Just like purchasing a home, purchasing a solar panel system is a long-term investment and there are many factors that you should take into consideration. Rather than trying to figure them out for yourself, we’ve put them into an easy list below.
1. Solar Panel Cost
Cost is generally the first factor people think about when considering a new solar panel system. The cost of the system is determined by different variables:
- size of the system (in Watts)
- physical size
- quality of the materials
- durability (or warranty period)
- any certifications associated with the system
While no doubt an important consideration, cost should not be the only factor in your decision. The cheapest panel may be the least efficient and cost more in the long run, while a more expensive high-quality option could have a lifespan of 30 years and be very efficient, saving you much more money over the lifetime of the equipment. Conversely, an expensive system which looks good on the surface may have an inflated price tag due to slick marketing. Because of this, it’s important to know about the following factors.
2. Solar Panel Quality
The higher price you typically pay for good quality is not necessarily for the hardware, but for the research and development (R&D) that went into the technology behind it. While some manufacturers have extremely high quality control at every stage of the production process and also invest heavily in R&D to ensure they have a cutting-edge solution, other manufacturers take shortcuts and focus on production volume and profits.
Determining which is which can be tricky, however the most reliable method for doing this is by reading reviews of the manufacturers product. A long list of happy customers and raving reviews is a good sign that you’re onto a winner. Bad reviews or a small amount of reviews should be a red flag.
Remember not just to look at good reviews as well, even if the provider you’re considering has a lot of them. Even the best providers will from time to time have issues, so try to find some critical reviews as well, as this will give you a good indication of the kind support you can expect from the company if anything happens to go wrong.
3. Energy Efficiency
You should assess your specific needs carefully. The most expensive array may not suit your energy use and you may end up spending more than your energy use requires. Look for a system that covers your needs and is economically viable.
4. Temperature Coefficient
This refers to the impact that heat has on a solar panel’s operational efficiency after installation. Overheated solar panels age quicker, hence it is better if the temperature coefficient is lower.
A normal warranty period is 25 years for solar panels. This length of warranty indicates a manufacturer has confidence in the durability and longevity of their products. So, conversely, when a company offers a short warranty period, or no warranty period, it should raise a red flag.
6. Physical size
Make sure the system you buy covers all your power requirements. And ensure that you have the space needed to install it. The physical size of the system is influenced by the quality of the solar cells in the panel and the wattage of the panels.
7. Output size
The wattage is the most important aspect to get right. If you underestimate the power output, you won’t have enough energy to power your appliances. If you overestimate, you will spend more money than you need to on the system and the installation.
8. Types of Solar Cells Used
Check the glossary of solar panel terms below, as there are different types of solar cells on the market. While these terms may be new to you, it is worth doing your homework to be familiar with the names so you can follow the conversation if your supplier mentions a name.
Monocrystalline silicon cells offer high efficiency and good heat tolerance, with a small footprint (don’t take much roof space).
- Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) silicon cells offer less efficiency and heat tolerance than monocrystalline, however are cheaper, and as such are now the most popular choice in residential installs.
- Amorphous (or thin-film) silicon cells, use less silicon and are not very efficient. A crystalline panel will typically be smaller than an amorphous panel (for the same wattage).
Based on the above information, you can confidently explore solar system options and understand the lingo when you start speaking to providers.