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 have 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.
Isn’t This Type of Solar Panel ‘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!
What is the difference between the two standard size solar panels?
Residential solar installations across the globe utilize 60 cell solar panels whereas 72 cell panels are more common in large commercial ground mounted systems. We have experience with both panel types and have found that smaller panels are superior for rooftop solar installations in our region for these important reasons:
- Small format, residential solar panels have higher snow load ratings which means that they are better equipped to handle the snowstorms we see in our New England winters. The larger solar panels bend in the middle much more easily under heavy snow loads. While there may not be any immediate visible harm, micro-cracks and damage to the frame can occur over the long term, which reduces the longevity of your system.
- Power density (the amount of power you can pack into a space) is generally higher with standard size solar panels than with the larger commercial solar panels. While the larger ones may have a higher total wattage, the smaller solar panels are typically more efficient and therefore will produce more electricity per square foot on your rooftop.
- Standard size solar panels weigh about 45 pounds each while the larger ones are typically about 12 pounds heavier. The health and safety of our installation team is our priority. With the amount of carrying and lifting needed to install panels on your rooftop, working with a smaller, lighter panel reduces the likelihood of injuries in the field.
The standard size solar panels are the clear winner for our residential systems to stand up to our winters and keep our installers safe, without sacrificing solar production.
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 to Compare Solar Costs
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. Pricing is affected by the site-specific details of your home; such as how many stories tall your home is, how complex the electrical work will be, and other site specifics.
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 the owners of the business.
- While solar panels and inverters are the major ‘big ticket’ items in a solar investment, 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. Cutting corners on things like nuts, bolts, and wire connectors to shave costs leads to long term service issues and ReVision promises to always use the highest quality components.
- We often see exaggerated / optimistic claims in competitor’s proposals regarding electricity production – 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. We perform detailed shading analyses before all of our system designs. Our modeling of system performance and productivity is based on data from the 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 9,000+ 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.
- ReVision Energy’s 275+ co-owners share an interest in the longevity of our business. We know that quality installation practices, legendary customer service, and a long term commitment to our mission of reducing fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions in New England will allow us to provide support to you for the many decades that your solar array will be producing clean, renewable electricity at your home.
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.