best place to buy solar panels

Today, we talk about the Best Place To Buy Solar Panels and the best solar panels for sale. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to solar panel systems. Where you buy your solar panels from or who you decide to contract with for installation will depend on your personal preferences, how you want to finance the system, and the type of system you want to install. In this article, we’ll evaluate several options for buying solar panel systems, including wholesale resellers, national installation companies, Amazon solar kits, and EnergySage.

What is the Best Place to Buy Solar Panels in the US? - Understand Solar

Best Place To Buy Solar Panels

There are many options available for purchasing a solar panel system, including but not limited to the choices below:

BUYING OPTIONCOSTINSTALL INCLUDED?FINANCING INCLUDED?BEST FOR
Wholesale resellers$NoNoDIY
Amazon solar kits$NoNoDIY, small off-grid systems
Large national installers$$$YesYesTurnkey installations
EnergySage$$YesYesTurnkey installations

How do the details of these different options compare? Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of these options to help determine which is best suited for your own installation.

solar panels for sale

Buying solar panels from wholesale resellers

Wholesale resellers are companies that sell equipment online to consumers looking to go solar. While labeled as “wholesale,” these items will still typically include a markup so that the company selling the product will make a profit. It’s currently not possible for consumers to purchase wholesale solar panels directly from panel manufacturers.

One of the biggest benefits of buying solar panels from wholesale resellers or other websites is that the equipment is relatively affordable compared to other options in the market. If you’re working on a DIY solar project, then purchasing your solar panels and inverter through a reseller is going to be a quick and easy way to get your equipment. However, it’s not advisable to attempt a DIY solar panel system if you don’t have the proper expertise. Anyone looking to install their own solar panel system should have a thorough understanding of electrical systems prior to tackling the project.

If you buy solar panel equipment from a reseller but are not planning on installing the equipment yourself, it can be difficult to find an installer. This is because many solar installation companies only provide turnkey solutions and will not install equipment they didn’t purchase themselves.

Buying solar panel kits from Amazon

Similar to wholesale resellers, Amazon is another way to purchase solar equipment directly. Many people most commonly purchase solar panel kits from Amazon that include the majority of equipment necessary for getting a solar panel system up and running (i.e. wiring, solar panels, the inverter, etc.)

Solar panel kits are often used for off-grid solar panel systems, though there are grid-tied options available. It’s important to know exactly what equipment you’ll be receiving as part of the kit, as not all solar kits come with every component you need. For example, the ECO-WORTHY’s 200 Watt solar panel kit includes two separate panels and a lead acid battery, while WindyNation’s standard 200 Watt solar panel kit doesn’t include a battery (though you can add it on for an additional price).

Generally speaking, most solar panel kits won’t generate enough power to cover the electricity needs of the average household; however, they can be a great option if you’re interested in generating solar power on-the-go, such as for an RV or boat. Keep in mind that with solar panel kits, you’ll likely need to perform the installation of the system yourself.

Solar Panel - Price and Features - Nigeria Technology Guide

Buying solar panels from national installation companies

One popular option for installing a residential solar panel system today is to contract through a large solar company, such as SunRun.

There are certain advantages to buying a solar panel system from a large solar company. For one, they often have proven track records and plenty of experience when it comes to installing residential solar panel systems. Additionally, they offer turnkey solar system solutions, meaning they provide equipment, labor, and a financing option as a part of your solar package. As a part of their total price, large solar companies also handle any permitting and interconnection processes necessary to get your solar panel system up and running.

Companies like SunRun are also most likely to offer third-party ownership options like leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). While these financing options typically offer lower overall savings than loan options, they can be preferable if you don’t want to take out a loan or if you aren’t eligible for federal and state tax credits.

However, bigger isn’t always better. Many large solar companies charge a higher price for turnkey solar panel installations than smaller, local competitors. In fact, a report from the National Renewable Renewables Laboratory (NREL) found that larger installation companies, on average, charge a 10 percent premium for solar panel systems over smaller installation companies. When you’re purchasing a solar panel installation, this 10 percent can add up to thousands of dollars.

