Solar Panels | Guide to Buying Solar
Solar Panels Introduction
Solar panels are the most visible part of a solar system and are a surprisingly simple and reliable way to generate electricity. However, there is a lot of information about buying solar that you might find confusing, but don’t worry, you are in the right place. This is the first chapter in our comprehensive, but easy to read, Guide to Buying Solar.
First of all, it’s important to know that we are talking about solar photovoltaic’s (PV) here, or solar electricity, not solar hot water. Solar PV panels generate electricity from sunlight and there are several factors that influence how well solar panels perform which we explain in our “How Solar Panels Work” article. The electricity that solar PV panels generate is called DC electricity, but we use AC electricity in our homes. That’s where the most important part of our Solar System comes in, the solar inverter. The inverter is the brains of the operation, and it converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). You will learn all about inverters in our next chapter “On-grid, Off-grid and Hybrid Solar”.
Going solar can be confusing 🤯, overwhelming, and you may often get contradictory information. That’s why we started Clean Energy Reviews, and this is why we wrote the guide to buying solar. Something that gets mentioned a lot in our forum from people that have been researching solar for months, is that they have ingested a huge amount of information, and still don’t know where to start.
This guide takes you through all the important information you need to know, and the decisions you need to make one by one. Going solar might seem complicated but it is rather straight forward when you break it down.
Work out if solar is right for you
After seeing if your roof is right for solar, it is time to check out our very handy Solar Calculator. With our calculator, you can find out almost everything you need to know about the particular system you need:
How many solar panels you need (System size)
Cost of a solar system
Estimated savings and the payback period
Whether you should get batteries with your solar
Our calculator will also show you the federal solar rebates that are available to you, depending on your system size. You can read more about what rebates are available to you in our Solar Rebates and Tariffs article.
Find the best solar panels and inverters
NOTE - Our opinions are our own, based on years of personal experience, testing, researching and listening to the views and feedback from the many solar experts we engage with. We are, and always will be foremost an independent review site. However, whilst we do our best to keep informed of all the solar products on the market, we will never have all the information, nor can we know what products best suit any individual's needs perfectly. Please use your own judgement when buying solar.
Selecting a quality solar panel and inverter brand from the hundreds of different models and manufacturers can be a very difficult task. Even for experienced people in the solar industry, it is hard to cut through the noise, let alone if you are new to solar and are hopefully only going to buy one solar system in your lifetime. That is why we founded Clean Energy Reviews, we were working in the industry for years, but still found it very hard to know which brands were good and which were lemons. We decided to compile industry knowledge about the best solar panel and inverter brands, and disseminate it to everyone. We have narrowed down the long list of solar panel and inverter brands to a select few using feedback from installers and solar professionals based on quality, efficiency, reliability, performance and return on investment.
Guide to Buying Solar
1. Solar Panels Introduction
Solar Panel Reviews
Unlike inverters, the biggest problem for people new to solar is understanding the different solar panels and which brands are the most reliable. This is made more difficult as they generally look very similar with nothing obvious to distinguish between high and low quality products. Unfortunately, many solar installers and customers only have the glossy brochure to go by, which can easily baffle people with clever marketing and slogans.
It is worth mentioning the commonly referred to ‘Tier 1’ rating, which is often used by solar companies to tout their panels as the best. However, the ‘Tier 1’ rating can be misleading and does not guarantee a panel is free from defects or give any indication of how it will perform over the life of the system. The rating was developed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to rate solar panel manufacturers in terms of financial stability; it generally has no link to the performance or quality of a panel.
See below links for further reading on solar panels:
Solar Inverter Reviews
Solar inverters are required to convert solar DC electricity into AC electricity which can then be used in our homes and businesses. The inverter is the most sophisticated part of any common on-grid solar system and unfortunately, it’s also the part most likely to have issues due to being typically installed outside under extreme weather conditions including rain, humidity and high temperatures. This is why the choice of inverter is often the second most important decision when going solar after you have decided which company you would like to buy your solar system from.
To learn about the best inverters, see our best solar inverters review
To learn about micro inverters, see our Enphase micro Inverter review
To learn about the best off-grid inverters, see our off-grid solar system review
Get some quotes and decide who to buy solar from
Once you’ve done a bit of research, and got an idea of what type of solar system you want, now you can get a quote. It’s a good idea to make sure that you do have some background knowledge before you get your quotes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with seemingly conflicting information once you start talking with salespeople.
Remember, you’re buying something that will hopefully be on your roof for decades to come, so consider the quality of your panels and inverter, and most importantly the solar company - read reviews on companies you get quotes from before you buy.
Clean Energy Reviews has partnered with the biggest and best solar quote services in Australia (SolarQuotes), and the USA (SolarReviews). We recommend you use these services to get quotes from reputable solar companies in your area.
Ask questions and book an installation
You’ll likely have many questions once you’ve got some quotes. Please use the forum to ask us and the community as much as you like. It may also be useful to use the solar and battery Simulator again at this point.
You should now be able to make a decision on what quote to go with. Go ahead, lock in an install date and pay your deposit.