Ch 6. What panel and inverter brands should I buy?

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Selecting a quality solar panel and inverter brand from the hundreds of different models and manufacturers can be a very difficult task. Even for experienced people in the solar industry it is hard to cut through the noise, let alone if you are new to solar and are hopefully only going to buy one solar system in your lifetime. That is why we founded Clean Energy Reviews, we were working in the industry for years, but still found it very hard to know which brands were good and which were lemons. We decided to compile industry knowledge about the best solar panel and inverter brands, and disseminate it to everyone. We have narrowed down the long list of solar panel and inverter brands to a select few using feedback from installers and solar professionals based on quality, efficiency, reliability, performance and return on investment.

Inverters

The solar inverter is the most sophisticated part of any on-grid solar system and is also the part most likely to have issues. This is not surprising considering inverters are usually located outside in harsh weather conditions including rain, humidity and extreme heat, all the while generating thousands of watts of power for up to 10 hours a day. This is why the choice of inverter is the second most important decision when going solar, after who to buy your system from.

Due to the fact that the inverter is the most likely part of the solar system to fail, the most loved inverter brands are of course those that have low failure rates and offer the best service, so that if the inverter does have an issue, it is up and running again as quickly as possible. Fronius, SMA and SolarEdge have been the favoured brands of the many installers and solar professionals that we talk to for years, for the very reason that they have low failure rates and usually ship replacement units within 3-5 business days. Fronius and SMA inverters are available with 10 year warranties while SolarEdge offer a leading 12 year manufacturers warranty.

Many of the lesser known ‘value’ brands will only repair a faulty unit if it is shipped to them (at the owner’s cost), which often takes weeks and sometimes months. Inverter issues will likely be the biggest reason to blow out the financial payback of your solar system.

That is enough about inverters to get your started. However if you need more information we have many articles regarding the best performing and highest quality inverters, see the links below:

  • See more detailed analysis on the top inverter brands in our “Best Solar Inverters” article.
  • Also checkout a host of other information and reviews on individual inverter brands at our “Inverters” page.

Solar panels

Unlike inverters the biggest problem when comparing solar panels is that they generally look very similar with nothing obvious to distinguish between high and low quality products. Unfortunately many solar installers and customers only have the glossy brochure to go by, which can easily baffle people with clever marketing and slogans.

Based on the extensive feedback we have received, the two standout solar panel brands are SunPower and LG Energy. These two manufacturers are widely known as producing some of the highest quality solar modules with lowest degradation over time and best warranty conditions, however these panels also come at a premium price. SunPower are considered the world leader but generally cost around 30% more than the competition. LG panels also come at a premium but are a little less expensive and have a range of modules which are very well regarded and widely available. Which is why we put LG at the top of the list when it comes to both quality and value for money. See links to our articles below for more solar panel brands that we highly regard.

It is worth mentioning the commonly referred to ‘Tier 1’ rating, which is often used by solar companies to tout their panels as the best. However, the ‘Tier 1’ rating is misleading and does not guarantee a panel is free from defects or give any indication of how it will perform over the life of the system. The rating was developed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to rate solar panel manufacturers in terms of financial stability, it has no link to the performance or quality of a panel.

See below links for further reading on solar panels:

  • See our detailed analysis on the top panel brands in our “Best Solar Panels” article.
  • We offer insight into the many innovations being used to improve panel efficiency and performance in our detailed solar technology review article.
  • You can also checkout a host of other information and reviews on individual panel brands at our “Solar Panels” page.

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