Buying solar panels from EnergySage

Last but not least, EnergySage: we don’t actually sell solar panel systems directly. Our online Solar Marketplace allows you to receive and compare up to seven custom solar quotes from installers near you. All of our installer partners go through a stringent screening and vetting process prior to quoting on the Marketplace; we ensure they’re an experienced, reputable company with proper insurance and licensing

The installers that provide you quotes through the Marketplace are likely smaller in size than the SunRuns and Vivints of the world. However, there are benefits to choosing a local installer on EnergySage over larger national companies. For one, they’re more likely to offer better pricing and higher quality equipment. Smaller installation companies often have lower overhead costs, therefore can charge less for similarly-sized installations.

Additionally, by shopping on the EnergySage Marketplace, you can ensure you’re getting the right system for the right price. Installation companies large and small charge different amounts based on the quality of the equipment, the size of the system, their own installation services, and more. Your solar panel system is an investment, and by looking at multiple offers, you can better understand average market prices for the level of service and equipment you’re looking for.

Our quote comparison tool also standardizes assumptions for cost and savings calculations. Offline, you’ll likely receive quotes directly from installers that assume different utility inflation rates, degradations, or incentives that can misrepresent one company’s offering over another. Standardization of these factors ensures that every quote is on an even-level playing field.

That said, our Marketplace isn’t the best solution for every type of installation. Similar to the national companies, installers on EnergySage provide turnkey quotes that include equipment, financing, and installation. If you’re looking to solely purchase equipment for a DIY project or are looking to install a small, portable off-grid system, wholesale resellers or Amazon may be the most suitable option.

Which option is right for you?

Every solar project has its own unique characteristics. For some, buying equipment directly from Amazon or wholesale resellers is going to be the best and most affordable options. For others, a large, national company may be able to provide you with a better deal than you can find on the EnergySage Marketplace.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to shop around before writing a check or signing a contract. If you’re interested in comparing turnkey installation options, registering on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace is a great way to start. If you’re just starting out in your solar research and want to see some ballpark numbers of what it would cost to install solar panels on your home or business, try our Solar Calculator.

TIPS FOR BUYING YOUR SOLAR POWER SYSTEM.

Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.

Buying solar tips: Solar quotes online

Recommendations

Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

Length of manufacturer’s warranty

Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.

Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.

Solar panel certifications

This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.

Decide on the type of panels

It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.

It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.

Solar panel mounting

Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system  and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.

Solar inverter efficiency

A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.

Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of  generic type brands.

Get a few solar quotes

It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.

Buy solar power at discount prices

Avoid high pressure sales people

High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.

High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

One of the best buying solar tips is to make sure to use an accredited solar power system installer, certified by the Clean Energy Council.

HOW TO BUY SOLAR PANELS

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How to Buy Solar Panels

Are you thinking about buying a solar panel system but don’t know where to start? You came to the right place!SEI PV Design ManualA Really Great Read

Before we dive in to the specifics of solar panels (a.k.a. PV modules, solar electric panels), let us remind you that energy efficiency and conservation are the best ways to reduce your energy foot print and your electrical bill (see our Energy Efficiency and Your Home article). Please actively explore and incorporate all avenues of efficiency before pursuing a home solar panel system. That being said, solar power is an exciting clean-energy option that is becoming more and more popular. Solar electricity is a fascinating topic. To really feed your curiosity, we highly recommend the book PHOTOVOLTAICS: DESIGN & INSTALL MANUAL.

What shapes, sizes and types do solar panels come in?

Solar panels vary in length and width and are often about 2 inches thick. They are generally about 30 pounds or less, but the larger solar panels can be cumbersome to carry onto the roof. We carry a wide selection of solar panels for home use: framed, foldable, and rollable.

  • Framed solar panels are the industry standards. They are the most cost effective and applicable for most home solar panels applications.
  • Foldable solar panels are lightweight (less than 5 pounds) and can fold up and fit easily in a backpack.
  • Flexible (or rollable) solar panels are also lightweight but bulkier than the foldable panels. Many people use these rollable solar panels on boats because they are durable and can be easily stowed after use.

Generally thin-film laminate type of solar panels (foldable & flexible) are more expensive per watt and require more square footage to produce the same wattage of an equally sized framed module.

What size solar panels do I need for my home and how many?

The number of solar panels you will need depends primarily upon the amount of electricity you are trying to produce and the insolation in your area. Solar insolation can be thought of as the number of hours in the day that the solar panel will produce its rated output. This is not equivalent to the number of daylight hours. Read more about insolation in our How To section and get an idea of the insolation in your area: Solar Insolation Map – USA.

