When choosing a product for just about every need it’s important to have the right product for the job and solar panels are no exception. Every manufacturer is going to tout their products as “the best” on be those products cars, trucks, shoes, breakfast cereal or solar panels and the team from the San Luis Obispo solar installation company, Electricraft, Inc. recently released a report to help consumers understand the factors that define the qualities in solar panels.

As a consumer the more you know, the better the choices you are going to make. The top factors that determine the quality of solar panels include:

  • The type of solar panel
  • Solar panel rating which includes wattage, cell efficiency, rating and power tolerance

Types of solar panels

The characteristics for the type of solar panel that provides the best service for the need includes if the panels are being installed in a warm or cold climate and whether the use is residential or commercial:

  • Monocrystalline solar panels, also called single-crystalline solar panels, have uniform color with cylindrical cells. Monocrystalline solar panels rate very high for power and space efficiency, but can cost more than the less expensive polycrystalline panels. This type of panel performs best in warm climates. Manufactures of monocrystalline panels usually guarantee them at least 25 years.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels produced by a less costly process, which results in a lower cost to you. These panels are made from raw melted silicon that is poured into square molds.  are produced by melting raw silicon and then pouring it into perfectly square molds, creating the square wafer shape. The process to create solar panels using polycrystalline silicon is slightly easier, resulting in a lower cost to the consumer. Polycrystalline panels are suited for cool climates. Not as space efficient as monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline solar panels need to cover a larger area in order to produce the same amount of power.
  • Thin-film solar panels are made up of several thin layers of photovoltaic materials. They need a lot space and are more commonly used for large commercial projects than for residential installations. Thin-film panels tend to degrade faster than monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels.

Solar Panel Rating

Solar panels are rated according to the amount power produced. The higher the solar rating the more power that is produced. The solar panels specification sheet contains descriptions for wattage, efficiency and other important features, What do these descriptions mean and why are they important when evaluating a solar panel? The San Luis Obispo solar installation team is here to help clear up some of the mystery!

  • Wattage is how much electricity a solar panel can produce under the solar industry’s standard test conditions (STC). Knowing the best wattage for the purpose allows you to compare the power output of different solar panels. The STC is based on the solar panels being installed in perfect conditions, such as sunny skies, but in actuality, solar panels are installed in a variety of locations, weather and temperatures. The wattage listed on the nameplate on the back of the panel is not going to be exactly what the panel will delivery. Rely on expert advice for the best wattage for your needs. Wattage for a residence typically falls between 350 to 310 watts.
  • Cell efficiency describes the percentage of sunlight that the panel converts to electricity. The best way to increase a panel’s power is to increase the efficiency of the solar cells because the more efficient the cells to more power that can be produced. %. 
  • Rating refers to the amount of power a panel produces and is an important consideration. The higher the solar rating, the more power a panel can produce.
  • Power tolerance is the difference between the rating listed for the panel and the amount of power it actually produces. Power tolerance is expressed as something like “+/- 5%.” If the rating is 250 watts, the power tolerance means it can produce as little as 237.5 watts or as much as 262.5. 

The best results when selecting solar panels are achieved when working with the experienced solar installation team from San Luis Obispo’s Electricraft. Electricraft, Inc. is a local, family-owned company that has been serving Central Coast communities since 1984. The company provides exceptional solar installations, electrical installations, repair services and general electrical construction. Fully insured and licensed by the state with a large bonding capacity, the team has a combined 300+ years of general electrical construction, service, project management and turnkey design / build experience.