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  • Warranty Issues with Sunpower

    I installed my solar system last year around February 2018 and after noticing a significant drop in output around the same time this year, Sunpower reported that there was an issue with the microinverters and all 25 X22-360 of them. This was diagnosed around April 2018.

    It's been more than 3 months and Sunpower keeps telling me that there is a supply constraint and keeps pushing the replacements every 15 days. Is there some authority I can complain to that can help me get my system fixed? I had my system financed and so during this period I've had to keep making my monthly payments inspite of not getting any benefits from the solar system.

  • #2
    Are you dealing with your SunPower authorized installer? Or SunPower Corporate? Is there any annual performance guarantee (MWh/yr) in your purchase contract? The microinverters on these "AC" panels are SunPower branded (not sure who actually makes them). It's possible SunPower is telling you the truth. Sounds like they may have come out with an updated micro to support their new panels and discovered an "ooops" after the fact which would cause unexpected demand and delay while they try to figure out how to fix the issue.

    If you've been dealing with your local installer, try corporate direct. Or visa-versa. You could also try contacting a different SunPower installer, explain the situation, and see if they give you the same story. Sometimes (with companies in general -- just pontificating) it can be something stupid like there's a part number for the combined AC panel. But no separate part number for the Micro alone. So they cannot figure out how to order the replacement without ordering the entire panel. Often a registered letter from an attorney will get a companies attention.

    There some folks on this board with SunPower panels, but they are older and not AC. There are a few installers as well, not sure if any are SunPower authorized.

    The Enphase IQ7X supports 96-cell panels -- but it just came out. I forget whether there was a variant of the 6-series that did or only 72-cell. Regardless, this would be a last resort as it would take some effort/expense to rework the system.

    Beyond that, contacting the BBB to complain, and calling and bugging them every week, unless you try to sue for breach of contract there's not a lot you can do. You could try "Tweeting" their SunPower's PR/Marketing department. If you can get some Millennial's proverbial panties in a knot, often this can be an effective back channels approach nowadays.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by mshasib View Post
      I installed my solar system last year around February 2018 and after noticing a significant drop in output around the same time this year, Sunpower reported that there was an issue with the microinverters and all 25 X22-360 of them. This was diagnosed around April 2018.

      It's been more than 3 months and Sunpower keeps telling me that there is a supply constraint and keeps pushing the replacements every 15 days. Is there some authority I can complain to that can help me get my system fixed? I had my system financed and so during this period I've had to keep making my monthly payments inspite of not getting any benefits from the solar system.
      Yea, beyond the installer, that authority is called Sunpower.

      The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Start with the installer. Then move on to Sun power. My experience with Sunpower is that they are better at puking bogus, circular logic hype, and slick, glossy photos than they are about customer service, but like most every other situation in life, nothing can replace persistence.

      Call Sunpower X/day, get the name of the person you speak with (if they can remember it), and write it down. Explain the problem, and ask for their help. If you get B.S., which is likely, ask for their supervisor. Get the super., get the name (and write it down), explain the situation, and repeat the process. Climb up the chain of command in that way, every day, keeping notes until the problem is resolved.

      To my experience, While the equipment has worked well, Sunpower cust. service needs to be handled like a child.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mshasib View Post
        I installed my solar system last year around February 2018 and after noticing a significant drop in output around the same time this year, Sunpower reported that there was an issue with the microinverters and all 25 X22-360 of them. This was diagnosed around April 2018.
        Hi ,
        I am having the same issue with my Sunpower system. Noticed significant power reduction during peak times, compared to last year's logs. I have 12 AC panels model SPR-X21-335-BLK-C-AC , I wonder if these are also affected by the same issue. How did you get Sunpower to admit the issue with all your inverters? In my experience these people will blame anything and anyone before admitting any faults. I had a service call for my system and the guy just futzed around with monitoring system and blamed everything on my "noisy AC wiring". He claimed power is producing just fine, but reporting is not accurate, etc. etc. I will be calling them again tomorrow and insist on escalating to a higher support tier.


