The Top 10 Things To Check On Every Solar Panel Specification

There are a bewildering array of solar panel brands out there. How do you sort the wheat from the solar chaff?

My advice is go thru the spec sheet for each panel and judge them on the following criteria.

If you haven’t got a spec sheet, then get another quote!

If the spec sheet combined with the quote doesn’t have the answers, call up the solar supplier and ask. If they don’t know the answers, that’s a bad sign.

The Top 10 Criteria

1. Warranty.

It seems that all panels claim to have a minimum 25 year Power Output Warranty. I’ve covered how to go thru the solar panel warranty with a fine tooth comb here. But the main criteria is to check that the Warranty is backed by an Australian Entity that has to comply with Australian Consumer Protection Laws, and that it is an “on site replacement” warranty. You really don’t want to be removing the panel from your roof and going down the post office to send it back to China! Plus the last time I checked, Chinese consumer protection laws weren’t that hot. (Note: There are some excellent solar panels, made in China, these days and also some shocking ones – the best way to know if the supplier believes in their quality is to see what responsibility they take for the warranty they offer on them)

2. Cost

Typical prices for solar power systems of different kW sizes are shown here. If the cost of your quotes solar system is substantially less, then make sure you are getting a bargain, not a liability by reading this post.

If the price is much more expensive than those show, then either you have a particularly difficult install, or you are paying too much. Get multiple quotes to check which is the case.

3. Manufacturer

Do a quick Google of the manufacturer – What’s their website like? Is there a “warranty” section? Is there an Australian office? How long have they been around? Has anyone had any bad experiences with them on the forums?

4. Panel Type

Is it a mono crystalline, multi crystalline or thin film solar panel, or some wacky new technology? The types of solar panels and their pros and cons are discussed here. Make sure you are happy with the technology that you choose.

5. Solar Panel Efficiency

Unless you have a huge roof, you probably want an efficiency of at least 12%. Otherwise if you ever want to upgrade in the future, you’ll probably struggle to find any roof space left over. However don’t fall into the trap of believing that efficiency is the be all and end all of solar panel quality. You can get great quality panels at the lower end of the efficiency scale. There’s an in depth discussion on solar panel efficiency, when it matters and when it doesn’t here.

6. Power Tolerance

This is the amount that the actual power output of your solar panel can vary from the output specified by the supplier. For example a 165W module with a tolerance of +/- 5% could actually produce from 156.75W up to 173.25W.

So be aware of this number, as it will directly affect the amount of power you can get.

Some manufacturers have a “positive only” power tolerance, which means you are guaranteed to get at least the specified output from the panel and usually more. For example: a 200W solar panel with a tolerance of +5%/-0% will produce a minimum of 200W and a maximum of 210W.

7. Framing Quality

The aluminum frame which goes around the solar panel is a good indicator of the overall quality of the solar panel’s manufacture.

Look at the corners. Are they tidy joins? Are they anodized after the cut, or before. Anodizing after the cut is more time consuming, but means that the 45 degree edge is anodized too, helping protect from corrosion. Are the panels glued (bad), screwed or welded at the corners.

If looks are important to you – then you may want to look for a black anodized frame – they look damn sexy when mounted in a solar array on a roof.

8. The Backsheet.

All solar panels have a plastic backsheet glued on the the back of the panel to protect the solar cells. A flimsy backsheet with any air bubbles or signs of coming unstuck is a sign of a crappy panel.

9. Bypass Diodes

If your panel is mono or multi crystalline then these are a must. They are diodes that cost a few cents each and are put across neighboring of cells inside the solar panel. If you don’t have bypass diodes then a small shadow on a tiny part of your solar panel can stop the entire panel from making electricity.

10. Temperature coefficient.

This is especially important in sunny Australia!

The temperature coefficient is a number that describes how well the panel handles hot temperatures – where hot is defined as greater that 25 degrees Celsius.

The units of this number are “% per degC”

The lower this number, the better.

The higher this number, the more your power will degrade on hot days, when the sun is at full force! And you though that the more sun you had on your roof the more power you would get. Not if this number is too high…

A high temperature coefficient is a sign of a crappy panel. A reasonable number is about 0.5%. If you can get this down to 0.3% that is the sign of an excellent panel. Over 0.7% is a warning sign.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. ROBERT BUTLER says:

    could you please tell me if thease panels are ok SOPRAY
    open current 44.4v temp noct 45 +
    optimum v 37v – 2deg c
    temp p max -o 48% c
    temp voc – o34% c
    temp isc – oo17 % c
    short circuit 5.92
    optimum current 5A
    max power 185wp
    operating temp -40deg c to 85c
    max volt 1000 v dc
    fuse 15 A
    power tol + 3%
    -

  2. Alison Turner says:

    Hi

    Have you ever heard of 240Watt Sunlink SL220-20M solar PV panels – a chinese brand which are said to be ok? Wondering you thoughts.

