The four major components of a solar energy system are the panels, inverter(s), racking and solar battery storage unit(s) (if desired).
Solar panels are the most visible element of your system, which is why you’re likely the most familiar with it. They are, in essence, the “face” of solar. If you go out and look up and down your street right now, you will likely be able to tell who does and doesn’t have solar energy powering their home purely by looking for solar panels on their rooves.
The way that solar panels work is that the panels generate DC electricity as sunlight, or solar irradiation, stimulates electrons to move though solar cells that are in-built into the solar panels. Contrary to what some may think, it is the sunlight itself, and not heat, that generates the electricity. In fact, overheated panels can become less efficient, similar to a computer overheating. Thus, any solar panel you choose must be able to withstand the warm Australian climate for around 25 years (we’re assuming you do want your investment into solar to last that long, right!?). There are a wide variety of solar panels on the market – so knowing where to start can be tricky. We’ll delve further into this in another article on another day, but for now, let’s quickly go into the technology and products so that you can better understand the options available to you right now.
Technology – Polycrystalline or Monocrystalline Panels?
Monocrystalline panels consist of singular large crystals, are darker in colour, even in aesthetic consistancy and, as a result of the production process, the corners of cells are usually missing.
Polycrystalline panels consist of multiple smaller crystals, can be light or dark blue in colour and have variation in texture where some patches are lighter than others.
Historically, monocrystalline panels were seen to have an advantage as the superior technology in the Australian market. Historically, monocrystalline solar cells were producing higher peak efficiency as large crystal sizes tend to be more absorbent, and the technology was more readily available than polycrystalline solar cells. However, over time both technologies have matured and improved, making the difference quite negligible in most regions. In essence, both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are great for any solar energy system in Australian climates.
Instead, it has become increasingly evident that the more important aspect to focus on is the quality of the product, the reliability of the manufacturer and the performance of the product over time. These three factors alone can make all the difference in how much of your energy costs are offset, how long they will yield a return on your investment and how quickly you can receive support if things do go wrong (or even just need general maintenance – which we do recommend!).
How to choose your solar panels
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when deciding on which solar panels to install for your home or business.
Though the savings of purchasing a budget panel may seem appealing in the short-term, they often depreciate more quickly and perform worse over time. Or just flat out don’t work. Or explode.
Solar energy systems are a long-term investment (systems should last around 25 years), so your main concern should be the performance of that system over time, the quality of the installation, the longevity of the products and the warranties attached. Maximizing savings over the long term rather than minimizing the initial cost of a system is the smart move. Many companies offer very cheap systems and cut corners to get to that price – rushing installs, putting your home at risk and selling the cheapest products that will barely last 5 years on an Australian roof. The products we sell are top of their range and come with a 20-30 year product and performance warranty as standard.
There are good budget brands that perform very well at an affordable price – we often recommend Jinko, Hyundai, Canadian Solar, Phono & Trina. Then there are our premium products, made with the highest quality technology and that come with extended warranties. These products include LG, QCells and SunPower (suppliers of Apple and NASA), which are usually made and engineered in Germany or North America and are considered the best panels on the market.