Choosing a Solar Panel Might Seem Overwhelming
Solar panels have come a long way since we discovered the photo-electric effect. And recently it feel like you hear about solar everywhere. You decide that you want to go green and generate electricity at your home. It seems like every day more and more solar panel companies appear and everyone wants to join the solar revolution. So how to choose a solar system? When it comes to choosing the right solar panel system for your needs we collected 10 important parameters to consider to make sure you make a wise decision. Hopefully, this guide will make the choice easier for you.
1. Your Budget And Expectations
This is probably the first question you should ask yourself, how much are you willing to invest?
With enormous amounts of solar consultants and different brands offering solar systems, you should start with understanding what is your budget. Solar systems could come at any size and output levels and by establishing a budget and expectation you could find the most cost-efficient configuration for your needs. After having a budget you could consult both professionals or look for DIY options, and compare different manufacturers.
2. Will You Do It Yourself Or Hire A Professional
Hiring a solar contractor or assembling the system by yourself? On the one hand, with more and more guides appearing online you could save some spare funds to get better equipment by the DIY approach. On the other hand, highering a professional will help you be sure you do it all correctly and get the maximum power output out of your system which will surely be less time-consuming. Think about your expectation from the previous section, if you want to maximize the energetic output of your budget DIY will be the preferred option for you. If you’re looking for more of a solid investment of money and not time then a contractor will probably be the more suitable option for you.
3. The Solar Panel’s Cost
Solar panels are a long-term investment, you could get panels from various quality levels. The parameters that determine the cost of the solar panel are varied, the physical size of the panels, the power generation (in Watts), the manufacturer the durability of the panel (including the warranty given), and the quality of the components.
So the first milestone to go through is to understand what is your budget and from there derive the cost. That being said, it isn’t the only factor to consider since there is a tradeoff between the price and the efficiency of panels. When choosing a panel you should look for the panel in your price range that gives you the longest lifespan which could be over 30 years. To conclude a better quality system that will last longer will be a better investment in the long run.
4. Quality Of The Solar Panel
Here take into account the brand, how the panel is manufactured, and what quality materials. There are many different manufacturers producing panels that vary in efficiency, lifespan, and price. Currently, a good duration will is 25-30 years. Usually, a warranty that long is an indicator of a reliable manufacturer. A good efficiency range is in the low 20s. Some of the brands own each stage of the production from R&D to the assembly while others only assemble them. Although there is nothing bad with the latest and they even produce more economical options, you could expect a higher quality from the first. A manufacturing process that consists of robotics is also considered a good quality assurance.
When choosing the supplier for your system it is always smart to check the reviews of small laters of the warranty or even to consult previous customers on one of the solar panel’s groups on Facebook. Remember that solar systems are a big investment, so don’t underestimate the importance of research and client satisfaction. Don’t forget to ask about customer service when consulting a client and the performance of the system over time.
5. Energy Efficiency
Efficiency is how much of the energy is converted into electricity and determines the output power of your system.
As a rule of thumb, you want to choose the most efficient panel in your budget. Higher efficiency comes together with a higher price tag. Choosing the most efficient solar panel isn’t necessarily the best option you could also consider taking more panels of lower efficiency. One important thing to understand about efficiency – it isn’t constant, the efficiency decreases over time. Because of that when considering your expectations your system should aim to produce a bit over them, so that when the efficiency starts to drop you could still generate enough power.
A pro tip would be to write down the alternative, try building plans with more panels of lower efficiency or less power of higher efficiency and see which ones fit in the space you have, and fit in your budget.
6. Temperature Coefficient
The temperature has a big influence on solar panels, both for efficiency and durability.
The coefficient is the measurement that explains by what percentage the power output drops for each celsius degree. It’s an inherent quality coming from the way solar panels are made. As a rule of thumb, a lower temperature coefficient is better. For monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, a normal value would be -0.5% for each celsius degree increase.
Solar panels system could be a big investment, you would want an investment that would yield electricity in the long run. The warranty period is a good indicator of the brand’s confidence in the products sold. Typically reliable manufacturers provide a 25-years warranty for periods shorter than that you should re-calculate the return on investment. In any way, we recommend calculating the yearly cost of the system by the warranty period and checking the yearly value for each system. It’s not necceserly bad to buy a system with a shorter warranty as long as the yearly value of your investment is more beneficial than the alternatives.
Regardless of the warranty period if you want to maximize your energetic output and lifespan of the product you should properly maintain your system. Although not require much maintenance besides cleaning use the manufacturer’s manual to make sure your system is maintained.
8. Which Type Of Solar Panel To choose
There are many types of solar panels varying in the technology that the cells are based on. The two most common technologies are Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline cells. The main difference between the panel types is the efficiency in which they convert light to electricity and their cost. Note that some types of solar panels like Concentrated PV Cells also require cooling systems. For first-timers, we recommend avoiding them. Regarding the two most common types the main things to know are that monocrystalline panels are more expensive, have higher efficiency, and have a higher tolerance to temperature, in comparison to polycrystalline. See more about this in here.
Another type worth mentioning is Amorphous solar panels also called thin-film silicon cells. Amorphous panels use the least amount of silicon. Their efficiency is in the 7-10% range and has a very low cost. To reach an equivalent output system out of those you will need a larger surface area. They are flexible which could be useful for some specific uses but have a relatively short warranty. When mapping the options you could list them although for most applications the first two are the go-to.
9. Panel Size
The average household requires a solar system of 4kW. To start with look at your electricity bill or meter and understand how much does your household consume? The average solar panel output is ranging from 100-400 Watt per hour. The output of the solar panel is calculated on lab conditions and in direct sunlight so for most hours of the day don’t expect to get 100% of your panel’s capacity. Afterward, check how much space you have to allocate and then list down options of combinations of panels that would cover your daily consumption and would fit in this space. Consider adding 10% to your current consumption to get yourself covered for the long term when solar panel efficiency slowly decreases. Try to avoid planning a system that is too big since it will inflate the cost of the project.
10. Do You Need an Energy Storage Capacity?
Integrating batteries in your solar system can really elevate the value of the system. This type of system is often called an off-grid solar system and has a few pros and cons. The Benefit is that you will be one step closer to self-sufficiency, and can further offset your energy costs. The cons for that is that it will increase your initial costs and additional maintenance. If you want to learn further about energy storage for your home solar system read the full article we wrote about the topic
Equipped with all of this new info now you have all you need to plan your solar system. We recommend following through with all of the planning stages before starting to buy things to make sure you stay on budget and meet your expectations. We hope that you will soon join the clean energy club and take your share in making our society more sustainable.