As you may have discovered, there’s lots of solar panels out there. In fact, there’s over 6000 panels on the CEC approved list, with every solar retailer claiming to be supply only the best ones. This will help you sift through all of them to find one that suits you.
PVEasy puts panels into three different categories. Low end, standard and premium panels. While there's quite a few premium panels that we recommend, there are standard panels that will perform well enough for most people. Just ensure you avoid the low end panels.
Category 1 - Low End Panels
Low end panels are usually newer manufacturers in China producing run of the mill panels. They see that there's a huge demand and quickly get a factory up and running. The brands aren’t recognisable and they have little or no presence in Australia. Here’s just some of the issues with them:
Manual manufacturing facilities, increasing chance of manufacturing defects
No or little history in solar, which is a big concern on a 25 year warranty
Not chosen for any large scale projects or by anyone who does any form of research
Warranties with alarm bells, like scheduled maintenance, big drops in performance and short product warranties
Little presence in Australia.
Remember, if the manufacturer decides to pull out of the Australian market, your chance of getting any warranty issues attended to diminish greatly.
Solar is a long term investment. Even if you’re cutting costs, we’d actually recommend shelving the project than purchase a low end panel. Good quality panels, like the ones in our next category, don't actually cost that much more.
Category 2 - Standard Panels
If you’ve said, “I just want a reasonable panel that doesn’t cost too much”, this is your stop. Panels in this category are reliable, yet they don't cost much more than low end panels. If you've heard the term tier one, these are the panels that would fit into that category. Tier one isn’t a quality guarantee, but manufacturers that are considered tier one normally make good panels and are likely to be around if you do have any issues. They're a nice basket to put your eggs in, so to speak.
Another new term coming in to classify panel manufacturers is the Silicon Module Super League, which was bought in by PV-Tech. Again, this isn't a measure of quality, but these manufacturers have huge global demand for their products and a production capacity over 4 GW. To put that in perspective, Australia only ticked over 5 GW of total installed capacity in 2016. These manufacturers represent over 40% of all the modules produced in the world. To have this demand, your products must be of reasonable quality, which is why we believe they are a good choice for your project. Of these brands, pick ones that have a strong presence in Australia. When you purchase these brands, you're buying panels that have:
A proven history with a large portfolio of commercially projects
Highly automated production lines, resulting in less chance of error and greater consistency between their panels
Financially secure, which is important for those 25 year warranties
So to help you find brands of reliable, standard panels, Google "tier one solar panels" and the "Silicon Module Super League". Also do your research on various independent solar sites. Here are five brands we feel fit into this category:
Category 2 - Premium Panels
Premium panels are for solar enthusiasts or people who plan to be in the home for 10 years or more. What separates premium panels from standard panels are one or more premium features which panels can come with, including:
Better warranties, with longer product warranties and less degradation in the performance warranty.
Higher efficiency and better performance in hotter temperatures.
Better build quality. This can include numerous things like tougher design, higher quality components, manufacture outside of China and better aesthetics.
Performance enhancing features, like rear contact cells, PERC, half-cut cells, n-type cells or monocrystalline cell.
If you want to read more about features that will help you decide which panel is right for you, see our blog post on features of solar panels. This will also help you find out more about the features on premium panels.
Below are some brands that we consider to be premium due to their features, experience and history of delivering high quality products:
Sunpower and LG are leading the pack in terms of quality and offer the best panels you can buy.
The manufacturers on this page are not the only brands that could be suitable, just brands we'd have no hesitation recommending. If you're purely doing solar to reduce your bills, then a standard panel should be fine. Do a little bit of research and avoid low end panels. They may serve you well for a while, but you're taking a risk with those products and the likelihood of those brands being around to help you if something goes wrong is low. If you want to pay a little extra for something that will last longer and perform better, then consider one of the premium panel brands mentioned above.