How to Choose the Right Solar Panels for Your Long island Residential Solar Energy System

Long Island residential solar customers have serious decisions to make when choosing the right solar panel for their solar energy investment.

Residential solar customers on Long Island often ask the same fundamental questions “What solar panels are the most efficient?“, “Who makes the best solar panel?“, ” What do I do if a solar panel breaks?“, ” What does it cost to change a solar panel?” and ” How do I know if a solar panel is producing?


These questions tend to stress most customers out

because companies and sales people try to sell Long Island residential solar customers the panels they carry. As such, the sales people from each company will do everything they can to sell “the best solar panel”. The customer will be shown spec sheets and statistics, case studies and manufacturing processes, company histories and insurance policies. Some will go so far as to bring a miniaturized version of the solar panels they sell like its a paint sample or a curtain fabric. The information that these sales professionals will have is typically overbearing and nothing is more confusing than having 10 sales people call you all swearing that they have “the best solar panels”. By the time the customer finally makes a choice, they are as exhausted as after running a New York City Marathon. 10 sales people cannot all be right.


So what do Long Island residential solar customers do to get the right answer?

They go on forums, chat rooms, they try to understand voltages and amperages from spec sheets, they speak to their friends and families who have done it years ago (useless….but not really, you will see why), they do research and research and research and research. Most of it being done online looking at outdated distributor catalogs or through fake review pages which try to gather their personal information so that even more companies call them with “the best solar panel”.


What is the fundamental problem with a Long Island solar residence’s search for the right panel?

The fundamental problem is that buying a solar panel is not like buying a car or a lawn mower, something that is ready to be consumed as soon as it is purchased. The choice of the panel will be based on the customer’s usage in Kwh, the space available on the roof, and the unique information that a customer learns about the manufacturer which resonates with the customer.


But wait! That still doesn’t answer the question.

Which solar panel should a Long Island residential solar customer choose?

There must be some guiding light which points us in the right direction!


The Guiding Light (pun intended) for choosing “The Best Solar Panel”:

Quite simply, Long Island Residential solar customers should not be choosing a solar panel. They should first choose the best company. Once they choose the best company, then they should look at the product line and choose a panel which will satisfy their energy needs.


Which is the Best Solar Panel Brand for Long Island Residential Solar Customers?

We all know that a solar panel will last between 25-30 years, at least a good one will. As such, Long Islanders are getting themselves into a long investment. Given that most solar panel companies and manufacturers have sprung up in the last decade or so, it makes sense to choose a solar panel from a company which has been in existence for a very long time, at least as long as the warranty they are offering (25 years). In addition, given that solar at the moment is a very unstable business (because it is mostly government subsidized), the solar panel manufacturer Long Islanders choose should have a diversified portfolio of products. This way, if the solar industry for whatever reason goes under, the company which manufactured the panel will remain in business and will continue to honor their warranty. For example, lets say a customer decides to use an LG Electronics solar panel. We all know who LG Electronics is. They make cell phones for google, and cell phones for themselves, computer screens, micro processors, and of course solar panels, not to mention refrigerators, coffee makers, washing machines, dryers and much more. If the solar industry would go under due to expiring subsidies, LG will exit the solar business but will not go out of business. As such, LG will be able to honor it’s warranty. Other companies similar to LG include, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Kyocera, and Panasonic. It’s better to choose a lower efficiency panel from a diversified, experienced, older company than the highest efficiency panel from a shaky company.


Who Makes The Best Solar Panel?

Out of the 4 companies mentioned, its a tie and here’s why. Even though LG currently makes the most efficient panel out of the quartet, your home may have enough space to support a lower efficiency panel which will produce the same amount of power but with lower cost; this will net you a faster ROI with the same amount of monthly savings for less. For Example, lets say a Long Island residential solar customer can put a 10KW on your roof which would cover a 200 bill with 32 LG 315W solar panels. LG 315W panels would be priced the highest out of all the companies mentioned. However, if a Long Island solar customer has the space for an extra 4 panels with 36 Hyundai 280W solar panels, you will get the same amount of production and savings for less money; this is because the Hyundai panels are less efficient and therefore cost less-The only downside to using them is that they take up more space in order to produce the same amount of power. Therefore, if you need to achieve 10 Kw but only have room for 32 panels, the best panel is the LG 315. If you could fit 36 panels and need 10 KW, the best panel is Hyundai due to a lower cost with equivalent production. The same logic goes for Kyocera and Panasonic who have lower efficiency panels respectively. The best panel for residences on Long Island is made by a diversified company and will yield the customer’s needed power with the fastest ROI.


What do I do if a solar panel breaks?

If a solar panel breaks and the company is no longer around, you are out of luck on getting the same panel short of digging around on ebay. If you used panels from diversified companies, you will be able to contact your installer and have them reach out to the manufacturer on your behalf. If the panel broke on its own, then you will be entitled to a free panel under warranty. If the panel broke by an act of g-d (a seagull dropping a shell), then you would need to foot the bill for the panel plus applicable labor. In the grand scheme of things, you should forecast for $1,000 of maintenance over the course of a 25-30 year investment provided that you purchased extended 25 year warranties for your inverters which typically burn out between years 12-15. If you leased the system, the leasing company will be responsible for maintaining the system. Whether to lease or finance is a whole different discussion but it is generally recommended to purchase if possible and if not, leasing as a backup.


What does it cost to change out a solar panel?

For Long Island residential solar customers, the cost of changing out a panel will be detailed in the warranty or contract you signed by your installer. Some installers charge a flat rate where others set the cost to the steepness and difficulty of changing out the panel. Some installers provide labor included in the repair as long as the issue is covered by warranty. Expect it to cost somewhere between $250-500, for issues that fall outside of warranty. It may become cheaper in 10 years or so as the solar maintenance industry takes shape.


How do I know if a solar panel is producing?

“Module level” monitoring or “panel-by-panel” monitoring is a key feature every solar customer should ask for as a solar customer living on Long Island. The older systems were installed on an aggregate platform where all the panels were monitored as a whole rather than on the individual level. This would leave solar customers in the dark (pun intended) on whether problems with production existed on the module level. Today, the most popular system is an optimizer based system manufactured by SolarEdge. Think of it as a micro processing unit which is placed on the back of each panel on your system whose function it is to regulate, measure, and broadcast every module’s production information to an internet connected device. Other module level systems include micro inverters which tend to be limited in their ability to handle higher efficiency panels and typically come at a lower production efficiency than SolarEdge optimizers. Typical micro inverter companies are Enphase and AEE as well as SMA and other smaller outfits.


In sum, the best solar panel is the one which can satisfy your needs while coming from a diversified company for the quickest ROI-not necessarily the highest efficiency panel.

SunPower is an example of a high efficiency solar panel maker producing 327 panels but because they are non diversified, there is an inherent risk in using them. For 1% less efficiency, a user can tap into an LG 315 module and enjoy the warranty as well as many nights of sleep. If a panel should break, using a diversified company will increase the chances of a replacement being available or a warranty being honored. You should negotiate with your installer to ensure the best maintenance package possible while also ensuring that your system comes standard with a module level monitoring system so you can track each module’s performance and ultimately, your investment.

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