If you want to get solar panels installed at home in New Jersey, depending on where you live in the state, you probably have a choice of a dozen or more solar installers to choose from.
To help you find a company that will do good work at a fair price, check out our article on the 5 Steps to Choosing the Best Solar Installer for You in New Jersey.
Here, I’m going to help you understand enough about solar equipment to get the best value on solar once you find an installer.
You Don’t Need to Become A Solar Panel Expert Yourself. You Just Need to Find an Expert You Can Trust.
Let’s start with the obvious. It’s more important to select a trustworthy and knowledgeable solar installer than it is for you to study up enough to become an expert on solar panels, inverters, racking and wiring along with the software to monitor the performance of a solar array.
The best solar installers have years of experience with selecting equipment and putting it together in the right configuration.
Reputable installers also have earned professional certifications that testify to their expertise. For example, EcoMen Solar’s Jason Cascio is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners as a PV Installation Professional (his NABCEP certification number is 051112-35).
So, to get the best value in home solar, pick the best solar installer. They can advise you on your equipment options and help you select the best configuration for your particular situation. You can rely on their expertise so that you don’t have to bother becoming a solar PV expert yourself.
That said, it will be easier for you to understand the options that a solar installer presents to you if you know a few basic things about selecting solar equipment.
Balance Price and Quality to Get the Best Value
Overall, you want equipment that is suitable for your location and achieves the correct balance of quality and price. That will give you the best financial return on your investment in home solar in New Jersey or anywhere else.
On the one hand, the cheapest equipment may seem appealing at the beginning but it can cost you more in the long term. Inexpensive equipment may fail to produce as much energy as you expect, which could mean a longer payback time on your solar installation. Low-cost hardware may even break down and require costly repairs. All in all, skimping on equipment may wind up costing you more over the lifetime of your solar installation than if you had just invested at the beginning in higher quality solar products.
On the other hand, the highest quality equipment may be more than you need. The most expensive solar panels, for example, may produce the most energy over their whole lifespan. However, more affordable panels may give you nearly as much energy for much lower cost.
The most important part of a solar energy system is the solar panel or, to use the technical term, the photovoltaic (PV) module. Here are six factors to consider when judging the quality of a solar panel:
- Rated Capacity — For solar panels, ratings don’t refer to customer reviews. Instead, rating is a technical term here that means the amount of power that a solar panel produces in an industry-standard test. Most panels on the market have a power rating of 200 to 350 watts each, with higher rated panels able to produce more power.
- Efficiency — Solar panels on the market today convert anywhere from 14% to more than 20% of the sunlight that hits the panel into electric power. To put that into perspective, consider that most green plants convert less than 2% of sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. The most efficient panels generally available to homeowners are made by SunPower, a brand featured by EcoMen Solar.
- Durability — Normal wear and tear along with the weight of fallen snow and the force of wind all affect the performance of solar panels.
- Quality Certification — If a solar panel maker is certified as compliant with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 series of standards, that means their manufacturing process is more likely to produce superior equipment.
- Warranties — Manufacturers offer two types of warranties on solar panels. The first type of warranty guarantees that the panels will continue to produce power at a high level over their lifespan even as the panels degrade over time. Most panel makers offer a 25-year warranty that their panels will produce at least 80% of their initial power over the entire warranty period. A second type of warranty covers materials and usually guarantees against failures due to manufacturing defects and environmental issues for 10-12 years. Installers also offer guarantees on their work. For example, EcoMen Solar offers a five-year warranty on our work.
Manufacturer — As in any rapidly growing industry, solar panel manufacturers come and go. A reputable solar installer will recommend equipment from makers with a good track record in the past who are likely to be in business long enough in the future to honor their warranties. And the company should carry insurance to service their warranties in case they do go out of business. You should also ask whether the company specializes in solar equipment or whether they also make such things as consumer electronics or auto parts. Finally, do they handle their own service or do they outsource that to other companies? Along with the efficiency of their solar panels, another reason that EcoMen Solar features equipment from SunPower is that the company does well on all these criteria. We also offer equipment from other makers, allowing us to give our customer the best options for their situation.
Inverters, Racking, Wiring and More
The list above offers things you should consider when selecting solar panels. Some of the same criteria apply to other components of a home solar power system including inverters, racking, wiring and software.
As I said above, don’t let all the options for equipment confuse you. You don’t have to become a NABCEP-certified solar installer to understand what it takes to get a good value on solar for your home. Really, you just have to find a solar installation company that you can trust to honestly lay out your options on solar panels and other equipment.
A trustworthy company will not try to tempt you with a low-low price based on cheap, low-quality equipment. Nor will they try to sell you a more expensive setup than you need. Instead, a company that wants to make you happy will help you find the balance of quality and affordability that will give you the most power over the lifetime of your home solar system at the best price.
At EcoMen Solar, we enjoy the challenge of designing a custom solar equipment configuration for each of our customers, based on the needs of that homeowner. Contact us today for a free quote for our best advice on your equipment options and to learn how much you could save by going solar this year.
— Joe Aurilia, Jr., EcoMen Solar