Seraphim Solar Panel Review: Heaven or Hell?

seraphim solar panels being reviewed by Ronald

Ronald looks into Seraphim Solar Panels. Yes, Ronald really looks like that.

One solar panel manufacturer who seems to be popping up a lot recently is Seraphim Solar. On the plus side they appear to make top quality panels which have done a good job of impressing people, receiving an average rating of almost 4.9 out of 5 from our customer reviews.

But they get a black mark, for not having an Australian office despite having been sold here for some time. That fact could be a showstopper for some solar buyers as there are plenty of good solar panels for sale in Australia with fully supported Australian offices

Update 10 July May 2019: SAE group is an importer of Seraphim panels and responsible for manufacturer warranties for panels they imported, but are not the only importer of panels and not responsible for the manufacturer warranties of panels brought into the country by other companies.

Seraphim is a Chinese company with a panel manufacturing capacity of 1.8 gigawatts a year. That is enough to produce panels equal to Australia’s entire current rooftop solar capacity in around three years.  They are a tier one manufacturer and provide a 10 year product warranty on their panels, which is standard.

We can be certain their panel quality is not bad, but is it good enough to be considered divine?

What The Hell Is A Seraphim?

When I first heard of Seraphim Solar I asked myself, “What the hell is a Seraphim?” And thanks to my implacable determination to find the answers to questions most people don’t even bother to ask, I can tell you it has nothing at all to do with hell. A Seraphim is a type of angel.

So why use the word Seraphim for the name of a solar panel manufacturer? Well, they had to call themselves something.  Maybe Seraphim was just a random word that hadn’t already been taken. Or perhaps they were actually very clever. According to the book of Apokalypsis, Seraphim are six winged angels that have eyes over their entire body, including the wings. This means they are covered in structures designed to make use of light and as solar panels are structures designed to make use of light it really is an appropriate name.

Where They Are Made

Most of Seraphim Solar’s production appears to occur in beautiful Changzhou city in Jiangsu Province. Or at least, I assume it is beautiful. It is kind of hard to see through all the smog.

Changzhou is where the Wu language is spoken.  The rest of China refers to it as, “the tender speech of Wu”, but I find this odd because my friend’s mother spoke it and she always sounded angry to me. However, now that I think about it, she may have just been angry because I was hanging out with her daughter.

In addition to Chinese production, Seraphim Solar has a 300 megawatt a year capacity plant in the United States. It is located in Jackson in the state of Mississippi, the triple double letter state, and is apparently capable of increasing its production over the next three years up to one gigawatt.

Because the United States didn’t like China selling them cheap stuff they have placed punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports.  In some cases they can total as high as 260%. Having a solar panel factory in the United States is one way to get around this.

Seraphim Solar Is Vertically Integrated

How can you be certain the supply of silicon ingots or wafers your company requires to produce solar panels will arrive on time and be of suitable quality? One answer is to make them all yourself. This way the fate of your company is not in the hands of anyone else.

Controlling the different stages of production is called vertical integration and is the norm for all of China’s large solar panel manufacturers. Vertical integration usually occurs in expanding new industries that are producing products that need inputs either no one makes or aren’t made in sufficient quantities. It also occurs in companies with a “laser” like focus on quality who want to ensure all inputs meet their high standards.

There is another situation in which vertical integration occurs.  In countries where businesses can’t always rely on contracts being impartially enforced they can be hesitant to rely on other companies. Now I’m not saying that judges in China can sometimes be bribed or that legal decisions are occasionally made on the basis of how much political influence one’s father-in-law has.  I’m just saying that China has a lot of vertical integration. If Chinese companies start to reduce vertical integration I would take that as a good sign that doing business inside China is becoming closer to doing business in most developed countries.

Seraphim Solar’s Warranty

Seraphim Solar’s website states their panels are, and I quote, “Low cost and good.” And immediately below that they say, “Make efforts to perfect details, just to achieve high price performance ratio for you.” And I have every confidence they have made plenty of efforts to get their details just perfect.

Seraphim offer a 10 year product warranty. A 10 year product warranty isn’t bad as these things go. Most tier one panels have 10 years. But nothing impresses me more than a manufacturer giving their panels a product warranty that beats the competition. It shows they really have confidence in what they make.

