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Installer used different panels than ordered. Axitec versus Certainteed

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  • Installer used different panels than ordered. Axitec versus Certainteed

    Hi everyone, I’m a total noob at solar and was hoping for some feedback. We just had solar panels installed on my roof. The installer quoted Axitec AC 320MH/120S (axi black premium HC), but what they actually installed are a mixture of Certainteed CT320HC11–04 panels and CT315HC11–04 panels.
    How do these panels compare? Do they have similar efficiency/lifetime? Any suggestions on what to do from here, I just want to make sure that I’m not getting a raw deal. Thanks for any feedback!

  • #2
    Axitec is made in Germany. Certainteed is made in USA. In this context, "made" means that the silicon cells, the metal frame, the backing, the top-glass, and the stuff in between are put together in that country. The actual materials are sourced from around the world. There is no way to know more than that.

    It has gotten to the point that solar panels are all pretty good. You shouldn't expect more power, longer life, or better reliability from one versus the other. Random early-life failures do happen, but at a very low rate. Also, all panels degrade with time at roughly the same rate. That's more a function of the cells inside, not the panel.

    You might want to know that the manufacturers are going to be around 5-10 years from now, in case a panel fails. No one can predict the future, but these are established names, so that risk is low. However, models and designs change, so if you need a replacement 5 years from now, don't expect that any manufacturer will be able to give you an exact replacement. And no one brand is better for this than any other.

    Axitec has a 15/25 year warranty. Certainteed has a 25 year warranty. Most of the people on this discussion group don't consider that difference significant. Both are half-cut monocrystalline cells, black.

    In your specific case, it is wrong to substitute materials if the contract doesn't allow it. If you particularly wanted Axitec and ordered Axitec, you should get Axitec. If the contract had a clause allowing substitution, it seems like you got a fair substitute.

    On a side note, I'm surprised that they gave you mixed materials. The "320" in the model number means that it is a 320 watt panel, when measured under standard conditions in a lab. The "315" in the model number means that it is a 315 watt panel. I've never heard of an installer or a dealer selling a mixed lot like that. But there is no technical reason why you can't mix 315 watt panels and 320 watt panels in a system. They are really virtually identical.

    Very likely, Certainteed made a bunch of panels, tested them, and assigned model numbers to each panel individually based on the results of the testing. If it produced more than 320 watts, they called it a 320. If it produced more than 315 watts, they called it a 315. A 320 watt panel is worth a bit more than a 315 watt panel, so it seems like they gave you 1.56% less than you were supposed to get for some panels. That's not a significant difference, but it is less than contracted.

    I can't tell you whether to be upset or satisfied. That's your call. But from this, it doesn't seem like you were cheated or sold garbage. You may have gotten a tiny bit less than contracted, but the difference is only roughly 1% of the whole job. For most people, that's not a significant difference.

    I hope that some of this is helpful.
    7kW Roof PV, APsystems QS1 micros, Nissan Leaf EV

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    • #3
      But you install a 315w panel in a string of 320W, won't that throttle the whole array ? I imagine it's not the voltage that changes, but the amps, and the lowest amp panel sets the
      string amps.
      if all the 315 were in one string and 320 in another that would work without impact
      Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
      || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
      || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

      solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
      gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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      • #4
        no one knows. come back in 8 years and let us know if you see any issues, That's generally when crap panels start to fail from my experience. Either from cells deteriorating/arcing or failed backsheet due to weather or UV light damage and yellowing.

        Everyone says that panels made today are better than ones made 8 years ago, but, that is just being overly optimistic IMHO. Who is to say that that some manufacturer didnt get a bad patch of the plastic that goes on the back side of the solar panels? Jinko panels on the facebook forum are known to have that issue in the past.

        My opinion is Bifacial panels that use glass on top and glass on bottom are going to be the longest lasting panels. manufacturers seem to think so too since they are offering 5 more years with a 30 instead of 25 year warrnaty. they cost about the same as traditional panels as well. used to be a lot more.

        not too popular for residential roof top because they tend to be bigger and thus harder to fit on today's multifaceted roofs.

        there is really no way to know. solar panel sizes and tech changes about every 5 years so it's not like you can even say, these same cells worked fine 10 years ago for historical comparison. all the current panels are bigger and use different cells than those just a few years ago.

        I would complain and ask for a back up panel or 2 for compensation, they only cost the iinstaller about $110 each. that way if a couple do fail you will have the exact same to replace.
        Last edited by khanh dam; 01-13-2021, 11:27 AM.

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        • #5
          Thanks for the feedback everyone, this was very informative. I appreciate the help. We’ll see how it goes.
          With regards to the 315 and 320 being used, it sounds like that won’t be an issue since I got panel optimizers rather than strings, so it shouldn’t throttle the whole string.

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          • #6
            optimizers are on strings. generally people overpay for solar installs to begin with, if they didnt' meet the contract terms then I would bring that up to try and recoop some money you might have been over charged. are you paying more than $2.75 a watt BEFORE any tax or rebate credits? if so , you didn't get that good of a deal.

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            • #7
              You don't have a practical problem, but could push the contract for a little compensation if you want. In my contract, we allow for installing equivalent panels, as the distributors are jacking us installers around the same way. We design in a particular panel (as required by the @#$&* permitting process) and then when going out to actually procure that model we hear "oh, we can't get those anymore".... Only way we can assure meeting our customer commitment is to buy panels in advance and sell what we have in stock. The industry is constantly changing and moving on up the power curve so it is tough to keep up... Trust that your local installer is not trying to take advantage of you...
              BSEE, R11, NABCEP, Chevy BoltEV, >2500kW installed

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              • #8
                Will Certainteed run away from the warranty on their solar panels the same way they did for the warranty on their organic shingles?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by reader2580 View Post
                  Will Certainteed run away from the warranty on their solar panels the same way they did for the warranty on their organic shingles?
                  Like most business models if a product fails to generate a specific income it is usually taken off the market.

                  When that company chooses to stop supporting existing product depends on what the cash flow looks like.

                  A lot of solar panel and shingle manufacturers have followed that process in the past. IMO Certainteed may or may not follow the same path.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

                    Like most business models if a product fails to generate a specific income it is usually taken off the market.

                    When that company chooses to stop supporting existing product depends on what the cash flow looks like.

                    A lot of solar panel and shingle manufacturers have followed that process in the past. IMO Certainteed may or may not follow the same path.
                    Just because a product is withdrawn from the market does not relieve a manufacturer from warranty claims unless there is a bankruptcy, or the company goes out of business.

                    Certainteed's organic shingles had at least a 50% premature failure rate. Certainteed refused almost all warranty claims. There was a class action settlement, but $800 doesn't even buy the materials for a new roof. Yes, I'm bitter about it because it cost me $7,250 to prematurely replace a roof that was only 12 years old.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by reader2580 View Post

                      Just because a product is withdrawn from the market does not relieve a manufacturer from warranty claims unless there is a bankruptcy, or the company goes out of business.

                      Certainteed's organic shingles had at least a 50% premature failure rate. Certainteed refused almost all warranty claims. There was a class action settlement, but $800 doesn't even buy the materials for a new roof. Yes, I'm bitter about it because it cost me $7,250 to prematurely replace a roof that was only 12 years old.
                      I understand why shingle companies refuse warranty claims. I use to work for GAF for 6 years. Shingle failure can be caused by a lot of reasons that does not include poor manufacturing because the issue is usually the installer or environment.

                      As for how long a company "should" cover a warranty and "does" cover issues are two different things based on who we are talking about.

                      Most companies have deep pockets and a lot of attorneys to plead their case

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