  3. Hi there
    Coould you please rate the Q.Cells panels and Solon panels( both German I believe)
    Many thanks!

  4. hi can u tell me if the 205w trina is a good one or is the sunny roo (srp) 250w a better buy. I have signed up for the sunny roo and asked all the things you have said to and it seemed ok, they have now rang me (green engineering) and said they cant get the sunny roo for about 4 to 6 months but they can offer me the trina at the same price and be at my place in 3 days time, when i asked what model he said he didnt know but it was the 205w one and for me to look it up, he said they r about the same and if i want i can wait the 4 months or get the trina now. Is it just as good or should i wait? I know trina is a good brand and it costs more than the sunny roo (they wont be charging me more, they have offered it at the same price as the sunny roo) but is the 205w one ok? what is the differece between them? and should i take the trina or wait for sunny roo. my place is a normal job on a tiled roof north west facing.

    • Trina panels are excellent, they consistently perform well in tests and are a very strong brand. If you can get Trina Solar Panels at the same price as the Sunny Roo I’d go for the Trina.

  5. julie hancocks says:

    could you please tell me if the conergy P 170-190m power plus solar panels are a good make and the companysolar harness
    thankyou

    • Conergy are excellent panels, but the only caution I would have is that there have been various reports around questioning the financial stability of the company, so make sure your warranty will still be covered if Conergy are not around to cover it!

  6. Kym Holness says:

    Well done… I will recommend your site. We are about to purchase a system for home and I am confident you have armed me with all I’ll need to get the right system for the funds we have. I’ll be sure to seek your guidance should I get stumped by eager suppliers.. Not likely.. Now!
    Cheers and thanks.

  7. Confused about Solar says:

    Are Lightway panels and lightway solar the same comany?
    Are Lightway 235kw(21 panels) with a Delta Solivia 5kw inverter a good buy for 4.935kw priced at $13020.00?

    • No – I think the solar installers “Lightway Solar” are different to the Lightway that distribute light way solar panels.

      From what I’ve heard lightway panels are pretty good. As with all panels make sure you get a 10 year manufacturers defects warranty (more important than the 25 year power output warranty), and that they are from an Australian based wholesaler and you should be covered if anything goes wrong in the next 10 years!

      Delta inverters are good, they are not the most efficient (you can find inverters 1 or 2% more efficient) but the Deltas do have a reputation for reliability which I would argue is the most important trait of an inverter as even a top of the range inverter is the most likely component to fail in a solar system.

  8. Hi, I am looking to install solar. Can you advise on which panel is the best in terms of efficiency and warranty. I have had quotes for Suntech, ET and CSUN. I am looking for a 3.5 Kw system (250kw x 14 panels) – I am limited by roof space. Also would you consider an Aurora 5Kw or SMA 5 Kw inverter and is there any difference in the cost? Thanks

    • Those 3 panel manufacturers all get about 15.4% module efficiency from their 250W solar panels. Suntech are the longest standing brand out of the 3 – so it could be argued that they are the lower risk option. But you’ll probably pay a bit more for them. If you search for the brands on my solar panel comparison tool you’ll see that they all get about 90% performance ratios (independently tested). Which means you can expect to get 90% of the specified power out of them when they are on your roof. So basically there is very little in it apart from the “brand reputation” of Suntech. All 3 panels get a 10 year manufacturers warranty (most important) and 25 year performance warranty, just make sure the ones you buy are backed by an Australian wholesaler/distributor.

      IN terms of Aurora/SMA. SMA would be my choice if pushed – although they are both good, longstanding brands. Expect to pay about $500 more for the SMA 5kW Inverter over the Aurora.

  9. Thanks for your advice. Yes SunTech are $1000 more expensive for the same size system. It hardly seems worth it if the performance ratio is similar. I have heard also that the poly panels may perform better a predominantly warm climate than the mono panels – is that correct? Are there any panels which stand out from the others in terms of performance, price, warranty etc? Thanks

  10. Can you advise on the company Solar Essence – they were recommended by another on line site. They are coming to quote next week.

