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How do I compare solar panels besides price?

Francisco CastroMay 7, 20191980

Solar panels account for 25 to 30% of the total cost of a solar power system and are the main source of the electricity generated by the system, converting sunshine into energy that is sent to an inverter. 

They are incredibly resistant and efficient, able to last up to 25 years or more with proper care and maintenance. 

As such, picking the right one for your installation is key to making sure you have power for years to come.

Besides price, there are many different variables to consider when picking a solar panel for your system, including cell technology, power rating, frame size, manufacturer, and warranty. 

Simply comparing modules based on price alone is not worth much, given that technological advances are constantly bringing down the cost of a solar panel.

So how can you compare them? Here are a few tips when choosing the right solar panel for you.

Mono vs Poly

This will usually be your first decision. All solar panels are made of silicon, but there are two types, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells. Monocrystalline are black in color and are the best at converting light to energy. However, they also produce the most waste during the manufacturing process, so if you’re really trying to go the environmental route, your best option are polycrystaline solar panels. These modules use all of the silicon material they’re manufactured with, meaning there’s less waste. However, these panels are not as resistant to heat as monocrystalline ones.

Frame size

Most solar panels for residential projects fall under two frame size categories: 60-cell and 72-cell. The main difference is obviously size, one being a foot taller than the other. This is important to note because if you have a limited amount of space on your roof, you probably won’t be able to use the longer modules. That’s why 72-cell panels are most often used in commercial projects.

The frame itself can come in various types from double walled and highly rigid, to quite thin-walled and relatively flexible. Both serve the same purpose when attached securely to quality mounting systems.

Power rating and efficiency

Solar panels are rated in watts based on the maximum amount of energy they produce during a laboratory test in optimum circumstances. Currently, the average range of residential solar panels goes from 250-340 watts. Solar pricing is based on dollar per watts, so the size and wattage of your solar power system will dictate how much your installation will cost. 

Where things do matter is in terms of efficiency. Even if two panels have the same wattage, one may have a higher efficiency rating than the other. Efficiency ratings go as low as 13% and higher than 20%. This rating not only speaks to reliability of the panel in generating power. 

Pick quality

If you invest in a high-quality panel, not only are they guaranteed to last for 25 years, but they are likely to last for many more. And incidentally, high-quality modules will often carry a higher efficiency rating because they are made by companies that are innovative, have excellent engineers and a high level of quality control. 

Solar energy is a long-term investment, making it critical to consider the history and reputation of the manufacturer you choose to purchase from. Using high-quality panels from a respected, company with a stable background will help prevent any potential problems from arising in the future. In the rare case that an issue does come up, a company with a proven track record for customer service will help address the problem.

To differentiate quality, the solar industry came up with tier categories: Tier 1 is for panel manufacturers that control every stage of the production process and have been on the market longer than five years. Tier 2 is for those businesses with a track record going back 2-5 years and Tier 3 for companies newer than that.
Fortune Energy offers a wide variety of high-quality solar panels from a number of reputable companies with a long-standing track record of the highest efficiency and outstanding warranties.

Understanding warranties

Quality solar panels come with three different types of warranties. Product quality covers manufacturer defects, breakage or any other product issues. This is often quite rare with high-quality panels. For instance, of the roughly 800,000 panels LG sold in Australia within the past eight years, less than 20 had warranty claims due to manufacturing faults. That's a failure rate of approximately 0.00025 percent. 

There’s also performance warranty, which guarantees that a panel will continue to produce a certain percentage of the maximum energy listed on its label for a number of years; usually 90% production at 10 years and 80% at 25 years. 

Some manufacturers also offer a labor warranty, meaning they will not only replace the panel, they will pay someone to climb up on your roof to remove the damaged panel and install the new one. 

If you're looking to make the switch to solar energy, but don’t know the size of equipment you need to satisfy your energy needs, don’t worry. You can find out in a matter of seconds with the Hahasmart price checker. All you have to do is put in your address and average monthly bill and in a matter of seconds it will provide you with an estimate of equipment and installation costs. They’ll even help you contact a reputable solar installer in your area to do the project. 

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