What should you look for in a solar module?
When purchasing solar panels, many businesses and homeowners focus mostly on price at the expense of quality. While price is an important factor, purchasing cheap, poor quality panels is in fact a false economy and can sometimes be a risk to the installer.
PV manufacturers have to be able to make a product that lasts 25 years in harsh environments. Cheaper, lesser quality modules may only last 5 years, or even less, which is why it’s important to choose a brand that carries out stringent quality tests with secure long-term warranties. Currently many concerns over quality centre on China, where Chinese solar companies are under extreme pressures to cut costs.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the crystalline silicon cell. The industry has come a long way in 6 decades, improving efficiency from just 6% to 25% and lowering prices from $250 per watt to 50cents per watt! The technology is mature, so what sets modules apart is quality control, build quality and materials used.
So how do you identify quality in a solar panel?
From our experience as distributors of solar panels, we have identified 7 key features that you should consider:
- Materials â
In an effort to cut costs, some manufacturers have switched to cheaper materials, including some whose use by dates have expired.Â Know what materials are going into your modules and check out the latest PV module standards.
- Quality control â
If panels are built correctly, they should last 25 to 35 years. However, in an attempt to provide cheaper panels, quality control standards are often lost. Check the module meets TUV Rhineland and European Standards to ensure it satisfies quality and performance specifications.
- Conversion efficiency â
Look for industry recognition of performance and innovation. For example, Panasonic’s new conversion efficiency record of 25.6% and LG Solarâs Intersolar 2013 award for innovation in design and performance.
- Potential induced degredation (PID) –
Also known as ‘Surface Polarization’ or the ‘Polarization Effect’, PID is essentially the leakage of ions which degrades the moduleâs power output. PID is accelerated by increases in temperature and/or relative humidity.
Derrick McCormick of Sundial solar solutions observed: âin ongoing maintenance work we do on solar farms, we are discovering that some panels are starting to be affected by PID, reducing outputs of some panels to as little as 11 voltsâ. This alone is a good case for the installation of quality panels against poor quality ones.
- Safety of electrical components –
Solarworld modules were recently compared in a series of tests to a Chinese manufacturer, who waived publication of their name. The Chinese module manufacturer committed a serious blunder when it came to safety tests – in 2 out of the 5 modules tested, the male plug connector was able to be contacted by a test finger. If this happened during assembly, a potential 1,000 volts could be unloaded into the installer, particularly if several modules are interconnected in the string.
- Technical support –
All our manufactures have UK technical support teams and offer courses for installers which can be arranged through Alternergy.
- Warranties –
A warranty is not a certificate of quality and in a company that folds the warranty is worthless. You should look at the company that supplies it and its overall financial stability. Will the company still be around in 10 years time to back up it’s warranty? .
At Alternergy we believe quality is important and take pride in only selecting manufacturers who use stringent quality control tests, are industry recognised, offer high performance and conversion efficiencies and secure long-term warranties. We only supply products from suppliers who we believe will still be around in decades to come.
You can order online for an additional 1% discount and if you find a product cheaper elsewhere, contact us and we will match it*!