Considerations When Choosing the Right Solar Panel
Though the initial investment may appear pricey, installing solar panels can save you a lot of money in the long run. Since sunlight is free, solar energy is largely considered to be the cheapest source of energy in the world. So long as you live in a region that gets enough sunlight, solar panels will be able to sufficiently produce enough energy to meet your electricity needs.
However, the efficiency of such an investment will depend on the quality of the solar panels you purchase. To help you get started, we’ve provided a list of criteria you need to consider when buying a solar panel.
In any solar panel, energy efficiency hinges on a component called the inverter, which is responsible for turning sunlight into usable electricity. The process involves converting alternating current (the raw energy your solar panel produces) into alternating current (the form of electricity usable by machines). Good inverters have optimized PCB layouts that can absorb and transform high amounts of raw energy into usable electricity. Poor-quality inverters, on the other hand, may fail to convert the energy it absorbs, creating waste in the form of unusable electricity.
Therefore, when selecting a solar panel, compare the efficiency of its inverters against other models. Most inverters on the market will have efficiency levels between 95% to 98%.
Type of Solar Cell
A solar panel will usually be constructed using one of three materials: monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, and thin-film. These three differ mainly in efficiency, cost, and durability. Monocrystalline solar cells are largely regarded to be the most efficient of the three. However, it’s also the most expensive, given its quality and labor-intensive manufacturing process. Consequently, many people go for the less-efficient polycrystalline solar cells, which are also made from silicon.
Of all three options, thin-film is the least efficient at converting sunlight into energy. However, because it’s the cheapest option, people tend to purchase large quantities of thin-film solar cells, compensating for inefficiency by covering a larger area. If you want to save on money and have the roof space for larger solar panel installations, thin-film might be the best option. Go for monocrystalline or polycrystalline if your house lacks the surface area to compensate for thin-film’s inefficiency.
Cells within a solar module are usually rather fragile, given that they're composed of millimeter-thick crystalline components. When cells in a solar module sustain damage, they reduce the system’s efficiency at absorbing energy. And since solar panels have to be placed outdoors to maximize energy absorption, they need to be able to withstand natural elements, such as storms, winds, extreme temperatures, and sun damage. Invest in systems from reputed manufacturers to ensure the model has been sourced from quality labor and materials. You can also check whether your model of choice offers additional temperature controls to protect it from cold or hot weather.
All solar panels become less efficient under excessive heat. Such reduction in performance capacity occurs because solar panels create energy by using photons to raise the energy levels of electrons in a semiconductor. However, when the temperature is too high, surrounding electrons will have already been elevated to that state. This leaves the solar panel with too few electrons to work with to create energy.
Thus, you need to look for solar panels with a low-temperature coefficient. A solar panel’s temperature coefficient describes the percentage of decrease in performance capacity under high temperatures, wherein the benchmark is 25°C. For example, if a solar panel claims to have a temperature coefficient of -0.3% / °C, this means that the module’s efficiency will decrease by 0.3% per 1°C above 25°C. Solar panels tend to have temperature coefficients between -0.3% / °C to -0.5% / °C.
Installing solar panels can be a great way to cut down electricity costs and help the environment. To select a good solar panel, pay attention to its conversion efficiency, solar cell type, durability, and temperature coefficient.
We hope you enjoyed this article, and we welcome you to explore more solar panel facts on our Solar Panel FAQ page. Additionally, if you would like to buy solar panels for your home, be sure to check out our wide range of solar panel systems and kits!