  11. Hi, still wading through the solar mire. What are your thoughts about Sunpower panels?
    I am from Queensland and am told that the poly panels work best in the extreme heat. Is that correct?
    I am still leaning towards Suntech because they have been around for a long time, but Sunpower look more efficient so would appreciate your take on them. Thanks

  12. Carolyn says:

    Hi, we are trying to decide between various solar quotes at present. What is your recommendation between a 5Kw Samil Inverter vs the Aurora 5KW PVI-5000-OUTD

    We are also trying to decide between CSUN panels and the new Trinar Solar Honey TSM-250PC05A panels?

    Thanks

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Price being equal, I’d choose Aurora and Trina.

      Aurora because they have been in the game longer than Samil and therefore have a longer history to judge their reliability by. They are very reliable inverters. Samil are good : http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/samil-inverter-review-german-magazine-gives-top-marks/ – and have great backup in Australia if anything goes wrong – but if you forced me to choose, I’d go Aurora.

      CSun are pretty good these days – but I’ve more experience of Trina, and I like their panels – so I’d personally plump for Trina if forced to choose.

  13. Do you know anything about Green Engineering? They are almost half the price of Sky Power for a bigger unit – German Polycrystalline model and offering 25 years guarantee on panels & 10 years on inverter.
    Also the guy from Jim’s Solar did not turn up for appointment & no email received after visit from Skypower – very disappointing.

  14. Yannick says:

    Hi Finn,
    We are interested in solar panels to install on our roof then a company came in and told us that we can install solar panels without replacing our meter box (it’s an analog one! 3 phases) we are living in WA and looking for a 3 KW inverter DELTA 2.5 or EFFEKTA with TRINA solar or SUNTECH solar panel.
    My question is will this work ?And are we in the obligation to change our meter box or not ?
    Which inverter do you think will be the better one ?
    Thank you very much
    Yannick

    • As far as I am aware – if you get solar and don’t upgrade to a new meter you are in breach of your agreement with the energy retailer (and possibly the law?). Who told you this was OK?

  15. David Milne says:

    I have a quote from TVS for a2 kw system using Sunowe panels. Cost $4450 for 11 panels . Is this a fair deal or not..David M ilne.

  16. steve williams says:

    Hi Finn Just wondering whether you have an opinion on SUNTECH PV PANELS 190 WATT MONO- CRYSTALLINE. 10 YEAR FACTORY WARRANTY and also SMA 5000 INVERTER 5 YEAR FACTORY WARRANTY. Are the warranty times long enough. Is a two year workmanship warranty acceptable.

    • SMA will give you a 10 year warranty for a few dollars extra. Suntech and SMA are a great combination. 10 years defects warranty on the panels is standard now (and is a lot more important than the 25 year “performance” warranty everyone quotes

  17. Chris Reeves says:

    Hi Finn just wondering what your thoughts were on Eurosolar, and the Amerisolar 250W panels that they use ..just got a quote for a 5kw Delta inverter and 16 250w panels on a 2 story house with a flat tin roof for $8990…that also includes supply and install of a meter box and stands for panels to…Is this a good price???

  18. Ian Lines says:

    Hi Finn. What are (Hanwha Solarone 185/190 Watt) pannels like re preformance to oyhers,
    Hope to hear back soon Cheers Ian.

  19. Carolyn says:

    Hi, we have just a had 22 Lightway panels and a Macsolar 5kw Inverter delivered today (30/6/12), to be installed on Monday. Our order was meant to include a Delta inverter not Macsolar. Should we persist with them to get a Delta. From what I’ve read Delta are very good. I can’t find much info on Macsolar. Don’t know why the change. have not been able to contact the business we are dealing with.
    Thank you,
    Carolyn

    • I’m not familiar with those inverters – sorry! I did a quick search of the industry test results that I have and couldn’t find Macsolar in there. I’d personally demand a Delta unless they can prove the Macsolars are as good.

  20. Geoff Martin says:

    Hi Finn,
    After your push to the 3x Companies for a quote (from your recommendation in south australia) to break their silence and get in touch with me for a quote after a week of silence I finally received one!…”Solar 2000″ who emailed a Quote after they spoke to me on the phone. The quote had very little information attached (especially strange when you consider I had some curly questions he could not answe over the phoner and was going to get one of his staff members to ring me back with some answers before a quote could be created. However, put all that a side…. do you think the price of $11600.00 for : 20x Suntech Panels (250 watts per panel = 5KW), 1x SMA SB5000TL Inverter,Panel Manufacturer Warranty 10 years,Of course 25 years performance and only 5 years Manufacturers Warranty on the SMA Inverter is a good price? There was No information about Meter installation costs or by whom or who’s responsibility, Isolation Circuit breaker or the option possibilities I discussed on the phone regarding location issues…..etc,etc. So therefore, before I respond to this” emailed quote” I thought I would email you and hopefully receive some advice Finn.
    Kind Regards
    Geoff Martin

  21. Hi Finn

    Had a price from True Value Solar for 8 Sunowe or Renesola panels with a 3kw Growatt Invertor installed with tilt brackets on single story for $2313 is this a good price?

