Image source: Grape Solar
Grape Solar is an Oregon-based solar panel manufacturer offering a new brand of solar solutions. While Grape Solar has only been in the building applied photovoltaics (BAPV) market since 2009, the company has established a solid reputation for producing affordable, durable solar panel kits. The company offers installation services through its professional network of contractors, and also sells kits directly to the public through major retailers like Costco and Home Depot.
Let's take a look at Grape Solar and review their solar panel solutions.
What makes Grape Solar different?
Grape Solar is a company that prides itself on its American presence and stateside hiring. While the kits themselves are similar to others on the market (more details on the specs in a minute), Grape Solar offers affordable solar kits and excellent customer service. This makes it a good option for those taking a DIY approach to their solar installations.
How efficient are Grape Solar panels compared to other options?
Customer service is certainly important—but solar panel efficiency is king.
While estimates vary based on who's doing the testing, we've found that the Grape Solar panel efficiency ranks between 15 and 17 percent.
Given that the most efficient (and costly) solar panels on the market just barely crack 20+ percent, Grape Solar holds its own in panel efficiency. Additional specifications include:
- Max power of 250 watts
- Top power voltage of 30.8 volts
- Max current of 8.15 amps
How does weather affect performance?
Like all solar panels, efficiency and overall performance will be influenced by your local weather conditions. Solar panels operate at maximal efficiency under specific temperature ranges. Most panels are tested at 25°C, and any temperature variance will change the panel's power output.
This is known as the temperature coefficient. If a panel has a temperature coefficient of -0.25 percent (the standard for most commercial solar panels), it means that for every 1°C increase in temperature, the maximum power of the solar panel will decrease by 0.25 percent. The lower the coefficient, the less variance you'll see in your system.
Let's look at one of Grape Solar's panels for a better example. The solar panel model GS-S-100-Fab8 claims a temperature coefficient of -0.47 percent. For every degree above 25°C the panels reach, their efficiency will decrease by 0.47 percent. This means that if this particular model of Grape Solar panel reaches 40°C on a hot day, the module's power output decreases by 7 percent.
What's the bottom line? Grape Solar's temperature coefficients are higher than average, meaning slightly more power loss at high temperatures.
Are Grape Solar panels more affordable?
In short, yes. While they're not the most affordable solar panel provider in the marketplace, they offer a nice blend of quality and affordability that may suit your solar needs.
According to Home Depot, a 5.3kW solar panel system will cost $10,184 before rebates.
After applying the 30 percent federal tax credit, the cost comes down to $7,129.
Of course, these figures don't take into account installation fees, upgrades, or accessories. If you want an integrated solar solution, you may be legally required to go through a licensed contractor who can connect your system to the grid.
Although generally considered affordable in the spectrum of solar options, make sure you do your research ahead of time before taking advantage of Grape Solar's pricing. System upgrades and contractor fees can raise the price quickly, and the pros and cons of your investment must be weighed in the long-term.
What type of warranties do they offer?
Grape Solar offers several warranties for their solar panels. While specific warranties may vary based on products, customers can expect the following:
- 10-year product warranty on materials and workmanship;
- 10-year warranty promise that panels will provide >90 percent power output;
- 25-year warranty promise that panels will provide >80 percent power output.
The panels are covered in temperature ranges from -40°C to 85°C. They're also able to hold a snow load of 50lbs per square foot, and are resistant to impact damage from a one-inch hailstone falling at terminal velocity.
Where can I buy Grape Solar panels?
Grape Solar panels are somewhat unique in that consumers can buy them directly from retailers like Home Depot and Costco. Many solar panel manufacturers don't sell to consumers, instead selling products through third-party distributors and installers. This makes Grape Solar the ideal option for DIY solar projects, as there just aren't that many commercial solar kits on the market yet.
Can I install Grape Solar panels without a solar technician?
Like other solar options, consumers are well within their rights to install Grape Solar panels on their homes without a contractor's help. However, if you choose to go the DIY route, keep a few things in mind:
- You need to ensure that your home is not restricted from installing solar panels;
- You need to file the appropriate applications and permits;
- You'll have to make your own assessments of the design and size of your energy system;
- You'll need to handle installation, maintenance, and electrical work;
- If you want to get your power system connected to your utility, you'll need a certified electrician to sign off on your system.
While the DIY approach is appealing, we recommend you consider your choice carefully. Certified solar installers can handle all of these details for you and help you maintain your system over time.
Are Grape Solar panels right for me?
In summary, Grape Solar offers an affordable selection of mid-range solar panel options that are backed by standard solar warranties. They may appeal more to the DIY-minded, as they're one of the few manufacturers selling kits to the public. But remember, the location, style, and placement of your solar panels will end up having the biggest impacts on their overall efficiency.
If you're looking for a long-term investment that will provide the maximum energy output for your home's energy needs, you'll need to make sure you've done your homework—and have the number of a reliable solar installer on hand.