Knowing how to choose solar panels for home use can be greatly beneficial to you, especially if you plan on installing the solar system yourself.
There are a few basic fundamentals to consider when deciding on the best solar panel for your residential setup.
The aim of this guide is to teach you these fundamentals, so that you are able to make an informed buying decision when deciding on the best solar panels for your home.
What Are The 3 Main Types Of Solar Panels For Homes?
To understand what solar panel is best for your home, you first need to learn about the different types of solar panels.
Each type has certain advantages and disadvantages that may or may not suit your unique situation.
The easiest way to identify monocrystalline solar panels is by their dark color.
These panels are usually dark blue, almost black in color. This is because of how light interacts with the monocrystalline silicon layer.
Another way to indentify these panels is by the small white circles located inside the interior of the panel.
Monocrystalline solar panels are best used for their high efficiency, as electricity flow has minimal resistance in their cells.
- High efficiency rate
- Uses up less space on your homes roof
- Higher yield of solar energy per square foot
- Life span of up to 25 years
- Most expensive
- Requires more fossil fuel to manufacture
- Do not perform as well in lower temperatures
Polycrystalline solar panels can be identified by their sky blue hue.
They are also commonly referred to as multi-crystalline, or many-crystal silicon panels.
Because of the high amount of crystals in each cell, there is less space for electrons to flow freely. This results in lower efficiency ratings when compared to monocrystalline panels.
The main reason you would choose poly over mono is simply the price. Polycrystalline panels are cheaper than monocrystalline panels.
- Less expensive
- Broad range of solar panel models
- Manufacturing requires less fossil fuels
- Lower efficiency
- Takes up more space on your homes roof
- Can damage easier in high temperatures
Thin-film solar panels can be easily identified by their ability to be warped and bent into a specific angle of your choosing.
They are comprised of many layers of light-absorbing solar cells approximately 350 times smaller than that of a standard silicon solar panel.
Thin-film technology can’t yet compete with traditional solar panels for homes but is slowly starting to show potential.
- Low rooftop requirements
- More installation flexibility
- Lower efficieny
- Difficult to install (due to missing frames)
- Lower lifespan
Is My Home Good For Solar Panels?
Before deciding on the best solar panels for your home, you need to figure out whether your home is the right candidate for a solar system.
Here are some of the key questions you need to ask yourself in order to find out:
1. What Kind Of Roof Does Your Home Have?
It’s no secret that solar panels are best mounted on a strong, durable roofing structure. Materials such as composite, asphalt shingle, standing seam metal, and concrete tile make ideal roofs for solar panels.
If your roof happens to be made out of composite metal/stone coated steel, wood shake, slate tile, or clay with mortar you can still go solar. However, it is recommended that you hire a professional to install your solar panels over any DIY options.
2. What Condition Is Your Homes Roof In?
It goes without saying, if your home’s roof is in bad condition, it makes sense to replace it before installing any solar panels.
Good quality solar panels for home use can last up to 30 years. You wouldn’t want to have to remove your entire system in order to first replace the roof.
Bear in mind, solar panels could pay for the cost of a re-roof in 5 years’ time after installation. It stands to reason that it may make sense to do any roof replacements before you have your solar panels set up.
3. How Much Sunlight Does Your Home Recieve?
Without any sun, it doesn’t matter what sort of solar panels you install they simply cannot do their job.
If your home is located within the United States, a really amazing tool you can use to see if your house is a good candidate for solar is Google’s Project Sunroof.
Things such as roof angle and tree shading will all affect your home’s potential capacity to capture solar energy.
The more direct sunlight your residence receives, the more power your solar panels will produce year-round.
4. What Is Your Climate Like?
It’s important to recognize how extreme weather conditions can affect the overall electricity generated by your home’s solar panels.
Rainy areas and extremely hot locations can all influence your solar output.
High-efficiency solar panels such as monocrystalline technology will convert direct and indirect sunlight into electricity. This means they are capable of working even on cloudy days, albeit slightly less efficient.
Make sure to consider highly durable solar panels if your home neighborhood experiences high wind speeds or high levels of snowfall in the winter. With these conditions, you will want a solar panel that can withstand the worst weather conditions.
5. What Is Your Homes Energy Bill?
Knowing whether your home is a good candidate for solar energy production, also comes down to how much energy you use every month.
As a general rule of thumb if your utility bill is higher than $75 per month, then going solar will see you making a return on that investment by paying less for that amount of energy.
A utility bill of $75 a month is the basic threshold at which residential solar customers will start to see their solar savings.
How Do You Know What Size Solar System Is Good For Your Home?
When deciding on the best solar panel for your home, you need to take into consideration the different types of panels on the market.
