Solar energy is the energy of the future. Out of all the renewable options, solar energy is our best ally in combating climate change. Solar energy companies know the potential of this renewable source and with the help of the government, they are pushing newer and cheaper technologies to help ordinary customers to adopt solar power systems.
A lot has been said about the future of solar energy, how it is beneficial? Why common people should adopt this renewable source. But do you know the important parameters to consider while buying your solar power system, the solar panel pitfalls to avoid?
Everyone advises you to buy a solar power system, but not many people know the exact specification you need to consider to buy the most efficient system. Even those who already have a solar power system in place cannot tell you why they bought that particular product.
Buying solar panels is a one-time investment and the initial costs are high compared to other conventional energy sources. So it is always beneficial to know about your solar panels before you make any kind of investment.
This consumer guide will walk you through the process of buying the most efficient solar PV system and save you from the most common pitfalls. After reading this guide, you will know the exact questions to ask your solar system dealer.
So let’s begin…
Why You Should Get Multiple Quotes Before Deciding the Final Solar Power System?
If you are planning to buy solar panels with a costly investment it is always recommended to look for multiple quotes and compare your options before you finalize to buy a particular solar power system. Comparing different quotes always ends up saving you money and also gives you power over your buying decision.
We recommend you to at least compare 3 to 4 quotes to ensure that you have all the relevant information. The quote you choose must maximize your ROI on solar investment. Take your own time to evaluate different quotes and ask the pros and cons of each proposal.
Things to compare when reviewing your solar power system quote:
- Solar panel brands & models – There are varieties of brands and models available in the market. Each model has its own specification, design, quality, size and application. Each of these specifications will affect the quality of the solar power system. When solar dealers provide you with multiple brands, you need to weigh your options and choose the one suitable for your needs.
- Inverter types – Solar panels capture sunlight in the form of direct current (DC), but most households consume electricity in the form of alternating current (AC). Inverters convert direct current into alternating current. Each solar power system has a specific inverter designed as per its application, Solar installers will recommend according to their expertise, but you should understand the key difference between the available options to choose the one suitable for your energy needs.
- System Design – How a solar panel is designed to impacts the way it collects and converts the sunlight. The solar power system you choose must be appropriate for your geographical location and must comfortably fit on your rooftop. Each solar energy company will design its own variation of the solar power system for the same roof. Hence it is best to evaluate all the design and choose the one which collects maximum energy.
- Financing options – Not everyone can afford to pay all the amount at once, many prefer to pay their amount in installments and some even prefer not paying by cash. There are different options when dealing with solar financing
- You can apply for a solar loan, which you can use to finance your solar energy plan
- You can rent a solar power system on a monthly basis from a third party owner.
- You can rent the energy produced on a per-kilowatt-hour rate from a third party owner.
You need to evaluate every option and choose the which fits your financial status
- Solar energy company reviews – Before you finalize the best solar system, you should also choose a solar company which is professional and has a good track record of services in the past. The solar panel installation must b free from hassles and it is only possible if you choose a professional dealer.
How to choose a solar company?
Choosing a solar energy company is one of the most difficult tasks in the solar implementation process. Each company claims that they are best in the market and it very easy to get blown away by their commitments. But we all know that every solar company cannot be the best in the market and hence it is important to evaluate the options available.
Since it is difficult to evaluate a company for an individual, we have listed some important qualities a solar company must have:
- Workmanship warranty – Workmanship warranties are specific to the designing, construction and installing a solar power system. While you can sometimes purchase a separate contract for the operation and maintenance of your solar panel system, in most cases, it is better to pay for installation from a qualified installer with a solid workmanship warranty.
- A good track record and experience – Solar is a booming field and many companies which earlier used to deal with different products are now extending their services in solar energy. While reviewing a company’s portfolio make sure that a company has a good experience and track record while dealing with solar panels. The company officials must be able to explain their experience of dealing with their previous clients.
- Trusted advisor on solar energy designs – Installing solar power system is a one-time activity and you need to make sure that you are doing it right. A solar company must know which design is suitable on your rooftop for maximum benefit. Your solar installer should be someone whom you can trust and want to do business with.
- Reputation in the market – Reviews from previous companies are great for evaluating companies. If you found a pattern of complaints and examples of bad services is an indicator to avoid such companies.
How To Evaluate Solar Energy Panels?
