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Solar Panels on a Residential Home

5 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Solar Panel

Published 08-11-2012 by George Zeed

Buying solar panels is a great way to put the sun’s rays to good use. They are more readily available today than ever before with a number of solar energy manufacturers to choose from. Fueling its popularity is the green movement and a challenging economy where homeowners are paying more for everything –from electricity to groceries. If you are finally ready to give solar panels a try and want to move forward, keep reading to find out what five questions to ask yourself before buying a solar panel so you will purchase the right one to meet your solar electricity needs.

How many solar panels do I need? First decide on how you are going to use them. Are you buying solar panels to put on your roof to generate your own electricity so you can use less of it from the power company? Or are you going completely off-grid and using the solar panels for all of your residential power needs? Or do you want to start out by purchasing flexible solar panels to take with you on camping and other recreational trips? Whatever the reason, you will need to do a power audit of all of your electricity needs and be sure to include everything from small gadgets used on a camping trip to larger power needs if you are purchasing panels for home use. Once you have figured out your wattage needed, search the panel products of the online battery retailers’ website you are considering and buy the needed amount. Solar panels come in one to two watts up to 230 watts per screen.

What model type do I need? There are four basic solar panel models available for residential use. There are those made with mono-crystalline solar cells, which currently are the most efficient type of solar panels. When sunlight hits these panels (which have dark blue square-ish looking cells), it turns more of the rays into electricity than the other models. You need fewer of them to buy but they are more expensive than the rest. The second type uses polycrystalline solar cells, which have lower silicon levels than the previous type so it’s slightly less efficient but also less expensive. These panels have a bluish color groovy mélange of silicon that is woven through thin rectangular conduit wires. Third in efficiency are the Cadmium Indium Gallium diSelinide or CIGS thin film panels. These are the lightest most flexible and portable type and are greenish in appearance. The least expensive and least efficient type is a thin film made up of amorphous silicon or copper among other materials. Because of their inefficiency, most homeowners don’t consider this type of solar panel for their roofs as they can be twice as large as the other two to get the same wattage. However they are used often on gadgets such as calculators as the accept a wider light spectrum.

What brand do I want to go with? There are a number of brands to choose from including Alps Solar, BP Solar and Goal Zero and other companies you are more familiar with that have recently joined the solar energy industry. Do your research on each of the brands and see what customers have said about them online and how their products are rated by those who reviewed them. Even better, if you personally know someone who has used a brand they are happy with, get that information too. In addition to customer and product reviews, check out how long the manufacturer has been in business and how established they are.

What accessories will I need? Don’t be caught off-guard by purchasing solar panels but then not ordering the accessories you will need to go with them. Items like mounts, cables and batteries to store the energy generated will be required for some so know what you need ahead of time. Battery online retailers like Impact Battery are one-stop shopping for both panels and accessories. You can not only save money buying on-line but you will usually have a better selection of solar products to choose from.

What is the cost and warranty? Compare prices of each of the manufacturers and make sure you are not paying more than you need to. Ask the dealer if there are any manufacturer promotions/ discounts or volume purchase discounts. You also want to check the warranties of each of the manufacturers you are considering and pick a company that offers one of the longest warranties available. Remember that the warranty should come from the manufacturer and not the dealer.

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