Australian Premium Solar Turn A 30 Year Warranty Into A One Year Warranty

ASP Australian Premium Solar

Australian Premium Solar. Not made in Australia and not Premium. (Screenshot from now-deleted APS Youtube video: Caution-tape is mine)

Australian Premium Solar is a company that sells solar panels with a warranty that is truly exceptional and sets them apart from all other panels on the market.

In the past I wrote about Solarwatt‘s extremely impressive 30 year product warranty, but Australian Premium Solar, or APS, has managed to break new ground in a completely different direction.   They claim their panels have 12 year product warranties and 30 year performance warranties, but provided the panels are treated in exactly the same way as the vast majority of newly installed solar panels in Australia are, then APS can declare their warranty void after only one year.

That is really quite astounding and not in a good way.

Australian Premium Solar Panels Are Not Made In Australia

Before I go on to explain the details of why their warranty is so worthless, there is something I would like to make very clear.  Despite their name, Australian Premium Solar panels are not made in Australia1

There is only one manufacturer of solar panels in this country and that is Tindo Solar.  They definitely have nothing to do with APS and they’d probably be horribly upset with me if I suggested there was a connection.

On their website APS states their panels are manufactured in China and it’s a good thing they do this.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) takes a dim view of anyone who claims their panels are manufactured in Australia when they’re not.  In 2014 they fined the installer Euro Solar and its Sole Director $145,000 for posting false customer reviews and for telling customers their “Australia Solar Panel”2 was made in Australia.

But They Give The Impression They Make Panels

This Australian Premium Solar video shows their office in Acacia Ridge in Brisbane and shots of their “factory” where they used to claim to make solar panels.

[Update 29th of January:  A week after this article was published this video was made private.  Apparently APS doesn’t want people looking at it.]

 

Or you can watch this very similar video from the Reoo solar laminator company that includes footage of Ian “Chainsaw” McFarlane 3, the former Australian Minister for Industry and Science4, visiting the factory:

[Update 29 of January:  And a week after the article was published this Reeoo video has been removed from Youtube.]

In both videos you can see someone who is apparently soldering a busbar onto a solar cell by hand.  This is not how solar cells are made in countries that have a minimum wage of over $17 an hour.  It’s not how they’re made in China either.  In both the developed and developing worlds they have machines that do that now.  But apparently Australian Premium Solar doesn’t fit in either category5.

You can also see them using a Reoo solar laminating machine.  It can laminate a total of 2 panels at one time.  It can’t even manage 5 like this bad boy.

Between their hand soldering and their double laminator, they look like they have the capacity to produce several solar panels a day.  Those shots of a warehouse full of boxes?  If there were solar panels inside them, I’ll eat my hat if they were made in that factory.

The entire attempt by Australian Premium Solar to give the impression they were producing solar panels in Australia was, quite frankly, absurd.  This video of the Tindo Solar factory shows what a genuine, small scale, solar panel production line looks like.  And below is how Jinko Solar, currently the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, was making them in China at about at the same time Ian McFarlane visited Australian Premium Solar:

As you can see, their operation is a bit less Mickey Mouse.

So Who Actually Makes Australian Premium Solar Panels?

Euro Solar was a large user of “Australian Solar Panel” (or ASP). After being fined for not being truthful about where those panels were made, they are now a large user of APS panels.  This makes me think maybe the same factory in China that made “Australian Solar Panel” currently makes Australian Premium Solar panels.

Back in 2013 Tristan Edis of The Australian wrote:

“I called up Euro Solar’s customer service. The customer service operator explained that the Australian Solar Panel and Ameri Solar were both manufactured in the same Chinese factory by Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing.”

Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing is a contract manufacturer with a solar panel factory in Ningbo, but according to installers who have had the pleasure of replacing them, more than one company’s panels appear to have been branded as Australian Premium Solar.  So if Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing makes panels for APS, they don’t appear to have made all of them.

In 2012 Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing were investigated and charged with fraud by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

How APS Panels Can Effectively Have A One Year Warranty

Now that I have explained their sleight of hand with making it appear as though their panels were made in Australia, I will reveal the astounding trick they can pull to make their warranty last only a single year instead of the 30 years it should.

APS state their panels come with a 12 year product warranty and a 30 year performance warranty and that sounds great.  While many panels now have 12 year product warranties it is still better than average and a 30 year performance warranty is very rare.  In fact, it is exceptional, as APS have the only panels with a plastic back sheet and a 30 year performance warranty I can think of.

So you may think that if, as their performance warranty states, any time their panel’s output falls below 91.6% in the first 12 years or 80.6% from 12 to 30 years, APS will give you are replacement panel or a refund.  But that is not the case.  Firstly, they only offer replacements and not refunds, and secondly, if you treat your panels in exactly the same way as the vast majority of Australians do, they can declare their written warranty to be void after just one year.

