If solar is a long term investment (three years or more), we recommend choosing a tier one panel. Panels from tier one manufacturers make up the top two percent of the panel market. The companies providing these panels have automated production facilities (reduces defects), are vertically integrated (meaning they have control over the entire supply chain) and have been producing panels for five years or more. There are many brands out there that are considered tier one and choosing a panel from one of these is a great way to ensure you’re making a good investment. In addition to this, we recommend choosing a tier one provider that has a strong presence in Australia, as any warranty claims will be much easier to manage if there’s local support. Finally, consider how many panels the supplier has installed for the manufacturer – tier one or not. Providers that have installed many panels from their manufacturers will have had to deal with warranty claims themselves. If the manufacturer was consistently not honoring warranties or regularly providing poor products, they would have moved on to another manufacturer. Providers changing panel manufacturers regularly are either frequently getting poor quality products or a consistently shopping for the lowest priced panel in that quality category, rather than a good quality product.
Premium panels are available and should be considered if you demand the best or have no intentions of moving from the home you’re installing them on. Premium panels will give you slightly more kWh per kW from day one, degrade less than other panels, perform better in lower light and in extreme heat. These features don’t pay for themselves straight away, which is why we believe they’re primarily suitable for investments five years or more. Premium panels can come with better warranties, be it longer, less degradation or inclusive of labour costs for panel replacement. They may also be more aesthetically pleasing with darker cells and black frames. Lots of panels claim to be premium, but you won’t know for sure until many years down the track. This is why we recommend looking for panels that have good performance in reputable independent tests and have sustained that performance over many years, ensuring the low degradation which many claim.
For people considering a short or medium term (1-3 year) investment, it still makes sense to consider the panels you are receiving. If the panel manufacturer disappears or if you don’t know who they are, it can be very difficult to follow up any warranty claims – which can be very likely early in product life. Tier two manufacturers can be a good choice and are obviously cheaper than panels from tier one manufacturers. Tier two manufacturers have been producing panels for at least two years and are still in the top 10-15 percent of the market. These are good choice if you’re looking for a cost effective option.