You’ll find solar panels in a variety of wattages. Watts are the main measure of a solar panel, along with nominal voltage. For a rough idea of how many watts of solar panels you will need for your home, start by dividing your electrical usage (in watt-hours per day) by the solar insolation in your area. Bump that number up by 30-50% (to cover system inefficiencies) and you’ll have an idea of the number of watts of solar panels total you will need. If that number is more than 1000 watts, you are talking about $4K to $8K or more for the solar electric system. (Could we take this opportunity to mention the importance of energy efficiency again?!) If you could still use a little help with the math, please give us a call and tell us how much electricity you are trying to produce (in kwh/month or watt-hours/ day) and your location, and we’ll help get you started.

What types of solar panels are there?

Most solar panels can be classified as monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. This is based on the silicon structure that comprises the cell. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Basically a 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel should have the same output as a 100 watt polycrystalline solar panel and a 100 watt amorphous solar panel. The main difference is the amount of area which the solar panel occupies. Because the monocrystalline structure is more efficient than amorphous (and only very slighlty more so than polycrystalline) in turning sunlight into electricity, the amorphous solar panel of the same wattage will be physically larger. By the way, when talking about efficiency of solar panels, keep in mind that solar panel efficiency is still only about 13-18% efficient in turning sunlight into electricity. Often amorphous solar panels are less expensive than the crystalline panels. If space is not an issue, then an amorphous panel could be a great option. Additionally, amorphous solar panels perform better than crystalline solar panels in very hot temperatures and are also slightly more tolerant of partial shading.

Solar Energy for Home Heating & Cooling

Please keep in mind that solar panels produce electricity, and should not be used to produce electricity for heating or cooling sources. If heating is your main issue, be sure to check out Solar Air Heaters and Solar Water Heaters. Solar air heating and solar water heating are examples of solar thermal technologies which produce heat, but not electricity (and are much more cost effective than solar panels). While solar electric panels are not an economically feasible choice to power your air conditioning, a solar panel can power an attic fan that can help reduce the amount of time you use your AC.

Locating your Panels – Very Important!

A key factor in the effective use of solar electricity is proper placement of the solar panels. Make sure to locate the panels where they will receive full sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Be sure that the solar panels will not be shaded by shadows from tree branches, chimneys, other structures, etc. Once again – NO SHADE! You will be mounting the solar panels on the roof, the ground or a pole. For more information on the proper placement solar electric panels, please checkout the How To for Solar Panel Mounting article.

How Long will Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels use the sun’s light to generate electricity. They generate electricity during sunny daylight hours and can be used in a system with batteries so that the electricity can be used at other times as well. Also known as Photovoltaic (PV) modules, solar panels are the main component of a solar electric system. Along with an inverter, mounting system, batteries and Solar Charge Controllers, solar panels can produce electricity to power the energy efficient appliances and lights and appliances in most households. Solar panels themselves generally last over 25 years, and require little maintenance. Many of the first solar panels produced in the 50s are still in use today. Many of the solar panels have a 20 year warranty or more. A common warranty states that the panels will produce at least 80% of their rated power after 20 years.

What else will I Need with a Solar Panel?

In addition to the solar panel mounting hardware, there are additional components that you will need for a safe installation. If you plan on using just one solar panel in a battery based system (an off-grid system), you will need a solar charge controller and overcurrent protection to protect each major component of your system: solar panels, solar charge controller, deep cycle batteries, and inverter. If you plan on using more solar panels in your system, you will also need to safely wire the photovoltaic solar panels together and to the charge controller. An easy and safe way to do this is by using MC (multi contact) connectors. These connectors connect to the cables coming from the solar panel and can be cut in half to expose bare wire. Combiner & pass-through boxes are used to collect the bare ends of the wire from multiple solar panels; then from the combiner box you can run just one set of wires to the solar charge controller. For each series string of solar panels, you will need an appropriate sized breaker.

That’s a lot of components to figure out! If after reading all this you are a little confused but even more excited about solar energy, what’s next? Well, you can read more about solar panel systems. Also, our AltE U offers in-person workshops in Massachusetts and Ohio, as well as free education online videos. If you are considering installing your own solar electric system or installing PV (photovoltaic panels) as a business, be sure to check out our series of three classes beginning with our Basic Photovoltaic and Site Assessment class.

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