Which solar panels are good?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

With hundreds of different solar panels on the market, trying to select one can be considered a difficult endeavour. So which panels are actually good? In this article, we will outline what to look out for when comparing panels to complete your purchasing decision.

Tier 1 Panels - The only choice

The ‘Tier’ rating was developed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation and is used to arbitrarily rate solar panel manufacturers in terms of financial stability. Panels classified as Tier 1 don’t come equally in performance, look or reliability however. Most established solar manufacturers are now considered Tier 1, so it's more important than ever to do your research in order to distinguish high quality and reliability from the more entry-level copycats.

Most common types of panels on the market


What’s the difference between Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin Film?

Put simply, Mono means ‘one’ and Poly means ‘many’

The main difference between the panel types is during the creation process:

  • Monocrystalline silicon is created by slowly pulling a monocrystalline silicon crystal out of melted monocrystalline silicon.
  • Polycrystalline silicon is made through a simpler and thus cheaper method. Instead of going through a slow, expensive process of creating single crystals, molten silicon is placed into a cast and cooled with seed crystal. This is known as the “casting method”. In using this method, the crystalline surrounding the seed isn’t uniform and branches into smaller crystals thus making “polycrystalline”.

And this helps my purchasing decision how...?

Depending on which you choose, depends on the price, efficiency, size and looks & longevity of the panel you want.

Price:

  • Monocrystalline solar cells cost more than polycrystalline for the same size.
  • Thin film panels are cheaper than mono or poly.

Efficiency:

  • Monocrystalline cells have a higher efficiency than polycrystalline cells due to its structural creation. Monocrystalline panels can perform up to 7-10% better than polycrystalline panels at higher temperatures.
  • Thin film are the least efficient

Size:

  • Monocrystalline panels are more efficient per area and thus need less size than a polycrystalline solar panel for the same output wattage.
  • Thin film requires the most space.

Looks:

  • Monocrystalline panels have a dark uniform colour. Polycrystalline panels have visible differences in shade caused by the multiple crystal structure.
  • Thin films are diffused onto a substrate and thus the layers are very thin.

Longevity:

  • Monocrystalline panels have the potential to last up to 50 years however most product warranties only go up to 25 years for the better range of panel manufacturers and 12 years for the more entry-level panels.
  • Thin film’s life expectancy is unproven. 20 years is the rough design expectation.

Which panels do our solar experts recommend?

Read “Which solar panels are good” to find out more.

Click here.

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