Summer is upon us, and as the California heat grills your city, the steady hum of your air conditioner may sound a lot like money climbing out of your wallet and running away. California has some of the highest energy costs in the country, so now might be the time to consider investing in solar panels. As soon as you start your solar energy journey, you’ll notice something. There are hundreds of different solar panel models to choose from, and they all look the same! So, what’s the difference between the best-rated solar panels for home use and the rest of the pack? More importantly, how can top-rated solar panels help you save more money on your energy bills?
Are the Best-Rated Solar Panels for Home Use Worth the Extra Price?
Some of the most highly rated solar panel manufacturers in the industry are Panasonic and LG.
When you begin comparing these panels with the hundreds of others on the market, you’ll notice something that isn’t all that surprising. The top-rated solar panels tend to also be the priciest.
Isn’t investing in solar panels supposed to save you money? How can you do that by purchasing some of the more expensive panels on the market?
The price tag of a solar panel is only a starting point in understanding the true value you’re getting. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” The best solar panels can offer big savings through greater efficiency, longer warranties, a lower temperature coefficient, and general overall quality.
Let’s take a look at how each of these factors can help you ultimately save more money over time.
Why Greater Efficiency Matters
Let’s say that you hire two different companies to mow your lawn. Company A charges $50 per hour, while Company B charges $40 per hour. Company B sounds like the better deal, right? Sure, until you get your bill. It turns out that Company A was able to mow your entire lawn in an hour, while Company B slacked off and took an hour and a half to complete the job. Company A’s bill is $50, while Company B charges you $60 for the same work.
While Company A seemed more expensive to begin with, they were actually the cheaper option, because they were much more efficient than Company B. They could produce greater results in less time.
Efficiency is also an important concept in the world of solar panels. Every panel has an efficiency rating, which refers to the amount of sunlight it can convert into energy. The industry average is roughly 15% to 17% efficiency.
Top-rated solar panels rise high above the pack, usually offering at least 20% efficiency. LG and Panasonic, for example, both offer a top efficiency rate of over 21%.
The difference between 14% efficiency and 21% efficiency might not seem like a lot, but consider that the solar panel with 21% efficiency will generate 50% more energy under the same conditions as its less efficient counterpart. This difference adds up. More efficient panels will generate more energy over time, helping to cut or eliminate your electric bill.
Why Warranty Matters
Warranties often get overlooked in the initial excitement of buying a new product. This is mostly because the cost savings warranties offer is hidden… right up until the point something goes wrong. Most solar panel brands offer a 10- or even 15-year warranty on the performance of their panels. Once again, the top manufacturers are noteworthy outliers. Panasonic offers a 25-year warranty, for example.
Warranties won’t save you money right away, but they sure will come in handy 15 years down the road when you notice that the performance of your panels is diminishing. With warranty in hand, you can ask the manufacturer to address the problem or even replace your entire system. Without the warranty, you’ll either have to pay out of pocket for repairs or watch your energy bills creep up as the performance of your panels continues to sink.
Why the Temperature Coefficient Matters
A solar panel’s efficiency rating assumes ideal conditions, but step outside your house on a simmering day in July, and you’ll quickly recognize that even in California “ideal conditions” can be wishful thinking. Counterintuitively, solar panels don’t perform as efficiently in hot weather. As soon as the temperature climbs over 77 degrees Fahrenheit, performance begins to drop. This can happen more often than you would imagine, as roofs tend to absorb heat (like hot sidewalks), making conditions hotter than the surrounding area.
Every solar panel model also reports something called a “temperature coefficient.” This number refers to the fall in efficiency for every temperature degree above 77 degrees. For example, if a solar panel has a temperature coefficient of -0.5, its efficiency rating will drop half a percent for every degree above 77. If it’s 85 degrees out, the panel’s efficiency will drop 4%.
That’s a pretty big drop, especially for solar panels with average or below-average efficiency ratings. California residents who live in hotter parts of the state need to keep the temperature coefficient in mind. A lower temperature coefficient, especially if it’s paired with a higher-than-average efficiency rating, will mean that your solar panels can still produce adequate energy even on the hottest days. This can help you save big, because hot days usually require lots of air conditioning to keep you cool.
Panasonic offers one of the lowest temperature coefficients, at between -0.38 and -0.29.
General Overall Quality
Most of us have purchased cheap knockoffs of our favorite brands and technology. Initially, you feel smart for having saved so much money for “basically” the same thing. Then, one week later when the seams start to unravel, the handle breaks off, or the thing shatters the first time you drop it, you recognize the truth.
Quality matters. Paying more upfront usually means greater savings and better performance in the long run.
The same is true when it comes to the best-rated solar panels for home use. You’ll pay a premium upfront, but the combination of greater efficiency, longer warranty, and lower temperature coefficient will add up to greater savings over time. You may have noticed that the same companies keep coming up at the top of each major quality we’ve highlighted in this article. That’s because the best panels tend to be the best in every measurement, including the things that can’t be measured like overall quality.
Not sure how to find the best solar panels for your California home? Check Energy Sage’s complete ranking of solar panels or solar panel reviews from real people over at SolarReiviews.com. We also encourage you to ask your solar installation specialist about their recommended panels. At Semper Solaris, we work with a wide range of solar panels and are happy to discuss the pros and cons of each brand. We can also help you decide on the best panels for your budget, energy needs, and the unique weather and temperature patterns in your area.
It all starts with a free energy analysis to determine if solar panels are right for you. Schedule your no-pressure assessment today.