Solar Electric System – Solar Panels

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 8,300
    SolarWorld Authorized Installer Keith Knowles shows homeowners what to look for when comparing solar panels and visits America’s largest solar factory to see how they’re made.

    Keith Knowles: Hi! I am Keith Knowles with LiveLight Energy. I am a licensed Solar Contractor and an authorized installer for SolarWorld, America's largest manufacturer of solar panels. We're here today to learn how to select solar equipment for your home. Let's go on in a factory and find out more.

    Solar panels, also called modules, convert sunlight into electricity using the photovoltaic effect which some guy named Einstein won a Nobel Prize for. Solar panels have no moving parts, so they usually last for over 30 years. Choosing the solar module is vital for the performance of your system.

    Selecting a low quality module may save you money upfront, but in the long-run will cost you a long one. Perhaps the first thing to check is where the module is manufactured. At plants like SolarWorld's which are highly automated ensure that the panels are going to be higher quality than those panels manufactured with manual processes overseas.

    Next thing to examine is what the module's performance warrantee is. Look for a 25 year performance guarantee. Pay special attention to the degradation of the module overtime. Also look for a 5 year workmanship warranty on the panels. Remember that the warranty is typically useless if the company, offering it, goes out of business.

    Make sure that the manufacture has a long history of making solar panels and is financially stable. Another good idea is to look at independent reviews from reviewers who buy panels from distribution rather than directly from manufactures to ensure objectivity.

    As you can see high quality modules generate 12% more energy than others. At bare minimum make sure that any panel you choose has a UL or ETL listing and if you're in a high wind or snow load area, make sure that it is certified to handle those loads. Another thing to look for is whether the panels are tested at or above their nameplate rating.

    Many manufactures will claim a panel is, say 240 watts, plus or minus 5%. This means, you could be getting less power than you're paying for. This rating is usually determined at the factory by a special machine like this one which flashes the panel with exactly 1000 watts per square meter and measures the output.

    Machines like this are typically accurate to plus or minus 3% so any taller and greater than that is a red flag. High quality manufactures like SolarWorld will only ship panels that flash test at or above their rated power level. Ask your installer to obtain the flash report for the panels you buy. This will help you get started on selecting the high quality solar panel that's right for you.