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Choosing a Residential Solar Panel for your Customers: A Checklist

While choosing a residential solar panel system for a customer has become easier, there are still many factors to consider when making the decision.

There’s good reason to become knowledgeable about solar. With energy prices rising and consumers facing higher utility bills each month, solar panels are becoming a more reasonable choice for many households. Solar panels produce greener energy and can reduce dependency on the power supplied by the electrical grid. As a result, more and more customers are becoming interested in the possibilities of solar.

How Does a Solar System Work?

When choosing the right product for a customer, always have a basic understanding of a solar panel system. Following is a quick refresher and information you can share directly with a customer.

Certain materials can produce electricity from light, which is known as the photovoltaic effect. Solar panels are made of components that can convert the energy from sunlight into DC (direct current). Every system has an inverter unit that transforms that DC into AC (alternating current) for the electrical circuit of a household.

What does it do with the excess energy? There are two options: a customer can store it into a battery storage system for later use, or they can feed it back to the electricity grid. The second option is financially beneficial, as the electric company will pay a customer for their excess energy.

A solar panel works best when it has direct sunlight. Install it north-facing and at an angle that is free from all types of obstructions, including trees, adjacent buildings, or shades.

Factors To Consider

choosing a residential solar panelNot all solar panels share the same quality or yield the same performance. Low-end, cheap panels won’t produce power at the same efficiency rate as the high-end units. Customers also have to consider a variety of other factors other than the price tag to make a purchase decision.

All products are tested for efficiency, power output, and operating temperature coefficients in standard conditions. Comparing various models for these variables will help you find the right choice for your customers.

Nameplate Rating

This refers to the power output measured in DC under ideal conditions. Most of the panels are rated between 200 and 400 watts. A solar module rated 200 watts will not produce exactly that amount of current since the rating is given for the ideal conditions. A number of variables, including weather conditions, sun exposure, temperature, tree cover, and more, influence that rating in a real-world situation. So, if your customer’s house needs 200 watts of electricity per day, buy a unit rated for 250 watts.

There is also a power tolerance rating that could be positive or negative. A positive sign for a 200-watt panel means that it will produce more than 200 watts in standard testing conditions and a negative sign indicates the opposite.

Efficiency Rating

choosing a residential solar panelThis variable indicates the rate of converting light into electrical energy. You can see how many kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity your module will yield for each watt on the nameplate rating.

The mid-range products have an efficiency rating at or slightly more than 15%, while it could reach 20% for high-end models. This conversion rate is poor because almost 80% of the output is lost as dissipated heat.

Temperature Coefficiency

A solar module will lose productivity in extreme heat. An ideal outdoor temperature is 77°F, and every 4-degree increase causes the panel to lose 1% of its efficiency. Direct your customers to choose units with a low-temperature coefficiency if they are living in a hot climate.

PID Resistance

PID stands for potential-induced degradation and refers to the loss of electricity. Certain climatic conditions trigger stray currents and can cause this substantial power loss. A high-quality residential solar panel will have little or no PID.

LID Resistance

LID Resistance denotes light-induced degradation that occurs within the first few months after installing a new solar module, decreasing the amount of the total power output. The condition stabilizes after a certain period. However, a good unit should have little or no LID.

Durability

The longevity of a residential solar panel depends on the use of high-quality materials and strict quality control during the manufacturing process. A brand’s reputation and online reviews are a good way to judge quality. However, the long-term warranty is a surefire way to tell whether the panels will last or not.

Products from reputable brands can offer up to 25 years of warranty on performance and manufacturing defects. Remember that a company will honor the warranty as long as it stays in business. Don’t trust an obscure manufacturer, even with a long-term warranty, because they may disappear overnight.

Checklist for Choosing a Residential Solar Panel

In general, you should keep the following points in mind when helping a customer choose a solar system for their home:

  1. Choose a well-known brand that has been operating for a long time and has a reputation for manufacturing high-quality products.
  2. Find out the how the unit will perform in the real-life scenario by checking the nameplate rating, positive tolerance, efficiency rating, temperature coefficiency, and LID and PID resistance levels.
  3. Check the warranty period. Only those companies that have confidence in their products offer a long-term warranty.

Return on Investment

The total cost of solar installation on average for a residential solar panel system could be between $15,000 and $30,000. This is a lot of money, so your customers will take into consideration their return on investment (ROI). The utility bills that a solar module saves in its lifetime clearly offset the initial cost, and their ROI will be much quicker if they can sell the excess electricity back to the power grid through their energy provider.

Some states may offer tax benefits for solar unit purchase and installation, thus, reducing the initial cost. Choosing a residential solar panel is a tricky process, but the more you know, the more value you can provide for your customers.

You can learn more about how solar energy works here.

And, our Energy Solutions team can offer you the following services:

  • An energy audit of your facility.
  • Lighting control design and training.
  • Payback analyses, as well as monthly savings.
  • Product vetting to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective solutions are employed.
  • And more!

Click here to visit our Energy Solutions page to learn more. 

Got questions about Energy Solutions? Write directly to our team at energysolutions@usesi.com.

This blog is made available for educational purposes ONLY and is not intended to provide any advice as to product selection, specifications, or appropriate uses. We assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not be current. We do not control or endorse and are not responsible for third-party websites linked herein.