  22. Hi finn,

    Got a price of Blueline xt panels / 195w, Blueline MI inverter 4KW and 18 panels at
    $16,000 is that good or too dear.
    And looking at Sunny boy 4000TL (SMA inverters) and CSUN250 -60M panels x16 panels
    got no price yet. Which do you prefer? thanks

  23. Hi again,
    Is CSUN250 the same manufacture as Suntech

  24. Hi Finn,
    Thank you for your feedback, I did what you said and got a few more quotes and went with 5kw SMA
    inverter with 20 x CSUN panels for $12,000. with a little bit a haggling

    I also received a quote for 3kw cleanergy inverter and 12 X VSS 250 panels for $12,200
    which i knew it was very expensive
    Once again thank you for your help

  25. i am looking at using 250w Aide Solar panels in my 5kw system, can you tell me if they are ok. They meet all your quality/perormane recommendations but I dont no much about the company or how popular the panels are. They sell a lot in USA and Europe.

  26. Hi Finn,
    I am looking into solar, 5Kw is what i will probably need, i have had a few quotes all of which seam to have good panels according to all the good info you supply, there is one qoute i have had that is quide different, they claim to have the latest and greates tech the will do all the ground work installing, doing paperwork and organising inspections, all i have to do is make a deal with the supplier company. They are Blue line, sold in Vic by United, they supply a German manafactured panel and an Israle inverter, there seam to be lots of bells and whistles and garantee 19Kwh per day over 30 days on a 5kw unit with 25 panels, do you think this would be worth paying $20K for over other competitors whose equipment may or may not be quite as good. Thanks.

    • Hi Peter,

      Seems very expensive. Even if the hardware is out-of-this world performance wise – you are unlikely to get more than 10% extra power compared to “regular” PV.

      A good 5kW system will average 18kWh per day in Melbourne. These guys promise 20kWh. So over 1 year (if they are right) you will get an extra 730kWh of electricity.

      At 25c per kWh that is $182 per year extra revenue.

      If you are paying $8k more for your system, the simple payback is 44 years for the extra dosh.

      Doesn’t sound like a very good deal to me.

  27. Hi Finn,

    We are looking at getting a 5KW inverter (SMA) with phono panels (mono). We are looking at $13K fully installed. Are the phono panels ok? We also looked at Trina ones (poly) but had it implied (but not stated so not sure how true it is) that they might be liquidating and there might be risk re: warranties etc.?

    • Hi Kirsty, impossible to comment on panels without knowing the brand. One piece of advice that I would give is don’t give your business to the salesperson who lied about Trina. Trina are great panels and a strong company. Almost all solar panel companies are losing money at the moment, so his comments are ridiculous.

  28. Hi Finn,

    I have currently signed for a 5kw system through Tru value. Their service has been excellent to date. I am wondering if you can give me some info on the panels they will be installing? 200kw Rene panels. 26 of them. I have also got the SMA inverter to go with the system. Total cost was $11,700. Any info appreciated

    • Hi Adrian,

      I don’t have any experience of Renesolar panels – but I think they’re OK from what I’ve heard. SMA are obviously very good inverters.

      I’m not a huge fan of True Value Solar because of their practice of advertising huge inverters with a small amount of panels. I think that’s unethical (and so did the ACCC!).

      And I’ve had a lot of calls from confused pensioners, who have fallen for it. That makes me sad and angry.

      I assume you are getting 5kW of panels with your system? Just asking!

      Also be sure that you don’t have to pay $200 every 2 years for a ‘service call’ to keep your warranty valid!

      Cheers,

      Finn

  29. Gary Pelham says:

    Hi Finn,great info on here just wondering on your thoughts about a 5kw system 20 xCSun 250 w poly panels and a Samil inverter,split over a n and nw facing roof space for around $6000 in Adelaide

  30. Been having huge problems with my solar system. Had a 5kw Effekta inverter which has never worked from day one, has taken me ages to get them to change it. They finally took it away over 2 weeks ago and after constant phone calls, text, emails etc ,today, they offered me a Delta in its place as they said they cannot get me another Effekta. what are your thoughts on this? thanks

  31. Kathy Austin says:

    Hi Finn,
    I have had 4 quotes for a 2kw solar system but can’t decide which quote to go for, wondering what you thought.
    1 – Canadian Solar panels and Delta soliva inverter
    2 – Trina panels and SMA inverter
    3 – BP Sunoasis panels and SAmil inverter
    4 – LDK panels and Omnik inverter

    I would appreciate your advice. Thanks

  32. Hi Finn,

    I have received a quote from EuroSolar for 12 x 250W Amerisolar Panels with a 3kW Delta Inverter for $4,600.
    Would you recommend that?