If extra coverage is wanted, because Seraphim Solar produce tier one panels which means they are regarded as reliable, it is possible to get third-party insurance for them.  For example from PowerGuard.  This will cover them for 25 years no matter what happens to Seraphim Solar. The fact that such insurance is possible is an indicator of quality.

Seraphim also have a 25 year performance warranty which almost every solar panel has.  As with all solar panels, the performance warranty covers the output of the solar cells, but does not cover workmanship or materials, so it is likely to be harder to claim under this warranty than the 10 year product warranty.

Unfortunately, every panel manufacture, with one exception, insists their performance warranties work this way. The one manufacturer that stands out from the crowd is SunPower. They avoid the problem completely by making their product warranty as long as their performance warranty of 25 years.

Update 30 January 2018:  Looking through the Seraphim warranty document, I see that if panels do not meet the minimum output set by its performance warranty, Seraphim has the options of:

  1. Repairing them
  2. Replacing them
  3. Proving extra panels to make up for the loss

The first option is very unlikely, as panels are rarely repaired, but in my opinion the third option is not acceptable.  If three panels in a rooftop system have an output that is 20% below the minimum given by their performance warranty, then according to their written warranty Seraphim could simply provide one new panel and say that makes up the difference.  This is not acceptable because in a normal system there is no place for the extra panel to go and normally poor performing panels need to be removed to prevent them dragging down the performance of all the panels they are connected to. 

I am not aware of Seraphim handling any warranty claims in this way, but it should not be an option.

Note you are protected by Australian Consumer Guarantees regardless of what written warranties say.

Seraphim Solar Has Passed The Thresher Test

Seraphim solar is proud of the fact their solar panels were the first to pass a rigorous evaluation known as the Thresher Test.

A graphic comparing the Thresher Test criteria to the much more lax International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) criteria.

A comparison of the Thresher Test criteria to the much more lax International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) criteria.

The Thresher Test exists because a group of solar panel manufacturers wanted a way to convince bankers their products were reliable enough to be worth investing in. The idea was to make a test so arduous that any panel that passed could be almost certain to last the 25+ years they are expected to survive in the field.

The Thresher test is independently performed by TUV SUD.  Or for those of you who don’t read English and need the little dots above the letters it would be TÜV SÜD.  That stands for Technischer Überwachungsverein Sud which are three German words that in English mean four words — Technical Inspection Association South.

TÜV SÜD is not the only company performing tests on Solar panels. Others include Atlas 25+ by Atlas Material Testing Solutions, PV+ by TÜV Rheinland, and tests performed by Fraunhofer ISE and DNV GL.

The Thresher Tests performs a variety of stressful procedures on panels designed to simulate 25 or more years exposure to the elements. Most are similar to tests performed on panels by DNV GL, which I wrote about here.

Seraphim Solar is proud of how their panels performed on the test and boast their panels were the first to pass. It is a fairly rigorous test and passing is definitely a feather in their cap. Or rather, a certification on their solar panels, like the one below.

The certification mark Seraphim Panels are permitted to carry for passing the Thresher test.

The certification mark Seraphim Panels are permitted to carry for passing the Thresher test.

 

Seraphim Solar’s High Efficiency Eclipse Panels

Seraphim Solar has “introduced” a new line of high efficiency panels called Eclipse which are imported into Australia by Australian company, SAE group.

Just what is Eclipse?  It happens when the moon passes in front of the sun. So it is an odd choice because one thing that definitely doesn’t work during an eclipse are solar panels. But after giving it some thought, probably far more thought than is healthy, I worked out why the name Eclipse makes sense. And trust me, it is a better reason than the thing about Seraphims being covered in eyeballs.

The panels are made of overlapping solar cells and the bottom edge of each solar cell covers, or eclipses, the top of the solar cell below it. So the name makes perfect sense. Or almost perfect since because, unlike with these solar cells, during a solar eclipse the sun, earth, and moon never actually come in physical contact with each other.

Eclipse Panels Have Overlapping Solar Cells

The majority of solar cells have their surface covered with a fine grid of wires that gather electrical current. Some high performance cells don’t but they are more expensive to make. The drawback of these wires is they partially shade the cell and slightly reduce efficiency. The Eclipse panels do away with them by having overlapping solar cells with a conductive paste between them that does the job of the wires.

