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CHOICE Solar Panel Review

With so many solar panel brands claiming to be the most efficient, or the best value, or the most technologically advanced, picking one above the rest can be very hard. We lab test and review the latest solar panels to help you choose.

Read our solar panel review (member content).

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Hello Brendyn, CSIRO have been working for the last 12 or so months on testing solar panels, and I think batteries. Have you been able to assess their findings at this stage? It appears that Australian companies such as Redflow have viable alternatives to overseas brands.

Trevor Rogers

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There is a live battery test going on for a range of currently available Lithium batteries here: http://batterytestcentre.com.au/
There are a lot more available than this, but they appear to be concentrating on the most popular - the CALB is more for a DIY off-grid battery (It’s what I have in 400AH cells here), but the others are for grid-connected systems.
Initially there appeared to be some problems with their graph results, but I think they have sorted it out now.
Of course not a lot, other than any catastrophic failures, is going to be obvious in the couple of months shown in the real-time graphs, but some trends should show up in the first 6 monthly report.

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This is wonderful news, it is so difficult to decide which company to go with, and who is offering the most value-added price on their solar panels.

I look forward to reading the Solar Panel Review and seeing what Choice has learned about the industry.

There is nothing like education to help one make an informed decision!

Thanks Brendan and Choice
Cheers Natalie :slight_smile:

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Hi @trevorrogers7,

We partnered with CSIRO for this solar panel test, and we’ve also looked at some of the financial considerations to getting a battery set-up. However, we haven’t engaged in any comparative testing for products like the Redflow battery yet. As these batteries become more accessible, I’m sure this will be on our radar. You might also find some further info on this thread, and feel free to post a new topic if you’re after some further feedback from the Community.

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Brendan, whilst the test rates the panels on performance, this doesn’t necessarily represent the best value for the owner. ie, is it really worth paying say 50% more for 10% better performance?

Perhaps a new column with cost in cents per kWh per (say) decade (good quality panels are not likely to die in this time frame) would be a useful new comparator?

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Thanks @gordon, I’ll pass on your feedback to our product testers for review :+1:

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Hi Brendon,
Thanks for starting this thread.
I was looking into getting solar panels for my house but had to abandon it, looking at taking it up again when I come back from leave. It’s bad enough trying to understand all the individual parts needed and get the best deal especially as this is going on the roof of my house and will be there for 25 years but worst of all was the sniping between different suppliers.
The worst one of all was a woman who must have rung me a dozen times a day 10 minutes apart at work telling me she had the best deal and putting pressure on me to pay the deposit. I finally gave in and paid, much to my shame, but then got my money back within the cooling off period. It was a terrible experience.
I am loathe to start it off again but really want to go solar.
Cheers
Marie

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You should get @gordon’s advice (I am sure he will respond to a private message from you). His expert & trustworthy knowledge in this area will reap you dividends.

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No worries @marie.belcredi, best luck with it when the time comes to have a look again. Feel free to post any questions you have to this forum and we’ll do our best to help.

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Adding to our existing info on solar, we have also had a look at solar tiles including efficiency, pros and cons.

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Whilst looking to finally buy solar I came across SolarQuotes.com.au, not to be confused with similarly named companies. I have no relationship with them excepting they arranged some quotes for me. They seem dinkum and have a number of excellent educational videos on youtube, and their website has an awesome amount of information on products and installers, not all of it immediately obvious. There is commentary on a wide range of solar products and reviews of products and installers, both in and out of their network.

@BrendanMays informs Choice is soon to release their own solar videos, to which I look forward, but until then here is a youtube index including mostly Solarquotes tutorials.

This one is a good place to start

I met with some sales people and afterwards watched the videos and far more started to make sense, so watching can be time well spent. I was better able to assess what they were each selling, eg financial value, expensive best practice solutions that are not required for my location, glossed over relevant bits (that might or might not have mattered in a practical sense), and enabled me to ask meaningful and important followup questions about their proposals and processes.

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There are no recommendations. Is it because of a particular reason?

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If you are referring to solarquotes, you will see that all the panels and inverters are categorised as products ‘Finn would have on his roof’ and OK to go with from their viewpoint in the products overview. Some products not on his radar occasionally get referenced and he will reply to a question. Often those products are not what he considers tier 1, or are not mainstream offerings so have little evidence one way or another.

FWIW the brand positioning on his graphs (from entry to premium) reflect their positioning when the graphs are made / updated from time to time. The one on the web site is usually up to date whilst the ones on the videos are historic from the date of the video.

My pre-purchase research reinforces even the ‘affordable / entry’ panels shown appear to be solid choices and have 10 year parts warranties while the premium ones have 25 year parts and labour. Will the premium provide more energy over time? If one spends enough time reading and playing mind games with oneself probably not for similar configurations, but the products differentiate themselves through their warranties.

A lot of it becomes what one is comfortable paying for and one product is not necessarily better than another when both are highly credible. Choice’s test is limited; industry feedback is probably biased but also reflects products that installers are happy with over long periods. Another way to look at it as I have learnt is what is the tradeoff between products with say 96.5 and 96.9% efficiency when the former has a 12-25 year warranty and the latter a 10?

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I’ve just been around the loop and installed a 5kW PV system.
The general information on Choice when I was looking at quotes Aug/Sept was useful. The solar panel review was of limited value, firstly because the range of tier 1 panels available is 3 to 4 times broader than the test samples. As @TheBBG points out even looking at the sample test results, the variation in performance is quite small. The variation in pricing is significant, noting that we purchased a system with 20 panels, the price of which did not relate in any logical way to the single panel pricing in the review.

The Choice, Panel review and rest results were reassuring in that based on the sample used modern panels typically conform to the stated performance specs.

I’ve some other comments about the install, how we went getting quotes and the outcomes on a more appropriate topic. One of the Choice guides lead us to SolarQuotes.com which we accessed. Over all a very useful site and service. I have some observations or reservations on how the quote search functions which I can pass on if it is useful to others?

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Solar Analytics highly recommends Finn’s book The Good Solar Guide and all the content on Solarquotes.com.au. Finn and his team are thorough, discerning and allow a platform of honest feedback from real users.

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True, the technical content and supporting costings details are great.

Separate to the content I also made use of the three quotes option.
I’d be happy to discuss how effectively the quote seeking mechanism functions in a constructive way, on or off topic? You need more than an hour to research and decide which three businesses should provide quotes or have a default selection made for you. Happy to discuss in detail further off line if you would like to email me?

It is really about how to make a good choice on solar PV, more than what brand, type and version of panel to select. It took 2 electricians 12 hours each to do our install with 20 panels in two strings over two roofs. I also derated the total daily panel output to 80% when looking at the cost benefits to factor in some ignorance and our unusual roof.

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I’ve often wondered about the impact of solar panels on the quality of water collected from a roof on which they’re mounted, particularly when the panels are damaged.
https://reneweconomy.com.au/solar-panels-exposed-to-fire-pose-negligible-risk-to-health-environment-iea-61349/

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Before buying solar equipment, it may pay to check out the big name solar installers and suppliers going out of business. Otherwise you may be left high and dry (or in my case dripping wet when it rains).

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Ronald Brakels’ blog has a write up of the latest PV panel testing, and points out some quite serious failings of the testing with regards to the reporting of which panels are good

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