All About Solar Panels
With so many solar panels on the market, what’s the best choice for your home? Do you decide based on performance, warranty, or cost? — or all of the above?
The experts at ReVision Energy aim to make the decision easy for you. We carry a range of solar panel options for your home (as well as associated inverter technology) to meet your solar electricity goals.
We’ve been installing solar electric (also, photovoltaic, or PV) arrays in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts since the early 2000s, when solar panel sizes were very modest and systems were only suited for remote locations where grid connections were not possible. Now since solar panels have gotten much more efficient – and dropped in cost by over 75% – you can power your entire home with solar panels.
While solar technology continues to improve by iterations, the core components have not changed much, and, while the finer points are quite detailed, the basic concept is simple. Grid-tied solar arrays need solar panels and one or more inverters.
What Type of Solar Panels Do We Use?
Nearly all solar panels sold in the United States are crystalline silicon modules (cSi), a form of solar panel that consist of rigid silicon wafers (which may be ‘poly’ or ‘mono’ crystalline – referring to the process by which they are manufactured and grade of silicon from which they are cut) housed in a weatherproof enclosure (tempered glass and aluminum). All electronics are soldered to a backing board and have positive and negative electrical outputs that allow the solar panel to be connected to others in a string. This is the same basic design of solar collector that has been used since the 1970s.
We frequently hear about upcoming future generations of PV (everything from thin film to Elon Musk’s solar tiles) however we strongly feel that cSi solar panels remain the right choice for the New England market. Solar modules need to endure decades of abuse from wind, snow, and hail, and we know that cSi solar panels can do that. With over 100,000 solar panels in the field, we can say that roof leaks and module failures are nearly unheard of.
But aren’t these type of solar panels ‘old fashioned’?
Lest you think that a 30+ year old technology is stale and dusty, recall that loudspeaker technology is essentially the same as it’s been since the 1920s!
The advancements in cSi technology have mainly concerned reducing the cost of production of these modules and improvements in performance. For example, in 2009 a typical 3′ x 5′ collector would be rated to produce around 230 watts of electricity. These days, the same footprint may produce more than 300 watts!
Are Solar Panels reliable?
Absolutely! Nearly all reputable manufacturers will offer a 25-year power production warranty (guaranteeing output of 80% over 25 years, though people have found collectors from the 1970s that still produce 100% of their rated power today). The better manufacturers will also offer at least a 10-year aesthetic warranty, which covers defects in the look of the collector that do not affect performance.
Our team that procures modules have over 50 years combined experience in the solar energy industry and scrutinizes manufacturers and their products over a wide range of factors including: performance, build quality of the product, aesthetics, capitalization of the manufacturer (i.e. will they be around 20 years from now to honor a warranty should it be required), product availability, and price.
Know that any proposal received from ReVision Energy includes modules that any employee-owner of our company would be proud to install on their own roof.
Our high-efficiency solar panel option is LG Solar, who offers the best selling LG NeON® 2 solar panel, winner of the 2015 Intersolar AWARD for featuring LG’s Cello Technology that increases its power output and reliability making it one of the most powerful and versatile modules on the market.
We are a LG Pro Platinum dealer, meaning we have improved access and pricing for LG solar panels.
Why high efficiency versus standard efficiency solar panels?
Roofspace is at a premium on every solar panel project – there is only so much physical space to work with!
By designing a solar array with high efficiency solar panels, you will be able to produce more power, per square foot, on your roof than we would if we designed it with a ‘standard efficiency’ module. High efficiency solar panels like the LG NeON® 2 will produce more electricity on the same roof than if we installed the same number of solar panels of standard efficiency.
While standard efficiency and high efficiency solar panels are both extremely reliable and have long-lived warranties, the additional production capacity of high efficiency panels makes them attractive for roofs where we’re trying to maximize the amount of electricity we can produce.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
When hit by solar energy (photons), an electron shakes loose from the doped silicon that makes up a solar panel. Since the electron cannot flow backward across a neutral barrier, it flows through a circuit, creating a current, and therefore, electricity!
What Do Solar Panels Cost?
One of the most common questions we get, and one of the hardest, is — what do solar panels cost?
It’s important not to look at the cost of a solar installation solely at the cost of the solar panels themselves. So much more goes into it – design and engineering on the front-end, permitting/rebates/interconnection paperwork, and a team that is able to efficiently and safely install the solar panels on your roof (or yard) and connect it with a solar inverter which may be in your basement, garage, or even mounted outside.
As such, solar installers generally talk in “Dollars per watt” — which is industry-lingo meaning how many $ does it cost per installed production wattage of a solar array. 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt, each 1 kilowatt of installed solar will produce (roughly) 1,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity at a decent solar site in New England.
So when we talk in “Dollars per watt” we’re trying to do a shorthand at saying how much solar panel production capacity you’ll get at a particular price point. This is all before state and federal incentives come into play, of course.
As you might imagine, there is all sorts of fine print to go with the chart below:
- Due to more intense permitting and local regulations, it generally costs a little bit (~10%) more to install solar in New Hampshire or Massachusetts than in Maine.
- If your location is more than 50 miles from a ReVision Energy office, the travel costs will add up as that amount of distance means we usually need to send a crew to stay overnight in your area.
- Pricing for high efficiency modules like the LG Solar panels mentioned above, will be higher than standard efficiency solar panel pricing.
- Pricing is affected by all sorts of details at your home, such as how many stories tall your home is, how complex the electrical run will be, and other site specifics.
- Chart below last updated 8/24/2019.
These are the average values for all quoted systems at various size ranges ReVision Energy from 2018-2019. This is the same pool of data that feeds our popular solar calculator.
ReVision Energy Solar Panel Costs
Fully installed systems:
- 2-3kw (8-10 panels) – $4.15/watt (Approx 25 year cost of power = 10 cents per kilowatt-hour)
- 4-5kw (12-16 panels) – $3.66/watt (Approx 25 year cost of power = 8 cents per kilowatt-hour)
- 6-8kw (18-26 panels) – $3.32/watt (Approx 25 year cost of power = 7 cents per kilowatt-hour)
- 9kw-12kw (28 – 39 panels) – $3.10/watt (Approx 25 year cost of power = 6 cents per kilowatt-hour)
But I went to XXX Competitor’s site (or got their proposal) and their price is YYY Cheaper!
That could very well be true. ReVision Energy offers the most competitive pricing we can possibly offer while also running a company of the highest caliber. Some things that differentiate us from the competition:
- All people who work on residential solar installations are ReVision Energy employee-owners. This is a profound difference vs. companies which subcontract out labor to other electrical contractors. Our employees care because they love what they do and they are literally business owners.
- We only use the highest quality components — while solar panels and inverters are the major ‘big ticket’ items in a solar purchase, all the other install details (everything from choice of conduit, to type of electrical wire, to roof penetration details) are incredibly important, and our systems typically will include more attention to these details than other’s will.
- We often see exaggerated / optimistic claims in competitor’s proposal – we promise not to do this. We would far prefer to lose an individual job than to make claims that don’t stand up in the real world. Our modeling of system performance and productivity is based on National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) as well as a deep proprietary data set on seasonal solar production and snow load data accrued in our 12+ years of business and 7,000+ installed systems across all of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
- ReVision Energy maintains a 24/7/365 emergency service team, at the ready to support you in the (unlikely!) situation that your solar panels have an issue. While solar panels are an incredibly reliable technology, problems can occur, so having a dedicated service team is very important in order to ensure your investment lives up to expectations.
Get Started with Solar!
If you’d like to learn more about solar panels for your home, use the form below to get an inquiry over to our team. We’d love to help you learn more.