The type of solar panels you choose for your solar power system is often a choice that is agonized over by those considering the purchase of a solar power system.
Consumer concerns about solar panel choice can generally be grouped into three areas:
- How do I compare brands of solar panels?
- How important are the items listed in the solar panel specifications?
- What type of solar cell technology do I want my solar panels to use?
In this post I will discuss the first of these concerns - How do I pick the best brand of solar panels? In the following two weeks I will write posts answering the second and third questions above.
Comparing Brands of Solar Panels
It is very difficult to compare one brand of panel against another because sometimes the brand that appears strongest today may be out of business tomorrow. As such, this part of solar analysis is as much an art as it is a science. However, some of the things to consider with brand of panels:
- Does the manufacturer have an office in America? If a company is spending little or nothing on marketing its brand in America then it is less likely to spend money on warranty replacements to keep a good reputation in America and in the future. If the panel is either made in America or supported by a significant marketing presence in the USA then it would seem to be a safer bet.
- How long has the installation company you are talking to been dealing with the manufacturers panels?
- Is the manufacturer profitable? It seems more likely that a manufacturer that is profitable is more likely to be around in the future than one that is not. The difficulty here is that many of the solar manufacturers are Chinese and so this data is hard to get. Another problem can be when the manufacturing business is part of a conglomerate as you don’t know if their solar panels division is profitable or not. A conglomerate can easily close down an unprofitable subsidiary.
- It is also important to know if the solar panels manufacturer made the cells as well as the modules or whether they purchased the cells from other third parties and merely assembled the panels.
The truth is all brands of panels that are sold in America have to meet basic electrical standards and most installers and consumers have reported very few problems with solar panels that are sold in America. In my own experience I have probably sold about 20,000-30,000 solar panels, including American, German and Chinese made brands and I have had very few issues. However, it also seems likely that if panels are to have problems, it may be towards the end of their working life and so the choice of brand may become more important as time marches on.