Our Panel Selection Philosophy
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Choosing the right solar panel can be an important and anxiety-inducing step in the solar design process. Luckily, we do the heavy lifting for you, optimizing our equipment list for optimal performance and ROI. There are A LOT of panel options, but here we'll go through why Project Solar offers the solar panels we do.
At Project Solar, our mission is to make solar not only affordable, but the best-performing investment in a household's portfolio.
By cutting out commissioned salespeople (often door knockers) and focusing on efficient and scalable business practices that leverage technology and internet marketing, we are able to drastically reduce the cost of solar--often below commercial rates.
Our customers are seeing ROI ranging from 18-45% (depending on the project and state).
When selecting panels, brand rarely yields a better return. A Rolls Royce could be affordable to some, but that doesn't mean that it's a good investment.
When it comes to equipment, having the "Rolls Royce" of panels won't yield you any greater return or kWh output; you just end up paying more for what should be considered a commodity.
There are 3 primary attributes we look for when selecting panels for our customers.
How We Chose Our Preferred Panels
We set out to find the best panels for ROI. This entails reviewing and balancing three main categories:
- Build Quality and Warranty
- Performance (output)
A panels build quality is our first priority. At Project Solar, we only use Tier 1 panels with 25 year performance warranties and IEC 61215 ratings. "Tier 1" is a rating on the company's ability to honor its 25 year commitment, and the IEC rating is a testing certification showing the panels ability to withstand time and weather conditions.
Performance can be broken down into 2 aspects: output and efficiency. The "output" of the panel is the metric most people are familiar with. For example, a 400W panel is a panel that will produce 400W DC power in favorable conditions. Don't confuse this number with how many kWh this will produce in a day (read more about why here).
Higher wattage is not always better--18 400W panels will produce the same amount of power as 20 360W panels (a total 7.2kW system). Pairing a properly sized panel with the right microinverter is more important than wattage and can save you from potentially wasting a lot of money. Project Solar sources the best microinverters out there, from Enphase, and we can help you decide what's right for your system.
"Efficiency" is the ratio between the surface area of the panel and the output it produces. Most panels range from 18-22%. Occasionally, with higher efficient panels, you can squeeze more panels into a smaller roof space. But the specific dimensions of the panels often create a bigger issues with spacing that outweigh the small difference that a higher-efficiency panel can provide.
Aesthetics are another criteria we factor in. We only use aesthetically pleasing black-on-black panels. This is almost always preferred in residential applications, and we provide them by default. Our black-on-black panels are also monocrystalline, which is a more efficient option than polycrystalline panels, the alternative.
With these requirements in place, we then optimize the panel selection for the best possible investment. To learn more about our pricing model, check out our Solar Pricing with Project Solar blog post.
To maximize your return on investment (ROI), we break down the price of equipment into price per watt (PPW).
PPW is a standardized metric that allows consumers to compare pricing of a system. 10kW of solar produces more than 5kW of solar, and costs more too.
So how do you compare a quote for a 5kW system at $15,000, vs a 10kW system for $20,000? The best way is to convert to price per watt.
As you can see, the larger system in this example has a lower PPW, making it a better deal (assuming the additional generated power is needed).
The same calculation is used to evaluate panels. We maximize our relationships and volume discounts on select panels to optimize for the lowest price per watt.
Due to global supply chain shortages, we've forced to remain fluid with panel options - meaning we reserve the right to decide and switch panels on all projects. We keep a list of our panel options on our equipment specifications page. All panel selections and or changes will be communicated to customers beforehand, and nothing is forced (ie. if a panel change is required and not acceptable to the customer, customer may cancel without penalty).
Any substituted modules will also be Tier 1, black-on-black, and monocrystalline.
We stand behind all our equipment selections, and we double back the manufacturer's warranty for our products.