    Or a quote from Infinite Energy offer 12 x 250W REC Solar Panels with a 3.0kW Aurora inverter for 5,700?

    The prices seems like quite different for very similar systems and I would appreciate your opinion!

  33. I have a quote for a 5kw system with SMA 5000TL-20 with 20 x Suntech STP250S for 10,990 for a 2 story house and tilt frames required. Is this reasonable? Also another party told me that Suntech were in receivership and that American and Danish panel provide a better efficiency – from my research I could not see this and thought the Suntech efficiency was quite good.

  34. Hi Finn,

    I have a quote for $5,350 for the following:
    12 x 250W (3KW) Musterland panels and 1 x 5KW SMA Sunny Boy 5000TL inverter.
    Does this sound like a good combination?
    Do you know much about the Musterland product?
    Does the price seem reasonable?

  35. Hi Finn, we are looking to put on a 5kw system and have had quotes from 2 companies. The first one uses Conergy panels for $11500. The second uses either Sunowe or ReneSola panels for $7700. Do you have any advice on which one to go with? Appreciate any advice

  36. Glanys Schubert says:

    Hi Finn, We are looking at Suntech Monocrystalline and Renesolar Polycrystaliline. Can you tell me what the difference is between the mone and poly is? Regards Glanys

  37. Hi Finn,

    I got quote with solar consultants with STS(Five star Energy) solar panels with AURORA or SMA inverter?
    Now, The company is silver rated on your site but I can not find any reviews for solar panels? Can you put some lights on it?

    Thanks,
    Pritesh

  38. Christian Komzak says:

    Hi Finn, I have received a quote from ’1800 Tas Solar’ and all relevant information on 26 X Sunways 235W panels creating a system size of 6.11Kw, matched to an Aurora PVi 6000 inverter. The price comes to $11900.00. (This is my preferred option.) Is this a reasonable price? And can you please give me your opinion on the German made Sunways panels? Would you choose Sunways over Chinese made Trina panels? The quote for the same inverter matched to Trina panels creating a 6Kw system was $1000 less, so we thought it preferable to pay the extra for German made as opposed to Chinese made.
    Alternatively I have also received a quote from ‘True Value’ for 30 X 200W ReneSola PV panels, 2 X 3Kw Growett inverters (they can’t currently supply the 6Kw Growett inverter) installed for $11200.00.
    And finally a quote from ‘i want energy’ for 24 X 240W Rec panels creating a total of 5.76 Kw matched to a 6Kw Aurora inverter for $11000.00.
    Your feedback would be much appreciated.

    • I think the price for Sunways and Aurora is very reasonable for good quality equipment. Sunways are excellent, but I’d personally be happy with Trina too. That is a much better deal than the True Value Solar one in my humble opinion. I think TVS also charge a few hundred a year for “maintenance” if you want to keep your installation warranty? Watch out for that trick!

  39. Hi Finn,

    I got a quote from Solar consultants with STS solar panels and SMA or Aurora inverter. I can not find any review for STS solar panel on your website.

    I know about solar consultants is rated silver star on your website but If you can give me some information about STS solar panels ,I really appericiate any advice from you.

    Regards,
    Prit

  40. Stu Winkler says:

    Got a quote for 16 x 250kw Trina Honey panels with a delta inverter for just under 7k is this a good deal?

  41. I have been quoted for LG Mono X panels (LG250S1C-G3) – Are these a reliable solar brand and panel ?
    I intend to use with a SMA SB5000TL-21 inverter. Will this be a good pairing ?

    Kind regards
    Merv

  42. Location: Brisbane

    We are have narrowed our Inverters down to either the SMA 5000TL or the Power-One Aurora PVI5000 but leaning towards the SMA as they are very similar in price and from reviews rated number 1.

    Panels are a different story. I have been advised by a few people about the Trina (Honey) TSM-250 panels are great but the CSUN and Stella Bosch are also an option. I have read that the Trina panels are good but can you tell me what the other panels are like in comparison. I am unable to find much information about them other from the manufacturer.

