Trying to find the best solar panels can be a daunting task. How do you pick which solar panel is right for your home? There are many criteria you could use to make your choice. You could base it on the highest efficiency, best value, warranty type, or even the manufacturer’s reputation.
Types of solar panels - which solar panel is best?
When shopping for solar panels for your home, you’ll come across two main types: polycrystalline and monocrystalline. There are other types of solar panels available, like thin-film, but most panels used for residential installations today are either poly or monocrystalline.
Here’s a general overview of the two most popular types of solar panels: polycrystalline and monocrystalline.
Polycrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline panels are made by pouring molten silicon into a mold. As the molten silicon solidifes inside the mold, it forms multiple crystals. This is where the name ‘polycrystalline’ comes from.
The multi-crystalline silicon solid is then sliced into square wafers to be used in the solar cells of a solar panel. Because of the way the silicon crystals form, the solar cells are blue in color.
The multiple crystals within a polycrystalline solar cell create boundaries for electrons, thereby decreasing the efficiency of the panels.
Polycrystalline solar panels usually have lower efficiencies but are available at a cheaper price point.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are formed by creating one large silicon crystal. Once the large crystal is solidified, it is cut into wafers to be used in solar panels. These wafers have curved edges, unlike the square shape of polycrystalline wafers.
Electrons can navigate more easily within a monocrystalline solar cell, meaning they create more electricity. Because monocrystalline panels are more efficient, they are ideal for smaller roofs - as fewer are needed in order to generate power.
Because monocrystalline solar panels produce more electricity and are thought to be more aesthetically pleasing, they are more expensive than polycrystalline panels.
Are monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels the right choice for you?
Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels will save you money on your electric bill, but determining which is better for you really depends on what you want out of your solar system.
One major thing to consider is how much you want to spend. Polycrystalline panels will cost less than monocrystalline solar panels, which makes them a more economic option. However, polycrystalline panels do have a blue color. So, if the aesthetics of your system is important to you, you might want to go with black monocrystalline panels.
You also need to consider how much space you have for solar. If you have a small roof, monocrystalline panels will be a better choice. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient, so they can produce more electricity in a smaller space than polycrystalline panels can.
Can solar panel efficiency determine which solar panel is best?
One of the most important things to look at when you’re considering going solar is solar panel efficiency.
Solar panel efficiency measures how much sunlight the panel converts to electricity. The higher a solar panel’s efficiency is, the more sunlight the panel turns into electricity.
What level of solar panel efficiency will you typically see?
Solar panel efficiency has continued to increase as technologies have gotten better. Today, most solar panels have efficiencies ranging from 15% to 20%. Panels with efficiencies over 20% are usually considered to be premium panels.
It’s important to note that all that efficiency comes at a price: premium solar panels cost more than standard efficiency panels.
How can solar panel efficiency impact the size and cost of your system?
The more efficient your solar panels are, the smaller your solar system can be. High efficiency panels allow you to install less of them, while producing the same amount of electricity.
For example, let’s say you and your neighbor both install solar systems on your homes made of 15 panels each. The solar panels in both systems are the same size, however, you installed premium efficiency panels. Your solar system ends up being 6 kW while your neighbor’s system is only 4.7 kW.
The premium efficiency panels are able to produce more power using the same amount of roof space as the standard efficiency panels. This means that you will be saving more money on your electricity bill, even though you installed fewer solar panels.
Just remember that because the panels you installed are premium efficiency, your solar system will cost more to install.
Premium efficiency vs standard efficiency solar panels: which is right for you?
Premium efficiency panels are more expensive than standard efficiency panels, but they are a great choice if you have limited space for a solar system.
However, if you have enough room for a larger solar system, standard efficiency panels could be a better option for you. Standard efficiency panels come at a much lower cost, and many of them still have good efficiency ratings.
Whether you choose between premium efficiency and standard efficiency panels really comes down to the amount of roof space you have.
Which solar panel is best - Tier 1 or Tier 2?
Trying to figure out which manufacturer to buy the best solar panels from can be difficult. You want a good, trustworthy product and the assurance that the company will be around throughout the life of your solar panels in order to honor warranties.
One way to find that is by finding out if a solar panel manufacturer is considered a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 manufacturer.
