Purchasing a solar system can be a very difficult task. Finding quality solar panels is even harder.
Surely a 5kW system is the same as another 5kW system? All panels seem to have a 25 year warranty so its ok if something goes wrong? Not quite… Most companies will use classic sales tactics that guarantee their products are the ones setting the standards and have unmatched quality. When you hear this from 3 or 4 different companies it makes you start to wonder. People throw around the ‘German Engineering’ now like its 2nd nature.
The Government has a test centre in Alice Springs called The Desert Knowledge Australia Initiative. They have set up a testing facility with many different types of solar panels from some of the biggest brands in the world. All of the systems are identical in every aspect apart from the panels which offers a completely even playing field and we are comparing apples with apples.
The leading panel from day 1 in these tests has been Q.Cells. Q.Cells are a German company that manufacture cells in Germany and every aspect of the panel is industry leading. The chart below shows the difference between a Q.Cells solar panel and a Trina solar panel which is a Tier 1 module that is widely regarded as one of the better panels on the market. This graph shows the month of December 2013.
As you can see there is quite a difference. The Q.Cells are outperforming the Trina module by around 14% which in Queensland is worth up to $500 per year in electricity. So whilst the Q.Cells might be a little more expensive than the Trina module they certainly pay for themselves.
Quality isn’t just about performance, its about reliability and safety. When your system fails for whatever reason you will have days, possibly weeks before you have it up and running again and this can cost you a fortune. This image below is another snippet from the Desert Knowledge Test Centre and it clearly shows exactly what happens when you get a fault in your system, again taken from December 2013.
Other concerns you might have is build quality itself. Most panels have a similar wind rating and mechanical load rating which means that they should technically withstand the same weather conditions. Again, this is not quite the case. Below are a couple of images taken from a hail storm at the end of 2013 in South East QLD.
Most of the cheaper panels are held together by a thin layer of silicon that has been applied by hand in China and this is supposed to last 25 years? Better panels are fully automated and produced entirely by robots and are mechanically sealed. Below is a comparison between a cheap Chinese module and a Q.Cells product. The Chinese model is a panel that we received directly from the manufacturer and would have installed if our installer hadn’t noticed the issue beforehand.
The images above show the back of a panel and the sealant is designed to keep out moisture and foreign objects. This is one area that can cause major losses in efficiency and can be very difficult to notice as you would need to lift the panels off the roof in order check them.
In this article we are barely scratching the surface with potential issues you may have with cheaper cells and any of our consultants would be more than happy to discuss this further with you.
You can visit www.dkasolarcentre.com.au and www.photon.info for more unbiased information on solar panels.