Building Your Solar System: What Solar Panels Do I Buy?
Article Author: Meghan Harmon, Director of Marketing & Media
Advancements in technology have allowed the price of solar panels to drastically reduce. Homeowners everywhere have been quickly realizing that they need solar. Consequently, rising demand has caused many different companies to compete, offering a variety of panels. This can make the process of selecting panels very confusing and overwhelming.
It is wise to think of this purchase decision as an investment into your home as well as your future. Potentially, choosing the right solar system could save you hundreds or even thousands in energy costs. Although price is a huge factor in selecting what type of panels to choose, it is hardly the only thing that needs to be taken into account.
At Solar Negotiators, our sales team recommends that homeowners consider the size of their roof to account for the amount of space for panels. If they are limited in roof space, it is smart to opt for the more efficient “premium” panels, as long as it still makes sense for their budget. However, standard panels will generally get the job done at a more affordable price. We try to be as honest as possible with people looking to go solar with us. We will always let our customers know when we feel it doesn’t make sense for a customer to go solar.
There are 3 main types of panels you can use to build your solar system: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film (amorphous). If you are looking for the top-grade, most expensive on the market, monocrystalline would be your best option. They are the most efficient, meaning the product requires very little roof space but produce the most power. These panels are also made of silicon ingots, which give the solar cells a cylindrical look. Many customers prefer this style to other models because of their dark color, appearing less noticeable on rooftops. Polycrystalline are the standard, most popular blue panels that most customers consider purchasing. Although they are more affordable, they are slightly less heat tolerant, making them less efficient than the monocrystalline panels. We do not offer thin-film solar panels as a recommendation in consults. However they are available if you need a less expensive system because you signed a long-term lease. Although they are more affordable, these panels aren’t generally used for residential jobs because they require a lot of space.
The price per panel varies because of a set of different factors: wattage, size, brand, quality, and durability. However, they usually cost around $100-500 per panel, depending on the production and the brand. The system price can drastically vary depending on the number of modules you choose to place on your roof. As most consumer products, the price per unit decreases as you add more panels to your system.
Companies that heavily invest in researching the best ways to create innovative, high performing panels will likely produce the best product. Usually, the higher silicon grade, the better the panels will perform (performance factors include production and durability). On the other hand, companies who spend less money on the research that goes into making their product will probably focus more on the production aspect. This includes using a mix of robotic and manual work on production lines to mass produce a quality product. The most affordable panels on the market are often rely on human production lines, but quality isn’t consistent.
Performance isn’t quite as simple as pricing options, many factors go into play when determining how efficient a panel produces over time. Tolerance, conversion efficiency, temperature coefficient, PID & LID resistance, and embodied energy are all terms that determine how well your system will perform and for how long. The rule of thumb with these expensive products usually is: the more you spend, the longer your panels will last- with a few exceptions. As long as you purchased a quality product, you shouldn’t have problems with your production early on. It is important to make sure that you’re checking your production levels through your inverter or online using the PG&E website. However, it isn’t difficult to notice you’re under producing once you get your monthly bill. In fact, PG&E has made it easy for homeowners with solar to monitor their usage and production side by side on their monthly billing statement.
It isn’t shocking that with exposure to direct sunlight for years, panels will eventually degrade. However the majority of name brand panels are under a 25 year warranty, and will produce up to 80% efficiency of year one production for the full length of the warranty. It is important that you make sure that you have a long warranty when purchasing a product with a high cost such as a solar system. Even if just one panel is under producing, it could have detrimental effects on your savings each month. It is is critical that you are always producing at maximum output to get the most out of your investment.
Lastly, you want to make sure the company that you’re working with is reliable and has established good connections with clients in the past. There is no way of judging the quality of a product if it is brand new to the market, unless you it is a company you know and trust. We select all the panel products and their manufacturers for our clients to view as our recommendations, because they are dependable and have proved to be of great quality in all our years in business.