My Signature Solar Experience (not good)

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
Hi,
I just want to start off by saying this isn't a attack on Signature Solar in any way.
I simply want to share my experience with others so that they are aware of such issues regarding the company.
I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

What I ordered from Signature Solar:
  1. Growatt SPF 5000 ES (Feburary 21, 2022) [Received on March 16, 2022]
  2. 12 Used Canadian Solar 235W Panels, 30 mini rails, 16 end clamps, and 14 mid clamps (March 21, 2022) [Received on March 29, 2022]
  3. Growatt USB Monitoring Stick (March 24, 2022) [Recieved on March 29, 2022]

Issue #1 (Solar Panels)
When I received the lot of used solar panels, they were extremely dirty, all covered in what I assumed was mud. No big deal. I spent half the afternoon cleaning all the mud off before I tested and installed them. If I remember correctly, 7 out of the 12 panels were completely cracked on the rear side of the panels. What makes it even worse is that they were packaged in such a way that it was hard to see the panels that were cracked. The first two or three panels on each side (if you know how signature solar sends panels) were fine, but the ones in the middle were cracked. I ended up having to seal them with polyurethane just so I could avoid the headache of sending them back. I made sure to test each panel before installing them and they all were producing what was expected. My only concern is that my seal job wasn't good enough and moisture may seep in when the rain season rolls around. I reached out to Signature Solar, provided images, and asked them if the used panels undergo any inspection before being sold. This was the response I received:
As far as the used panels go, they are supposed to undergo inspection before they are palletized and sent to us. However, this seems to be a reoccurring issue with these panels and we are trying to address it with the company to no longer carry these, or do a more thorough inspection here. Again, I apologize for all the inconveniences you have had to encounter with us.
What I take from that is Signature Solar was aware of this problem, and still sold me the items anyway. They did not offer to replace them or compensate me in any way. I knew from the beginning that I was purchasing used panels, so even though I was disappointed with the panels, I did not pursue any compensation. The panels are no longer listed on their website.

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Issue #2 (Mounts)
I ordered 30 mini rails, 16 end clamps (40mm), and 14 mid clamps. While installing the panels, I found that I had 1 end clamp that was smaller than all the others. They accidentally sent me 15 (40mm) end clamps and 1 (30mm or 35mm) end clamp. I reached out to Signature Solar, provided images, and told them I received one incorrect sized end clamp, and that I was going to attempt to still use it. This is the response I received:
I am sorry about the mess up on the end clamp! Let me know if it does not work out and I will get a replacement sent out ASAP!
The next day I responded saying that I was able to use that end clamp by putting a few washers between the rail and the clamp. I also let them know that I wouldn't mind swapping it out with the correct sized clamp (basically saying I want them to send it.) They never responded after that and never sent me the correct clamp.

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Issue #3 (Inverter)
The initial issue I had can be found here: https://diysolarforum.com/threads/growatt-5000-es-issue.39205/
From what I could tell, the unit wasn't functioning correctly without a battery using SUB or SOL. I wanted to use the inverter to simply power the load during the day (with solar) and use the grid at night. For whatever reason, the solar wasn't being used for the load consumption. You can see in the reports that the load consumption was equal to what was imported from the grid (solar wasn't included). I first reached out to Signature Solar on 4/29 about the issue, and didn't get a response until 5/3. They had me try to update the firmware using the guide and files they provided. I was unable to update the firmware and the wifi stick stopped working. I believe this was because the unit I got didn't have the silicon labs UART chip, it had one from exar. After going back and fourth with the support agent, they finally sent me the RMA confirmation for the inverter on 5/11. I wasn't sure if I needed to send back both the inverter and wifi adapter, so I messaged the RMA agent. She said, "I was just told about sending back the WiFi stick as well, just one second and ill send you another label for that as well." I sent both the inverter and the wifi adapter back on the same day (5/11). I ended up having to pay around $40 for packaging, since I had already disposed of the original packaging. They received both items on 5/13.

