The Best Solar Panels Have the Best Value

by Shawn | 6 Comments

Solar Panel pic(*Calculator at bottom)

Want to know how to choose the best solar panels? It’s not too difficult: simply find out which ones give you the most electricity for the cheapest price. Let’s call this ‘solar value’. The lowest price per kwh can help you find the best solar panels.

Well, how do you figure out which panels give you the most electricity? Do I need to know which panels are the ‘most efficient’? Nope – actually you don’t. Efficiency is not the same as output. Efficiency is output per area. If you’re strictly looking for the solar panels with the best value, then you only need to care about the output. Let your installer worry about the area.

Okay, so how do I calculate output? Good news: you don’t have to. Your installer will do it for you. So, call two or three local solar installers and ask them for a free solar quote or evaluation. Most reputable installers will gladly give you a quote for free. They usually set up a date to come out to your property to take some measurements and chat with you face-to-face. Let professional solar installer do the calculations for you.

Take advantage of the knowledge solar installers have. Ask them any questions you have while they’re at your place. Yes, they’re trying to sell you. They want you to choose them over the other guys. But you’re obligated to nothing. They’ll gladly answer any questions you have about solar for the chance to sell you.

Once you’ve gotten all of your questions answered, ask one last question:

“What’s the price per kilowatt hour for the expected first year output?”

(Did you write that down? I highly recommend writing that question down in your solar notes. You’ll be happy you did when the time comes to figure out which solar panels are the best.)

The installer will probably be able to do that calculation for you. If he’s more of a salesman and less of an installer, he might have to get back to you on that one. He might need his engineers to run the numbers. That’s okay. No problem. Have him get back to you when he gets that number.

You can actually figure it out on your own. You only need two numbers. The first is the total cost. That’s an obvious one. The second number you need is the expected ‘first year output’. This is an estimate, but experienced installers know how to give you a pretty darn accurate number. Get those two numbers and then run the simple division equation below.

Solar Value = Total Cost ($) ÷ First year output (kWh)

Here are the two questions you can ask your installer to get the two numbers you need to do the calculation yourself.

1. “How many kilowatt-hours will the system produce the first year?”

2. “How much does it cost (parts, labor, rebates – everything)?”

Plug the two numbers into the simple calculator below and you’ll have  better idea of which are the best solar panels.

  • gregorious

    Or, if you have a limited area to install your panels you might run this calculation:
    total wattage output x efficiency rating / cu inches per panel = annual watts per cu. inch of panel.

  • Mom

    Where should I start to find a good solar panel installer?

    • John Swenson Harvey

      What state? (Or country?)

  • John Swenson Harvey

    I just installed a 7.65 kW system in Utah which came out to $1.27 per first year kWh – how does that compare to other peoples’ systems? It would be very helpful/informative if you would provide the results of several systems in several different sates.

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