What Are Ideal Solar Panel Specs?
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Not all solar panels are created equal. Some last for longer than others. Some are more efficient. Knowing which factors are most important for getting the highest quality solar panels possible is very important. We will be covering the ideal solar panel specs to help you on this quest.
What Are the Most Important Elements of Solar Panels?
Some solar panel elements are more important than others. After all, while solar panel aesthetics are important to some, the aesthetics of the panel will never be more important than its efficiency. The most important solar panel factors are efficiency, durability, and warranties. Let’s go over each of these briefly before diving into what you should be looking for in a solar panel.
Why Is Solar Panel Efficiency Important?
Solar panel efficiency is the percentage of the energy from the sun’s rays that is converted to usable electricity. An efficiency rating of 100 percent would mean that no energy is wasted at all, while an efficiency rating of zero percent means that no energy is being absorbed. Most solar panels fall in the 15-25 percent range
What To Look for With Solar Panel Efficiency
What does the ideal solar panel efficiency look like? That depends on the panel type. There are two main types of solar panels: polycrystalline and monocrystalline. Both are made from silicon. Polycrystalline panels are made of many silicon crystals melted together, while monocrystalline panels are made of silicon poured into sheets and then cut into wafers.
Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline. The average efficiency of polycrystalline solar PV panels is about 15 percent, whereas monocrystalline panels have an efficiency in the 17-23 percent range. This averages out to 20 percent. Therefore, the ideal solar panel will be monocrystalline silicon.
The Ideal Solar Panel Efficiency
The ideal solar panel, therefore, will have an efficiency in the 20-23 percent range. Cheaper panels will be around the 17-18 percent range, with the more efficient panels being more expensive. The average homeowner will land around 20 percent, such as with our panel of choice, but those with extra cash will be looking at top of the line efficiency ratings.
Why Is Solar Panel Durability Important?
Solar panel durability refers to the ability of a solar panel to withstand adverse weather conditions, potential accidents, and contact with animals while still producing at a high rate. A solar panel can have very high efficiency, but if it stops working in a year or two, you’ll ultimately be out for more money than you saved.
What To Look for With Solar Panel Durability
Most, if not all, solar panels are going to be durable. The solar industry has prescribed durability standards that solar panels must meet to become certified. In particular, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has laid out testing standards for future panel developments.
While the IEC does not do the testing itself, it has established the guidelines that all other solar panel testing organizations have. While the IEC 61215 is the main standard by which solar panel modules are tested, there are other standards as well. Additionally, the NREL has covered multiple types of solar testing. These durability test standards are important for ensuring that all solar panels are held to a similar level of quality.
Solar panels should last for more than 25 years. While solar panels degrade over time, after 25 years they should still be producing at relatively high efficiency. Cheap solar panels are going to degrade more quickly than more expensive panels, which is why many installers recommend against purchasing cheap solar panels. While the upfront cost might be lower, you won’t end up saving as much money over the years because your panels will produce less electricity.
Additionally, solar panels are rigorously tested for potential ways that they can be damaged. This can come from animals or inclement weather. In particular, hail is one of the main problems that solar panel manufacturers guard against. Hail has been known to damage cars, roofs, and more. To help combat this, solar panel manufacturers have improved the strength of the glass coverings that are placed over the PV modules themselves.
The Ideal Solar Panel Durability
To get the best durability out of your solar panels, be sure to select panels that have been tested according to the quality standards laid down by the international solar panel community. These panels should be producing electricity at a high-efficiency level for at least 25 years. They should also be able to withstand bad weather and contact with animals.
Why Are Solar Panel Warranties Important?
While solar panel regulations uphold certain standards that all solar panel manufacturers must adhere to, there are going to be exceptions. Some solar panels might have manufacturer defects. Others may be damaged during the installation process. This is where solar warranties come into play.
What To Look for in Solar Panel Warranties
There are two main kinds of solar panel warranties. The first is the product warranty, which will cover any potential manufacturer’s defects in the modules. These warranties tend to last for 10-15 years, as some defects aren’t going to become apparent for some time. The other type of warranty is the efficiency warranty, or the power warranty, which guarantees a certain efficiency rating on your solar panels after 20-25 years.
The Ideal Product Warranty
As mentioned, manufacturer warranties cover defects in the panels. The length of the warranties will vary depending on the manufacturer. Some companies keep warranties to a minimum of 10 years, while others offer warranties up to 15 years. Some companies will offer even longer product warranties, though these tend to be rare.
For the average solar homeowner, then, the ideal solar warranty is going to be around 15 years. This will ensure that no sneaky problems will suddenly raise their heads after a few years. With a good solar product warranty, you’ll be resting easy.
The Ideal Efficiency Warranty
Efficiency warranties operate on a different axis from product warranties. While the latter is focused on physical problems in the panels, which arise from problems in the manufacturing process, the former focuses on output. Therefore, the solar efficiency warranty isn’t necessarily covering any single problem or even a range of problems, but anything which may lead to a loss in panel production.
The main problem is solar panel degradation. Panels degrade at an annual rate of around .06-.08 percent. Many people will round up the difference and say that they degrade at roughly 1 percent per year. This would mean that, after 20 years, your solar panels will be producing at roughly an 80 percent rate compared to the time of purchase.
Efficiency warranties are intended to cover these situations. For example, Go Solar Group’s solar panel of choice, the Axitec: AC-315MH/120SB comes with a 15-year, 90 percent production guarantee. It then guarantees 85 percent production over an additional 10 year period. The length of efficiency warranties can vary, though it’s common to see 15-25 year warranties.
The ideal efficiency warranty is going to be similar to the one we offer for our Axitec panels. A 90 percent efficiency guarantee after 15 years is very common for higher-end solar panels. The additional 10-year, 85 percent guarantee is also quite common. You should seek out at least 25 years of coverage. Any warranty that doesn’t last that long is unlikely to be worth the cost.
What You Should Look For With Solar Panel Specs
Taken together, we can get a clearer picture of what you should be looking for in the ideal solar panel. Because some solar panels are inordinately more expensive than others, we will cover the average case. These specs are ideal for the average homeowner and, while they might not match those of premium panels, they are far more available.
The Best Specs Taken Together
Looking back at our three categories, we can determine three major factors that play into the ideal solar panel specs. These are solar panel efficiency, durability, and warranties.
The ideal solar panel will have an efficiency rating of around 20 percent. Therefore, it will have to be monocrystalline. It will have a high durability rating, be tested according to the latest standards, and will be able to withstand things like hail, high winds, and the presence of animals. Finally, it will have a production warranty of at least 15 years, and a high-efficiency warranty of 15-25 years. Be sure that any solar modules which you consider purchasing match this description.