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Over the past few years, solar technology has greatly exploded and the solar industry has exponentially grown. High energy and electricity prices have been the main reasons why so many individuals, companies and governments turned to alternative sources of power.
Additionally, the focus and commitment of several entities and climate change activists towards combating global emissions has also intensified the shift and growth of the solar industry.
There are numerous alternatives for solar panels available worldwide and selecting the option which suits your specific application can be overwhelming if not you do not have expert knowledge in the industry.
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This article offers guidance on choosing the most appropriate solar panel, with detailed features and facts about different options, which of these options are most suitable for which type of application and what to avoid.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Solar Panel
1. Experts’ Recommendations
Solar panels on the market come from a wide range of manufacturers, from famous companies with large, well-known brands, all the way to tiny companies with unknown names. Choosing the right solar panel necessitates finding the right information by checking the recommendations of industry experts.
Consulting a solar panel expert helps provide a clear insight on the different types of solar panels, their value as well as on the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Solar experts mainly recommend using panels manufactured by Panasonic, LG, Canadian Solar, Trina Solar and SunPower. Of course, these are not the only available solar panel manufacturers worldwide, however these are the ones which made it to the top of the experts’ choice list for 2021.
Panasonic, LG and SunPower are all top-rated solar panel manufacturers by experts due to their excellent temperature coefficients and high quality manufacturing which make their solar panels stand out.
LG and Panasonic are both reputable multinational conglomerates, which provide a guaranteed 25-year warranty on their panels, and given their standing in the market, purchasers can be confident that these companies can live up to their warranty promise.
This is an essential feature to consider when buying solar panels, to boost confidence in the brand and also give the buyer a sense of safety knowing who to contact, where to take the system, and a guarantee of addressing the issue if a problem is encountered.
Canadian Solar and Trina Solar are Asian based companies and their solar panel solutions are a bit cheaper than those offered by LG and Panasonic.
2. Price of the solar panel
The solar panel should align with the customer’s needs and requirements, but as with all products, its price should fit the budget. While it’s recommended to purchase premium panels from top of the range manufacturers like SunPower, LG or Panasonic, these usually tend to be more expensive than their counterparts.
Luckily, the range of manufacturers in the market offer a wide range of panels that suits all budget levels. Lower budgets might mean compensating on some of the features of premium panels, however, still allowing very good quality panels.
For example, instead of a 25-year warranty period from LG or Panasonic, Asian based solar panel manufacturers like Canadian Solar and Trina Solar offer a 10-year warranty period, with cheaper and very good quality solar panels.
A right balance needs to be met between cost, quality and performance. Good quality solar panels are cheaper than premium ones, can meet a lower customer budget and provide efficient operation. Choosing even cheaper solar panels might be good for saving money, however, will often be inefficient in operation and will fail to meet performance requirements.
3. Consumer’s Choice
It is always a good option to look for the feedback and comments from other consumers, especially those with similar requirements to yours, when looking for a suitable solar panel.
The rated and average choices of consumers can give a clear idea about their impression and experience with each brand.
The solar panel manufacturers that made the top ten list of consumers’ choice in January 2021 are as follows, in descending order: Silfab Solar, Panasonic, Qcells, LG, Axitec Solar (USA), Solaria, Solafim, Mission Solar Energy, Canadian Solar and Trina solar.
Consumer ratings can offer in-depth knowledge of the types of solar panels, their pros and cons and the consumers’ experience of each. This readily available product research can greatly help narrow down options of performance requirements, quality and budget, and assist in selecting solar panels with the highest reviews and greatest customer satisfaction.
It should be noted that these reviews are not expert advice, and can sometimes be biased, so this factor should be accounted for with the other tips when studying solar panel options and not relied upon by itself.
The size of the solar panel does not guarantee high performance. Before purchase, it is important to determine whether the solar module has a high performance output, which can be learned from the solar panel’s conversion rate.
