How do solar panels generate electricity?
A solar power system converts sunlight into power that can be used in the home. Photons in sunlight hit the solar panel and are absorbed by semiconducting materials, such as silicon.
Electrons (negatively charged) are knocked loose from their atoms, causing an electric potential difference. Current starts flowing through the material to cancel the potential and this electricity is captured. Due to the special composition of solar cells, the electrons are only allowed to move in a single direction. An array of solar cells converts solar energy into a usable amount of direct current (DC) electricity.
What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline (multi-crystalline)?
It is important to stress how little this debate matters for a residential solar system. It is an issue that is more relevant for solar farms and larger commercial jobs where a tiny increase in output per panel results in higher returns. Almost every other aspect of a solar installation such as the orientation of your roof, the angle of the panels, shading and the quality of the components has a greater impact in terms of potential returns on your investment.
All the panels look the same and everyone is saying their panels are the best! How can I tell the brands apart, and what should I be looking for?
The Solar Panels are the heart of any solar system. Whilst there are literally thousands of brands of solar panels on the market, Solaray only selects preferred suppliers that meet our strict standards. The supplier must:
- Manufacture their own products in their own factories
- Have a local office in Australia to provide warranty and other support
- Conduct Research and Development and show a level of technology leadership
- Have been manufacturing and supplying solar panels for at least 10 years
- Have the financial and market strength to be able to honour the long term warranty
- Have commercial scale and solar farm reference sites
As with most industries that have grown rapidly in the past (such as televisions, computers, cars etc), we are starting to see a growing consolidation in the number of manufacturers and it is likely that within the next few years, we will see the industry dominated by the top handful of suppliers. For this reason alone, it is worth selecting panels from any one of the world’s leading brands rather than the smaller or newer ones.
What is the warranty and who holds it?
All of our solar panels come with a 25-year linear power output warranty and 10-year workmanship/manufacturing warranty. The ultimate responsibility for the warranty is held by the manufacturer as well as the importer (if they are not the same), which is why we only sell brands with an Australian office. In the rare event that you have a warranty claim, Solaray will, of course, be your point of contact and arrange with the manufacturer the repair or replacement of any faulty product.
Do you sell any Australian Made solar panels?
No. As far as we (and The Business Spectator) understand, Tindo is currently the only Australian manufacturer of solar panels, and anything else you hear is misleading marketing at best. Australian quality, made for Australian conditions etc. are taglines used for marketing, some of which have been deemed illegal by the ACCC. If you have anyone try to sell you panels under the guise that they are Australian Made please ask for clarification and if necessary report the issue to the relevant authority- we take it that seriously.
Unfortunately, global market conditions have made it difficult for an Australian company to compete in this extremely competitive market. For more information click here:
Do you sell any German Made solar panels?
Not at the moment, as Q Cells has moved their manufacturing to Asia and SolarWorld no longer have a local office here in Australia. We have previously installed thousands of panels from Bosch, Q Cells and SolarWorld panels.
If you have received a quote for a panel that is claiming a relationship to Germany, or even Europe please read between the lines! German quality and German designed are tag-lines we see used continuously for marketing, some of which have been deemed illegal by the ACCC. Remember that the Germans designed a lot of the technology in solar panels so technically all solar panels are ‘designed in Germany’. A quick look on the manufacturer’s website is normally a good idea, and price is often a great indication of what you are buying. Please don’t think you are buying top of the range German Made solar panels if they are significantly cheaper than all of your other quotes.
I have a quote for Trina Solar panels that is significantly cheaper than the others. Do I need to look out for Grey Market panels?
Assuming all else is equal, large solar manufacturers such as Trina Solar and Jinko have a wide range of panels at different price points. For example, the Trina Honey 250W module is significantly more expensive to buy wholesale than many of their other panels, and we would argue that this has everything to do with quality. It is for this reason that we only sell the 250W Honey module.
A troubling occurrence is that there have been reported instances of some installers selling grey market solar panels, which means that they have obtained the panels at a discounted rate from ‘other supply channels’ or unrecognised suppliers. In this case, the manufacturer may not honour the warranty if you were to make a claim. Make sure you check the serial numbers on the panels with Trina Australia on the day of installation if you think something is not quite right.
Does panel substitution during installation really happen?
Unfortunately, it appears that it does. It is wise to physically check the panels as they are going up onto your roof to make sure you are getting what you paid for – as it can be very difficult to check once they are installed. If they are not what you were expecting, you should stop the installation until the issue is sorted out. We have heard of some installers claiming it was an admin error, but in our experience ‘mistakes’ like this generally don’t happen by accident. If they can’t offer a reasonable excuse you should cancel your contract and report the company to the authorities. We don’t stand for such unethical behaviour.
Another little trick we have seen in our time are ‘product shortages’. If you accept a quote for genuine products that was significantly cheaper than the others, you may get a phone call after you have paid your deposit from someone apologising for a sudden shortage of stock. They will then either delay your installation (indefinitely) or try to swap products on you, sometimes offering you a discount depending on how much of a fuss you make. Of course there can be genuine product shortages from time to time, but our advice is to treat this type of behaviour as extremely suspicious, and do some serious research on what they are offering you as a replacement. If they are having issues with stock, the replacement should be at least equal or better than their original offering to make up for the inconvenience they have caused you.
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