If you know what to look for you can find cheap solar panels in many places. These can be either new or used solar panels. Either way, here are some tips about getting the best out of your hard earned dollars. These are not foolproof and are my suggestions, but will give you the best chance of a successful purchase.
1. Search for items for sale in your country.
Postage, insurance and supplier service will be much cheaper and easier if you buy from the country you live in. In Australia you can get registered and insured post quite cheaply. However, when posting a parcel overseas from Australia no such option is available. That’s fine if the object is unbreakable but very few are.
It will also be quicker and easier to return the item if needed. Also, since items have less traveling to do, there will be less chance of damage to them in transit.
2. New Cheap Panels
New solar panels and other equipment should come with a warranty an an indication of build quality. Check with the seller how that warranty would be employed; is the seller the person who would deal with a damaged item, or is this your responsibility? Posting a damaged solar panel from one side of the country to the other in order to get it repaired would be both time consuming and expensive.
These factors need to be weighed against the possibly lower item cost if it is being sold by a new vendor or on an auction site.
Clearly the best way to get new cheap solar panels is straight from the manufacturer or the manufacturer’s main supplier where ever possible. That will cut down on vendors’ profit margins and the big suppliers are usually much more reliable when it comes to support with warranty issues.
Have a look at what happened to this solar lawn light set. It did not come with a warranty. By making informed decisions you can avoid similar money wasting mistakes.
3. Used Cheap Panels
Used solar panels can be an excellent deal, but there are a few things to ask the seller.
a) How old is it? The age of a panel will affect its productivity, especially if it is a thin film panel. The efficiency of used thin film panels can be as low as 6%. On the other hand, if it is a monocrystaline or polycrystalline panel its age should not have much of an effect on its operation.
b) Is it structurally sound? If the panel is not sealed properly you will find moisture condensing on the inside of the glass or plastic cover. This will have a significant impact on its performance.
c) Does it provide a steady current flow throughout the day? If the panel shows fluctuating voltage or the voltage drops in the brightest part of the day then it probably has some issues with corrosion or other damage to the internal circuitry. This is often the case with old thin film solar cells. Unless you are the engineering type repairing this damage is way too much work to make the purchase worthwhile. Cheap solar panels that don’t work are not a good deal!
One good place to look for used cheap solar panels is on eBay.
Finding your local eBay site
If you are not already an eBay member you will need to sign up before you can bid or buy. eBay requires you to provide them with a valid credit card number in order to prevent scamming. I was unhappy about this when I signed up, but after three years I have had no problems with eBay and my details have been secure. Here are the issues I have become aware of when buying on eBay.