How to Choose the Most Productive Panels

Joe Brennan
Jan 14, 2024

Are you wondering how to select the most productive solar panels for your home or business? With so many options available, it can be challenging to know where to start. Solar energy has become a popular and eco-friendly way to power our lives, but the efficiency and productivity of solar panels vary widely. 

This blog will guide you through the essentials of choosing solar panels that not only meet your energy needs but also provide the best value and performance. From understanding solar panel efficiency to considering environmental factors and cost implications, we'll cover everything you need to make an informed decision. 

Join us as we explore the world of solar panels and help you find the perfect fit for your energy requirements.

Understanding Solar Panel Efficiency

Following the question raised in the introduction about selecting the most productive solar panels, it's crucial to first understand what solar panel efficiency means. 

In simple terms, solar panel efficiency is a measure of a panel's ability to convert sunlight into usable electricity. The higher the efficiency, the more power you can get from a smaller area. 

Today's market predominantly features three types of solar cells: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Thin-film. Monocrystalline panels are typically more efficient and, thus, more popular for residential use, despite their higher cost. Polycrystalline panels, while less efficient, offer a more budget-friendly option. Thin-film cells, known for their flexibility, lag behind in efficiency and are less common in home installations​​.

Recent advancements in technology have further improved solar panel efficiency. Innovations like Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact (PERC) cells, Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer (HJT) cells, and half-cut or split-cell technology enhance the ability of panels to capture and convert sunlight. 

Furthermore, developments in the wiring and construction of solar cells, such as multi-busbar technology, reduce shading on the cells, allowing them to absorb more sunlight​​.

Factors Impacting Solar Panel Efficiency

Understanding the efficiency of solar panels is only part of the equation. Various factors can impact the actual performance of these panels in real-world conditions. 

Firstly, environmental elements play a significant role. The efficiency of a solar panel can decrease at higher temperatures, while cold but sunny conditions are ideal for optimal operation. 

Secondly, the orientation of your solar system also matters. In the U.S., for instance, south-facing roofs typically yield the best results. Thirdly, the angle of installation, degree of shading from trees or buildings, and local weather conditions like cloud cover or snow also significantly influence the efficiency of solar panels​​.

Beyond environmental factors, the physical attributes of the panels themselves are important. The type of backing used in the panel can affect how much sunlight is reflected instead of converted to electricity. Panels with antireflective coatings, for instance, are more efficient. The quality and configuration of wiring within the panels also matter, as mismatches in wiring or incompatibility between solar modules can lead to efficiency losses​​.

Real-world efficiency also varies based on factors such as solar irradiance (the power per unit area received from the sun), panel orientation, shading, and even dust or dirt accumulation. 

These factors can reduce panel efficiency and overall system performance. For instance, even slight shading over a few cells in a panel can cut its power output significantly, impacting the entire system if the panels are connected in series​

Assessing Your Needs

Now that you understand solar panel efficiency and the factors that impact it, the next step is to assess your specific energy needs. This assessment is critical to choosing the right type of solar panel. Start by considering your household's electrical demand. How much energy do you use monthly?

Homes with higher electricity usage will benefit more from higher-efficiency panels, especially in areas with limited installation space. It's also essential to evaluate your available space. For example, if you have ample roof or ground space, you might opt for lower-efficiency, cost-effective panels. 

However, in limited spaces, high-efficiency panels are ideal to maximise energy production​​. Consider the orientation and angle of your roof as well. South-facing roofs in the Northern Hemisphere are typically the most suitable for solar panel installation. 

The angle at which the panels are installed also plays a role in maximising sunlight exposure. If your home's roof orientation or angle is less than ideal, higher-efficiency panels might be necessary to get the most out of your solar setup​​.

Cost Considerations

When it comes to solar panels, the initial cost is an important consideration. Higher-efficiency panels generally come at a higher price, but they can be more cost-effective in the long run, especially if space is limited or if you have high energy needs. It's important to balance the upfront cost with the long-term energy savings and efficiency gains. The installation cost also varies depending on location, solar provider, and chosen solar panel brand and type​​.

Additionally, consider the solar panel’s lifespan and potential savings over time. While high-efficiency panels might have a higher initial cost, their longer lifespan and better performance could lead to greater savings in the long run. It's also worth considering the payback period, which is how long it takes for the savings from your solar panels to cover the initial investment​​.