On 5/19 I emailed the RMA agent, as I had not heard anything from anyone regarding my RMA. The next day (5/20) she responded saying, "Good afternoon, your new unit has shipped out today." Later that day, I received both the order confirmation and shipping confirmation for the replacement inverter. Around 12pm on 5/20 I sent another email asking about the wifi stick, because the order confirmation only showed the inverter. I finally got a response on 5/23 saying the wifi stick was going to be replaced as well. Later that day, I received both the order confirmation and shipping confirmation for the replacement wifi stick.

At this point, I was a happy customer. It took approximately 3 weeks to get sorted, but my issue was resolved. At least I thought it was. I decided to check the tracking information for the inverter later that evening (5/23) to see when I should expect it. Well, the tracking information showed that it had been canceled by the sender. Again, I wasn't contacted regarding anything to do with the RMA or why it had been canceled. I had to email the RMA agent once again (around 12AM on 5/24) asking what happened. She responded with the following:
Good morning, I just got an update that we are out of stock on the 5K ES-US and wont be getting a shipment in till mid June. i can put your order on hold or i can put a credit on your account or refund you. Just let me know how you would like to continue!

So ~3 days after sending me both the order confirmation and shipping confirmation, they canceled the shipping and didn't bother to inform me. On top of that, they now want me to wait an entire month to get a replacement unit or take a refund? Before sending in the unit, I had to get some batteries so I could try and update the firmware. Apart from the wifi no longer working, the inverter was functioning correctly with the batteries. It would have been in my best interest for the RMA department to let me know that the unit wasn't in stock, and if they were unable to fix it, I would have to wait a whole month for a replacement. At least then I could have made the decision to wait until it was in stock just incase they were unable to repair it. Based on the fact that they sent me both the order confirmation and shipping confirmation, I don't think they even bothered checking if the item was in stock at any time. I expect companies with a RMA department to have at least one or two units dedicated for situations like this at all times. I'm not sure why they wouldn't. It doesn't end there though. They ended up sending out the Wifi stick after they had already canceled the inverter. Now I have the wifi stick without a unit to connect it to.. In their defense, the inverter and wifi stick were on different tickets. I think it would of been better for them to put a hold on both until a decision was made. That was not the case.

I ended up just opting for a refund, but would rather have the replacement. Since they could not honor my RMA in a timely manor, I am forced to look somewhere else. I think waiting 3 weeks and then being told I would have to wait another month is just ridiculous. If you are unable to fulfil an RMA at that point in time, I don't think you should suggest it, unless you can replace it with an equivalent system. That is just my opinion, but I stand by it. Even though they gave me a full refund, I can't help but feel like I ended up on the short side of the stick. I built my whole solar system around using the 5000 ES, and Signature Solar claim to be the only people to sell the US model (which I need).

Anyway, I hope my experience helps improve the customer service at Signature Solar.
 

BradCagle

Solar Addict
Joined
Aug 27, 2021
Messages
322
I honestly would be more PO'ed about the cracked solar panels. The other issues you had seems like they were taking care of you to the best of their ability given shortages of everything.

Back to the cracked solar panels, I assume you bought "used panels", and not "used, and maybe crack panels" right? I would totally expect replacements for the cracked panels to show up at my door. Just my 2c
 

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
I honestly would be more PO'ed about the cracked solar panels. The other issues you had seems like they were taking care of you to the best of their ability given shortages of everything.

Back to the cracked solar panels, I assume you bought "used panels", and not "used, and maybe crack panels" right? I would totally expect replacements for the cracked panels to show up at my door. Just my 2c

I disagree with you. They could of sent me the correct sized end clamp with no effort at all. Also, there are other ways a company can replace a unit if the exact one isn't in stock. It isn't my fault the unit failed and it isn't my fault the unit is backordered and they don't have any dedicated to RMAs for whatever reason. They basically took my simi-functioning unit and said take a refund or keep your system down until we can replace it (a month later), after telling me it was already on the way. Also, keep in mind, they didn't even bother informing me it was cancelled. I found out because I decided to check the tracking status 3 days later. I do value your opinion though, we just see it differently.