The solar conversion rate is the rate at which the solar panel can convert solar energy (in the form of sunlight) it receives into electrical power. The higher this conversion rate is, the more power can be produced from the same amount of solar energy and therefore the higher the efficiency. Since the ultimate goal of the solar panel is to produce electrical power, this is a key feature to consider before settling on an option to purchase.
Good solar panels guarantee long-lasting durability. This is an important feature to consider when studying solar options, keeping in mind that durability is also linked to the proper maintenance of the panel.
The best guarantee of durability is a warranty from the manufacturer. Premium manufacturers such as LG and Panasonic offer an astounding 25-year warranty, while other, good quality ones, like Canadian Solar and Trina Solar offer warranties close to 10 years.
If your operating conditions require a large number of years of operation and high durability, then it would be wise to choose a manufacturer which offers the longest warranty period. Durability and longevity are crucial features to consider when weighing the solar panel options, since compromising on these means short-lived solar panels that require constant replacement.
Also Read: Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Even if their initial prices are cheap, replacing short-lived panels every few years will lead to large financial losses in the long run. Depending on the specific project and budget requirements, it is wise to consider the value for money and purchase panels which guarantee more than 2 years of utilization.
Proper assessment of your project requirements is required before purchasing a solar panel. The watt capacity required to cover the project needs should be studied and determined before buying the solar panel. For example, a 100Watts solar panel can not be used to simultaneously power a stove, lights, geyser and fridges, it would be highly insufficient for all these units.
The selected solar panel should satisfy the load requirement of the project and all its energy needs. This is a key feature in solar panels and is irrelevant to the size of the panel.
The quantity and power consumption of all the appliances and systems to be operated will help to determine the total energy required, and thus the total power anticipated from the solar panel system, and ultimately the quantity of solar panels needed.
Solar panels have considerable sizes and the total quantity of panels will eventually require allocating enough space to install these panels.
Cell types are another key feature to consider when buying a solar panel. The three major types of cells are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin film.
Monocrystalline solar panels have a uniform look, are the most efficient but also the most expensive among the three.
Polycrystalline solar cells are mostly bluish in colour and have a fragmented appearance. They are quite efficient although less expensive than monocrystalline cells and are more sustainable.
Between the three, thin film cells are the least efficient, least expensive and most sustainable. Most panels based on thin film cells do not offer warranties so buying them can be quite a gamble.
Cell type is a crucial feature to look for when buying a solar panel and attention should be given to the description to check if the cell type is monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin film.
Choosing a convenient cell type depends on the quality and budget of the project, considering that monocrystalline is the most suitable as it offers the most advantages.
PID or potential-induced degradation is limiting to the performance of solar panels and is primarily caused by fluctuations in climate conditions.
The best options for solar panels are those that have very low or no PID at all, otherwise have high PID Resistance, and are least affected by changes in the environment.
For a solar panel to be deemed effective it must show little to no light induced degradation (LID). LID often occurs at the initial stages of operation and stabilizes with time, however can also affect the performance of the solar panel. Good quality solar panels have very low to insignificant light induced degradation.
As this problem can’t be detected by observing the panel, solar experts are better equipped to advise on the solar models that have low LID and which options to avoid.
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Temperature coefficient rating is a key factor in determining the impact of heat on the performance of a solar panel after installation. Solar panels with a low percentage-per-degree Celsius are the most convenient to look for.
In summary, deciding which solar panel system to purchase needs proper, well-planned research and expert advice and recommendations. The pointers provided in this article serve as a thorough guide to assist in choosing the most suitable solar panels, where a large number of factors need to be considered.
The right balance of quality to cost must be determined, to ensure that the panels purchased offer good performance, are durable and efficient. As a high price is not always a guarantee of efficiency, customers need to set their requirements and power needs, in view of their budgets and weigh in the factors they are willing to compromise to reach the most suitable option.
Clearly the choice is always to look for reputable companies that offer guarantees and can provide support if operating issues are encountered. Warranties are essential to have to make sure the system is solid for operation over a long period of time.