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How to Choose the Right Solar Panel?

Did you know that investing in solar panel systems is a long-term sustainable move? Aside from cutting down electrical costs, you will be eligible for tax rebates. What an amazing deal, right? Before you enjoy the benefits of tapping into the ultimate free source of energy, you need to know how to best pick the right kinds of solar panels, which kinds of solar inverters to use, and the most recommendable mounting options for your solar panel system. 

Why Is Choosing Your Solar Panels Important?

There are many benefits to using solar panels in powering up your homes, recreational vehicles (RVs), and marine vehicles. But it is crucial to know how to select the best kinds first so you can get the most out of your investment. After all, solar kits are not cheap and you need to devise the best strategy for choosing the solar panels to use in your home or RVs. One of the advantages of being knowledgeable about solar panels selection is connected to its overall cost-effectiveness. If you know how to pick the right solar panels, you can prepare yourself financially and get the most out of the money you spend on them.

Knowing how to choose solar panels will also help you figure out which accessories or devices best go with them. After all, having the right kinds of solar panels is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assembling your solar panel kit. You will need solar inverters, mounting tools, chargers, backup units, and the like. Having the right information about these additional tools will guarantee that you only invest in the ones that match your solar panel system.

Also, getting the proper material on selecting the right solar panels will ensure that you do not accidentally damage your existing property, like your house, RVs, and marine vehicles. It will also give you a clue on how to properly install, operate, and maintain them. 

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Types of Solar Panels

The invention and development of solar panels have come a long way and right now the types of solar panels are categorized into batches: 1st generation, 2nd generation, and 3rd generation:

1st Generation Solar Panels

They are the traditional types that are frequently used in typical surroundings:

  1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)

This is the purest type of solar panel. They have a uniform dark look and rounded edges. They have high power output, last the longest, and save the most space. They are not prone to high-temperature effects, unlike polycrystalline solar panels. 

  1. Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-SI)

This type of solar panel is made by melting raw silicon which may be a quicker and more economical process than the one used in making monocrystalline panels. It makes them the cheaper choice. They have a blue speckled look and their angles are not cut. They have lower efficiency and a lower life span compared to monocrystalline solar panels. 

2nd Generation Solar Panels

They are called the “thin-film” types and are typically used for photovoltaic power stations in buildings or compact solar systems:

  1. Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

They are made by placing one or more photovoltaic material films like silicon, copper, or cadmium onto a substrate. These solar panels are the easiest to produce and since there is less material needed for their production, they are relatively cheaper too. They are flexible and less affected by high temperatures. However, they are granted the shortest warranties because of their short life span compared to mono- and polycrystalline solar panels. 

  1. Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si)

This type of solar panel uses triple layered technology and is considered the best in the thin film variety. They are frequently used in solar-powered pocket calculators. By “thin” it means these films are about a thickness of 1 micrometer (one-millionth of a meter). These solar cells are less effective than crystalline silicon types but they are comparatively cheaper.

3rd Generation Solar Panels

This group refers to a variety of thin-film technologies which are mostly still in the development or research phase:

  1. Biohybrid Solar Cell

Still in the research phase, biohybrid solar cells are discovered by a team from Vanderbilt University. A lot of the materials used in producing this cell are the same as traditional solar cells but a combination of multiple layers is done so the conversion from chemical to electrical energy is made more effective. More details of how biohybrid solar cell works are recorded in the American Journal of Optics and Photonics.

  1. Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe)

This solar cell is made of cadmium telluride which produces cheaper merchandise with a shorter payback time. The technique used in making these solar cells needs the least amount of water for production. CdTe solar cells allow you to keep your carbon footprint as low as possible. However, the product can be toxic once inhaled or ingested.

  1. Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)

These cells produce electrical energy the way typical photovoltaic systems do. They have an efficiency rate of up to 41% and are the highest out of all photovoltaic systems so far. They have curved mirror surfaces, lenses, and cooling systems that help increase their efficiency rate. 

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Considerations for Choosing the Best Solar Panels

There are many things to consider when choosing the best solar panels to use for your home, RV, or marine vehicles. Here are some of the most important ones:

  1. Solar Panel Efficiency

To figure out solar panel efficiency, divide the power rating by the total panel area. This means that a large size panel will not automatically have high efficiency. Solar panel efficiency was only at 15% during the past few years but because photovoltaic technology underwent some improvements, solar panel efficiency is now over 20%. The higher the efficiency of the solar panels is, the more energy they can produce, and the more savings they can provide to the consumer.

  1. Warranty

As with purchasing any other merchandise, a warranty aims to protect your consumer rights. Make sure to partner with a reliable solar company or solar product provider, such as Rich Solar, that can give you an appealing warranty period. This will help maximize your investment in case you encounter product defects in the future.

  1. Cost or Cost to Relative Efficiency

Solar panel prices vary depending on quality materials, size, durability, brand reputation, warranty, and even product certification. Solar panel efficiency has improved as the years have passed and solar panels are seen to continue pushing new limits every year. Consequently, the cost of investing in solar panel systems continues to decrease. Thus, it is recommendable for you to go for solar panels that are specifically tailored to fit your needs and have the most potential to be efficient. Don’t just focus on price alone. 

  1. Manufacturing or Country of Origin

It’s also worth considering where your solar panels have been manufactured or where their country of origin is. Currently, the top solar producers in the world are China, the United States, India, Japan, and Vietnam. These countries are continuously showing that the sun is a legitimate source of renewable energy by unceasingly tapping into its potential to generate power. Buying from companies who source their products from these countries is ideal.