It is not necessary to know the scientific and technical parameters of how solar panels work but knowing how a solar panel will perform is very important. As you navigate through various solar power systems, it is important to include efficiency, durability, panel rating and manufacturer warranty in your decision-making process. Here we have outlined some of the important factors indicating a solar panel’s performance
Solar panel ratings – All solar panels come with a rating card indicating the amount of power it can generate under ideal lab atmosphere. Most panels available in the market today fall in the range of 200 to 350 watts. If you find a solar panel which exceeds this value it means those panels are more effective at producing power.
It is important to note that these power ratings are based on the tests conducted in ideal conditions and the output may vary in the real world. Although power rating is an important parameter to evaluate.
Power tolerance – As mentioned above, the power rating is an indication of power generated in ideal condition, the power tolerance depicts the amount of fluctuation that may occur & is usually represented by a ‘+’ or ‘-’ sign. For example, a +/- 5% power tolerance in a 300-watt solar power system indicates that it may generate +/- 15 watts from the actual indicated power. It is recommended to choose a solar panel with a lower tolerance value which indicates a lower deviation from the actual value.
Solar cell efficiency – It is the most important characteristic when choosing a solar power system. Solar efficiency is the kilowatt of energy produced for per watt of power capacity. The standard available solar panels possess an efficiency of around 15%.
A higher solar panel rating means that a solar panel will produce more energy than a similar sized panel. This criterion is important for those who have limited space for solar panel installation. Solar cell efficiency directly indicates the performance of a solar power system.
Material warranty – The material warranty guarantees against the failures due to breakage, durability, manufacturing defects and environmental issues. Pay attention to these criteria and get to know whether they provide any replacement for defected parts.
How To Select The Best Solar Panel For Your Needs?
There are dozens of parameters to evaluate when buying a solar energy panel. Each brand has its own share of advantages and disadvantages making it difficult to select one. To eliminate this frustration we have classified the solar panels into three categories
- Standard &
- Premium solar panels – Premium solar panels perform better in most of the above mentioned solar panel criteria. They tend to generate more power output than their other counterparts. They have good efficiency and are suitable for those who are trying to maximize their output in a limited space. Premium solar panels are costly but return a better ROI than other cheap solar panels.
- Standard solar panel – Standard solar panel performs better in most conditions but may result in a gradual drop in performance as the apparatus ages. Most solar panels installed across India falls into this category. Standard panels have a good power rating, efficiency and durability than the economic solar panels. They are also compliant with manufacturing quality and durability.
- Economic solar panels – Economic solar panels perform well in most conditions but don’t perform as well as standard and premium solar panels. Solar power systems with economic solar panels have the least efficient and cannot withstand the harshness of climatic condition. They do not comply with most industry standards and offers the least manufacturing warranty.
When buying a solar power system, one of the important decisions you need to make is installing an inverter. A solar inverter converts direct current into alternating current (A.C. current) since most of our household appliances run on alternating current.
Basically, there are 3 types of inverter technologies:
- String or centralized Inverters
- Power optimizers
- String or centralized Inverters – The solar panels are connected by means of a string. Each string is then connected to a single inverter which converts the direct current from the solar panels into A.C. current.
- Microinverters – Microinverters are installed on each solar panel. They convert DC current into AC current without the need for a centralized inverter. In most cases, the microinverter is integrated into the solar panel itself but it can also be mounted separately.
- Power optimizers – Power optimizer is a combination of string and micro inverter. Here an individual inverter is integrated into solar panels, but instead of converting DC to AC they condition the electric current and pass it to the string inverter. This approach yields a higher efficiency than the individual string or micro inverter.
Basic Questions You Need To Ask Your Solar Panel Installer
- Do they have all the business licenses and certifications complied with state policies?
- Do they design and install the solar power system themselves or they take the help of sub-contractors?
- Will there be an electrician present when installing the solar power system?
- How long are they into solar energy business?
- Who should you contact if there is a problem with the solar power system? Where are they located?
- Who is responsible for ensuring timely warranties and services?
- How many different warranties are there for individual solar components?
- If your roof needs some repair in future what is the procedure of removing and reinstalling the solar power system?
- Does the solar lease increase annually? If yes, by how much percentage?
- What is the minimum performance guarantee of the system and how will you be compensated if the system does not produce as much power as promised in the contract
We hope that this guide has given you a thorough understanding of all the criteria you need to consider to buy the most efficient solar power system. Since it a costly investment, it is important to do a little research and be ready with your questionnaire. This is the only way to ensure that you get the most out of your solar energy investment.