I’m asked this at least a couple of times a week. It’s time to share the answer.
My answer is in three parts.
You’re not buying the panels, you’re buying the power. What’s promised by the panel seller or installer or maker may not be what you get. Sure, you’ll get the panel, but does it give you the power you were promised? So the first part is to focus, not on the panel, but the promise of the amount of power it will give you.
Back in ’96 when I put mine in I was promised x but after a year it was clear the panels were delivering –x.
Once the panels are on your roof and the installer has moved on it’s difficult to get them back to answer your question: "Why am I not getting as much power from the panels as you promised?” There’s no money in that exchange for them.
So whatever panels you choose, be clear with whoever you buy them from. Say this to them: “What power will they produce? Will you install them on condition that the balance of the payment will be made when you and I agree the panels are delivering the power you promised me they’d produce?” If they won’t do that deal then I’d not buy from them.
Why do I say this? Aside from my experience, and the experience I’ve heard from others, it's clear both from a survey by CHOICE and word of mouth that there are many fly-by-nighters out there selling shonky panels who will not be there for you when they’ve got your money but the panels aren’t producing.
Only buy and have installed panels from a business that’s been going for at least five years. Many installers only last a couple of years and many won’t be there to honour warranties and guarantees.
Ok; which panels?
Truth is, it’s hard to keep up with the growing number of new panels so my answer about brands is limited by the fact that, although I live and work in the renewable energy sector, I’m not across all those that are available. And CHOICE has not done a technical comparison of them, nor, amazingly, has any body representing the solar industry! (Note: I rarely use exclamation marks.)
So I’m not going to go on and give a full list as I just don’t have that recent data. I would recommend Tigo as:
- I’ve had them on my roof for a couple of months and they are producing more energy than they are rated to produce;
- they have a terrific phone and email alert and data service that is the best I've seen;
- they have 'microinverters’ that allow each panel to produce the power it gets or does not get from the sun without dragging down other panels which are not getting as much or are getting more sun.
But there are many more that I have not mentioned.
If you’re putting your own panels on I’d definitely go for Tigo; they are well-made, but expensive.
Just my thoughts,
May the sun shine on you and yours,