Why the solar panel you put on your house matters

  • Matthew De La Torre
  • Vice President of Engineering

With so many panels on the market, how do you choose the right one?  Along with the decision to go solar, there are a few other choices you will have to make including who will install the system and how should I finance my new system?  Potentially the most important of all those decisions will be what type of module will be on your roof. 

Solar panels are rated by efficiency, which measures the percentage of sunlight that hits the panel and gets turned into electricity that you can use.  The higher the rating, the less rooftop area is needed to accommodate your system.  Most solar panels made today are crafted from similar materials such as multi-crystalline silicon and fall in the range of 11-15% efficiency.  Another type of panel are the Mono-crystalline panels, which carry a higher efficiency and come at higher price, however, with the costs of solar coming down; they are becoming more and more popular.

 According to an article written by Travis Hoium of the website MotleyFool.com, the more expensive panels make the energy less expensive.  When Travis took numbers from SolarCity and SunPower and broke them down, including panel cost and BOS, or Balance of System, (costs like sales, wiring, permitting, and labor), he found that the overall cost of the high-efficiency system is higher, but the cost per watt is significantly lower. To put some figures to that, the system's overall cost was 18% lower per watt even though the panels are 54% more costly per watt. Thus your savings over the life of your system will be substantially greater with a higher efficiency panel.

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