Once you have decided on which solar panel type you would like to go with you need to figure out what your energy requirements are in order for you to install the right sized solar system.
Here you will be guided through the entire 3 step solar panel sizing process.
Step 1 – Figure out how much electricty your home uses
To begin, go find your most recent utility bill and see how much energy you used over the last month.
Most energy bills display your kWh used at the bottom of the document multiplied by the cost of energy.
In the below example you can see that we used 1000 kWh for that month and were charged $134,35.
Step 2 – Figure out the amount of sunlight hours your home recieves
The next step you need to take is figuring out how much sun hits your roof, the term is known as peak hours of sunlight.
Peak hours of sunlight do not refer to the time measured between sunrise and sunset, instead, it refers to the amount of time the sun reaches an average of 1000 Watts per square meter.
Certain states, such as California have a very high peak sunlight rate. If you live in an area with high amounts of sunshine, your home’s overall solar system will not need to be as big.
Websites such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory can help you determine how many peak hours of sunlight your area has.
Here you can find a table that has been created for you to represent the number of peak sunlight hours in different regions of the United States.
|State||Average peak sunlight hours|
Step 3 – Calculate The Size Of Solar System Needed For Your Home
Once you have figured out how many peak hours of sunlight your area receives, you need to calculate your monthly amount.
To do this, simply multiply your daily peak sun hours by 30.
As an example let’s assume you live in Arizona. Here on average, you receive 6.5 peak hours of sunlight each day. Now we multiply that by 30.
6.5 x 30 = 195
Then we divide your monthly electricity usage (let’s use 1000kWh) by your area’s monthly peak sunlight hours.
1000 kWh divided by 165 sunlight hours equals 6.0. This means you’ll need 6kW of solar panels for home use, in order to produce enough electricity to cover all your monthly energy needs.
Here’s a simple chart showing you the solar system you would need based on the state you live in.
|State||Average Daily Sun Peak Hours||Average Monthly Sun Peak Hours||Solar System Size|
By following this methodology, you should have quite a good idea, of what size solar system is good for your home.
How Much Should Solar Panels For Your Home Weigh?
Solar panels for home installations have all different sorts of weights. The weight and dimensions of a solar panel are determined by the number of solar cells within the panel.
Subsequently, working out the weight of a single panel will allow you to determine the weight of the entire array you have installed.
Most residential solar system installations are comprised of panels that can produce 300 watts and above.
The average dimensions of a 365 watt solar panel from Candian Solar is the following:
- 1776 mm × 1052mm × 35mm
- Weight: 45 pounds
Assuming your home requires 6kW of power you will need approximately 16 – 365 watt solar panels to cover your consumption.
16 solar panels x 45 pounds = 720 pounds
In summary, the weight of your solar panels is determined by the overall energy you require. The more you require, the heavier your system will be.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost For Your Home?
Average cost of solar panels for home use based on system size
|SYSTEM SIZE||AVERAGE SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM COST (BEFORE TAX CREDITS)||AVERAGE SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM COST (AFTER TAX CREDITS)|
The above prices indicate the cost of a solar system before and after deducting the federal solar tax credit (also known as ITC). This tax credit can reduce your solar system cost by 26%.
Some states and utilities even offer rebates and other tax incentives that further reduce the solar system cost. We will touch base on this further in the article.
It is important that you remember – bigger solar systems will always cost more upfront. However, in the long run, they will end up saving you much more money.
Additionally, there are many low-interest solar loans that make it even easier investing in solar panels for home use.
Average prices of solar panel installations by brand
|MANUFACTURER||COST PER WATT||PRICE RANGE (10KW SYSTEM)|
|Axitex||$2.58||$22,900 – $28,700|
|Boviet||$2.53||$25,300 – $25,300|
|Canadian Solar Inc.||$2.77||$24,000 – $31,400|
|CertainTeed Solar||$2.72||$25,600 – $28,800|
|Hanwha SolarOne||$2.80||$28,000 – $28,000|
|Heliene||$2.94||$25,300 – $33,500|
|Hyundai||$3.02||$24,800 – $35,600|
|JA Solar||$3.12||$28,400 – $34,000|
|Jinko Solar||$2.84||$24,600 – $32,200|
|KYOCERA Solar, Inc.||$5.00||$50,000 – $50,000|
|LG Solar||$2.76||$24,000 – $31,200|
|LONGi Solar||$3.00||$26,000 – $34,000|
|Mission Solar Energy||$2.54||$23,300 – $27,500|
|Panasonic||$2.84||$24,800 – $32,000|
|Peimar Group||$3.00||$26,300 – $33,700|
|Phono Solar||$2.93||$27,300 – $31,300|
|Q CELLS||$2.52||$21,000 – $29,400|
|REC||$2.91||$24,400 – $33,800|
|Risen||$2.34||$22,500 – $24,300|
|S-Energy||$3.21||$25,000 – $39,200|
|Silfab Solar||$2.79||$24,200 – $31,600|
|Solaria||$2.80||$24,700 – $31,300|
|SunPower Corporation||$3.30||$30,800 – $35,200|
|Talesun Solar Co.||$2.76||$23,700 – $31,500|
|Tesla||$2.74||$24,900 – $29,900|
|Trina Solar||$2.93||$26,600 – $32,000|
|Vikram Solar||$3.07||$26,400 – $35,000|
(PLEASE NOTE: These prices are BEFORE the 26 percent federal tax credit)
How long Should Solar Panels For A Home Last?
