Whether it be a backyard project or a full solar install, many people attempt to source cheap solar panels. These discount solar panels come in many forms, from kits for DIY creations through to complete systems. There are also other ways of saving money on solar panels, such as purchasing direct from the manufacturer, buying in bulk (a group buy is commonly used) or purchasing used/second hand solar panels. The following guide will give you some ideas for sourcing cheap solar panels so that you can save money without compromising on quality.
Cheap New Solar Panels
New solar panels are very rarely offered with a discount, but there are still ways to save money when buying solar panels. As with any purchase, it is important that you carefully research the panels to ensure that they are good quality and come with an appropriate warranty. You should become familiar with solar panel specifications such as power tolerance, module efficiency and temperature coefficient. It is also a good idea to read as many reviews as possible so that you are aware of any potential issue/s with the panels/manufacturer. It is also important to factor shipping costs and insurance into your budget.
Direct from the manufacturer
Many solar panel manufacturers offer to sell their panels direct to the public. This is a great way to save money because it cuts out the middle man. You are still covered by the full warranty and support offered by the manufacturer. The downside to this method is that you will need to pay for shipping and insurance which can be expensive for a bulky item. You also need to carefully research the panels and the company to ensure that the offer is legitimate and that they are selling a quality product.
Factory seconds and refurbished solar panels are like new, but may have a minor defect or fault. In many cases the shipping carton has been damaged and the actual panel is in perfect condition. These panels are far cheaper, but are often offered with limited or no warranty and support.
Bulk buy discount (group buy)
Another great way to save money is to get together with other people are purchase a bulk order of solar panels. A bulk order will receive a discount and the cost of each panel is substantially reduced. The downside of this method is organising other interested people (and making sure they pay their share on time) and managing the transaction.
Second Hand/Used Solar Panels
Second hand and used solar panels are also a great way of sourcing cheap solar panels. However, it can be difficult to source enough used panels for a whole house solar system so this option is best for those with smaller solar projects. In addition to this, it is important to remember that a full solar system must be installed and connected by a qualified electrician. In our experience we have found that many electricians will not install a second hand system if you are planning on connecting them to the grid.
Things to consider when buying used panels
Used solar panels are a viable way to source cheap solar panels for a project or home energy production use. However, it is important that you take the following considerations into account when making a purchase.
The age of the panel
The age of the panel will affect its production. This is especially true for thin film panels. A PV panel can degrade as much as 1% per year.
The type of panel
Try to source a monocrystaline or polycrystalline panel because they are not as badly affected by the age of the panel.
The condition of the panel
Is the panel in good condition? You should check for any hairline cracks or chipping (see the photo above). You should also check the seals because once moisture gets into a panel it begins to degrade the performance. Also be on the lookout for any signs of oxidisation.
It is a good idea to test the panel if you are able to. Check for any voltage drops throughout the day. This can point to corrosion or damage and you should avoid any panel that doesn’t appear to be working properly unless you have the skills (and patience) to fix them. It is a good idea to have the panels professional tested where possible.
Has it been used in a marine setting
The saltwater environment is harsh on solar panels (or any electronics for that matter). It is best to avoid any panel that has been used on a boat or other marine setting.
Sourcing used panels
There are a number of places to search for used solar panels. One of the best ways is to search online auction and classified sites such as eBay and Gumtree. You can find almost anything this way, from single panels through to complete off-grid systems! Another great option is to ask around at your local road city and government departments or equipment hire company. Many of the roadside signs and lighting utilise solar panels and they often discard broken or damaged solar panels. These can often be repaired to produce a fully functioning panel. You can also contact solar installers in your area as they sometimes have spare panels that have been removed from buildings or replaced due to age, warranty or damage. Retailers often receive damaged panels that you can purchase and repair for the fraction of the price of a new panel. You could also advertise in your local classifieds, community notice board or online portal so that others know you are on the lookout for used solar panels.