HOLD UP, WAIT A MINUTE. CHEAP VS. EXPENSIVE SOLAR
The solar industry is currently experiencing a boom like never before, and as usual with any industry, what tends to follow is the mass production of sub-optimal products often advertised by unqualified fly-by-night installers looking to take your hard-earned money without providing you with a working solution. In Portugal, Algarve, it is only a matter of time before most home or business owners invest in solar solutions; therefore, this blog post is intended to shine a light on the state of the current solar industry, key differences between cheap and expensive solar systems, and what to look out for as a buyer here in Portugal.
STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
If you have yet to read the previous blog posts, here is a quick summary of what we are currently witnessing. The solar industry has grown parabolically since the start of the pandemic which together, with economic and political influence, played a role in catalyzing the increased demand for solar. Photovoltaic (PV) technology has dropped in price not only due to technological advancements but also because of the demand for off-grid solutions during the energy crisis. This has increased the scale of solar panel manufacturing and today, the overall price per kilowatt hour produced by a solar panel has dropped over 90% in the past decade, making solar one of the cheapest forms of energy on the planet!
Furthermore, because of this new demand naturally many new players have entered the industry globally. While there are now multiple solar solutions on the market, we will simplify everything into 3 tiers based on quality and performance.
TIER 3 (CHEAP LOW-END SYSTEMS)
- Bad efficiency rating
- Low power output; less energy per panel
- Faster degradation in power output and efficiency
- Polycrystalline panels which are older and outdated
- Little to no research and testing papers to prove quality over time
- Questionable warranties with grey areas
- Subject to a high rate of defects and failure within 3 years
- Potential fire hazards due to cheap cabling and DIY projects
- Readily available at some over-the-shelf retailers or online
- No monitoring software to see if the system is running optimally
- Fly-by night installers looking for a quick return
TIER 2 (MID-RANGE SYSTEMS)
- Average efficiency rating
- Polycrystalline or average-performance monocrystalline panels
- Lower power output ranging between 240-300W
- Panels degrade slower and produce less power year after year
- Product sheets with short to medium-term quality testing and research sometimes up to 25 years depending on the brand
- Manufacturers with under 60 years of solar panel production
- Partial robotic manufacturing process
- Reasonable to good warranty depending on the brand
- Readily available at some over-the-shelf retailers or online
- DIY category, often a variety of plug-and-play systems more popular in regions with less sunlight
- No live electric usage monitoring systems due to cheaper inverters however, they can be connected to tier 1 inverters
- Often have fly-by-night installers looking for a quick return but some reputable companies offer Tier 2 solutions
TIER 1 (HIGH-END SYSTEMS)
- Optimal efficiency rating for maximum output
- Monocrystalline panels (sleeker and better performing)
- Output of 410W-570W panels with over 21% efficiency
- Panels degrade much slower and offer higher power output than the other tiers after 25 years
- Product sheets with extensive product quality testing and research
- Manufacturers with over 60 years of producing solar panels
- Advanced robotic manufacturing process to avoid human error
- Cannot be found on shelves but can be readily available through suppliers
- Maximum possible product warranty with power generation guarantees
- Maintenance check-ups with after-sales service
- Advanced Inverter systems with user-friendly software for live monitoring
- Ability to add battery storage/capacity to your solar system
- Advanced live energy feed monitoring systems with Tier 3 Inverters such as SMA, Kostal
- Licensed installers with experience in ensuring that installation is approved
After going through the tiers, you will quickly identify the pros and cons for each and better understand what you will be investing in when opting for solar. Here at Solar2Power, we use only tier 1 products, focusing on premium solar solutions, tried and tested solutions. For example, we use a company such as Sharp for our panels, a company that has been manufacturing and improving solar panel technology for over 60 years. You may wonder why we do not use tier 2 or 3 solutions. Well, the truth is, although it would be popular as Tier 2 and 3 make up over 90% of the total solar panels manufactured globally, we prefer to provide our customers with Tier 1 solutions that have been proven to provide value over time and a faster return on investment.
While Tier 1 has a higher upfront investment, the return is faster as the power generated from Tier 1 solutions is much higher than that of Tier 2 and 3. Not only is the return faster, but the panels themselves produce electricity for a significantly longer period. If for instance you have decided to go off-grid as part of your retirement plan and opted for a Tier 1 solution solar panel by Sharp, then you would have peace of mind that your solar panels will still be producing electricity after 25 years with only minimal loss in overall power conversion from the sun. Of course, multiple factors may play a role, such as sandstorms, rainfall, hail, etc. which could cause degradation to the PV cells. However, if you are located in Portugal, Algarve, with over 300 days of sunlight each year you need not worry too much about weather degradation of your panels, as our premium solar solutions are optimal for the climate here in the Algarve.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
There are unfortunately way too many fly-by-knight installers and we often hear about horror stories from people who have had solar installed or have done a DIY project and outsourced someone to do the electric work. These stories include a common issue; the additional electricity produced by the panels feeds back into the grid and the energy company actually charges for it! So if you have not had a correct installation done, not only would you be charged for your regular electricity usage, but all your solar energy that is produced on top of that will be charged as usage. Additionally, you will need to be DGEG registered by a professional electrician for your installation to be certified.
Here at Solar2Power, our clients have shared with us positive feedback about our exceptional services. We urge all those considering solar to do extensive research about the various solar companies doing installations. You can do this by going through their website, reading their Google Reviews, and monitoring their social media activity. This will help you filter out the good from the bad, ensuring that you receive only the absolute best service from your chosen solar installer! A good solar company will provide you with what you actually need according to your energy requirements. It is always good to ask questions and find out what products the company is using and be sure to do research on the products. Always check, because the fly-by-nights will claim they sell Tier 1 products when in actual fact they sell Tier 2 or 3 solar products. At Solar2Power we offer expert solutions and top-tier products with renowned brands such as Sharp, LG, Kostal, SMA, RCT, and BYD. When providing you with a potential solution for your home or business premises, we provide you with all the necessary product sheets. It may be worthwhile to do your own research into the various solar manufacturers to be sure you know exactly what you will be investing in.
DISCLAIMER, THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE FINANCIAL ADVICE. IT IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES AND THEREFORE WRITTEN FROM THE OPINIONS OF THE AUTHOR.