buying used solar panels. Meaning, you will have to cover all future damages out of pocket.

Cost of Second-Hand Panels

The price you pay for old solar panels depends on a few factors, including the type, size, and age of the system, as well as the current condition of the modules. Hence, poorly preserved products will be immensely cheap to buy. But, if you just look for cheap solar panels for sale without considering other factors, you’ll end up with a semi-functional product that might not save you any money in the long run. To ensure that you’re buying a stable, usable module, you might want to consider spending a few extra quid.

The installation is always included in the price you pay for a new panel, but it’s an additional expense for used units. Furthermore, you should always call professional solar panel installers since installing solar energy systems on your own is a risky venture. In addition to the installation costs, you may also have to cover some maintenance and repair costs since second-hand machinery breaks down more frequently due to regular wear and tear.

Bottom Line

Buying 2nd-hand solar panels is a bit of a pig in a poke. Presuming that everything goes well, you receive a fully capable system with a 20-year yield for less than half the cost of a new product. However, since such a purchase is risky by nature, you might be better off getting a new system, provided you can afford it.

However, that doesn’t mean finding functional and well-preserved second-hand solar panels isn’t achievable; it just takes a bit more time, effort, and most of all, patience. For instance, you should compare the prices at various marketplaces and weigh them against the panels’ current condition and remaining lifespan. Once you are satisfied with your choice, you can pull the trigger and enjoy your clean and cost-effective energy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What is the value of used solar panels?

These panels have been flooding the market recently, as the value of new ones significantly increased over the past few years. The colossal popularity of used modules is due to two main factors: the rising solar power awareness and high market prices within the solar industry.

What can you do with old solar panels?

On the condition that they’re relatively well preserved, second-hand solar panels can bring you significant income. The market for used panels has been booming for several years now, and many consumers are turning to used PV products. If you’ve got quality products to offer, you’ll easily find buyers.

Are second-hand solar panels worth buying?

Used solar panels are an extremely risky investment due to their fragile nature and proneness to damage. However, if you dedicate yourself to finding a functional product that’s almost as good as new, you’ll get a 20-year yield for more than half the price of a brand new module.

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