They can do this because, according to APS, they only have to honor their warranties if their panels receive yearly maintenance.  Here is the relevant section from their written warranty:

“The warranties in PART B are subject to regular or periodic maintenance being carried out to achieve optimum performance of the PV Modules and parts. The minimum recommended maintenance required is set out in the APS Maintenance Schedule. Failure to conduct regular or periodic maintenance may void the warranties in PART B. Notwithstanding, APS may at its discretion apportion or allow all or part of any such warranty claim to proceed subject to an inspection of the PV Modules or the parts.”

So unless maintenance is performed according to the APS schedule they can decide not to honor your warranty.  And what is their maintenance schedule?  Well, the interesting thing is they don’t actually have it on their site.  But I was able to dig it up and here is a screenshot:

APS maintenance schedule

As you can see, they make it clear that regular maintenance is essential for your warranty and then they go on to say maintenance must be done by an accredited installer.  So this is not something you can do yourself.  You are going to have to pay for it.

How often does this maintenance need to be done?  Well, they make that clear here:

APS maintenance schedule requirements

You are going to have to pay a solar installer to come out and perform an extensive set of checks and tests every year and then every 5 years they will have to do extra maintenance on top of that.

This is not going to be cheap.  And you are going to have to keep records of it, because according to the APS warranty:

“After a warranty claim has been lodged, APS may request that the Customer provide proof of all maintenance work done to the PV Modules as per the APS Maintenance Schedule. Failure to provide proof of the scheduled maintenance may void the warranties provided in PART B.”

The High Cost Of Annual Maintenance

Rooftop solar does not need annual inspections and maintenance.  I’m not saying they can never benefit from maintenance, but it is a solid state electronic system without moving parts.  Provided it is installed competently it can operate just fine for many years without a problem.

The cost of having your system maintained professionally varies.  You may be able to get a good deal from a local installer, but it can easily cost over $250.  So if you want to keep your Australian Premium Solar warranty intact for 12 years it can cost you $3,000 or more.  Even if you were conscientious and decided to have your system checked every 5 years just to be on the safe side and make sure everything is working fine, you are still looking at spending perhaps $2,500 or more to maintain a warranty on panels that definitely may not have been worth that much when they were installed.

Cleaning Costs

According to the maintenance schedule the panels also need to be cleaned annually and that is a separate additional cost from inspections and maintenance.  The majority of rooftop solar systems do not need yearly cleaning and so this will further add to the cost of keeping your APS warranty intact.

I Know Of No Other Panels That Require Yearly Maintenance

As far as I know, Australian Premium Solar panels are the only ones with a warranty that requires annual maintenance.  So if you’d rather not shell out money every year just for the sake of keeping the people who provided your panels happy, the answer is simple – buy different panels.

Even If You Do Everything Right You Still Have To Pay

You may think that if you have maintenance done every year and you scrupulously keep records of it, then if you do have a problem with your APS panels you will be rewarded for your dedication and they will quickly and without fuss replace the defective panel.

But this is not the case.

The Australian Premium Solar warranty states:

“The warranties provided exclude the transportation and handling costs or any other costs for the return of the defective item(s) or the shipment of the replacement item(s) to and from the ASP’s stores to the Customer’s or authorised distributor’ site unless the consumer is taking advantage of thier statutory rights. All such costs including the cost of the removal and re-installation of the replacement item(s) must be fully borne and paid for by the authorised distributor or by the Customer before APS ships the replacement item(s).”6

So if you have a defective panel, Australian Premium Solar say they can insist you pay to for it to be removed and replaced and to have the defective panel returned to them before they send you a replacement panel.  And you will no doubt have to provide them them with documentation showing you’ve done all that before they do anything.

Their Warranty Does Not Allow For Refunds

Normal solar panel warranties typically state they will either provide a replacement or a refund if a solar panel is defective.  But APS only offers to replace panels, not provide a refund.  While a refund isn’t completely satisfying if it doesn’t cover the cost of installation, at least it has the advantage of being simple.

But since they don’t offer a refund, you will instead have to go through the cost and expense of paying to have the panel replaced and the original returned to them before they’ll even send you the replacement.  This seems to be designed to discourage people from making a warranty claim in the first place.

They Don’t Have To Replace Panels That Fail

In their warranty, APS state that for panels up to 12 years old:

“Should any of the PV Modules fail to provide the power output as warranted as a consequence of defective materials or workmanship, APS shall repair or replace the defective PV Module. Alternatively at its sole discretion, APS may add one or more additional PV Modules to the system to bring the total Peak Power output of the complete system to at least 91.6% of the specified Peak Power.”

And for panels that are 12 to 30 years old they say:

“APS may decide to add one or more additional PV Modules to the system to bring the total Peak Power output of the complete system to at least 80.6% of the specified Peak Power.”

