Our ongoing series of addressing many of the myths out there about solar continues. This week we are going to address the comment that “All Panels Are The Same.”

Not all solar panels are the same. Let's get you educated!

Solar panels are simple in how they function, but that doesn’t mean that the technology is the same for all manufacturers. Just like any high tech product, there are varying degrees of quality, so the average consumer needs to be well equipped to navigate the wide array (excuse the pun) of options. I’m going to look at debunking this myth from 10,000 ft so that we can take a zoomed out perspective on this important topic. Obviously there are lots of other aspects to solar panels, but let’s keep it basic. This post will examine three aspects about solar panels: 1. Warranty, 2. Power Tolerance, 3. Efficiency.

Warranties are usually split into two different categories: Product/Materials and Production. A 10 year warranty on products/materials means that the manufacturer will cover any defects or irregularities in the physical construction of the panel for 10 years after the installation. The production warranty, or production guarantee explains that the panels will put out a certain minimum amount of power over its expected lifespan. As an example, our Siliken panels have a 10 year product/materials warranty and a 25 year production warranty/guarantee. Different manufacturers qualify their production warranty/guarantee in a variety of ways. Siliken takes a linear approach to this by saying that 0.007% of the power output will drop each year. Others like Mage say that the panel will produce at least 90% of its wattage rating in the first 12 years and then 80% of its wattage rating for the remainder of its lifetime.

Power Tolerance
Power tolerance rules can best be understood by a simple rule of thumb: the tighter the better. Each panel model has a tolerance rating and says that the guaranteed power output can vary on a sliding scale. One panel may have a -2/+5 power tolerance rating meaning that the output could be 2 watts lower or 5 watts higher than what is listed at the wattage of the panel. The tighter the tolerance, the more you can rest in knowing what your panel is going to give you.

Efficiency is defined as the ratio of the sun’s potential energy to the actual energy that the solar panel is able to capture. If the Sun’s energy is 100%, then a solar panel might only capture 15% of that potential energy. Don’t read that and wonder why it’s so low. If you think about how powerful the sun is on a summer day at the beach or what the sun does for our planet on a daily basis, you’ll agree that even 15% of that power is nothing to shake a stick at. Most panels are rated at 12-15%, but a few out there, like Sunpower, are as high as 23%, which just so happens to be a World Record. If you are looking at panels that are around 15%, then you’re in good shape.

If you have questions about the panels that we carry and how they stack up against the competition, give us a call. I hope that you feel more educated and informed as you make your energy decisions!

Next week’s blog post will address the myth: “I don’t have to worry about my long-term energy”