How To Choose Solar Panels

If you’re looking at getting a solar system installed in your home, chances are you’ve searched for some products online. 

You’ve seen there are hundreds of different companies selling all different systems. 

Not only that, the price can be anywhere from $3000 to $7000 for a system that appears the same based on kW.

Before we go deeper. The panels we are talking about in this article are photovoltaic solar panels; also known as “solar PV” or “solar electricity” modules.

These are different from panels used for hot water systems. 

Although we sell and install solar systems, this article will aim to be as neutral as possible. 

We also like to sell panels that don’t require us coming out to do repairs every 6 months. We’ve been in business for over 23 years and plan on staying here for longer than 23 more. For this reason, we can’t afford to tarnish our good reputation by selling crap.

Buying Solar Panels: Points To Consider

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The Price...

When looking at the price of solar panels, an important calculation you need to make is: What is the cost per watt?

Solar panels can range in price from $0.60/watt to $1.60/watt. 

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

The cheaper panels are going to lack in many areas compared to the premium ones.

This could mean less energy produced, heavier panels, shorter warranties, low-quality parts, plus more. 

The higher the quality, the less chance they will break down and the higher the chance they will produce more money for you…for longer.

Every so often you’ll see sales where you can score a steep discount, but if the retail cost is significantly less than most, keep shopping.

Panel Efficiency...

Solar panel efficiency refers to the ratio of the energy in the sunlight that hits the panel to the energy generated by the module.
The more efficient a panel is the higher the amount of energy it will create.

For example, if the panel captured all the energy from the sunlight, it would be 100% efficient. 

Unfortunately, 100% is unreasonable yet. 

Most panels range from 15% to 25% efficiency. 

For example, if the solar panel captured half the energy in the sunlight, then the module’s efficiency would be 50%. In real-world conditions, conventional panel efficiencies range from about 12% up to just over 21%.

By choosing more efficient panels you’ll get more electricity per square meter. 

You could cover your entire roof with panels but if the efficiency is low, you’ve just paid extra labour and parts for more panels. If you choose more efficient panels, the installers will be quicker thus costing you less money. 

More efficient panels also tend to be of higher quality with bigger warranties.

We always stick to high-quality solar panels. It’s not worth the hassle to deal with cheap panels. They take longer to install and they break down faster.

Panel Quality And Warranty

PV or Photovoltaic is the “method for generating electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons by the photovoltaic effect.” 

When we refer to the PV quality, we’re talking about the quality of the cells used. Like a car, shoes, bread, and everything in life, the quality of products can differ substantially. 

Sadly, the descriptions in the datasheets by the manufacturer are not represented in the panel itself. 

For example, some panels claim to be salt mist resistant but when tested are far from it. 

The Clean Energy Council or CEC tested the quality of 30 manufacturers panels against their claims.

They found that:

The CEC regularly tests and delists solar panel manufacturers from its website. 

Although the CEC can’t test every panel, for it to be approved by the CEC means it’s met the required standards to be endorsed. 

The brands we use have been approved by the CEC and can be found on their website. These are Jinko, LG, REC, Suntech, Longi, and Q Cells. We chose these because they set the standard for solar and are of the highest quality.

To learn more about who the Clean Energy Council is, click here.

We also only stock panels that come with a 10 year warranty. Anything less means the panel quality is too low for our standards. 

Panels also come with a performance warranty. This is usually 20-25 years. This warranty doesn’t cover damages or workmanship. It simply means if the panel decreases efficiency in that period, they will replace it.

Country Of Origin

Some companies like to harp on about the country the panel is made in. Most people think panels from China are no good and panels from Europe are the best. 

Whilst it’s true China produces some cheap imitations, they also produce the best quality products we have in our homes. Whether it’s mobile phones, solar panels, telecommunications, plus a lot more.

There are also high-quality brands such as Canadian Solar which make the majority of their panels in China. 

So, the country of origin doesn’t play a big role when choosing panels. Instead, look for red flags such as price. If solar panels are dirt cheap, chances are they made in bulk for a cheap price and imported by the millions to an Australian company ready to sell to you.

A brand we use is called Jinko. This is a Chinese brand but because of the quality of the panel, it’s not produced in bulk with cheap parts. 

So you can have 2 Chinese brands with one costing 1 third of the price of the other. 

At the end of the day, your best defence is education. Spend time learning about panels, talk to experts, don’t trust all salesmen, and never settle for the cheapest option.

To view our current solar panel deals, click here.

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