So you’re interested in going solar, you’ve got a house or platform to put panels on but aren’t sure which panels to use. Solar cell technology has been growing in leaps and bounds, with costs dropping and efficiency soaring. Choosing the right solar panels can result in a sizeable impact in energy savings over the years and either prolong or cut short your investment payback period, so making the optimum purchase for your needs is essential.
Solar cells come in two main types: crystalline silicon and thin film. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. In general, crystalline silicon technology has been around longer and so offers the peace of mind that newer thin film cells do not. They do not perform as well in extreme heat, nor in the shade as thin film, but are better in cooler weather. Thin film by contrast is cheaper and is improving rapidly in how it converts solar energy into electricity.
- Determine what type of solar cell technology is most appropriate for your application. If you need to re-shingle your roof in the near future, consider solar shingles, otherwise look at standard panels. Refer to the following list when making your decision:
- Hop online and check out SolarDesignTool, a great resource that lets you line up solar panels side by side for easy comparison.
- Find the prices of your selected panels.
- Perform a cost-benefit analysis for the panels you’ve chosen. Compare peak efficiency to sales price while taking the warranty period into account. Though one panel may be 25% less efficient, if it costs 50% less and is guaranteed to last the same length of time, it’s likely the better bet.
- Measure your roof to establish how much space you have for your panels.
- After having determined your energy requirements from How to Size a Solar PV System for Your Home, add up the power ratings, also on SolarDesignTool, for your selected panels to calculate how many panels you need.
- Write down the dimensions of your chosen panels, then multiply the length by the width for an individual panel to determine each panel’s surface area in square inches. Multiply that figure by the number of panels you need to see if they will fit on your roof or yard.
- Look into government incentives for solar panels.
- When purchasing your panels, take the time to thoroughly inspect the fine print of their warranties.
- Select professionally engineered heavy duty mounting racks. Once you’ve bought your panels, there’s no point skimping on the small stuff. Not only could high winds send your panels flying, but you could be liable for any damages they cause.
Check out our other resources for more help determining the average cost of installing solar on a home int he US or just try out our handy solar installation calculator.