Brands, types, watts, sizes... There's no end to the choices you need to make to buy solar panels...
Buying solar panels is not an easy task. Each year, new manufacturers, brands and models are emerging in the market, providing more options, and often with lower prices.
For anyone lacking in-depth information about the solar panel market, getting started is likely to be confusing. Solar technology is moving fast but you don't have to know it all to make a good choice.
Take your time when investing to transfer to solar energy, particularly for more ambitious and costly projects. If you are simply planning on buying solar lighting for your garden, just go ahead and buy it ;-) (And then come back and review it here...)
Below you'll find a 6-step-guide to help you plan your purchase.
Buying Solar Panels - A Six Step Guide
First of all, you need to work out what amount of energy your panels need to produce to fulfill your needs. At this point in time, be realistic and not greedy. It is a lot better to calculate with a margin than to have a too cold swimming pool or a power shortage further down the road. If you are not certain how to estimate your needs, talk to a local solar contractor or store owner. You can also learn about estimating the cost of a larger solar installation here.
Determine the solar panel type you want to purchase. Your choice will depend on what you plan to use the solar panel for as well as your budget. Right now, there are two basic main types: amorphous silicon panels and crystalline silicon panels. The former are generally cheaper and a viable option especially if you have a large space to mount the solar panels (if you need several for your project). The latter have higher efficiency and are essential if you are having a smaller space. In addition, for larger home solar projects, there is also an option to choose solar roof tiles, a fairly new option, where the solar cells are built into roof panels. You can read more about solar roof tiles here. Also your location, position in relative to the sun, climate and roof type are some of the factors to be considered.
Also consider what mounting system best suits your environment. It is dependent on the position of your home and the pitch of your roof. Remember that you have the option to choose a proper tilt or purchase a solar tracker which follows the direction of the sun. Discuss your choices with a local solar contractor. A more advanced and optimized mounting system may reduce the number of solar panels needed for your project.
Estimate on how many panels you need. The number will depend on both your energy needs for the particular project as well as what type of solar panel you choose. Solar panels vary in their output in watts, their energy yield, quality et cetera. In addition, you need to consider the available space and whether you are planning a partial or full solar system. Generally speaking, it is easier and cheaper to go for the fewest number of large panels. However, space considerations may make two smaller panels more practical. If you are planning on going off-grid, you must also check into battery backups and a system that can handle large variations in both energy needs and weather conditions.
This part of the process can make anyone lose their mind, particularly if you start spending time searching the offerings by online providers. You won't believe how many different, but almost identical solar panels there are to choose between! Cut this process short by talking to a solar contractor, either in your area or by calling the customer services of any established online solar store. Then only after you have limited down your choices somewhat, you can start comparing solar panel prices.
Certification of the products by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is very important because it is a requirement both for your own safety and to get approval for federal and state rebates. A UL certification means that the product meets certain requirements with regards to safety, performance and quality. Different countries and states have specific sets of standards which must be met by solar panels whether they are for private or public use.
Pay attention to the small print of the warranties of the solar panels because it's an important factor to consider when buying solar panels. They require little maintenance and are not using any controls at all for them to function, making them available with long life span and usually in package of substantial warranties. When comparing different brands and types of the solar panels, make sure to evaluate each warranty. Typical warranties for solar panels are 25 years. Popular solar panel brands include Kyocera, BP and Sharp.
Switching from conventional electricity source to solar panels in meeting you home's power requirements can be a valuable (but also expensive) investment. Make sure to do your homework before buying solar panels!