  1. Solar Panel Specifications

The specifications of a solar panel are often listed in a specifications sheet. This sheet contains important information regarding the operating parameters of your solar panel. Some of the details included in a specification sheet are voltage, solar panel efficiency, electrical power production, dimensions, and wind loads. These details will not only help you choose the best solar panel but they will also help engineers and installers find out how to configure your solar kit.

  1. Aesthetics

Aesthetics, or how your solar panel looks is another important consideration when choosing which solar panels to buy. Solar panel aesthetics typically fall into two categories: standard and non-standard.

Standard solar panels include basic designs like silver frame with white backing and wires, black frame with white backing and wires, black frame with white backing but no wires, all black with wires, all black without wires, and solar PV with colors.

Non-standard solar panels include in-roof mounting solar PV, solar PV roofs, slate and tile solar PV, and ground-mounted solar panels. 

  1. Durability

Your solar panels will be exposed to different elements so they need to be durable. Make sure to inquire about long-term durability from manufacturers. Reputable solar panel suppliers are required to do some tests with their products to back their validity. They need to disclose the results of those tests to you.

Other Considerations

Aside from those previously mentioned, here are other considerations when choosing the right solar panels:

  1. Roof compatibility and mounting
  2. Provider maintenance
  3. Temperature coefficient
  4. Types of solar cells used
  5. Location and project length 

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Polycrystalline or Monocrystalline?

Still undecided whether a monocrystalline or a polycrystalline solar panel is the better option for you?

Here are their pros and cons to help you decide:

Monocrystalline Solar Panel

Pros:

  1. Panels need less space
  2. Highly efficient energy producers
  3. Better heat tolerance

Cons:

  1. Production methods are less sustainable
  2. Expensive 

Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Pros:

  1. Lifespan similar to monocrystalline panels
  2. Cheaper than monocrystalline panels

Cons:

  1. Panels need more space
  2. Less efficient energy producers
  3. Less sustainable production
  4. Less heat tolerance

Thin-Film or Amorphous?

Can’t decide between using thin-film or amorphous solar panels? Here are their pros and cons to help you make up your mind:

Thin-film Solar Panel

Pros:

  1. Simple production process
  2. Cheap
  3. Lightweight
  4. Less material consumption
  5. Temperature resistant

Cons: 

  1. Low efficiency
  2. Less stable
  3. Intense initial degradation
  4. Shorter lifetime
  5. Higher space requirement 

Amorphous Solar Panel

Pros:

  1. Convenient mass production
  2. Cheap
  3. Lightweight

Cons:

  1. Low stability
  2. Less efficient than traditional solar panels

Choosing the Right Solar Inverters

Aside from choosing the right solar panels, you need to choose the right solar inverter to help complete the ideal solar power system. Solar inverters convert direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels to alternating current (AC) electricity that is responsible for powering up your appliances and devices. There are three main categories of solar inverters:

  1. On-grid inverter

This converts DC to AC and then sends excess energy back to the grid. They are also connected to the utility grid.

  1. Off-grid Inverter

This converts DC to AC from a battery. They can power up residential and commercial projects.

  1. Hybrid Inverter

This also converts DC to AC but it can be used with both an on-grid system and an off-grid system.

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Solar Panel Mounting Options

Solar panels need mounts which are racks or frames that can keep them in place. Solar mounts are designed to be flexible so they may be properly positioned in most sections of your property or vehicle. Here are some mounting options to choose from:

  1. Ballasted Mount

Ballasted mounts sit on top of the ground and are held down by the solar panels’ weight. They are usually the popular choice because drilling is not required to install them. This is typically used in low-slope and roof-mounted solar projects.

  1. Mechanically-Attached Mount

Other solar projects are best mounted using mechanical attachments. For example, roofing systems that have a thick layer of insulation between the roof deck and the roof membrane would benefit more from mechanically-attached mounts. Varying mechanical attachment methods are used to accommodate different roofing systems.

  1. Fixed Mount

Fixed solar panel mounts may be free-standing or attached to the roof. You may even build your own stand! They are relatively cheaper than the other types of mounts. Just make sure to choose the best orientation angle that will enable the solar panels to get maximum solar energy output.

Tax Rebate on Solar Panel Systems

Did you know that you can get tax rebates for owning a solar energy system? Yes, the one-time federal residential solar energy credit allows you to get a portion of the cost of purchasing and installing a solar energy system on your federal tax return. If you installed a solar panel system before December 31, 2019, you can get a 30% tax rebate. The rebate goes down to 26% for solar panel systems placed between 2020 and 2022. Rebate falls further down to 22% for systems installed in 2023 and may eventually expire in 2024 unless Congress renews the program. 

To claim the rebate, you must prove that you own, and not just leased, a solar photovoltaic system and that it is located in your primary or secondary residence. In case you financed the system through the supplier and are obligated to pay in full as stated in your contract, you may claim a rebate based on the full amount of the system. As per the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the costs covered are prices of panels or photovoltaic cells, assembly and installation labor costs, inspection and permit fees, and sales tax on some expenses.

To claim the rebate, you need to complete and attach IRS Form 5695 to your federal tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR). It’s also good to note that many states offer varying rebates and tax credits aside from the federal ITC.

Take your time and don’t rush!

When choosing solar panels to use for your home, RV, or marine vehicle, the best approach is to take your time, consider all the options available at your disposal, and decide based on your basic and immediate needs. After all, investing in a solar panel system is no minor feat. If you’re looking for reputable product options for solar panels, solar inverters, and solar mounts, visit Rich Solar. It can also give you practical advice about solar panels in general.

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