Going Solar: Top 4 Tips for Choosing the Best Solar Panels

Published: Wed 29 Jul 2015
A blog entry by Janie Henry

Contributed by:

Janie Henry
Owner
Luckey Writer

Janie Henry's Blog

So, slimming your electric bill and decreasing your carbon footprint are the two things on your mind, and you have finally decided to take the solar plunge?

If that’s the case, your next step should be selecting the right solar power system. This can be daunting, considering there are a plethora of solar power companies with a universe of choices for solar panels and systems.

How do you go about it?

Right from performance and quality to aesthetics and durability, there are several crucial factors worth considering when choosing the right solar power system.

Here are four tips that can guide you through the process of choosing the best solar panels and help you make the right decision.

1. Performance

Of course, you want to own a solar panel system that not only lives up to its specifications, but also your expectations. For that, you need to understand several technicalities - those that make a system deliver robust performance. The best performing solar panels have an edge over their counterparts as they offer unmatched solar-to-electricity conversion rate. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Efficiency: Higher quality solar panels have better efficiency which means that even small-sized panels can do a job equivalent to medium or large sized panels as their efficiency level is high. Most panels have an efficiency level of 14-16%, but the best panels have it slightly more than 20%. The higher the efficiency, the more energy the system will be able to produce.
  • Power output: Most solar panels in the market today have 250-300 watt power output ratings. Higher power translates into better value for your money. However, the output can fluctuate for every panel and the average tolerance limit for fluctuation is (±5%).
  • Temperature sensitivity: While the common belief is the greater the temperature, better will be the performance of your solar panel, the truth is, temperatures above 77° F can actually start depreciating the power output by 10-25%.  
  • PID and LID resistance: Potential Induced Degradation (PID) is caused by stray currents triggered by extreme climatic conditions. Light Induced Degradations (LID) is referred to a process that occurs in the first few years of installation but stabilizes over a period. Both PID and LID result in power loss, and a good quality solar panel should have low PID and LID.
  • Quality manufacturing standards: Most people seek ISO-9001 compliance. A lack of it, however, doesn’t suggest that the product isn’t manufactured adhering to best practices. Nevertheless, it feels good to be investing in an ISO compliant product.
  • Snow load and wind load: People living in highly windy areas or regions with high amounts of snowfall should choose solar panels that can withstand snow/wind-induced pressure and are resilient to snow/wind load.


2. Durability/ Manufacturer’s Warranty

The length of the manufacturer’s warranty/durability of the solar panels matters significantly. It indicates the manufacturer’s confidence in its products. The power output or performance warranty on solar panels often lasts between 25 and 35 years.

A workmanship or product warranty, which covers several components of the solar panel such as, the glass, the backing and the laminate may also be offered. Inverter warranties generally last between 5 and 10 years on central inverters and 25 years for micro inverters.  

More often than not, you won’t be able to buy panels directly from the manufacturer. Hence, the selection of the installer and the retailer is also important. It’s best to choose an installation company that is a service agent for solar panel warranty work for the particular manufacturer you select. This way, should a problem strike, the time taken to resolve the issue in the system will be minimal.

Online search can help you greatly in finding the right solar panel installation company in your area. For instance, if you live in the city of San Bernardino in California, you can search online for solar panels San Bernardino. This will provide you with a list of relevant results.

3. Solar Panel Certifications

Solar panel certifications hold paramount importance as they can help assure your solar array has been tested, and is installed carefully and correctly.

There are several programs and accreditations that can help you judge the respective solar company’s credibility. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is one of the most reputable certification programs for solar PV and solar heating installers.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can help reveal a company’s credibility and disclose if a formal complaint has been filed against the installer.

4. Following the Other Essentials

  • Recommendations can help you greatly in the solar power system buying process. Ask your friends and colleagues who have installed such a system. This way, you will get to know about their experience related to the respective system, potential issues and factors you should take care of.
  • Cheaper may not always mean a better deal. When buying a solar panel system, don’t get fooled by the lowest price. You are likely to find poor quality equipment and/or installation service if you are getting the deal for an unbelievably low price.
  • Get several quotes from multiple solar panel dealers and then compare their offerings. This will help you choose a reliable system.


Conclusion

Choosing a solar power system from among a sea of options can be quite harrowing. But, by having the necessary information about its various related aspects, the buying-process will be a breeze. Buying a solar panel is a huge investment. Don’t let the excessive information about the solar power system overwhelm you. Think smartly and take your time when exploring the various offerings in the market. Choose a system that will best fit your lifestyle, budget, aesthetic requirements and desired electric output. Follow the above mentioned tips and going solar will be an exciting experience.

(Image Credit: YouTube.com)