A guide to buying the best solar panels
This guide will help you to select the best solar panels for your property.
Our complete guide to buying solar panels covers:
- The top brands
- What to look for when selecting a panel
- Different types of modules
- Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved panels
The best quality panels in Australia
The best solar panels are more efficient, perform better and will operate for 25 years. SunPower and LG manufacture the best solar panels available in Australia, both provide the best warranties the highest performance ratio and the most efficient modules. However, there are many very good options available.
The table below ranks the best quality solar panels available in Australia according to our ranking criteria.
|* Extended warranty
How we rank and compare the best panels
We rank the best panels based on:
- Product warranties
- Australian presence
Solar panel efficiency is an indicator of the quality of the module and how it might perform throughout 25 years. It’s no coincidence that the most efficient solar panels also have the lowest level of degradation and perform well in adverse conditions. Efficiency isn’t everything, but more efficient panels will take up less of your roof space.
Measuring the performance of the actual module can be difficult as so many factors affect solar panel output. However, manufacturers must provide a guarantee of the performance of the panel after 25 years, based on laboratory tests. Typically, the performance ratio is around 80%, which indicates the level of degradation after 25 years. The best panels all have higher output ratios after 25 years, with top of the range brands achieving above 90%.
Solar panel warranties
Another important point of comparison is the solar panel product warranty; a manufacturer guarantees that your panel will continue working as it should. Do not confuse the performance warranty with the product warranty. Product warranties range from 10 to 25 years. If a company is prepared to provide a longer product warranty, it’s normally an indication that they are producing a higher quality panel.
An important consideration when buying solar panels is whether or not the manufacturer has an office and representatives on the ground in Australia. Often this is an indication of their commitment to the Australian market; if they do not have an office Down Under, it will make warranty claims far more difficult.
Value for money
The final point of comparison is also the most subjective; value. Does the panel represent value for money? Value is very much a decision you need to make for yourself. We assess the value of the best panels if the quality outweighs the added solar panel cost; if it doesn’t, we factor that in too. Value is an important consideration, but ensuring you are buying a good quality panel that will not let you down is more important.
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Types of solar panels
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are the two most popular types of panels in Australia. Both of these common panel types have their virtues and choosing one of the other is not as important as selecting a better quality panel with excellent performance and product warranties.
Our list of the best solar panels only features monocrystalline panels, as they are the most efficient modules available. Importantly, the manufacturers provide the same product warranty and performance output guarantee for their polycrystalline solar panels. Cost and efficiency are two of the major differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
Clean Energy Council approved panels
You need to ensure that the solar panels and inverter you buy are approved by the Clean Energy Council. If they are not, you will not be able to receive your solar rebate, but also it means you are buying a module that has not passed the safety and quality tests that the CEC applies to each module. It is far more important to buy CEC approved solar panels than tier 1 panels.
All of the modules in our list of the best solar panels are approved by the Clean Energy Council. You can view the full CEC list here to check on other panels.
Are Tier 1 panels the best?
We explain Tier 1 panels in great detail here, but we’ll summarise the findings as the term often comes up in discussions of the best solar panels. The Tier 1 criteria consider the use of the modules in large scale projects over the recent two-year period; it does not measure performance.
However, there is typically a strong correlation between tier 1 panels and what we consider to be the best solar panels.
Buying solar successfully is not only about selecting the best solar panels; you also need to consider the other system components, the quality of the installation and your property’s specific needs.
Simply selecting high-quality panels isn’t enough. It’s also essential to choose a good quality inverter, cabling and mounting brackets. Inverters are commonly the first component to malfunction. If solar panels seem cheap, it’s more likely that a lower grade inverter is used and shorter product and installation warranties have been issued. Quality cables are also an essential component of an efficient solar panel.
Dirt and grime on your solar panels can lead to small efficiency losses, so it’s important to inspect your solar panels if they can be easily accessed to ensure they are relatively clean. The more direct sunlight can easily reach the cells within each module, the better. Fortunately, mother nature does a pretty good job of cleaning them for us when it rains, but it may pay to clean and check them every so often, especially if they are installed flat.
Solar panels will experience a level of deterioration over time. That is, all else being equal, they’ll perform better in earlier years than later years. The degradation is only natural really when you consider that solar panels have a projected lifespan of 25 years. The level of degradation varies between brands and is an indicator as to the quality of the panel.
What is best for you?
For all our research into the best panels, you may disagree with the ranking criteria, or, you may place far more importance on one of the criteria like performance in shade conditions, or value. You must, of course, select the best panel for your property and financial circumstances.