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Explained: The Power of Choice – Solar Panels

The motivation behind Solarbid is to create a solar consumer awareness website that enables prospective customers to understand what they SHOULD be paying for solar.


The cost of solar panels is the main price driver of a solar installation. These costs can range from $0.30 per watt on the low end to $1.25 per watt on the high end. If a customer is quoting a 10kW system, they can often pay $3,000 for panels OR they can pay $12,000 for panels. The reason for having so many options on Solarbid is to prevent uninformed buyers from paying $12,000 for the $3,000 panels. Many customers are hung up on system size and say, “Well I’m buying a 10kW system for $3.00 per watt”. That could be a really great deal for premium panels OR they could be getting completely ripped off. The panels that we have listed on Solarbid are 6 of the most common manufactures that we see in our day-to-day business in AZ. The Solarbid Tool lists them in ascending order of Price Per Watt, or lowest priced panel to highest priced panel.


Hanwha and Silfab


Hanwha and Silfab are often great panels for a cash buyer that wants to get into a solar system inexpensively. Sometimes for an investment home, a rental, or if they’re planning to only be in the house for a short time and don’t want to pay an electric bill. Inexpensive and well-made modules that do the job just fine, but don’t quite have the bells and whistles or warranties of other more costly panels. The Hanwha panel that we currently offer is a 340W module bought at clearance and we have great availability. The Silfab is a 360W panel at about $0.10 per watt more but can sometimes save the customer a little by needing less panels on the roof. For reference: The Hanwha we offer is the same module that Tesla Energy is offering on all of their current quotes, while the Silfab module is the primary module offered by Titan Solar and their numerous sales groups.


REC and Solaria


At the next price point or the “middle of the road”, we offer the REC Alpha 365W and the Solaria PowerXT 400W. These two modules are within just a few pennies of each other per watt and are readily available in the Phoenix and Tucson markets. You’re looking at a 10% increase in total system cost compared to that of Hanwha and Silfab. That increase in cost is related to longer and stronger warranty service as well as some technological differences. If financing your project, pay close attention to the slight monthly cost differences between this level of panel and their budget counterparts.


Panasonic


At the next price point you’re jumping into products that are cutting edge category leaders. Panasonic brand recognition and a rock solid 25-year material and labor warranty explain the cost increase of the new EverVolt panels. One thing to remember though is that the technology used in Panasonic and REC modules is very similar. If you’re interested in Panasonic, you will have to justify the cost difference with REC. The Panasonic panel listed on Solarbid is the 360W, which is approx. $0.20 more per watt than the REC Alpha 365W and comes with 25-year warranty and a great service record to boot. Panasonic is also offering lower wattage HIT panels (320W to 340W) at prices similar or even below that of Solaria and REC. If you have an existing quote with Panasonic, make sure to double check exactly which module you’re being quoted and ensure the price is fair.


LG Solar


LG is similar to Panasonic in warranty and efficiency and has many modules on the market ranging from 350W to 400W with great warranty programs. We include the 400W panel in the Solarbid Tool simply because it is the most efficient 60 cell panel on the market. This panel is top of the line and thus demands a premium price. Whereas the Solaria 400W has a larger footprint, the LG 400 is the industry standard solar panel size (40”x65”) and therefore is extremely valuable for small roof spaces. Choose the LG 400W if you have a difficult layout or small roof space and want to maximize your production. However, we understand the LG 350W, like the discontinued Panasonic HIT modules, are currently being sold for prices similar to REC and Solaria so always ensure the panel you are being quoted is priced fairly.


What Now?


We say all of this to ensure sure that you understand that there are a wide variety of price points for varying levels of product. The Solarbid Tool was built to make sure you’re getting the best price for the product you’re choosing. Don’t pay $12,000 for the $3,000 panels! With a little research and the Solarbid Tool you can ensure you’re always getting what you pay for.