Solar Panel Prices & Comparison

Solar Panel Prices & Comparison

Choosing the right solar panels for your system and at the right price is not always an easy task, especially when most of us have limited knowledge of electrical engineering. The world of solar PV has a lot of hi-tech science involved however with a little research you can get informed enough to make the right decision.

There are thousands of solar panel brands and models available on the Australian market with over 10,000 individual panel models being approved for sale and installation. Sorting and comparing every piece of literature on all these panels is impossible, and to the average person, the technical specification list for a solar panel is incomprehensible.

Solar Panel Tiers Explained

Manufacturers of solar panels are assigned a Tier rating system according to the quality of their products, the amount of investment they place into research and development, the efficiency and quality control of their manufacturing techniques as well as several other factors that affect the end product. There are 3 Tiers number 1 being the absolute top-rated followed by Tiers 2 and 3. Some Tier 2 solar panels can do a reasonable job for the price, however, identifying these panels is difficult and in the realm of the solar PV expert, as for Tier 3 panels, stay well away don't even bother.

TIER 1
MANUFACTURERS
TIER 2
MANUFACTURERS
TIER 3
MANUFACTURERS
Top 2% of solar manufacturers Small to medium scale manufacturers Assemblers only - 90% of all new solar PV
  • Vertically integrated
  • Invests heavily in research & development
  • Advanced robotic processes
  • Manufacturing solar panels for longer than five years
  • No or little investment in research & development
  • Uses only partial robotics, reliant on labour from human production lines
  • Usually producing panels from 2-5 years
  • No investment in research & development
  • Assembly of panels only - doesn't manufacture silicon cells
  • Generally producing panels from 2-5 years
  • Uses human production lines for manual soldering of solar coils instead of advanced robots
  • Assembling panels for 1-2 years

Tier 1 Solar Panel Reviews

Listed below are links to customer reviews of some of the top rated solar panels available in Australia. The reviews are posted on the SolarQuotes.com.au website and are all genuine and verified: REC Solar, Conergy, Renesola, Canadian Solar, Suntech Power, Trina Solar, Sunpower, Q-Cells, Daqo New Energy, BenQ, Bosch, SHARP, Yingli Solar, Phono Solar & JA Solar.

Purchasing any of the above well-known brands is as good as it gets, with solar panels from these Tier 1 manufacturers your system should give you years of trouble-free and optimal performance coupled with excellent product support if needed which is unlikely.

Then there are the Tier 2 and three solar panel manufacturers, these are generally smaller companies and many of them may not have been or will be around for long, and their products are not top rated.

Tier 2 and especially Tier 3 solar panels should be avoided, don't let yourself be fooled by the false economy of buying and installing cheap solar panels because the logical truth is that cheap solar panels can be costly.

Solar Panel Warranty

Most solar panels sold in Australia will have two types of warranties attached to them, the first is referred to as a "performance" warranty" usually set for 25 years, now that may sound great, however, "performance" is a very VERY loose term so this type of warranty is pretty much trash.

A more honest and accountable warranty is the manufacturer's warranty of which should be good for at least ten years, make sure you don't get the two confused and never buy solar panels that do not have a manufacturers warranty.

Solar Panel Efficiency

The efficiency of a solar panel relates to the output to surface area ratio, the higher the efficiency, the less area is needed so fewer panels. If space is a factor for you, then this will be more relevant. Generally, anything with a minimum efficiency rating of 15% will be sufficient.

Power Tolerance

Solar panels are given a Wattage size according to output. This output can vary a little, so the rating will usually specify this. For example a 100W solar panel may have a power tolerance of +/-10% so the actual Wattage could be between 90W and 110W, a good quality solar panel should only have a positive "+" power tolerance meaning that the power will never drop below the specified wattage, a 100W+10% panel will never drop below 100W.

Panel Performance Ratio

Easily the most critical and vital statistic of a solar panel to look out for is its performance ratio.

The performance ratio is the actual percentage of maximum power that can be generated by a solar panel relative to the manufacturer's claimed output specification. A solar panel with a 100W manufacturers rating with a performance ratio of 90% will realistically produce 90Watts.

The panels you want to use should have a performance ration of at least 90% to be any good, anything over that is a bonus.

Temperature Coefficient

Solar panels are designed to be exposed to some extreme sunlight, that's what they do however with sunlight also comes heat, and too much heat is the enemy of solar panels.

The more heat that builds up within the panel matrix, the less electricity is produced, this is somehow ironic as one would think that a solar panel by its very nature would have no problems with heat, not so.

A temperature coefficient measures how much output is reduced with every degree the temperate of the panel rises, for example, a temperature coefficient of -0.5% per °C means a 20°C rise in temperature will see a 10% output loss and so on.

This specification is a little bit of a grey area as most manufacturers tend to lean towards the favourable numbers when performing tests, in other words, these figures can be a little rubbery. The performance ratio is a more reliable specification less easy to fudge.

2018 Tier 1 Solar Panel Price Snapshot

How much do solar panels cost fully installed?

Approximate prices for a good quality grid connect solar power system with Tier 1 solar panels fully installed as of mid-2018 in Australia:

  • 3kW $3,499 to $4,999
  • 5kW $4,999 to $7,999
  • 6kW $5,599 to $8,999
  • 10kW $9,990 – $13,990