What makes solar panel manufacturers “Tier 1”?
The tiered rating system was created by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation, with solar panel manufacturers being ranked based on their financial stability.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation created a rating system to determine which manufacturers are the most financially stable.
To qualify as Tier 1, a manufacturer must:
- Have provided products to six different projects that have all been financed by six different banks in the past two years; and
- Own their own manufacturing facility.
High quality standards lead to top-notch products
Because Tier 1 manufacturers are financially stable and have been backed by banks, it can be assumed they have a quality product. A reputable bank would not back a project by a company with a low quality product.
They have their own manufacturing facility
Also, owning their own manufacturing facility suggests the company is investing in creating the best solar panels they can in order to be better than competitors. Some Tier 1 solar manufacturers include Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, and Hanwha.
Overall, it is likely that Tier 1 manufacturers will be in business for the long term, have the resources to fix problems that arise, and will have quality manufacturing processes.
What makes solar panel manufacturers “Tier 2”?
Basically, Tier 2 solar manufacturers are any manufacturers that don’t meet the Tier 1 requirements.
There are no requirements or qualifications that define what a Tier 2 solar panel manufacturer is. However, Tier 2 solar panel manufacturers generally have the following characteristics:
- Tier 2 solar manufacturers are typically small to medium in size;
- Usually have been in business between 2 to 5 years;
- They use other companies to manufacture their products; and
- Some do not use fully automated manufacturing processes, so some work may be done by humans.
Uncertain financial stability
Purchasing solar panels produced by a Tier 2 manufacturer is riskier than purchasing from a Tier 1 manufacturer. Because many Tier 2 manufacturers have been in business for less than five years, they aren’t as financially stable as Tier 1 manufacturers.
This means that if there is an issue with your panels in the future, the company might not be around to honor their warranty.
They lack automated and in-house manufacturing
Many Tier 2 companies outsource their manufacturing to outside plants, which means they might not have the high quality control standards the Tier 1 manufacturers have. Also, if the company’s manufacturing process isn’t fully automated, there is a higher chance that something could go wrong due to human error.
However, this does not mean that Tier 2 manufacturers do not make a quality product. Smaller manufactures have the motivation to put out a quality product because a defect in their panels has the potential to create huge financial problems for the company. Tier 2 companies might not be considered as financially stable as Tier 1 companies, but that doesn’t mean they are not making quality solar panels.
Tier 1 vs Tier 2 solar panels: which is the better choice for you?
It’s important to note that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 ratings don’t actually rate the solar panels produced, just the financial stability of the company. So, Tier 2 manufacturers can still have high quality products. However, it is generally recommended to choose panels produced by a Tier 1 manufacturer.
Tier 1 companies will create a quality product and are more likely to be in business in the future than Tier 2 manufacturers. So, if there’s an issue with your panel in the future, it’s more likely a Tier 1 company will still be around to honor your warranty.
If you are looking to install solar panels at the lowest cost possible, choosing Tier 2 panels might be right for you. But, it will be slightly riskier than installing Tier 1 panels, as their manufacturing process could be more prone to errors and the company might not be in business in the future. To that end, if you do wish to install cheaper panels, many Tier 1 manufacturers offer affordable modules that you should consider.
It’s important to note that the Tier rating of a solar panel should not be the main deciding factor on what kind of panel you should get. However, it is something to keep in mind when shopping around.
Which solar panel is best for you?
It’s important to determine exactly what you want out of a solar system when you’re looking for the best solar panels for your home.
If you don’t want to have very high upfront costs, lower efficiency polycrystalline panels might be the best solar panels for you. However, monocrystalline panels have continuously gotten cheaper, so you might not have to break the bank in order to get an efficient system.
There are a lot of solar panels to choose from, so make sure you pick the right ones for your needs.
The only person who knows which solar panel is best for you, is you! When you’re shopping for solar panels, it’s important to consider exactly what you want out of your solar system.
Some key things to keep in mind are:
- How much you want to spend;
- How much power you want your system to produce;
- How much space you have for a system; and
- The quality of product you’re looking for.
By looking at the types of solar panels, the efficiency of solar panels, the reputation of panel manufacturers, and the warranties they offer, you’ll be able to effectively compare solar panels and find the ones that will be best for your needs.