As for the solar panels, you can see the listing here: https://signaturesolar.com/235w-60cell-silver-poly-solar-panel-by-canadian-solar/
They were advertised as being in "Great condition". I didn't see anything about there being physical damage of any sort.
 

740GLE

Solar Addict
Joined
Apr 30, 2021
Messages
1,144
If the panels have a “1 year warranty” backed by signature solar, but you accept them with shipping damage, you no longer have a warranty, as cracked frame and epoxy fix will void the warranty.

At least you didn’t pay a lot for them compared to new panels.
 

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
If the panels have a “1 year warranty” backed by signature solar, but you accept them with shipping damage, you no longer have a warranty, as cracked frame and epoxy fix will void the warranty.

At least you didn’t pay a lot for them compared to new panels.

Right, but the damage had nothing to do with shipping as far as I could tell. I made sure to inspect all the packaging and it was perfect. The cracked panels (as you can see in the pictures) were deliberately sandwiched between the good panels on either side. None of them had any damage to the front side (cell side). The support agent even said, "this seems to be a reoccurring issue with these panels."
 

Bluedog225

Texas
Joined
Nov 18, 2019
Messages
1,420
Not surprised by this write-up.

Sorry for the run-around. Glad you did not get hurt too badly.

I’d get it all back. Panels as well.

maybe try Northern Arizona Wind and Solar?

 

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
Not surprised by this write-up.

Sorry for the run-around. Glad you did not get hurt too badly.

I’d get it all back. Panels as well.

maybe try Northern Arizona Wind and Solar?


Thank you for the suggestion. I'll defiantly check out the items they have. Maybe I can find a better solution.
 

740GLE

Solar Addict
Joined
Apr 30, 2021
Messages
1,144
Right, but the damage had nothing to do with shipping as far as I could tell. I made sure to inspect all the packaging and it was perfect. The cracked panels (as you can see in the pictures) were deliberately sandwiched between the good panels on either side. None of them had any damage to the front side (cell side). The support agent even said, "this seems to be a reoccurring issue with these panels."

Signature solar might have just pawned it off for shipping damage. Either way you didn’t order broken panels, yet that’s what you received and have zero recourse when they fail the first heavy rain storm/frost.

Even new panels are damaged in transit and don’t show visual damage from the outside, it’s the nature of the beast of any company willing to sell panels via shipping.
 

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
Signature solar might have just pawned it off for shipping damage. Either way you didn’t order broken panels, yet that’s what you received and have zero recourse when they fail the first heavy rain storm/frost.

Even new panels are damaged in transit and don’t show visual damage from the outside, it’s the nature of the beast of any company willing to sell panels via shipping.

I honestly don't believe that was the case here. The support agent didn't even ask or insinuate the damage occurred in shipping. Her response indicated, at least to me, that this exact issue had happened more than once. I originally thought that Signature Solar packaged the panels themselves, so I was surprised when I noticed how the damage was hidden. I can say, without a doubt, that the cracked panels were deliberately hidden. I was 3 panels in on one side, before finding a cracked panel. I then checked the other side (as they are shipped vertically), and the first 2 panels were fine. The other 7 panels in between were all cracked. I think what really happened here was Signature Solar received the panels from another company or individual, and didn't inspect them. They simply sold them exactly how they got them, covered in mud and all. This is why I asked them if the used panels undergo any type of inspection before being sold.

The only way I would have seen the cracks upon delivery, would have been to force the driver to stay as I removed all the packaging and inspected the front and back of each panel. I simply inspected the overall package for any signs of damage whatsoever, and there was none. If I ever order panels in the future, I will be sure to inspect them one by one before signing for them.

I'm hoping my seal job holds up to the elements. I realize now that I should have made a bigger deal about the issue.
At the time I was just happy to have the system up and running.
 

