What Are The Best Solar Panels Today?

  • You can earn from £2,000 – £10,000 profit by installing solar panels. 
  • To see which system is best for your home or business fill in the form above.
  • The price of solar is falling inline with Swansons law. Around 61% sinse 1980. 

Covered in this article:

Are Some Brands Better than Others?
What is the Difference in Quality?
What Features Should I Look For?
Is Efficiency All That Matters?
What Else is Important to Keep in Mind?
Efficiency Standards for Solar Panels
The FiTs Program


The best solar panels guide

When you are considering installing solar panels on your home, there are few big questions you’ll need answering. Which are the best solar panels for your needs, how much will they costs, what features should I look for and what’s the payback? This free guide aims to help you answer those crucial questions, so you can start enjoying free energy for your home. Plus, earn the best return possible from the government tariff.

When it comes time to choose the correct panels for your home, you’re going to want to consider the options closely. By focusing on a couple of key factors, you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision.

 

Are Some Brands Better than Others?

Forbes recently ranked the top ten solar panel companies, based on the number of panels shipped. Most of the brands come as no surprise, as they are established household names in the solar panel community. The top ten companies of 2014 were:

1) Trina Solar
2) Yingli Green Energy
3) Canadian Solar
4) Jinko Solar
5) JA Solar
6) Sharp Solar
7) Renesola
8) First Solar
9) HanWha SolarOne
10) SunPower and Kyocera
11) Romag solar

Two of the cheapest manufacturers of solar panels on the market today are Talesun and Canadian Solar. However, every home has unique requirements and a different panel manufacturer may be cheaper for your unique situation.

The truth is that most of the top brands are very similar. At the residential level, no company has a major technological advantage. That means that it’s better to focus on other questions, versus looking at the name of the company making the panel.

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What is the Difference in Quality?

 

Some people are not surprised to learn that most solar panel companies are based in China. In fact, six of the ten manufacturers from Forbes’ top ten list are Chinese. Even Canadian Solar produces all of its panels in China.

In Western countries there tends to be a stigma regarding goods produced in China. However, when it comes to solar panels, this stigma holds no weight. Chinese companies have been producing solar panels for decades and their manufacturing process is state of the art.

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What Features Should I Look For?

 

With solar panels, looking at the warranty length is more useful than searching for a particular brand name. The longer the warranty, the more faith a company has in its product.

For example, Jinko Solar guarantees that after 12 years the system will still be operating at 90% efficiency. At the 25 year mark they guarantee that it will still be operating at 80% efficiency. They also guarantee the panels and inverter to be free from defects for 10 years.

Most companies will have a two part warranty similar to this one, and you should be able to easily find details about it with a Google search.

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Is Efficiency All That Matters?

 

You may be tempted to buy the most efficient panels on the market. However, if you have enough roof space, that’s not usually the best choice. Using less efficient panels is actually a common practice. Most homeowners only install the more efficient panels when they have a limited amount of space on their roof. That’s because the financial payoff from high efficiency panels does not justify the cost.

For example, Sharp manufactures triple junction panels with an incredible 44.4% efficiency. While these panels are three to five times more efficient than others, they are also prohibitively expensive. The cost is not justified except in the most extreme situations.

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What Else is Important to Keep in Mind?

 

The person you have install your system is just as important as the panels you choose. A solar panel system comes with a large upfront cost and you don’t want to trust that project to the wrong hands.

For example, did you know that if a small area on your solar panel is in the shade, the entire panel can stop working? This is similar to how a single broken bulb can ruin a whole strand of Christmas lights.

A good installer will do a thorough shade analysis of your roof. This will be a comprehensive look at the shade zones on your roof and it will take into account sun exposure year round. By doing this analysis, your installer ensures that your panels will always receive enough sunlight to work properly.

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Efficiency Standards for Solar Panels

There are three different common types of solar panels. Although all three are made out of silicon, they have a different production process which results in varying degrees of efficiency.

 

Monocrystalline Panels

These are the classic looking black panels. As a result of the manufacturing process, and the natural properties of the silicon, often the corners are rounded or cut off. The panels are a uniform colour, which is a consideration for some homeowners.

Made out of high quality silicon, these panels have the highest efficiency levels. Not only that, but they are designed to have a longer lifespan than any other type of panel. In addition, monocrystalline panels are also good at generating energy in low light situations.

The downside is that these panels are the most expensive. Also, if part of the panel is covered in shade, dirt or snow, the entire circuit can stop producing electricity.

 

Polycrystalline Panels

Introduced in 1981, polycrystalline panels have been on the market for more than 30 years. During the manufacturing process they use less silicon than monocrystalline panels, which makes them more affordable.

These panels have a slightly increased risk of overheating, but this is rare and should only be a concern for people who live in extremely high heat areas. Also, the lower purity silicon used in these panels means that they aren’t as efficient as their monocrystalline counterparts. Owing to their mottled blue colour, some people may find these panels less aesthetically pleasing.