    I can get a 5kW system using the SMA inverter and CSUN or Stella Bosch panels for around the $8000.
    I think using Trina will be a little more expensive. Not sure how much though…

    Do you think its worthwhile getting the Trina panels?

  43. Hi Finn – I just got a quote from AGL for 6 EKO Energy Saver 1500 with EKO Energy 1500S Inverter. Have you had any experience with EKO? Total cost is $3220.00 is that a good deal. Blueline quoted me $8000.00 for a similar system but they advised their quality was much better than competitors. Thanks

    • The $8,000 quote is ridiculous for a 1.5kW system.

      The EKO stuff is re-branded, budget Chinese stuff. It is OK and should do the job with an average power output. AGL should be able to support you with warranties in the future as they are a obviously huge company. Just don’t ask them about their coal seam gas activities if you have an environmental disposition…

      $3,000 is about the right price for a good 1.5kW system. You can probably get good branded Chinese panels (Trina, CSun, Canadian Solar) and a good Chinese inverter (Growatt or Samil) for that price if you shop around.

  44. Hi there.

    I live in Perth and just over the weekend got a quote for a 2kw system (with inverter upgradable to 3kw). The company that I am dealing with is Solar Harness and the price is $10,300 (before rebate). The panels were supposed to be Bosch 250w but I have read an announcement last week that Bosch will be stopping production and support for all Bosch Solar energy. I have been offered Connergy 250w panels instead with an Aurora inverter. Can you please advise me if the price quoted is excessive and is it possible to get better deals with good panels made in China?
    Should I stay with Solar Harness instead? I am into the 3rd day of the 10 day cooling period. Any advice will be great.

    • Solar Harness are great guys that will do a very good installation. Those are excellent and expensive German panels – hence the price.

      Yes – systems with Chinese panels will be cheaper – probably about $2k cheaper.

  45. Hi how u going.got a quote on a 4kw solar system from Bio solar for 11495.it has csun250-60mm panels with Aurora inverter.have u heard of this company and am i getting a good price for this system.Love to hear back from u with your coments

    • Hi Brian, I am not sure where you are located. I am in Brisbane and getting a 5kW system with CSUN panels and SMA inverter for about $8000

  46. Hi Finn, your information is most helpful, thanks. We are a business with an almost flat roof (10 degree pitch) and are buying a 25kw system. Quotes are for Renesolar 250w with Fronious Inverter for $45k, or a Linuo 240 (30) 250w with Rewatt inverters for $29k. Massive difference, both fairly new companies in Australia – up to 4 years. The linuo guys are including brackets for better pitch. Astounded by the price difference but research shows both fairly good brands. Your thoughts?

    • HI Deb,

      I’m not familiar with Rewatt Inverters or Linuo panels – which probably means they are lower Tier brands – which IMHO makes them a bigger risk for such a large system.

      I’d also say that brackets for better pitch may be a waste of time and money. The difference between 10 degrees and the ideal pitch (your latitude) is likely to be about 5%. How much extra are you paying for the extra 5% power? If you work out the simple payback it may be a looooong time.

      Renesola’s new panels are getting good write ups at the moment (make sure you get the Virtus II or higher panels) and Fronious are a good brand for larger systems. That would be my choice for hardware unless someone can provide good third party tests of the other gear.

      But the installation is going to be absolutely critical on this job. I can’t see how you can do it at the lower cost and pay for the professional engineering involved and use top quality Balance of System materials.

      Also get a written estimate of the financial benefits as part of the contract – make sure your utility won’t change your tariff to a punitive one that kills any financial benefit stone dead. It can happen, you just need to find out before the install! If they can’t provide this assurance, find an installer that can.

  47. Hi Deb

    Where are you based?

  48. Hi Finn

    We are looking into Solar installation for 3KW system and narrowed it down to two options:

    1. Australian Solar Panels Black Range (ASP) panels and Delta Inverter
    2. Schott Panels and Sungrow or Aurora inverter

    and difference between price is only $350 so immaterial in grand scheme.

    What do you or others recommend?

    Thanks
    Sonia

    • I’ve never seen an “Australian Solar Panel” in the flesh, so I can’t comment on their quality. But I consider the name deceptive because to me they imply they are made in Australia, when they are made in China. So I personally avoid them for that reason. Delta inverters are fine.

      Schott panels are fantastic. They don’t make the crystalline ones any more – but the company still exists, so warranties should be ok (check they are an official import to be sure). And Schotts are so good – you are highly unlikely to claim on the warranty. Aurora inverters are great.

