Solar panels are the most essential components of the solar power system. To choose the best solar panels (also called solar modules) is the most important thing for every homeowner who has decided to go solar. In this post, you will find some directions on how to choose the best solar panels for your home.
First of all, you have to choose the type and the brand of solar panels. There are four key technical specifications you have to consider: panel efficiency, temperature coefficient, the materials warranty, and the performance warranty.
There are two main types to choose from when it comes to solar photovoltaic panels: monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels (black color) are more efficient because they are manufacture from the purest silicone. Each solar cell here is cut from a single, continuous piece of silicon crystal. Monocrystalline solar panels are also more expensive. They cost between $300-700 USD per panel. Monocrystalline solar panels produce the most waste when they’re manufactured.
Polycrystalline solar panels (dark blue color) are considered to be less efficient and this is due to the method of production. Manufacturers melt multiple silicon fragments together to produce the wafers for this type of solar panel. They are the most commonly purchased solar panels, simply because they are the most affordable option. Polycrystalline solar panels usually cost between $200-500 USD per panel. They are an environmentally-friendly option because they utilize all of the silicon material they are manufacture.
There is also another type of solar panel – thin-film solar panels. Thin-film panels are cost-efficient and most sustainable to produce and they are least expensive. However, they are also the least efficient (commercially available generally have efficiency in the 10–13% range) and degrade faster. Thin-film panels need more space, even twice as much room as a mono- or polycrystalline solar panel with the same energy output. These types of solar panels usually cost between $175-300 USD per panel. It is rare to see thin-film panels on the roof. Thin-film photovoltaic cells are used for large and small PV application such as a calculator, solar-powered charger for smartphones, solar-powered purse, solar-powered backpack, curved surfaces on buildings and cars, even on clothing to charge small electronic devices. They are also used to power traffic and street lights, and for commercial and industrial projects (solar farms).
You may have heard about bifacial solar panels, which can absorb light on both the front and the back of the panel. They have higher rates of power output and higher efficiency than traditional solar panels. But these types of solar panels aren’t typically used for residential solar installations. They are more expensive and they are more suitable for large ground-mounted projects.
The second thing to consider is the brand. Some of the best quality and most reliable panel manufacturers are LG, SunPower, REC, Solaria, Panasonic, and QCells. You can see the list of the best manufacture at Top 10 Solar Panels – Latest Technology 2020 — Clean Energy Reviews. Another review of solar panels you can find at Best Solar Panels in 2020 [Complete List] | EnergySage. The best brands of solar panels have the best solar panel efficiency and temperature coefficient.
Solar panel efficiency means the percentage of sunlight that hits the surface of solar panels converted into electricity for your home. Currently, most solar panels have an efficiency between 15% to 22%. The average efficiency of solar panels is between the 17% to 19% efficiency range. The higher the efficiency rating, the more sunlight your solar system can turn into electricity to power your home. SunPower’s A-Series Residential Solar Panels are 22.8% efficient at their maximum and they are the best solar panels available on the market today. Keep in mind, however, that efficiency also depends on factors like placement, orientation, shading, time of year, dust and dirt, weather conditions, etc. If you have enough roof space you may choose less efficient and not so expensive solar panels.
The temperature coefficient tells you how well your solar panels will work on hot summer days. Solar panels operate most efficiently when they are kept cool (ideally around 25° C or 77° F panel’s temperature). The temperature coefficient usually ranges between -0.3% and -0.5 %/°C. Solar panels are tested according to international technical standards at 25°C, and that is why this is used as the reference point. For every degree above that temperature, your solar panel’s electricity production will decrease by the temperature coefficient. If the temperature coefficient is -0,3% and your solar panel’s temperature increases by one degree Celsius (from 25° C to 26° C), its electricity production will fall by 0.3%. If the temperature increases ten degrees Celsius to 35° C (or 95° F), the panel will produce 3% less electricity. So, a lower temperature coefficient is better. The temperature of the panels depends on your location, roof material (some absorb more heat than others), and the installation of the panels (if they are angled or mounted flat on the roof). In many instances, a solar panel’s surface can get as hot as 50° – 65°C. If the installation is a typical rack-type, you will have a gap of greater than 150mm between the roof surface and the panels. It will allow airflow to have a cooling effect on the panels.
Thin-film solar panels have a lower temperature coefficient than traditional monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels. Their temperature coefficients are closer to -0.2% / °C.
Another important thing is a solar panel’s materials warranty which protects against failure due to manufacturing defects. Solar PV manufacturers provide a minimum 10 – 12 years product warranty but many solar panel manufacturers offer 15, 20, and even 25-year product warranties. This means the manufacturer must either replace or give you a refund for solar panels that fail within the product warranty period.
The performance warranty is different from the solar panel’s materials warranty. The performance warranty is called also the ‘power output warranty’ and it ensures that the solar panel still produces a minimum power output after a specific amount of time. The common industry standard is 80-83% power output after 25 years. Some top manufacturers such as SunPower and LG guarantee 88-92% power output on most modules after 25 years of use.
Besides the top solar panel brands, many manufacturers are offering a wide range of quality, affordable panels. The most well known of these manufacturers are Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, and Trina Solar. See other brands at Choosing a quality Solar Panel – Reliability, warranty and efficiency — Clean Energy Reviews
And finally, to determine the number of solar panels you need to do some calculations regarding current energy consumption in your home, and how it will change in the future.
When you choose your solar panels it is important to know, that a solar power system is a complex system of several components and the overall performance depends not only on solar panels. All components should be compatible with each other (solar panels, solar inverter, battery storage, charge controller). Also, the homeowners should carefully consider their unique house and household circumstances and maybe even seek the advice of an expert before choosing the right solar panels for their home.