Solar Incentives and Tax Credits

A significant aspect of the cost considerations are the various solar incentives and tax credits available. The federal solar tax credit, for instance, allows you to deduct a portion of the solar installation cost from your federal taxes. This incentive significantly lowers the overall cost of going solar. 

Additionally, many states offer their own incentives, which can include additional tax credits, rebates, and grants. These incentives vary by state and can substantially reduce the cost of installing solar panels​​.

To fully leverage these incentives, it's recommended to research and understand the specific solar incentives available in your area. Websites like the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) can be a valuable resource for finding all available incentives in your state. 

Remember, the availability and specifics of these incentives can change, so it’s important to have the latest information to make the most cost-effective decision for your solar panel installation​​.

In the next sections, we'll explore the importance of choosing a reputable solar power installer and the necessary maintenance and upkeep to ensure your solar power system operates at peak efficiency for years to come.

Choosing a Solar Power Installer

Transitioning from the financial aspects of solar panel installation, the next crucial step is selecting the right solar power installer. This choice can significantly impact the efficiency, durability, and overall success of your solar energy system. A professional and experienced installer like Going Solar will not only ensure that your panels are set up for optimal performance but also help navigate local permits and solar incentives.

When searching for a solar installer, it’s important to consider their credentials, experience, and reputation. Look for installers with certifications from recognised industry organisations and check their reviews and past project portfolios. 

It's also beneficial to get multiple quotes to compare services and costs. A reliable installer will conduct a thorough assessment of your property to determine the best system size, panel placement, and orientation, ensuring that your system is tailored to your specific needs and environmental conditions.

In some cases, you might have the option of a DIY installation, but it’s important to weigh the complexities and potential challenges against the cost savings. For most homeowners, the expertise and peace of mind provided by a professional installer are worth the extra cost.

Maintenance and Upkeep

After the installation of your solar panels, regular maintenance and upkeep are essential to maintain their efficiency and prolong their lifespan. Luckily, solar panels require relatively low maintenance. The primary task is keeping them clean and free from debris such as leaves, dust, or snow, which can obstruct sunlight and reduce efficiency. In many cases, rainfall will naturally clean your panels, but in drier climates or during prolonged periods without rain, manual cleaning might be necessary.

It's also important to conduct regular inspections to check for any damage to the panels or the supporting infrastructure. This includes ensuring that all connections are secure and that there are no signs of corrosion or wear and tear, especially in the wiring and mounting equipment.

Seasonal checks can be beneficial as well. For instance, after winter, a thorough inspection can help identify any issues that might have arisen due to snow or ice. Additionally, consider scheduling a professional inspection every few years to ensure everything is functioning optimally.

Final Words

Choosing the most productive solar panels involves understanding panel efficiency, assessing your specific energy needs, considering cost factors, and taking advantage of solar incentives and tax credits. Partnering with a reputable solar power installer and adhering to regular maintenance are also key to maximising the benefits of your solar investment. 

Embracing solar energy is not just a wise economic decision, but a step towards a sustainable future. If you're ready to reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy the advantages of clean energy, now is the time to go solar. Harness the power of the sun and make an impactful change in your life and environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does temperature affect solar panel efficiency?

Solar panels operate most efficiently between 59°F and 95°F. Efficiency drops if the panels get hotter than 130°F​​.

Do solar panels degrade over time?

Yes, solar panels degrade at a median rate of 0.5% per year, affecting their productivity over their typical 25-year warranty period​​.

How important is solar panel orientation?

Solar panel orientation is crucial for efficiency. In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing roofs are ideal for solar panel installation due to maximum sunlight exposure​​.

What factors should be considered when choosing solar panels?

Factors to consider include panel efficiency, cost relative to efficiency, warranty duration, and physical size and type of the panel

How does shading affect solar panel efficiency?

Shading significantly reduces solar panel efficiency. Even partial shading can drastically lower a panel's power output and overall system efficiency​

Can I finance a solar panel installation?

Yes, there are three main financing options: purchasing in cash, taking out a solar loan, or signing a solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA)​​.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Author Fahad Zahid
Founder @ Going Solar

Joe Brennan, the founder of Going Solar, is dedicated to making solar power mainstream in Ireland and meet SEAI objectives. With a focus on affordability and sustainability, he is bringing renewable energy solutions to homes, reducing costs & environmental impact.