BradCagle

Solar Addict
Joined
Aug 27, 2021
Messages
322
I disagree with you. They could of sent me the correct sized end clamp with no effort at all. Also, there are other ways a company can replace a unit if the exact one isn't in stock. It isn't my fault the unit failed and it isn't my fault the unit is backordered and they don't have any dedicated to RMAs for whatever reason. They basically took my simi-functioning unit and said take a refund or keep your system down until we can replace it (a month later), after telling me it was already on the way. Also, keep in mind, they didn't even bother informing me it was cancelled. I found out because I decided to check the tracking status 3 days later. I do value your opinion though, we just see it differently.

As for the solar panels, you can see the listing here: https://signaturesolar.com/235w-60cell-silver-poly-solar-panel-by-canadian-solar/
They were advertised as being in "Great condition". I didn't see anything about there being physical damage of any sort.

I missed the clamp, yes I agree they should have just sent the correct one out when you brought it to their attention no questions asked.

BTW I still say you should get on to them about replacing the broken panels, even though you tried a repair (that wont last IMHO). They are trashed, and I couldn't imagine them being any value to them in regards to sending them back.
 
Last edited:

Mahendra Gomanie

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
178
Sorry to hear about your bad experience.
You are not the only one with this experience.
I dont want to comment on what i also think is really poor customer service and after service.But hey i am from a third world country what do i know about customer service
But as as i said i dont think i will be vuying anything from SS again.
From my experience Growatt inverters and those similar like the mpp etc are prone with those kinds of problems .
Dont get me wrong they are great for their price. But you get what you pay for.
If you want quality go for the reputable brands.
Xantrex support sucks though
 

littleharbor2

Solar Addict
Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
293
From the photos it looks like the backsheet has excessively weathered. In my opinion that isn't necessarily going to lead to failure from moisture intrusion. The encapsulation process has the cells vacuum sealed between two sheets of whatever clear stuff is called and the backsheet over that. I would guess you shouldn't have any moisture intrusion problems unless the clear encapsulant has been damaged. Not all backsheet material is completely impervious to the elements.
 

Planecrazy

New Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2021
Messages
11
Agree with littleharbor2, backsheet cracking is a common reason for panels to be pulled from solar installations for insurance reasons, the panels need to be monitored for water ingress, but normally there is no problem since the backsheet is not the moisture barrier. You should have been informed that backsheet cracking was a possibility when you placed the order. Santan Solar explicitly separates the panels with backsheet cracking from their other offerings and sells at a greater discount.
 

Sethtrosity

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Feb 22, 2022
Messages
36
I know many people on here have used Santan Solar to purchase used panels and if any of the panels are cracked they send replacements out no questions asked.

The funny thing is, I actually have two strings in parallel. One string is from Signature Solar (x12 panels) and the other string is from Santan Solar (x10 panels). I didn't have any issues whatsoever with the panels from Santan Solar and they produce more watts. The only reason I bought the panels from Signature Solar was because Santan Solar was out of stock at the time.

From the photos it looks like the backsheet has excessively weathered. In my opinion that isn't necessarily going to lead to failure from moisture intrusion. The encapsulation process has the cells vacuum sealed between two sheets of whatever clear stuff is called and the backsheet over that. I would guess you shouldn't have any moisture intrusion problems unless the clear encapsulant has been damaged. Not all backsheet material is completely impervious to the elements.

I see. I did my best to try and seal all the cracks, but I'm not sure how deep they actually went. I guess at this point only time will tell.

Agree with littleharbor2, backsheet cracking is a common reason for panels to be pulled from solar installations for insurance reasons, the panels need to be monitored for water ingress, but normally there is no problem since the backsheet is not the moisture barrier. You should have been informed that backsheet cracking was a possibility when you placed the order. Santan Solar explicitly separates the panels with backsheet cracking from their other offerings and sells at a greater discount.

I agree. Signature Solar listed them as being in "great condition". As you can see in the pictures, they were in no such condition. In regards to the integrity of the panels, I'm not an expert, so I have no idea what sort of problems the cracks on the backside can cause. For my sake, I hope they are as you described and I don't have any issues.
 
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