      • Finn what about Sungrow inverters?
        Vendor is now saying they don’t have Aurora in stock and have ordered shipment of Sungrow and said they are equally good.

        Any suggestions?

        Thanks,
        Sonia

  49. I am looking at a 3KW system. Inverter to be supplied is Delta 3.3 Which I am happy with. Panels are zeus appollo mono. 12 x 250w The data specifications look good but I can not find out much about them. Do you know the brand?

    dj

  50. Tony smith says:

    Hi, I’m looking at a 5 kw system, using a fronius ig 60 inverter with ten yrs warranty, and 21 sma panels. Price $ 8300.
    Thanks

  51. hi was wondering if $5700 is a good price for 8 250 watt conergy power plus panels and a 3kw macsolar inverter its from solar harness

    • That sounds not so good codey I just got 12 lightway panels 250 watt and sma invertor for 4900 from aus 1 solar

    • Not sure where u r but in Sydney I recently paid $4400 for 12 trina 250w honey panels + 3kw aurora inverter.

  52. south west of W.A they reckon the panels are better in low light and high temp than most others

  53. i signed up for 10 + inverter installed at $6700 he said conergy had cashback offer and full price it was $12000 worth

  54. Hi Finn,
    Just wondering would 200Wx20 panels (9 facing North, 11 facing East)Trina Honey panels work efficently with 4kw SMA inverter? I don’t have much roof space North facing and was told this system would work better with the smaller panels than if I was to get 250Wx16 panels (5 facing North and 11 facing East) Trina Honey panels with the SMA inverter because it measures a little too tight.

    • Hi Sandro,

      That is why we have CEC accredited designers! It’s all about the voltage/current going into the inverter. Ask them to show you the design documents that prove their claims. There is a simple piece of SMA design software they can use that will tell you which combination of panels and SMA inverter will work and which ones won’t.

  55. Fin – What would be the better panel to use. REC or Trina? (250w Panels)

    • Both really good – last time I checked Trina had a slightly better temperature coefficient so it it is hot where you live – probably Trina. But it is very marginal. I’d be happy with either.

  56. Julie Mason says:

    Hi – Location Mount Gambier South Australia
    Received a quote from Clean Energy Systems for a 3.22Kw system 14 panels (230w) GermanSolar Premium Line and a 3.6Kw Aurora interver for $14,275.
    I am waiting for a quote from Combined Solar for a similar size system they use Blueline XT Panels (195w) and Blueline MI Inveters.
    Any information or suggestions on these would be greatly appreciated.

  57. Inggrid Heffernan says:

    Hi Finn
    How do you rate Jingko panels compared to Q-cells?
    Ingrid

  58. Hi Finn – Adelaide SA Have been quoted $7000 for a 5kw system with Samil Inverter and Csun 250w panels. Are they good products and have you heard of Energy Australia.
    thanks Natarsha

    • Samil are good budget inverters. But get a 10 year inverter warranty if possible as no matter what inverter you get – it is the most likely component to fail. CSun are a Tier 1 Chinese producer and make good quality panels at a very good price. I’d be happy with that system. If it were a car it would be a Hyundai (good value and reliable, decent performance).

  59. Thanks Finn, Also had another quote for 4.23kw Trina 235w panels and Fronius IG40 Inverter with 10 year warranty. This was quoted at the same price ($7000) as the 5kw Csun Panels 250w and Samil Inverter. What would be your suggestion and choice. Thanks very much for your help Natarsha Adelaide SA

    • I’d go Trina and Fronius!

      • Natarsha Cooke says:

        HI Finn, will the 4.23kw system with 235w panels (Trina) be large enough for an average bill of 28kwh daily use in summer and 16kwh in winter. Compared to the 5kw system. Your advice has been invaluable. Natarsha Adelaide SA

        • You get about 4kWh per kW installed in Radelaide averaged over a year. So 20-24kWh per day in summer, 12-17kWh per day in winter. So if you get the current FiT of 26c per kWh (i.e. buy before 30 Sept 2013) then the 5 kW system should wipe out most of your bill in the first 3 years. After that the FiT ends so your bill reduction will reduce for these reasons: http://www.solarquotes.com.au/do-i-get-paid-for-my-solar-energy.html

          • Julie Mason says:

            Thank you for your reply..We are also dealing with Solar Sunwerx but a different salesman who only offered Jinko panels with either APS micro inverters or Samil, 4KM system for $6902. I might have to make some more inquiries.

