It’s an age-old question that impacts many buying decisions – should I fork out for premium quality or settle for the cheaper option?
When it comes to solar panels although they all look similar, they are not created equally – therefore we recommend doing your research. Pay special attention not only to the price, but more importantly to the quality of the solar panels. Also, research the manufacturer and provider because a 25 year warranty is only as strong as the company backing it.
Here are 6 things to consider when choosing your solar panels.
The Three Tiers of Quality
There are three tiers of manufacturer quality and at Solargain we only recommend solar panels from the first two tiers (one and two). These are less prone to manufacturing defects such as hot spots, discolouration, snail trails/micro cracks, delamination, connector burn-outs, isolator failures, junction box failures and quick degradation. Solar is a long term investment so it’s important to choose solar panels that won’t let you down.
TOP 2% OF SOLAR MANUFACTURERS
- Vertically integrated (own their supply chains)
- Invests heavily in research and development
- Advanced robotic processes
- Manufacturing solar panels for longer than 5 years
SMALL TO MEDIUM SCALE MANUFACTURERS
- No or little investment in research and development
- Use only partial robotics, also reliant on manual work from human production lines
- Usually producing panels for 2-5 years
ASSEMBLERS ONLY – 90% OF NEW SOLAR PV
- No investment in research and development
- Assembly of panels only – do not manufacture silicon cells
- Uses human production lines for manual soldering of solar cells instead of advanced robotics
- Assembling panels for 1-2 years
Term of Investment
No intentions of moving - If you are in the home you're installing the panels on for the long term (five years or more) or just demand the best – you should consider premium panels. Premium panels are more efficient, they are made from superior quality materials and will degrade less than any other panels over time. Highly advanced and backed by science and research, these products are designed to perform better in extreme heat and lower light. An added bonus, premium panels often come with more comprehensive warranties too. These features don't pay for themselves straight away, but over the long term, their advantages are clear.
Three - five years - If you are planning on being in your home for more than three years, we recommend choosing tier one solar panels. This will ensure your panels will continue to produce solar power well into the future. This will save you more money in the long run. Tier one solar panels usually have a linear warranty too. This guarantees a maximum performance reduction of a fixed percentage over the 25 year warranty period.
One - three years - Planning to move out in a few years? In this case it would be worth considering a tier two solar panel option. This is a more cost effective option with a shorter payback period, allowing you to reap the benefits of solar whilst you are at the property, without breaking the bank.
The Manufacturer and Warranty
Regardless of how long you are planning to be in your home and what tier suits your requirements, at Solargain we always recommend choosing a solar panel from a manufacturer with a strong presence in Australia. This local support will ensure a smooth and easy warranty process if anything does go wrong. Look for a 25 year linear performance warranty. Manufacturers who produce inferior products may not honour their warranty, so remember that your warranty is only as good as the manufacturer behind it.
Check the level of automation (robotic processes) the manufacturing uses - the less human hands the panel is in contact with, the less prone it is to defects. You should also find out how long the manufacturer been producing panels for – the longer, the better.
The Provider (company you buy your panels from)
Make sure the provider you choose has a high standard of products and service that can be backed up. A sure fire way to check this is to see if they have any certification or accreditations, such as the internationally-recognised ISO 9001 accreditation. Another consideration: Make sure your supplier has installed plenty of panels from the manufacturer you’re considering – e.g. QCELLS. Providers that have installed panels from manufacturers over several years will have a deeper understanding about the quality of the product though dealing with them first hand. If the manufacturer was inferior, the provider would have moved on to another manufacturer. At Solargain, we only provide solar panels that meet our strict supplier selection process. This is simply to protect our customers and ourselves from the costly situation of frequent faults and manufacturers not honouring their warranties. We plan to be here for the long run and are committed to providing superior sales, service and support Australia-wide. Therefore, we only choose high quality Clean Energy Council approved Australian-supported panels from brands such as Fronius, Enphase, SMA, ReneSola, and QCELLS.
After Sales Support
Make sure your provider has a dedicated service and support centre. This will provide peace of mind and assistance with warranty claims, faults, service and repairs. Good providers will also have plenty of downloadable information you need for the solar panels you purchased, including warranty information and specifications.
Cost Vs Value
Sometimes it’s hard to resist being lured by ‘rock bottom’ prices. But it’s always worth stepping back and evaluating cost vs value. The cost of something is simply its price in dollars. Meanwhile, the value is what it is worth to you. Value doesn’t always mean ‘the lowest price’ – it’s about getting the most from your product including superior quality and extended performance as well as avoiding costly repairs, poor performance and a manufacturer who won’t honour their warranty. At Solargain we think of solar power as an investment – and like all investments, it’s important to do your research. For more information about choosing better quality solar power products visit our guide: Questions To Ask Before You Buy..