So instead of replacing defective panels, Australian Premium Solar can just decide to add one or more panels onto your roof.  Firstly, this is a horrible solution, as one bad panel can drag down the performance of others.  And secondly, it means that if you have multiple panels that fail to meet the performance warranty, APS could potentially just add a single extra panel and declare that solution to be good enough.

You Are Protected By Australian Consumer Law

Under Australian consumer law you have far more protection than is given by the APS warranty.  As they state they have a 30 year performance warranty I believe it is very likely that if one of their panels fail while in normal use in that time, Australian consumer tribunals or small claims courts would require APS to provide either a repair, a replacement, or a refund.

However, taking a case to a tribunal or court takes time and effort and so many people will not bother to do this.  I am sure this is a fact that APS knows well.

Reliable Panels Don’t Need Lousy Warranties

Panels that are reliable and unlikely to fail do not need warranties that make it difficult and expensive for people to keep them valid.  All they need to do is simply provide a replacement or a refund for the rare panel that fails.

Australian Premium Solar’s horrible warranty does not prove their panels are not reliable, but it definitely is not a good sign.

My Recommendation

My advice is simple.  Don’t use these panels.

Footnotes

  1. Or premium for that matter.
  2. Here’s a little hint for anyone selling solar panels.  If you want to make sure you never get in trouble with the ACCC over the issue of where your panels are made, it’s probably best not to name them after a country where they aren’t made.
  3. Because he sounds like a chainsaw.
  4. Or lack of it.
  5. In the year 55-55, Your arms are hanging limp at your side, Your busbar solderers they got nothing to do, Some machine’s doing that for you…
  6. The typos in the quoted passage are in the original.  Including where they refer to themselves as ASP instead of APS.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. This isn’t so much blog post as good, old fashioned, investigative journalism. Well done mate. If the motor trade was as openly questioning of it’s own industry, the VW scandal would have surfaced a long time ago.
    Btw, can use [sic] to indicate the original text was misspelled e.g. thier[sic] and ASP[sic].

  2. EuroSolar are selling USG panels now (Universal Solar Group). Same cheap rebadged panels though.

    As for the warranty clauses and maintenance schedule, this was posted about on Whirlpool back in March 2015

    http://whrl.pl/ReeFF8

    And again in May 2016

    http://whrl.pl/ReC4DQ

    ^ Take a look at those Gumtree ad screenshots for more dirt on Eurosolar

  3. Adam Christie says

    Pretty sure street address in Acacia Ridge is same for Euro and APS. Funny that.

  4. Shonks… you really need to read the fine print when it comes to panel warranty. JA Solar has a major problem with fusion score marks under the surface glass and on top of the cells of their panels. JA Solar say it doesn’t affect the output of the system which i do not believe, only after 3 years so you can imagine what they will look like after 10 or 20 years let alone their performance.
    The tests from over a long period they want from your installer to accompany the claim will cost you more than the original cost of the system. JA Solar Aus virtually didn’t want to know about it and were no help at all. The defective panels have to be sent back to the manufacturer… guess who pays for shipping. IF found they are faulty and the replacement panels shipped to Aus… guess who pays shipping. DISGUSTING.
    So basically there is NO warranty for performance or workmanship on these panels. 25 YEAR WARRANTY MEANS NOTHING

  5. PETER LEITH-WYBROW says

    Finn, There is something you are probably not aware of. The way the TUV license is issued is interesting. You can set up these same machines in you garage; make 5 panels; send them and the recipe that went into making them and when approved by TUV you too can have a credited panel made at your place, your street. Australia. Then armed with your recipe and your TUV number you can have that panel produced in any factory you can strike a deal with. it doesn’t matter where it is made. the original license was giver to you at your address. so you can say legally and not be challenged that you made it. CeC will have it registered.

    Nick spent this money when his Australian Solar Panel was knocked on the head by CEC. Once he had the system set up and the panels were registered as coming from that address he could have that recipe made any where he liked, which was his old mate TNL Solar.

    Most people couldn’t afford to do that but as ​Nick ​ aimed his marketing at mr and mrs thong who only go for the cheapest price and don​’​t care–​ for 3 reasons. 1 thong normally moves every 8 years and 2 it is the cheapest deal finally 3 Thong is wise enough to know that the property will sell quicker if it has pv solar. theres a 90% chance the new owner wont even think of the question to ask.

    But while I have been writing this, Nick has sold 20,000 more panels divide by 25 = 800 systems or if you want to calculate the $ 3,290,400.00 .

  6. As an aside Euro Solar while they had the fine displayed on their web site were continuing to send misleading information to potential customers using the exact wording they were fined for.
    I suspect that the company is the same with a new name.

  7. Great piece of content and well documented good job mate.

    Amazing how many solar panel companies often keep crucial data from their customers, these are really bad practices in my opinion that need to be stopped !

    As per the warranty I definitely agree with you, I would just take the warranty on the labor that’s it.

    Best,

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