Each individual cell on the panel is quite small as they are made from an average sized solar cell that has been cut into five parts with a “laser”. Their small size helps the conductive paste effectively gather the current they generate.

Overlapping the cells allows almost the entire surface of the panel be used for capturing light and increases its efficiency. The drawback is more cells are required in total because, apart from the ones at the very top, a portion of each cell is covered by the one above it. In the past this would have been considered a terrible waste of valuable material, but now solar cells have fallen so far in price it is a cost effective way to improve efficiency. This technique is becoming popular and the US company SunPower will soon be releasing its own overlapping solar cell panels.

Eclipse panels come in two versions.  A polysilicon one which is 17.1% efficient and a monosilicon one which is 19.1% efficient.

You can watch a minute long video on Eclipse panels here which contains an impressively small amount of information. They took the time to animate the panels floating in space like a flock of monoliths flying in formation, but only provided the most basic of information.

No Australian Office And No Word On If We’ll Get One

The one major drawback of purchasing Seraphim panels, as I see it, is their lack of an Australian office.  I sent them an email three weeks ago ago asking if they would open one and they still haven’t replied.  It is possible they currently have a team working on my question right now and they are taking their time getting back to me because they want their reply to be really spot on.  However, the delay could also be because they simply aren’t going to respond and an overseas company that is hard to get in touch with is not what you want if you have a problem with your panels.  Looking on the bright side, as their panels appear to be reliable, hopefully you won’t have a problem in the first place.

In Conclusion…

Seraphim panels are tier one and have built up a good reputation. I have to admit I have only heard good things about them. While there are panels which offer longer product warranties, they invariably cost more and so Seraphim panels offer good value for money. I would have no problem recommending them, but only for those who are comfortable with their one major flaw which is Seraphim Solar does not have an office in Australia.

Update: SAE Group directly imports Seraphim solar panels into Australia. If you get your Seraphim panels through them – then SAE will be responsible for any Seraphim warranty and customer service enquiries. If you are offered Seraphim solar panels that have not been imported by SAE then I urge you to check who is responsible for warranty claims in Australia.

Update 13th December 2017:  Seraphim now has an office in Australia which can handle warranty claims for their panels, including those installed before their office opened.

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. As a way of testing responsiveness, how about emailing them saying you have their panels and need to make a warranty claim for a manufacturing defect? That’s a valid real life test…..

    But having said that, in my humbled 6 years solar experience says that if a certain football team sponsoring solar installer (promising not false value in solar) sell them as a volume offer then they are probably crap. After all, they have a whole Arsebook page dedicated to their crapedness…..

  2. Awesome. Straight shooting, to the point and fair.

  3. I currently have a Solar Installer flogging these solar panels in his quote. I have spent the last 4 hours on different websites searching to find as much information on them as possible. It appears they are a better solar panel in their ratings than most, but only just. As the writes states not having an Australian Office is the cliff hanger. What does your Telco provider charge for overseas calls and at night time to reach a China office working hours? Get in a queue waiting for your call to be answered, or transferred the money soon adds up. Hopefully it appears they are good solar panels, and nothing should be wrong. But remember nothing is perfect, we are not GOD. GOD created the heaven and earth in six days and on the seventh day he rested and has not touched it since. Mistakes can happen or things go wrong. Bill Gates created Microsoft and is still tinkering at the edges to make it better, because he is not GOD. The same applies to solar panels manufactures.

    • The importer of the panels is the warranty holder, you need to research that the company importing them has been around for longer than 5 years and is a strong company. An Australian office for a panel manufacturer is usually a separate legal entity to the manufacturer with a couple of Chinese in an office. If a large Australian company is responsible for the panels due to them importing them than you are better off.

  4. This is the most negative review I have ever seen for such a quality panel. You should be ashamed of yourself solarquotes. Did another panel company pay you to write this review?? If anyone wants to know what Seraphim is about without all derogatory comments please go to http://www.saegroup.com.au where you can actually purchase the high powered Eclipse panels.

  5. Jack Wallace says

    …………..and not only did god stuff it up completely*, he doesn’t even manage a warranty (except that if YOU don’t stuff up you may be awarded 6 wings,

    *Let’s face it:- the primary (if not) sole point and purpose of all living organisms ~ and the point to which all else is subordinated ~ is the manufacture of shit.

