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 the most popular and considered the best. Choosing a manufacturer with a strong local presence is important.

Knowing the warranty terms and choosing a solar company that offers after-sale service is important.

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.

Polysilicon is becoming scarce as the market now focuses on monocrystalline technology, which has been available for almost 20 years.

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.

Producing it is more costly 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.

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.

Is this manufacturer just selling solar panels in Australia or are they embedded here? 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 reputable brands like LG have come into the market, sold the panel for a decade plus, and have now decided to leave 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?

How will the solar system look on your roof?

Another important factor to consider is the appearance of the solar panels on your roof. 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.

What is the panel efficiency? 

Number three when buying solar panels is 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.

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

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.

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).

Looking at the solar panel’s efficiency is important. An efficiency of 21%, 21.5%, or even 22% is excellent, so any panel with such a factor will be acceptable to consider.

So when should you get bigger panels? If you’ve got an enormous 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? 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 PV systems, you get what you pay for.

Beware of the Tier 1 trick when buying solar panels

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. This is a marker for the cheap solar installation companies trying to upsell their product and mislead you.

Because Tier 1 does not mean it’s the best panel. 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.

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.

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.

A large and quality solar panel system on a house is known to help 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 bulky and stands out in an ugly manner from the roof of your home.

When purchasing solar panels, remember to think about these factors when discussing with your solar panel installation company.

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