OK you tech geeks out there who like to build your own stuff, you must have considered building your own or shopping for used solar panels by now…. Why buy used solar panels?  If you are trying to save money on your residential solar electricity project, used solar panels may be a good investment.  Not only can they keep your initial cost low, but you will also be decreasing the waste at your local landfill by recycling.  But not all used solar panels can be effectively reused, so here are some tips to keep in mind before you buy.

What to look for when buying used solar panels

The ideal used solar panel can look almost new.  The glass will be clear, dry and intact with no cracks or holes.  The frame will be square and sturdy, and the solar cell connections will be securely soldered.  Older panels will typically be larger and heavier than the newer models that output the same amount of electricity.  But if the used panels are in good shape, the lower price will offset any size or weight disadvantage.

Check the electrical output from used solar panels

Don’t rely on the electrical output printed on the factory label.  Instead, use a multimeter and check the panel in direct sunlight to find out what its real output is.  The capacity for solar panels that have spent their lifespan in direct sunlight tends to degrade over the years.  But the decrease in output may not be significant.  A panel that is rated at 22 watts might only produce 18 watts after 20 years in the sun.  But if the price is right and the capacity is enough for your project, it could still be a good deal.

Where to find used solar panels

The best source of used solar panels will be one that is close enough that you can visit in person to inspect the panels for damage and electrical output (dig through Craigslist).  Also, try contacting a local solar installers who work with commercial customers, you may be able to buy the older panels that they replace.  If you can’t find a local source, search online for reputable vendors who test their used panels for actual output and offer some kind of customer service warranty.  Or if you decide to buy on Ebay, choose a power seller with a reputation for good products and service.  Even better, if you happen to know a friend or relative who is knowledgeable about solar energy and lives in the same city as the Ebay seller, they may be willing to do a physical inspection of the solar panels for you before shipment to ensure that you are really getting what you pay for.  Have fun experimenting and creating your own solar power for pennies on the dollar!

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