4 Ways to Know You’re Talking to a Solar Moron

The title of this blog post is not exactly accurate. “Moron” implies that they don’t know any better. In actuality, most of the people who throw these lines DO know better.

Much better. But they still use these lines because they help them to sell more product. Which makes them much worse than morons.

If you hear any of these, watch where you step. It’s like getting a whiff of the turd before you see it.

You’ll know there’s a big heap of it nearby when you hear them saying things like…

Numero 1: “You should never buy Chinese panels…they all suck”

There’s a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment out there these days. And frankly, I think a lot of it is downright racist.

But the fact that China churns out a lot of products that do not require highly-skilled labor, does not mean that all their products are crap. That’s just ridiculous.

Want a few examples?

My iPod: Made in China.

My Macbook Pro: Made in China

And the same is true with solar panels. There are solar factories in China that deliver some of the highest quality panels available.  Suntech and Trina are just a couple with impeccable reputations for quality.

Numero 2: “You should buy a larger inverter so you can expand your system later”

This is a classic example of a salesman trying to pump up the initial price of the system to pocket a few extra dollars. There are several reasons to run the other direction when you hear this BS…

1) If you don’t actually have room on your roof for a enough extra panels to match the inverter in the future, then a larger inverter is a complete waste of time, money and space in your fusebox.

2) An oversized (improperly sized) inverter is actually less efficient, than a properly sized one.

3) Inverter prices are dropping all the time. By purchasing a larger one NOW you might actually be spending MORE money than if you just wait until the prices drop.

4) If you do decide to buy extra panels in the future, you’ll have to get ones that are either identical or with very similar specifications. And if you don’t pay your original installer to do it, you’ll probably void your warranty on the existing system. So your upgrade will be a very limited choice of (probably very outdated and overpriced) panels and a single installer, which means you will probably pay through the nose compared with just getting the best “whole system” deal on the market in 3 or 5 or 10 years time.

So, this is “money saving” advice that will likely cost you MORE if you listen to it. That’s as good a definition of BS as I’ve heard.

Numero 3: “You should buy the most efficient panels you can find”

This one is tricky. It SOUNDS correct. But if you want the whole story on why this is often a pile of BS…

I wrote an entire blog post explaining why “most efficient” doesn’t always mean “best choice for your home”.

Numero 4: “You’ve got a shaded roof, so you should buy ‘shade tolerant’ panels”

This might be my favorite. I can’t believe they think they can get away with this one. As you know, “Sol” means “sun”. Solar power requires sun. If you don’t have sun, you don’t have solar power. Period.

If your roof is shaded, you’ll need to trim the branches of the trees to get direct sunlight to your panels.

If you can’t do this, you simply are not a candidate for solar power. Sorry. Solar=sun. Period.

There are my “Big 4 Whoppers”. Believe me, there are plenty more. I hear them everyday, but those are the most common.

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. Clive Edmead says

    Hi Finn I am in Melbourne and have been quoted on 210W Black Label panels by Amerisolar from a mob called Exelpower but their quote seems high at $9360 for a 4kW system and 4.2 inverter and I have not heard if these panels are any good

  2. Well said. I’m convinced there are more arseholes ~ in one way or another ~ in the world than people. (think about it 😉 )

    A question came up at the pub recently, and I wondered if you (or anyone here) can point to some chart or set of tables which provide the effect of the angle of insolation on the production of electricity by solar modules. (in both the horizontal and vertical planes.)

    ie. about sunrise the rays hit the surface of the panels (in general terms) at an angle of, say,
    10 degrees and produce x amount of power. At mid-day the rays hit the panels at 90 degrees and ~ all else being equal ~ produce much more power: (y)
    That’s not in dispute. I’ve made an effort to chart the difference; unsuccessfully because of the endless variation. So wondered if there was any documentation/professional-opinion as to the scale of difference between x&y, perhaps in a laboratory controlled-environment.

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