What are the best solar panels? Mono, multi, thin film, 250W, 245W, 300W!? And what about country of origin? China, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia? Don’t forget, some brands are better than others! Here are just a few well known solar panel brands:
- TRINA solar panels
- REC solar panels
- BOSCH solar panels
- SERAPHIM solar panels
- YINGLI solar panels
- SUNTECH solar panels
- RENESOLA solar panels
to name just a few! Solar panels can be a confusing topic when you’re starting out, but we’re here to make things simple for you.
Different Types of Solar Panels
What’s the best type of solar panel to get on your roof? A good salesman will have you absolutely convinced that the panel he’s trying to flog is the one and only best panel in the world. When we dig a little deeper and get a proper look at what’s going on, which type of panel should you choose?
Monocrystalline “mono” solar panels
Solar panels are made with silicon – “mono” refers to the crystal structure which is uniformly “grown” as an ingot and then cut into wafers. The process for making mono panels is expensive but it produces very reliable results. The end product is usually a good panel with good performance under most conditions. Some people argue that mono panels are not as good performers under low light. This has very little physical meaning and should not be the basis for your decision.
Multicrystalline (aka Polycrystalline) solar panels
Here the “multi” or “poly” refers to the scattered directions that the tiny silicon crystals are arranged. These panels are shimmery blue and instead of being “grown”, the cells are made by pouring melted silicon into a mould. The result is a cheaper manufacturing process and still a good performing panel
Thin film solar panels
- CIS or CIGS
The manufacturing process is usually somewhat less environmentally friendly than for mono and poly panels and the efficiency is not as good. The benefits of these panels though is that they have better performance in low light conditions (e.g. south facing roof or building facades) and they look awesome.
How many Watts should my solar panels have?
There are a lot of different sized solar panels out there – 185W, 190W, 200W, 210W, 250W, 300W etc. At the moment, the most common sized panel is the 250W (March, 2014). There are a number of reasons for this but mostly because it’s convenient for system sizes (e.g. a 2kW system has a neat 8 panels). It really doesn’t matter how many Watts each panel has. This is only ever an issue with restricted roof space where you absolutely need maximum efficiency. Remember efficiency is only the amount of power you can get per square meter – it’s nothing to do with how much power you get out of the panels.
Are Chinese solar panels any good?
First of all, let’s face it – China is THE super-power in manufacturing. Almost ALL solar panels that you get in Australia today are made in China, or at the very least, mostly made in China. The quality of the panel actually has nearly nothing to do with the country of origin. Just like anything, as long as the factory is a professional setup and the company has good quality control procedures you can get an extremely good product.
Think about it, in the 2012 Photon test, 8/10 of the top 10 performing panels (not including SUNPOWER) were made in China. In the 2013 Photon test, 9/10 are Chinese made.
So the short answer to this question is yes. Chinese panels are as good as they get – but wait a minute! What about all the dodgy panels that come out of China that we all hear about in Australia. How do you know if you’re getting a good thing or just another useless piece of junk sitting on your roof that’s likely to catch fire!?
There are a few ways to check if your solar panel is any good:
- Independent test results – this is one of the best indicators. Tests like the Photon test and desert knowledge give some indication of how good a solar panel is.
- CEC accreditation – you can check if a solar panel has Clean Energy Council accreditation here on our website or on the official CEC website
- Word of mouth – this is not always the best indicator of a good panel, but if you’re neighbour has had solar panels for the last 5 years and his/her system is still doing well… It’s hard to argue with that.
- Tiers – the tier system for determine if solar panels are any good is extremely flawed at best. A tier 1 solar panel might be an absolute piece of junk, even though it’s met the “tier 1 requirements” – do not rely on this when making a choice.
Which brand makes the best solar panels?
This is a controversial topic! Solar Proof doesn’t affiliate itself with any particular brands – we only outline what’s available in the market from our suppliers and what we think of those products.
We have a list of Solar Proof ranked solar panels (2014) here. Some highly regarded solar panels brands (in no particular order) are:
|Solar Panels Brand||Some interesting facts|
|SANYO||Japanese made panels with good reputation and good performance history.|
|Conergy (Powerplus Modules)||These are the German panels that Conergy makes (they also make Chinese panels)|
|Hanwha (Q-Cells)||Hanwha (formerly Q-cells) claim to be a German company and have manufacturing operations in both Germany and Malaysia|
|REC||REC are a global company and won the international photon test in 2009. Modules made in Singapore|
|SERAPHIM||Seraphim placed 4th in the international Photon test in 2012 (1st for front busbar panels) and placed 12th in 2013 (first for panels 12 months or older). SERAPHIM has proven it has cutting edge technology both in terms of performance and degradation.|
|YINGLI||Yingli is a tier 1 Chinese solar panel manufacturer and placed 4th overall in the Photon test 2012. No ranking was recorded for 2013. Yingli ranked overall #1 solar panel brand (2013) by industry analysts (IHS) global survey of solar professionals.|
|TRINA||TRINA has a good reputation and is a tier 1 panel. Snail trail defects had been detected in some TRINA modules and a shipment was refused entry into Australia due to quality issues.|
|SUNPOWER||SUNPOWER modules are made in the US. Expect to pay around 60% more than standard technology modules. SUNPOWER had 3 entries in the 2012 Photon Test and took out all 3 top positions. SUNPOWER was not ranked in the 2013 Photon test.|
|WINAICO||WINAICO is a German company with modules made in Taiwan. These solar panels are of an extremely high build quality and have performed extremely well in the Australian “desert knowledge” tests.|