 

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

TFSC panels are made from a substrate that has several layers of thin photovoltaic material deposited onto it. These solar panels are becoming more popular because they are easy to mass produce and have a lower price point.

Aesthetically, they have a uniform colour and they can be manufactured to be flexible. This is creating some exciting new opportunities, as it means panels can be installed in different areas. Additionally, TFSC panels are less affected by shade than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

However, they tend to require more space than is ideal for most residential areas. This space requirement also means that the cost of other materials goes up. You’ll end up paying more for products like supports and cables. TFSC panels also tend to break down faster which means they usually have a shorter warranty.

 

Efficiency Percentages

The efficiency of a solar panel is determined using a standard mathematical formula. That formula is: the maximum power output, divided by the amount of sunlight, times the size of the solar array. This is a consistent formula that gives an accurate and unbiased rating across all manufacturers of solar panels.

While every brand of solar panel is different, most fall into these ranges.

Monocrystalline panels have 15 to 20% efficiency.

Polycrystalline panels have 13 to 16% efficiency.

Thin-Film Solar Cells have 7 to 13% efficiency.

 

Inverter Efficiency

An inverter is a crucial piece of equipment for any solar panel system. When sunlight hits a solar panel, electricity is produced in a DC current. An inverter takes that and transforms it into an AC current which can be used by your home’s electrical system.

When you look at a solar panel system, one of the factors you should consider is the converter’s efficiency. Most consume about 4 to 8% of the energy they convert, which makes them 96 to 92% efficient.

One of the best inverters on the market is made by SolarEdge Technologies. This inverter loses only 2% of the energy it converts, which makes it 98% efficient. While this is one of the best inverters money can buy, it’s also quite expensive and impractical for most homeowners.

Most inverters last ten years. However, high ambient temperatures, large electrical loads and lightning strikes can all shorten an inverter’s lifespan. Once an inverter ceases to function you will need to replace it. You can do this without replacing the solar panels on your roof as it’s an independent system.

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The FiTs Program

FiTs stands for Feed-in Tariff scheme. It was first introduced in the UK on April 1, 2010. The program is designed to encourage people to invest in renewable energy for their homes. If you install solar panels, you’ll receive a regular stipend from your power company.

Of course the payment depends on how much energy your solar system produces. However, most homeowners recoup the initial cost of their solar panels after ten years. After that, they begin to make a yearly profit from the FiTs program. For an estimate of how much money you could receive from the FiTs program, go to this page. Keep in mind, these payments will go up over time, keeping in check with inflation.

On average, most residential systems generate 3.1 kilowatts. For a useful comparison look at this table. It’s based on data for a 4 kilowatt system, but it can still give you a general idea of the benefits you can expect if you install a solar panel system.

 

Eligible Panels

In order for a solar panel system to qualify for the FiTs program it must be MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified. Most panels made by major suppliers fall under this certification. That includes, but is not limited to, panels made by Suntech, Jinko Solar, Kyocera, Sanyo, First Solar, Sanyo and Yingli.

When you’re ready to put some solar panels on your roof, the person who’s installing them will be able to tell if you the panels you’re interested in are MCS certified.

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Finding an MCS Certified Installer

Finding an MCS certified workman to install your solar system is equally as important as choosing the correct panels. Even if you purchase MCS certified panels, if you have an unqualified person install them, you may not be eligible for the FiTs program.

Before you hire someone to install your panels, be sure to ask to see their certification. Search here to find a certified solar panel installer in the UK.

Most installations will cost 6,000 to 9,000 Pounds. The exact amount will depend on the panels you install and the complexity of the project.

 

Questions For Your Installer

In order to insure that you get the best possible value, there are several questions you’ll want to ask your MCS certified workman.

For example, imagine you have a problem with your solar panels. Who pays for the removal of the parts, the shipping back to the company, and then the re installation?

This is an area you’ll want to be very clear on. If the solar panel parts are covered under warranty, but removal and reinstallation isn’t, you could easily end up paying more than a thousand pounds to fix a problem. Be sure to choose solar panels with the most comprehensive warranty possible.

You’ll also want to ask whether the installer will do a comprehensive shade analysis. Also, you can ask what angle the panels will be installed on. If the angle is greater than 15 degrees, the panels will be cleaned naturally by rain.

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Compare quotes to get the best solar panel prices

A solar panel system is going to be a great addition to your home. While there is an upfront cost, the long term benefits make it worth it. You’ll be reducing your dependence on traditional power sources while saving money at the same time.

Studies have shown that a solar panel system is a good investment, even if you plan to sell your home soon. Homes with solar panels sold 20% faster than those without.

Don’t forget to keep in mind, the person doing the installation is just as important as the panels you choose. Be sure that your installer is MCS certified and that he does a thorough analysis of your house. Once you both understand the needs of your home, you can pick a company that makes a product that’s right for you.

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