So you’ve decided to go solar and want to get started on installing your first set of solar power panels on your roof. Maybe you’re tired of paying so much to the big power companies and want to cut the umbilical cord, so to speak.
After all, solar panel prices have been going down more than ever, with approximately a 60% drop over the last decade or so. Furthermore, government grants, tax incentives and other forms of financial assistance are given to families who want to invest in renewable energy systems in their homes. For instance, residents in the U.S. have energy programs that vary from state to state. Those in the United Kingdom can take advantage of the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme that actually pays homeowners who produce their green energy. So, these factors have made it easier for homeowners to take that first step into the world of clean energy.
Or perhaps all the news about the effects of climate change (such as the recent increase of hurricanes and the like) have been on your mind, and you’d like to do your part. Reducing your dependence on fossil fuels is a good way to get started because that eases the burden on the planet to produce energy. Most experts agree that we will need an “all of the above” approach to decarbonize our energy infrastructure.
First, A Warning
All things considered, you couldn’t have picked a better time to get into the solar power scene. But before you put down your hard-earned money on a certain brand, you’ll want to do your due diligence first. So here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Is it built to last AND perform? It’s important to take a close look at a specific manufacturer’s warranty, which has two aspects to it. The first is the efficiency warranty – a decent brand will at least guarantee that their solar panels will run at 90% efficiency for the first decade of its service life, and around 80% before it hits the 25-year mark. The other warranty is for the actual product (which covers manufacturing defects), and it should be at least 10 years long. Check out this article for factors that affect solar panel longevity.
- Did you choose the right installer? There’s more to solar power than having a good set of panels. You need to make sure the people handling your precious investment will do a top-notch job of installing it. What’s more, they need to do a pre-assessment to make sure your area has enough sunlight in the first place. They should also check if your roof area has adequate space to install enough panels to meet your power needs. Another important factor is if their service fees cover the cost of reinstalling your solar panels in case of a technical issue. Above all, check if your installer is properly licensed and has the necessary certifications. For more tips, check out 7 things to Consider Before Getting Solar Panels for Your Home.
A foreword by Oliver Smith from Solar Expert. Installing the right solar panel is a critical step in maximizing your potential profits, so try and find the best balance of cost, efficiency and manufacturer warranty. It’s tempting to use cheaper panels, but remember if that company goes bust you’ll lose your security in the event of malfunction.
#10: Kyocera KD265GX-LFB2
With over three decades in the solar power market, Kyocera is known for constantly refining their panels. They also operate in regions such as the U.S., Australia and Brazil, making them an internationally renowned name in renewable energy. This model features easy connectivity and tested durability in a variety of conditions. Its corrosion-resistant and mounting-friendly design, along with a 245-watt output, makes it a popular choice among homeowners.
#9: SolarWorld SunModule Plus SW 290/300
Also a brand to reckoned with, SolarWorld has consistently come out with a line of standout panels that have been a top pick for solar-savvy homeowners in both the U.S. and Germany. Their latest offering boasts of an efficiency rating of 17.3% and a sleek, dark design that makes it excel in both looks and performance. Backed by a 10-year product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty, you can invest in their panels with confidence.
#8: Yingli YGE 60 Series YL275P-29b
While based in China, Yingli’s products are widely used in other parts of the world, such as Australia. As one of the top 10 global producers of solar panels, they’ve met the rigorous standards set by multinational inspection body TÜV Rheinland. The YGE 60 cell Series is famous for its diverse functionality as it can be installed on both private homes as well as commercial properties. Other noteworthy features include a 17% efficiency rating, a low-profile setting and best of all, a product warranty that covers two decades.
#7: Sharp 235 Watt Sunsnap ND-F2Q235
With a half a century of experience in the solar industry, Sharp has earned its earnest following among satisfied homeowners. The compact polycrystalline design makes it easier to install these solar panels and forego the need for metal railing. At 60 cells per panel, Sharp’s eye-pleasing offering also features laminated and tempered glass and holds up well in temperature extremes. Though not as efficient as other panels (at a decent 14.4%), it still holds its own against its peers with its reliable performance and overall quality.
#6: Hanwha Q Cells Q. PEAK-G4.1
This monocrystalline-based model goes well beyond entry-level standards and comes with an 18% efficiency rating and an output of up to 305 watts. It also has a 12-year product warranty and performance warranty of 25 years (guaranteed at 83% output within that period). While the South Korea-based company has been around since the early 1950s, it just broke into the solar power scene about 5 years ago. In spite of that, it has managed to climb to the #6 spot in the world’s top solar manufacturers for 2016. Those living near the shore can install this model with confidence, thanks to a corrosion-resistant body.
#5: JA Solar JAM6(L) -60PR Mono 60 Cell Panel
Also based in China like most of the top solar power manufacturers, JA Solar produces panels to a diverse market covering both industrial and small-scale users. This home-friendly model is especially vaunted for its high-absorption rates even in less-than-ideal conditions. It also utilizes Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) technology, which creates higher efficiency, reduced light reflection and better electron flow. Guaranteed at 80% of rated efficiency for the first decade and a half plus a product warranty for 10 years, this is a solid choice for quality-obsessed solar power producers.
#4: Canadian Solar MaxPower CS6X-305P
Not to be outdone by its rivals, this manufacturer (with facilities in Canada, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil) is also a heavy hitter in renewable energy, thanks to their famously reliable, low maintenance product line. With an easy-to-clean design, you’ll spend less time keeping it in working condition and enjoy an efficiency rate of almost 17 percent. Like JA Solar, the CS6X-305P also sports a low-light friendly configuration which makes it ideal for regions where sunlight is not as abundant. Speaking of which, this relative newcomer (established in 2001) has made its way into multiple territories spanning 50 countries.
#3: Trina Solar TSM-260PD05
Another Chinese giant in the solar power industry, Trina’s TSM-260PD05 model has a respectable 15.6% efficiency and rated power of 255 watts. Like most of its peers, this brand is backed by 10 years for its product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty (at 80% of rated efficiency). They especially excel with their polycrystalline panels that balance cost-effectiveness and high efficiency. If you’re looking to cut installation costs, you’re in luck because Trina offers in-house installations to give you better value for your money.
#2: Suntech STP275S-20/Web
Suntech’s model is known for its ability to brave the harsh elements, such as wind and snow (with ratings of 3800 Pascal and 5400 Pascal respectively). Plus, it’s also resistant to corrosion, so it’s ideal to install in seaside residential areas. You can count on the STP275S-20’s efficiency rate (which goes up to 16.90%) and its 275-watt output. As per their site, they’ve also met the exceedingly high standards of the highly regarded VDE Institute which has awarded Suntech with Quality-Tested Certification.
#1: Jinko Solar Eagle PERC 60 JKM300M-60
Also featuring PERC technology like JA Solar’s own panels, this model has excellent low-light performance along with a cost-efficient price point. It also offers a standard 10-year product warranty, an anodized aluminium alloy frame and an impressive 18.33% module efficiency, easily putting it ahead of its competitors. Both residential and commercial users have made good use of the JKM300M-60, largely in part to its TUV NORD certified salt mist and ammonia resistance.