Occasionally, people ask me how to choose the best solar pv system, or the best panels. Choosing the best solar system depends mainly on your energy needs, roof space, and budget. Most people really want to know how to choose the best solar value. For example, I was asked the following question on my “Help me help you” survey:
I got bid from 2 different installers. One was SunPower panels; the other Canadian Solar. The SunPower bid (for a 5.2 kw DC system) was $21,000 and the Canadian Solar bid was $14,000 – why so far apart?
Great question. There could be many explanations why there is such a gap in the price. Generally, SunPower’s superior efficiency allows for it/ necessitates that it price its solar panels higher. (They have to pay for the best engineers to get the best efficiency, right?) Each installer may be giving you the best deal he can with both brands of panels. What you should check on both proposals is not the DC system size (in this case 5.2 kw DC), but the kilowatt-hours output. Ask your installer(s) how much energy (in kwh) each system expects to produce in the first year.
Then, divide the total cost of the system ($21,000, or $14,000) by the amount of energy produced. This will tell you how much money per kwh you’ll be paying. If money matters (which to most people it does), then choose the solar system with the best VALUE!
Another visitor asked:
Should I be looking for the panel that has the highest efficiency or for the panel that produces electricity at the lowest rate?
If space is a concern, meaning that you have very limited space and want to produce as much energy as possible, then look for the highest efficiency on the Top 40 Most Efficient Solar Panels chart. However, most people will consider price as an important factor. Therefore, for most people, I recommend choosing the panel that produces the most electricity (kwh) at the lowest cost.
It depends what is most important to you. If saving space is important (rarely the case), then choose the panels that have a smaller area. If saving money, while maximizing output (energy production) is important (usually the case), then choose the solar pv system with the best value.
- Five Questions You Should Ask Before Installing Solar
- Five Financial Reasons to Go Solar Now
- Solar Panel Comparison Article
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