How to buy the best solar panels for your home

Fast read

When deciding to buy the best solar panels, it is important to consider the following:

  • The type of technology used
  • The reputation and history of the manufacturer
  • The appearance of the panels on your roof
  • The panel efficiency

The warranty and maintenance agreement

Monocrystalline technology is currently the most widely used and regarded as the best available, and it is essential to choose a manufacturer with a strong presence in the local market.

Finally, it is crucial to understand the terms of any warranties or maintenance agreements and to choose a company that will be available for after-sale service.

Key considerations when deciding to buy solar panels

When you go to buy a solar panel, you will be given three main options. Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar cell technologies. Nevertheless, only monocrystalline and polycrystalline are available nowadays, as thin-film technology is no longer accessible in Australia for residential roof installation.

Even polysilicon is harder and harder to find, as the market has consolidated into monocrystalline technology, a tried and tested technology – available on the market for nearly 2 decades.

Given its long research and established position, monocrystalline is still regarded as the best technology available. They are made of pure silicon single crystals that are then split into independent wafers to form a solar cell.

It is more costly to produce than polycrystalline, which has fewer silicon wafers cast into blocks instead of single crystals. Nevertheless, monocrystalline panels perform better in hot weather and low light than polycrystalline. So, Monocrystalline it is.

Check out the solar panel manufacturer

When you consider buying the best solar panels, there are a few things that you should watch out for. The first one is in regard to the manufacturer. How long has that manufacturer been in Australia? Have they got a big office? Have they got a lot of staff?

Are they embedded in Australia? I’m saying this is because there are over 450 manufacturers who have come over the last ten, and 12 years in Australia, sold a product with extended warranties for a short time and then disappeared again.

So even big reputable brands like LG have come into the market, sold the panel for a decade plus, and have now decided to get out of solar, as has Bosch. This means the industry is still growing and evolving and has not fully settled yet.

Where is the panel manufactured? 

The first question I would ask when buying solar panels is, where is the product manufactured? Who is backing it? Have they been in Australia for a long time?

How will the solar system look on your roof?

The second point, we say, check out the panel’s appearance. There used to be a technology called polysilicon, pushed because it was cheap – but the panels were blue, not black, and did not look that great on quality homes.

I found them quite ugly in houses. There is now a chance to get total black panels. They tend to be aesthetically pleasing in the house. So I would look at the appearance of the panel. silver frames don’t look as attractive as black frames. So number two is appearance.

What is the panel efficiency? 

Number three when buying solar panels is very important and it concerns the panel’s efficiency. You see, you only have a certain amount of roof space, even if you have a mansion. Eventually, your roof will run out, and you’ll be surprised when the electric car comes and you want to expand your solar system to charge your family’s vehicles.

So for sure, in the future, you will be looking for extra space on your roof to put more panels on it because you want to create more electricity to drive your electric car for free. So try to get the most efficient panel possible.

solar panels module in shopping trolley
Inefficient panels can set you back financially and in energy capacity.

A higher wattage label does not mean a more efficient panel 

Do not be misled by the panel’s wattage number, but check the efficiency percentage on the datasheet. Because what happens is manufacturers go and say, oh, I’ve got a 400 Watt panel and the next guy goes, oh, I’ve got a 450 Watt panel and you think, oh, 450 is better than 400  as it is a bigger number – so it must be more efficient.

But this is not necessarily so because the 450-watt panel could be 20% bigger than the 400-watt model. And that means regarding your roof space, with the 450 Watt model, you will get a smaller solar system size than with a 400 Watt (which in this sample is a considerably smaller size panel).

So you have to look for the panel’s efficiency factor. 21%, 21.5% or even 22% efficiency are excellent, so any panel with such a factor will be acceptable to consider.

So when should you get bigger panels? If you’ve got a very large roof surface area, you can afford to go for a less efficient panel model which might be a bit cheaper. But if you have a terrace house in a city with a small roof. You might want one of the higher-efficiency panels.

What is the panel’s wind resistance?

The other thing to consider is the wind load because different panel models have different wind load strengths. Obviously, the ones with the higher wind load strengths will handle potential tornadoes and strong winds better.

What about the warranty support? 

Some panels have 12 years, some have 15 years and some have a 25-year product warranty. So now I can give you a 50-year product warranty if I plan not to be in Australia in two years’ time.

So, does the manufacturer have a dedicated warranty support line? Has the installer used that panel before, and over how many years? If they have used the product for a decade with minimal issues, then that’s a good endorsement.

What is their verdict about the product and why? Is this a well-known and established brand? So those are the tough questions to ask. As a consumer, it is also a wise move to understand the rights you have, your rights can be found on the ACCC website.

And of course, most importantly, don’t just go about the price because with panels, as with solar systems, you get what you pay for.

Beware of the Tier 1 trick when buying solar panels

Do not fall for the tier 1  trick. Some of the cheapest panels will use the fact that they are Tier 1 to push that product at you. As soon as somebody is pushing and labelling a panel as a Tier 1, do not buy from that company. It’s a marker for the cheap and often poor install companies trying to upsell their product and mislead you.

Because Tier 1 does not mean it’s the best panel. It’s a reflection that that panel brand (not even necessarily this particular panel model) has been used in solar farms somewhere in the world. It could be a foreign aid project, and the panels could have been donated to the project. We will never know. Tier 1 is not a reflection of the quality of the panel, but a shonky solar salesperson will try to make you believe it’s a quality label.

So it’s quite a misleading term. And some of the cheaper panels use that term to try to make themselves look better than they are. Suppose you see in the advertising that the product has been vigorously promoted as a Tier 1. Go to the following quote and leave this one behind.

black panel solar system
Black solar panels can look significantly more appealing on your roof.

Some panels look better than others

Ask to see some photos of the suggested panel installed on another house. The panel’s appearance will affect your home’s appearance for many years to come. Insist on a black frame over a silver-coloured frame. Total black panels tend to look better.

It is known that a large and quality solar system on a house can help to increase the price of a house. However, this can also be determined by aesthetics. If my solar system is subtle and able to blend in with the house dynamic, will it increase my home’s value? Yes! A solar system would increase the price of a house significantly more than a solar system that is big, bulky, and stands out in an ugly manner from the roof of your home.

When buying solar panels, it is essential to consider all the above points when negotiating with your solar installation company.

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