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        • #5
          Hi electric123,

          While it's very possible your system is malfunctioning, there are a few other things you could check:

          1) It is true that many microinverters (Enphase at least) are susceptible to AC line noise interfering with communication to the monitoring system. If you compare your generation on your PoCo bill and/or generation meter (if you have a separate one) how does your consumption / generation compare month to month with last year?

          2) Keep in mind that weather can vary pretty significantly from year to year. I don't know where you live, but clouds / rain / smoke from forest fires, etc. can have a significant effect on production (~20-30%) even though the amount of solar radiation coming from the sun is unchanged. Use a tool like PVOutput.org to compare the productivity of similar PV systems in your area last year vs. this year. If you live in a dry, dusty, or construction prone area with little or no rain, productivity could be 5-15% lower than last year due to age (1-3%) and fouling (%5-12).

          -Jonathan

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          • #6
            Thanks Jonathan, I will check out the PVOutput.org. I'm an EE and have a very good understanding of this technology. Monitoring logs clearly show a problem. System peaks at 2kW around 11 am and does not go any further, like there is a glass ceiling. Same time last year it was a normal bell curve. Below snapshot clearly shows missing chunk of production. This happens every day regardless of weather. I am in NorCal, Sacramento area, we have pretty much full sun every day this time of year. When I connect my laptop to Sunpower PVS5 monitor and check Devices page, I can see some of inverters show exclamation points during those peak hours, but not outside of peak hours. PVS5 Web interface is very limiting, so not much details there, but it sure looks like some inverters are cutting out, just like OP stated.

            July 21 2017 vs 2018.jpg
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              One possibility is a rise in line voltage is shutting down some converters. The voltage would be highest
              if all converters were running, check it out. Happened here, Bruce Roe

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              • #8
                How can I find out what voltage shutdown threshold is for these inverters? Can it be adjusted? Assuming this is the cause, what is the solution? I have no control over line voltage, but I cannot accept a consistent loss of up to 30% of my power generation? This is not a fluke, this happens every day for several months now. Shouldn't inverters have a decent operating voltage range, accounting for variations in line voltage?

                Comment


                • #9
                  electric123 you graphs and symptoms are exactly what was happening in my system. I kept calling and emailing my installer with the same graphs but they would not admit an issue. Then when I connected directly to the monitoring unit and found that a few of the microinverters were producing very less power around solar noon on a sunny day, they finally escalated to Sunpower. After that Sunpower took a few weeks to confirm the issue and informed me they would replace all the microinverters. I have attached the images from the monitoring unit I sent them.

                  Also, if you already don't know, please use this Sunpower site:
                  https://www.sunpowermonitor.com/partner/partner.aspx

                  This uses the same username and password as the one from https://monitor.us.sunpower.com but provides more data (at a panel level). I hope this helps.


                  Solar Panel 3.jpg

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                  • #10
                    Typical cutoff is 264 VAC at the inverter. The inverters will see the highest voltage since they push
                    power out. If there is a lot of voltage drop from the inverters to the main box, look into reducing the
                    resistance (bigger wire). And the PoCo might be induced to adjust voltage if too high. Bruce Roe

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                    • #11
                      mshasib thank you for the partner site link, I can see panel level data now and it will help me make my case with Sunpower. I have one question for you, what Web page you accessed to produce the screenshot above? The page looks like its from PVS5 local data, very similar to www.sunpowerconsole.com/power page, but mine doesn't have per panel data, only system power. Can you share the URL of the page you show in your post? In my local PVS5 browsing I cannot step thru all pages because it gets stuck on firmware update, which always fails, and it never gets past configuration page as it times out on updating profile. BTW, what firmware version is your PVS5 on currently? I suspect my PVS5 might need to be replaced also due to all the errors.

