27 million metric tons of carbon emissions are reduced thanks to solar powers annually. Solar energy has also created over 200,000 new jobs.
Most people choose to place solar panels on their home or business because they care about the environment and want to enjoy the savings solar power provides. But not all solar panels are built the same.
In order to enjoy the most savings, you’ll want to find the best solar panels. It’s also a smart idea to learn how solar panels work.
We want to help. Keep reading to learn everything you need to find the most efficient solar panels for your needs.
What You Need to Know to Buy the Best Solar Panels
There are a few things you need to know before you buy your solar panels. The first thing you need to understand is how solar panels work.
Solar panels generate electricity from solar energy which comes from the sun. However, even on cloudy days, the panels can still produce electricity.
That’s because solar panels use the light energy rather than the heat energy the sun emits.
What’s great about solar panels is that if you produce more energy than you need, it’s just exported back to the grid. For those times you use more energy than you can generate, electricity is provided by the grid.
Solar Panel Prices
When it comes to solar panel prices, remember that you get what you pay for. Most decent solar panels range in price from $0.67 to $1.60 a watt. That doesn’t include installation or any system components.
To save on costs, look for special deals. Also, check the warranty, product quality, and service before you make any decisions.
The best solar panels companies offer competitive prices with decent warranties. However, that’s no good if 20 years from now your solar panel company is out of business.
Look to buy your solar panels from companies who are already established. They’re more likely to still be around to honor your warranty should there be any issues.
Leasing vs Buying Solar Panels
If you choose to lease solar panels, you can access cheaper electricity with either no money down or very little. Leasing also means someone else owns the panels while you pay them for a certain rate for the electricity.
Once your lease is up, you may end up having to pay more or losing the system outright.
Buying Solar Panels
Buying costs more upfront but you end up with bigger dividends that continue long after you pay off the cost of your purchase.
Before you decide whether to buy or lease, compare the total lifecycle cost of the lease and weigh the savings against the benefits of ownership.
Solar Power Maintenance and Operating Costs
Don’t forget that once they’re installed, you’ll still have to pay for maintenance and operating costs. Fortunately, solar panels require very little maintenance.
You can easily hose down dust, leaves or other items that settle on top of them. And that’s all you need to do to maintain them.
Most panels offer warranties of 25 years. Inverters tend to have warranties of five to 10 years. However, since the inverter is the part that converts the DC to AC, it’s usually the part that needs to be replaced the most often.
Typically, inverters should be replaced every 10-15 years.
Get an Installer to Help Maintain Your Panels
It’s a smart idea to have an installer come by every four to seven years to examine your system. And as your solar panels are being installed, ask if there are any specific maintenance requirements you need to follow.
Consider the Type of Panels You Want
Always invest in panels that come with a warranty certificate. That’s because the production process, while stringent, can still result in faults.
And those faults can cause reduced energy output, even if the panel has only been in use for a few years. Make sure your installer works with a reputable brand and that the manufacturer is willing to honor your warranty.
The panels that are dark blue or nearly black are monocrystalline panels. They’re made of high purity achieved during production because the single crystal is grown slowly.
You want high purity because it ensures better absorption of sunlight.
Pros of Monocrystalline Panels
Since monocrystalline panels are made from the highest-grade silicon, they also have the highest efficiency rates. They are also space efficient and have a long lifespan.
Monocrystalline panels also tend to be more efficient when used in warmer weather.
Cons of Monocrystalline
The only downside to monocrystalline panels is that they’re the most expensive. However, they also usually last around 25 years.
The blue panels you typically see on roofs are made from polycrystalline. The appearance usually looks blotched because they’re less pure than the monocrystalline panels.
To produce polycrystalline panels, the single crystal isn’t grown, but rather molten silicon is poured into a mold. This process is quicker and cheaper.
They were once considered the inferior product. However, that was before the production process was improved, they’re no longer considered inferior to monocrystalline panels.
Pros of Polycrystalline Panels
The process of making polycrystalline panels is easier and less expensive than monocrystalline. The process also produces less waste silicon compared to monocrystalline panels.
They also have a slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline panels.
Cons of Polycrystalline
Polycrystalline panels produce a slightly less efficient output than monocrystalline panels. You would also need to cover a larger surface to get the same output.
Esthetically speaking, polycrystalline panels are the least attractive out of the three types of panels since they look less uniform than either monocrystalline or thin film panels.
Thin film panels are a newer technology than mono and polycrystalline panels. They’re solid black and sometimes do not have a frame.
They’re made by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto solid surfaces such as glass. Thin films cost more to install because they require more mounting rails.
Pros of Thin Film
Since it’s possible to mass produce thin film, they’re usually cheaper to manufacture than both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Their appearance is more homogenous, so they tend to look the most appealing out of all three panels.
For buildings where space isn’t an issue, thin film panels may make the most sense. And shading and high temperatures have less impact on their performance than their crystalline counterparts.
Cons of Thin Film
Some thin films are made using cadmium telluride (CdTe). Cadmium is a heavy metal that’s thought to be carcinogenic since it’s a heavy metal that can accumulate in animal and plant tissues.
Thin film is best for commercial buildings. They’re not very useful in residential situations because, while cheaper, they require a lot more space.
Also, because of the low space efficiency, your PV equipment such as support structures and cables increases. They also degrade much faster than the other types of panels and as a result, come with the shortest warranty.
Before Mounting Your Solar Panels
You’ll need to ensure that the roof, tracking system or ground mounting is engineer certified for the area you’re in. That’s because if you’re in an area that’s prone to tornados, both the mounting system and the mounting brackets should be tornado rated.
You also want to make sure that your system is wind certified. Even if you don’t live in an area prone to tornados, you’re still likely to deal with heavy winds and storms from time to time.
Your mounting system is a very important element. Make sure to ask about wind certification and warranty arrangements. Some suppliers try to skimp on this item so get copies of any relevant documents.
Make Sure Your Roof Is Usable
Roofs that spend most of their day in the shade may not be good candidates for solar panels. If you have trees nearby, make sure they won’t end up shading your roof in the near future.
You may want to invest in a professional tree pruner to ensure your panels always have access to the most sunlight. And if your roof isn’t in good shape structurally, you’ll need to fix that issue first.
Think About the Future First
Remember that most solar panels come with warranties that last 20-25 years. If you know you’ll need a roof renovation in the next few years, you should consider fixing the roof before you install the panels.
Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with the added expense of disconnecting and reconnecting those panels. And check with your homeowner’s association to make sure you’re not in violation of any rules before you invest in solar panels.
Connecting to the Grid
Connecting to a new utility takes effort and money. Do your research to see if you’ll have to pay a connectivity fee from the utility company.
Ask them how long it’ll take for them to hook you up to the grid. Then ask them how long it’ll take until you’re credited for any electricity you generate.
You’ll also want to know how they plan on crediting you. That’s because you get reimbursed for solar at the same rate the utility company charges their users for electricity.
Each state has a different policy. Nevada adopted a policy where utilities pay less for surplus solar. As a result, it makes it harder to recoup the cost of installation.
You May Get a Tax Rebate
17 states currently offer tax rebates or incentives for purchasing and/or installing solar power equipment. Check with the DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) to see what your state offers.
How to Save for Solar Panels
If you decide to purchase the best solar panels outright, you’ll need to put down a fair amount of money upfront. While you’ll end up making the money back, it takes time.
If you’re looking for ways to save money, we can help. Click here to learn how to become financially literate.