Solar Panel Purchasing Tips

As solar systems continue to drop in price and state Governments offer more incentives to assist in the purchasing of systems, we’re seeing a high increase of solar panelled roofs across Australia. But when selecting panels for your system and roof how do you know which brands and models are going to live up to the 20-25-year lifespan you’ve been promised when investing in a solar system?

Below we’ll discuss a few factors to keep in mind when shopping for solar panels, but first, let’s refresh on the purpose and function of solar panels.

What Are Solar Panels

Solar panels are typically placed on a roof to receive sunlight. The panels generate this sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity which is then fed into the solar system’s inverter where it’s converted to Alternating Current (AC) electricity. AC is the type of electricity our household appliances run off.

The number of panels a home needs may change depending on your energy needs. You can also add extra panels in the future (depending on your inverter size), should you require to generate more energy.
perth city

What Are The Different Type of Panels Available?

The 3 different solar panel types you’ll hear of when shopping around are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin Film.

Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline are the two common types of solar panels and are both highly reliable and efficient. There are debates amongst the industry claiming that Monocrystalline panels are better than Polycrystalline panels and vice versa however, you’ll find this will vary and be dependent on the brand and model of the panels.

Thin Film has a reputation for being the ‘worst’ of the solar panel technologies due to its lower power efficiency. However, this only means they require more roof space for the same amount of power that Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline options would need.

Brands and prices will vary for each solar panel option, so it’s best to discuss with an installer what type may be best suited to your roof and then review the following factors;

Quality/Value

The best way to determine the quality of any product is hearing the experience of past and current customers and their feedback on the product. You can do this by searching online on forums and websites like; Product Review, Facebook, Google, TrustPilot, Clean Energy Reviews.

After determining which are your best quality options you can price compare to determine which is going to be the best overall value to you. If you can’t find any information on a brand or product, then its performance isn’t well known. In that case, it may be best to steer clear.

Warranty

Make sure they come with a warranty! You’ll want a warranty where the company will take on the entire cost for removing, transporting, replacing and reinstalling any defective panels within a defined amount of time. Companies that aren’t willing to make this commitment probably aren’t confident enough in their own product, so you shouldn’t be either.

Presence in Australia

Ideally, you want a representative or a contact to be based in Australia, so should you have any issues or questions they are easily contactable and there is a quick turnaround.

Time to start comparing?

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Beginners Guide to Solar Power

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.