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                      • #12
                        Spent a few hours today deep diving into data from partner site. Found that whole issue started in March. My system was commissioned in Feb 2017 and for over a year worked perfectly. Suddenly on March 8 2018 all 12 inverters report comms error at the same time and ever since that day some inverters never reach their peak output. I found that 6 out of 12 inverters are affected by this issue. Every day all 12 start fine and up to 11 am all 12 march together, then after 11 am some of them drop power output to a different degree. Attached snapshot shows 3 sets of 4 inverters on a typical sunny day in July. On each graph 2 out of 4 behave badly. I called Sunpower today and opened support ticket, now I will wait a few days for installer to come and.....we'll see what happens.
                        Issue Snapshot.JPG

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                        • #13
                          Hmmm, very interesting. Seems unlikely to be a mains voltage issue since only half of the panels are affected. Unless the way the panels are wired into "strings" is screwy and all of the affected panels are on the same "string."

                          What is especially strange is the way that the affected panels are able to output more power before and after the issue. Suggesting a temperature related or shadow related effect. Such a large output drop (but not zero) is reminiscent of one or more bypass diodes being activated on each panel. I'm not sure how many bypass diodes your SunPower panels have or which way they run (e.g. longways). My 96-cell Panasonic panels have 4 bypass diodes (most 60-cell panels have 3) and they usually run the longway splitting up the cells into strips. Tripping one or more bypass diodes gives a very predictable drop in output power (e.g 100/n)

                          Just for sanity sake, have you observed / photographed the roof before and after the time period just to be sure there isn't an unexpected shadow from a sewer pipe, tree or phone pole across the street, chimney, etc.? I recognize this is unlikely since "it used to work" but sometimes trees grow, neighbors install stuff, etc.

                          Assuming it is not a shadow, this suggests some sort of "limited output protection mode" due to temp, bad programming, etc. If you turn off your array one evening (including the monitoring interface) and leave it off overnight, and then power back on in the morning (monitoring/gateway equipment first), I'm curious if the system will reset / attempt to re-download whatever update it got in March. Unless it was a surge.

                          Are you able to see if it is the voltage or current that is being limited? Can you see the DC and AC sides (like I can with Solar Edge?)

                          -Jonathan

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                          • #14
                            It looks like there are others with the exactly same problem I've been having. My system was installed around Nov 2016 consisting of 15 panels of SPR-X21-335-BLK-C-AC. The system had been working fine for over a year, then I noticed a significant power drop a few months ago (maybe about 30% reduction compared to a year ago). When I checked the individual power plots of panels, I saw exactly the same symptoms that electric123 described. I contacted both SunPower support and the installer. We went back and forth without any progress for a few weeks, but eventually SunPower admitted that there was a real problem and told me they will replace all micro inverters. That was over a month ago. Apparently, micro inverters are back-ordered. I checked with them about once a week and the story is always the same, "We will ship them in a couple of weeks". When I called last week, the support person told me she didn't know when they will have them. When I called the installer, the support person actually told me, for some customers, SunPower replaced the whole panels, not just the micro inverters. She wasn't sure what SunPower is planning to do for my system though. I'm waiting to hear back.

                            I have a question for mshasib and electric123. How do you print all AC module power data on one page like mshasib showed? I couldn't find any way to do that on either monitoring sites. Also when I go to the partner site, all my panels show up overlapped and can't find a way to displayed them like electric123 showed. Is this something I have to ask the installer to configure?
                            Thanks,
                            Mark

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              mcsj , my system layout shows up like that, I can zoom in and out, but I can't rearrange them, or I don't know how to do that if I wanted to. I suspect that initial config done by installer allows them to arrange the panels on the screen and it never got done properly. I also don't know how mshasib accessed that screen with list of inverters, I asked him above, but haven't heard back yet. The screen looks like its from local PVS5 interface, but I can't find a page like that in mine. Did you try accessing your PVS5 via its local Ethernet port? What firmware version is it on? Does it error out when trying to update firmware?
                              It sucks that even after admitting a problem Sunpower is not in a hurry to fix it. I'm only getting to my first step, having installer come out in 2 weeks. Look like I am facing a long process to get my system back to normal. Did you trace back the date when your issue has started? I wonder if its also in March of this year. Maybe Sunpower pushed some update and it got messed up?

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