Have you made the decision to go solar? Now is the perfect time to take advantage of all the beautiful California sunshine that lands on your roof each day by investing in solar panels for your home.
As you begin researching which solar panels to buy, you might be surprised to discover dozens of solar panel brands currently on the market. So how can you find out which top rated solar panels are the best fit for your energy needs, your roof and especially your budget? It’s simple: when you sit down with an expert during your solar consultation, ask these five important questions:
What Are the Price of the Panels?
For most homeowners, price is one of the most important factors in their solar panel purchase decision. If you plan on paying out of pocket, then solar panels represent a steep investment.
As with most things in life, when it comes to solar panels, you get what you pay for. The most efficient solar panels with the best design and best warranty come with a premium price tag. SolarWorld and Panasonic solar panels, for example, are some of the top rated solar panels available right now, but they don’t come cheap.
Although cheaper solar panel options do exist, at some point you begin to sacrifice performance, efficiency, and design in exchange for a little bit of savings upfront. In our opinion, this trade-off isn’t worth it!
How Efficient are the Panels?
Before you buy a new car, most people want to know about engine type, if it has four-wheel drive, and if it will parallel park for you so you never ding the curb again. We all want to know the specs of the things we buy. Solar panels are no different. One of the most important specs to look for, in this case, is efficiency.
Efficiency refers to how much sunlight (also called solar irradiation) the panels convert into electricity. These days, new advances in monocrystalline and polycrystalline have dramatically boosted the efficiency of solar panels.
Unsurprisingly, the cheapest panels on the market will give you the lowest efficiency rate, around 10%. (Fun fact: The first commercial solar panel only offered a paltry 2% efficiency rate!). With mid-range solar panels, you can expect 14 – 15% efficiency. Top rated solar panels can reach past 20% efficiency in ideal conditions.
Why is efficiency important? More efficient solar panels need less surface area to create the same amount of energy as a less efficient panel. The most efficient solar panels can be smaller, which can be useful if you have a small roof or if there is a limited area of your roof that receives ideal sunlight.
If you have a larger roof, you may want to consider purchasing less-efficient panels. They’ll be bigger, but you could save a little money!
What Is the Warranty?
Almost all solar panel manufacturers offer some form warranty that guarantees that their solar panels will continue to perform at a certain level for a specific stretch of time. It’s important to recognize , though, that warranty is not the same thing as lifespan. The top warranties are typically 25 years, but many researchers believe solar panels can last much longer without losing too much efficiency.
Still, warranties matter. If they start to malfunction, that warranty can protect you from expensive repairs or from a loss of efficiency that could increase your monthly energy bills.
Always take the warranty into consideration when comparing solar panels. Panasonic offers a 25-year warranty for all their panels. SolarWorld isn’t far behind with its 20-year warranty.
What Is the Temperature Coefficient?
We’re digging a little into the weeds here, but knowing the temperature coefficient of your solar panel options will help you make the best choice possible. It will also impress your solar panel installation company!
Simply put, the temperature coefficient will tell you how your solar panels will perform outside of ideal conditions. Solar panels work best at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles, temperatures can blaze high above that in the summer, which will lower how much electricity your solar panels will produce. A solar panel’s temperature coefficient will tell you exactly how hot temperatures will affect efficiency.
Here are the temperature coefficients of the two solar panel companies we’ve been discussing:
- Panasonic: -0.3 to -0.29
- SolarWorld: -0.43 to -0.4
For every degree above 77 degrees, the efficiency of the solar panels will decrease by the temperature coefficient.
Let’s see how this works:
A Panasonic solar panel is running at 19% efficiency in the morning on a hot summer San Diego day. The day heats up, and by noon, the temperature is 90 degrees.
90 – 77 = 13
13 x -0.3 = 3.9
19% efficiency – 3.9 = 15.1%
During the hottest part of the day, the Panasonic solar panel would be 15.1% efficient. So if you live in an area of San Diego that gets hot often, you may want to invest in solar panels that can handle those conditions.
What Is the Reputation of the Brand?
Ultimately, the success of your solar investment will come down to how well your solar panels perform, and that will depend significantly on the quality of their construction.
The top rated solar panels offer the highest efficiency, the best warranties, and the lowest coefficients, because they are designed by innovative companies that care about creating a quality product. You will pay more for these panels in the short term, but they will no doubt pay you back and then some over the long term!
Important Tools and Resources
Picking the right solar panels for your home isn’t always an easy choice. Before you make your decision, do your homework. Start by speaking with a solar installation representative. Here at Semper Solaris, we live and breathe solar panels. We go to the solar industry shows, keep up on the latest technology, and talk to clients every day about different solar panel options. Our reputation depends on how well the solar panels we install perform for our customers, so we make it our job to know everything about the industry.
We can help you understand your options, guide you on how to compare different solar panels, and make recommendations based on your budget and goals.
If you’ve got questions about solar panels, we’ve got answers — contact us today for a free energy audit! We’ve worked with lots of different solar panels, and we would be glad to help you find the best solar panels for your home.