    ……..er, y’don’t suppose god’s a Chinaman??

  6. Dennis M Leman says

    I put in a 5 Kw Seraphim array in mid 2013 with a 5000TL SMA WiFi inverter. Zero problems with install and operation since, the whole system runs like a Swiss watch, I get no power bills and $1000 to the bank annually from feed-ins. Otherwise I don’t even know its there!! 100% satisfied. What’s not to like .. 🙂 . !!

  7. How I miss my Seraphim’s and my SMA and my 44c FIT. Had to move home on a downsize operation and about to recieve my first power bill in over 3 years. Had a 6kW Seraphim system coupled to an SMA 5000 (4.6kW output) and with the generous 44c FIT I ran a 4 bedroomed house with ducted A/C a home Cinema and 3 kids (2 of whom were teens with all those gadgets and phones to charge up all the time). My best daily output I saw on my inverter was 39.12kWh I was more than happy to recieve a $400 – $800 refund every quarter which helped pay for all the water the sporty kids cost me with their showers. Currently studying my power usage in my new place ready to get a new system with hopefully the new Eclipse panels from Seraphim coupled to Enphase Micro Inverters. With two of my neighbours having problems with their systems and panels I was more than happy with the research I did on Seraphim preventing any such problem occurring for me and my system out performing theirs with the same inverter and virtually the same panel orientation. Five stars from me and I’ll be choosing them again.

  8. Not having an Australian office should count as a positive. It would inevitably add at least 50% (usually referred to as the Australia tax by Americans) to the price and would provide the level of service we have come to expect from Australian companies – which is usually an automated phone system that eventually hangs up on you or if you do get through to a human varies between useless and abusive. Beyond that your review is great. Very helpful

  9. Just got a quote for 20x275w seraphim SPR-6PB and Solax X1 Boost inverter for 11K after STC’s. After some research i’m happy that they are both good products however its hard to find real time prices for these to compare to. Could only find the Solax X1 Boost on ebay for $989 the salesman told me they were about $1,800 so this has me thinking his entire quote is BS!

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I’d suggest getting multiple quotes so you can get an idea of what’s available in you area.

      If you haven’t already, I suggest getting a few quotes through us and we’ll put you in touch with installers that have been vetted by Finn:

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/

  10. I just had 24 panels and a 5kW inverter supplied and installed for $3699? Where does $11k come from?

  11. Hi Stephen, did you go with the finance option? If yes, did they mention anything about an establishment fee and then a $2.50 charge on each direct debit from your bank account for the duration of the finance? I was billed $4,300 for a 24 panel Jinko panels and 5 kW Solis inverter with a 10 years warranty on the inverter. 18 months interest free on the finance. Now when I got the finance details, it says product charge $4,300. Establishment fee: $85 and then $2.50 direct debit charge for each debit from my account. All totalling to $4,500. I wasn’t told all of this initially. I haven’t accepted the contract though. What do ya reckon?

  12. Was that Sunboost?

  13. Stephen Beaty says

    True Value Solar on my two rentals and Euro Solar on my house and other rental

  14. Ethan D. Monroe says

    Thanks for this information.

    I got door knocked by Solar Spirit who quoted me $6200 for a 6kw system. Interest free over 5 years (using Brighte finance, FYI).

    They’re using a Solax inverter and Seraphim panels.

    I was concerned I might’ve been bamboozled by the salesperson but after doing my research on the inverter and now coming across this site getting to the detail about the panels, I’ve decided to stick to the offer and not exercise my rights within the 10-day cooling off period as per Australian Consumer Law regarding door to door sales (https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Door%20to%20door%20sales%20-%20a%20guide%20for%20consumers%20B5%20booklet.pdf)

    Look, I might’ve been able to get a bit of a better deal if I really pushed and shopped around, but my quoted price seems to be within what I’d call ‘reasonable’ for the setup and payment plan so I’ll grin and bear it and enjoy the long-term savings 🙂

  15. Ronald, Seraphim now offer a 15yr warranty (on Blade panels), but what I am unsure of is the panel warranty and does it cover labour for removal and replacement. I am reading both yes and no info on the interwebs, and got a simple ‘Yes’ from Seraphim AU via email, but i’m not convinced?

  16. Yes you do get paid, we have been paid to replace Seraphim warranty panels.

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