Taking the stress out of choosing solar panels that are the perfect fit for you.
So, you’ve decided to go solar. However, as you will soon find out, there’s more to choosing the right components for your solar system than comparing prices. It’s vital that you do a bit of research to find the best options. Why? Simple, one panel does not fit all. And as the key component responsible for harnessing solar energy, it is crucial to get it right. It makes the difference between having a reliable system that helps reduce energy bills and a money pit.
That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to help you understand what to look for when putting your system together, starting with solar panels.
Factors to keep in mind when choosing panels
First and foremost is knowing how you intend to use your solar system. Are you using it to power your home or business? Do you want to include a battery to store power? Will your system be connected to the main power grid or not? The answers to these basic questions will determine what you need to look for.
- Size & Capacity
Your solar array needs to generate enough energy to power your home or business. You also need to ensure that the panels fit into the available space. The physical size of the panels themselves will vary depending on the type of solar cells and the capacity of the system. And the number of panels you will need will depend on the output you require. The wattage is what you need to get right since underestimating will lead to the lack of energy and overestimating the wattage will lead to spending more money that you need to.
- Types of Panels
There are three basic types of panels to choose from.
Monocrystalline: They are the most efficient, have a long span, good heat tolerance and a smaller footprint. They are the most expensive.
Polycrystalline: They are cost-effective and the most popular choice of panels. However, they aren’t as efficient as monocrystalline panels and take up more space.
Amorphous or Thin Film panels which are not made with silicon wafers but rather by depositing semiconductor material on a ceramic substrate. They are aesthetically appealing and easy to mass-produce so the cost is low, however they are not very efficient.
- Classification (Quality)
The quality of a solar panel is determined by the materials used, manufacturing process and reliability of the manufacturer. Based on these they are classified as Tier-1, Tier-2, Tier-3.
Tier-1 includes the top 2% of PV panel manufacturers. These companies have more than five years of experience and use the best grade of silicon to produce solar cells. They invest heavily in research and development and use automated manufacturing processes.
Tier-2 includes companies who have been in the business for two to five years. They rely on automated and manual assembly and have limited focus on research and development.
Tier-3 encompasses 90% of new PV panel manufacturers. They rely on manual soldering of solar cells, which in most cases are outsourced. Because of this quality can vary based on individual operators.
The efficiency of a panel refers to the amount of light hitting the surface that is converted into electrical energy. The higher the efficiency the more power your panels will generate. However, that does not mean you immediately look for the highest efficiency. Assess your requirements and choose a panel that best suits your needs. Ensure that your solar panels always have positive tolerance mentioned on the data sheet.
- Temperature Coefficient
Temperature coefficient is the rate at which power decreases for every degree rise in temperature. Temperature coefficient of the solar panels is between 0 to 0.5%. Closer the value to zero, the higher the power output.
Most solar panels will come with a 25-year warranty. If the manufacturer does not offer a long warranty period be wary. Warranty will only be honored as long as the company is operational, which is why it is advisable to opt for a well-established brand.
You don’t always need to buy the most expensive one to be sure of quality, even though it is true that the cheapest may not live up to expectations. Once again, assessing your energy needs is key. There are several panels that deliver the output and reliability that you need while comfortably fitting into your budget.
Ask the experts
When in doubt, the best solution is to get assistance from the people who understand the business. Instead of going it alone, contact a solar retailer who offers complete solutions that include consultation and installation. They will be able to walk you through the process and assess what is best for you within your budget.
How to find the best solar installer? The most important thing is to look for one that has physical offices in Australia and has been approved by official governing bodies like the Clean Energy Council. Stay tuned for upcoming posts for tips on picking the right solar installer.