Solar Panels

All About Solar Panels

revision installed REC solar panelsWith 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. 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.

How exactly do solar panels work?

Long story short, a solar panel works by generating electricity when particles of sunlight, or photons, knock electrons free from atoms, setting them in motion. This flow of electrons is electricity, and solar panels are designed to capture this flow, turning it into a usable electric current. This process is called the photovoltaic effect and is the foundational chemical and physical process behind the vast majority of solar technology.

The photovoltaic process works through the following simplified steps:

  1. Sunlight hits the solar cells in the panel, energizing electrons in the cells and setting them in motion.
  2. The electrons flow out from between cell layers, creating an electrical current.
  3. Metal plates and wires capture the flow of electrons and generate solar electricity.

While solar technology continues to improve, 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.

solar panel choices form revisionNearly all solar panels sold in the United States are crystalline silicon modules (cSi), a form of solar panel that consists 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 in our region 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 focused on reducing the cost of module production 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 size panel may produce more than 400 watts!

What is the difference between the two standard size solar panels?

Residential solar installations across the globe utilize 66 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 panel is 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. With REC panels, we have a ProTrust Installer Rating, which gives us one of the strongest equipment warranties in the business – a 25-year product, labor, and performance warranty.

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.

Currently, our most common solar panel choices are Q CELLS and REC. We have developed long-standing, mutually-beneficial relationships with both companies, whose quality products and exceptional customer service make them stand out in the industry.

Q CELLS  High-Efficiency Modules Made in the USA

Q_CELLS_solar_panels-1-600x207.pngOur high-efficiency solar panel option comes from Q CELLS, a German engineered solar technology innovator with assembly plants right here in America. Their high-efficiency DUO BLK ML-G10 module is the first 400W panel offered for residential solar customers, and ReVision is thrilled to bring this module into our lineup.

There are many benefits to using high-efficiency solar panels over standard-efficiency ones. Roof space is at a premium on every solar project–there is only so much physical space we can work with! A solar array with high-efficiency panels allows us to set up a system that will generate more power per square foot than a system using standard-efficiency panels. A high-efficiency module like the Q CELLS DUO BLK will produce more electricity than a standard panel on the same roof. Furthermore, a high-efficiency panel has the same reliability, durability, and long-lived warranty as its standard-efficiency counterpart, and are our go-to when trying to maximize the electricity we can generate on a roof that may have limited exposure or other shortcomings.

Q CELLS is an award-winning solar manufacturer with record-breaking design and engineering teams that are constantly developing new, high-efficiency solar tech. With R&D locations across the globe, they are committed to making cutting edge solar energy options affordable and sustainable to homeowners and businesses in the USA. Q CELLS’s module assembly plant, located in Dalton, Georgia, is the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and marks the significant growth of the US solar industry and our collective transition to clean, solar energy.

REC – Household Name for Top-Notch Solar Panels

REC-certified-solar-professionals.pngREC Group offers a variety of solar panels, each as powerful and durable as they are sleek and stylish.  A long-time forerunner in the solar energy industry, REC combines rigorous testing and advanced technology to produce a line of high-quality residential solar panels that we’ve come to love. Plus, thanks to our ProTrust Installer rating, every REC solar panel we install comes with their 25-year ProTrust Warranty.

REC’s resilient solar panels are the perfect option for homes in New England, where harsh weather and frequent outages plague us all winter long. They are tested specifically for strong wind, snow, hail, and other unpredictable variables, and are leaders in avoiding power outages, making them our best option for households in the Northeast. We’ve partnered with REC to purchase a large volume of their solar panels for our commercial solar projects. Because of this, we have secured significant volume discount pricing which we can extend to our residential customers.

REC is a vertically integrated manufacturer, meaning they are less vulnerable to supply chain disruption than some manufacturers. This also means they have excellent quality control and consistency. We’re grateful that, like us, REC is committed to solving environmental problems by making home solar products more sustainable and more cost efficient than ever.

Committed to Great Options at Great Prices

Our relationships with REC and Q CELLS, two innovative companies committed to quality and performance, enable us to offer our customers the best prices, regardless of which solar panels you end up getting. In our journey as a B-Corp, we’ve learned that doing the right thing for people and the planet often ends up being a good financial decision, too. Taking the time to foster supportive, mutually beneficial partnerships with our solar panel providers means more opportunity for us, and lower prices for you.

One of the most common (and most challenging) questions we get is — what do solar panels cost? To answer this, it’s important not to look at the cost of a solar installation solely at the cost of the solar panels themselves.

revision installed solar roof.jpegSo much more goes into it – design and engineering on the front-end,  permitting/rebates and 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 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. Our systems typically include more attention to these details than other’s. 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  system performance modeling 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 20+ years of business and 10,000+ 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 350+ co-owners share an interest in the longevity of our business. Quality installation practices, legendary customer service, and a long term commitment to our mission of reducing fossil fuel usage 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.

If you'd like to learn more about solar panels for your home, hit the get started button below to get in touch with our team of Solar Advisors. We'd love to help you learn more.