  60. Finn, we’re looking at a 5kw system in Brisbane. Choice b/w Rensola Virtus II 250 watts panels with a Fronius inverter (10 yr warranty) for $10,300, via Mark Group, or REC Panels with SMA Inverter $9000 approx. via RJ Solar of Brisbane. I am leaning towards REC/SMA for history/reputation, but an unsure of the performance of Renesola/Fronius. Any thoughts?

  61. MiketheBike says:

    MiketheBike

    Wow there is a lot of stuff here and really good info. I’ve been reading for days. Hope you can help.

    We are considering a 3KW solar unit in Melbourne. I have multiple quotes:
    250w Trina Honey Panels/Aurora inverter $4,900 Solar Power Group
    250w Seraphim panels/SMA Inverter $4,500 True Value
    290w LG Panels/Aurora Inverter $5,800 Glen Clark
    300w Seraphim with micro inverters $ 6,600 Metro Solar (your quote)

    Questions – is it worth paying this much premium for micro-inverters (this seems better technology but still relatively new in oz) and will I get a decent install if I use True Value? I appreciate all the gear here seems good quality from what I have read.

    • I like micro inverters:

      http://www.solarquotes.com.au/inverters/micro/

      As long as they are good quality ones – I have solar bridge micros on my roof.

      Whether they are worth paying more for – the jury is out – expect about 7% more power – and much better monitoring so you know immediately if there is a fault or they need cleaning.

      I’ve never been a huge fan of True Value Solar. They used to be awful – they seem better these days – but I personally would not use them based on their history.

      Glen Clark is a great installer.

  62. Hi Finn,
    Your input is invaluable, thanks for taking time in answering our queries.
    Can you tell me anything about Energy SA in Adelaide? Quote for LG Mono X with Aurora inverter. How good are LG panels?

  63. Hey there finn,
    Have had several quotes on a solar system to be installed, one that is come in reasonable and would like your thoughts is from a local installer.
    Am to have a 8Kw system installed, using 2 inverters, both Sunnyboys and 32/250w lightway Solar panels. One 5Kw on House and the other 3Kw on shed.
    Have been quoted just over 16k for this, minus stc, will do for just ove 10k
    Would like to know ur thoughtd on equipment used and if in a good price range.
    Thanx

  64. Hmmm….. lots to consider. I had a quote from Blueline today and was pretty impressed but based on what I’ve read above maybe I need to look around.

    Quote was for Blueline XT panels / 2.5 kw system so 8 panels 250 watts plus PVI-3.6-OUTD inverter, installation, council negotiation, training, etc. $10, 770 fully installed with a choice of 3 payment options. Is this a good deal and good products? Price is after $1580 gov. rebate.

    I have asked for 3 quotes from your website. Do I wait for these or can you recommend reputable companies / products for the Batemans Bay NSW district.
    Many thanks.

  65. We have narrowed our search for a 4.5Kw system in Melbourne down to 2 quotes :
    System 1 – Samil inverter, 18 x Ulica panels
    + points it is an established and well rated company, Ulica panels have TempCo of -0.403%/C
    - points Chinese inverter with 5 year warranty, cell efficiency 17+%, more expensive than system 2.

    System 2 – SolarMax S inverter, 18 x Hanover panels
    + points Swiss inverter with 10 year standard warranty, cell efficiency of 18+%, cheaper than system 1.
    - points less established and rated company, panel TempCo of -0.45%/C

    It’s tough balancing the positives and negatives when you are not familiar with the industry and the hardware and which factors are more important in the long run, and I can’t find many reviews of Ulica, Hanover or SolarMax so that does not make it any easier, but I am leaning towards system 2 for the inverter and the lower $$$ and would try to get a warranty on the installation based your blog posts about what to look out for.

    Does any of the hardware ring warning bells?

    Thank you Finn for running this site, it has been a great help.

  66. Corrado Stefani says:

    We have an Effekta ES4200 solar system with 20 panels. The other night the invertor started to make a clicking noise and now the green light flashes with an Err 22 appearing on the screen. Since ASPIRE Solar is no longer in business we are wondering who to contact for help and advice!

  67. Teresa Culmsee says:

    Hi Finn, great site. Very informative.

    I have the following 2 quotes:
    Solar Harness: 20 x Conergy PowerPlus 250P; Delta 2.5 x 2 inverter – $12984
    Infinite Energy: 22 x REC Solar 260W; Fronius Symo 5.0 Inverter; Sun Lock mounting system – $8720

    What are you opinions on the panels and inverters and the companies themselves?

    • Finn Admin says:

      Both good companies and hardware. But Infinite’s offer looks like a really good deal. Great panels and inverter and Infinite’s install crew are first class.

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