As a general rule of thumb, high-end solar panels will last you between 25 to 30 years. After this time they will still work. However, they will no longer be as efficient as they once were.
How To Choose Solar Panels For Home Use – Most Important Specifications
As previously mentioned in our article, some of the most important parameters to choose your solar panels from are:
- Price per watt-peak
When looking at the specifications of a solar panel (at the back of the panel and on the data sheet), you will find more information: some are basics like the size, material used for the frame, number of solar cells, warranty etc… others are more complex, such as the electrical and temperature data. Don’t worry, we only advise you to check two specific information:
- Temperature coefficient
- Impp and Vmpp (maximum current and voltage output)
Let’s see why:
Temperature coefficient of a solar panel
The performances of solar panels (efficiency and power output) are affected by the temperature. The hotter they get the lower their power output, and they can get as hot as 60°C under full sun.
The temperature coefficient is expressed in percent per degree, it varies between -0.25%/°C for the best solar panels to -0.5%/°C at worst.
For example, if a 500W solar panel has a temperature coefficient of -0.25%/°C and its temperature rise to 60°C (from standard 25°C), the loss in power output is calculated as follow:
Therefore, the power output will be 456W.
If the temperature coefficient is -0.5%/°C, the loss is doubled at 17.5%, power output will only be 412W.
The difference is pretty large, so we can only advice you to choose solar panels with the lowest temperature coefficient to minimize the loss.
Impp and Vmpp (Current and Voltage) of a solar panel
The current and voltage output of your solar panel are essential information to build your solar panel array on your roof (assembly of solar panels). A solar panel array consists of multiple solar panels wired in series and parallel.
When connected in serry: the current is the same in the whole serry, and the voltage of the serry is the sum of the voltage of each solar panel.
When connected in parallel: the current is the sum of the current output of each solar panel, and the voltage is the same, equal to the voltage of one solar panel.
For example, building a 6kW solar system consisting of 12 units of 500 W solar panel (voltage of 42 V and current of 11.9 Amps per panel), wiring 6 panels in series will produce an array of solar panels with a voltage of 252 V and 11.9 Amps.
If you combine 2 series in parallel, this will lead to a solar system of 252 V and 23.8 Amps (12 panels, 6kW)
In the end you will need an inverter that accepts the maximum current and voltage of your total solar system.
3 Best Solar Panels For Home Installations
1. Renogy Eclipse 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
The Eclipse is one of my favorite 100-watt solar panels on the market, and many van life travelers opt for them.
It’s made from the highest efficiency solar cells Renogy has to offer while weighing in at a mere 15 pounds (6 kg).
The solar cells are encased in a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame, people living close to the beach, here’s your answer.
2. Renogy 320 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
This solar panel is primarily used for residential and commercial purposes.
Rooftop solar systems are the ideal way to decrease your overall electric bill.
This particular panel from Renogy is capable of withstanding high winds, up to 2400 Pa, and snow loads of 5400 Pa
3. Weize 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Pre-drilled holes make installing this solar panel pretty easy. It is not our first choice of a solar panel for home use simply because of its low wattage rating.
However, if you have a smaller home or cabin with fewer energy requirements, then this might just be the solar panel for you.
The silicon cells are contained in an anti-corrosion aluminum frame.
Solar Potential By State
Please note, the below table was created using data from Project Sunroof by Google. Data trends come from the year 2018, this table will be updated as soon as new data becomes available.
|State||Viable Roofs||Potential MWh AC Per Year||Carbon Offset (Metric Tons)||Cars Taken off The Road (For 1 Year)||Existing Installations|
In the near future, you can expect 70,000 photovoltaic panels to be installed every hour. Knowing how to choose the right solar panels for home use is becoming more important by the day.
If you have any questions regarding your solar installations, please do not hesitate to reach out to us in the comments section below.