PV Panels, are they all the same?
This post addresses only standard PV Panels. I will not discuss the newer tech panels coming onto the market now such as Bifacial, and high density etc. Just standard 60 and 72 cell PV panels.
So are they all the same? NO, They are not, and it’s not for the reason you may think. We consider PV panels manufactured by tier-1 brands far more preferable, and here is why!
Firstly, let me quickly explain what tier-1 means. It is not a rating of the quality or efficiency of the PV panel itself, but rather a financial rating of the manufacturer. So, tier-1 means the solar panels are manufactured by a very large company with lots of product sold annually and a large number of employees. As an example; Canadian Solar is reported to employ over 12,000 people.
The idea is that the larger the company is, the higher the potential becomes for longevity of the business itself; and therefore, your warranty! Given that PV panels come with 10/12 year and 25 year performance warranties, you can see how and why this rating has become important.
Also, arguably is that these tier-1 manufacturer’s products are far more likely to be consistent due to superior manufacturing and better quality control. Perhaps due to their actually being on the hook for warranty replacements. If you know you will be around to have to deal with a badly made product, you will be far more likely to ensure it is made correctly the first time.
I am not going to go into the efficiency of one tier-1 brand versus another, sufficed to say, each manufacturer market themselves accordingly.
Right, so now that that’s out of the way. Let’s move on.
Canadian solar is among the top three leading tier-1 solar cell manufacturers with an annual capacity of 6,970 MW (per Bloomberg). They are one of the most popular brands in the market worldwide. Canadian solar are arguably the most bankable manufacturer in the market and offers the after sales support in South Africa that Living Solar demand.
Nipping at Canadian Solar heals is Living Solar’s other tier-1 PV giant JA Solar. While top 10 PV manufacturer lists vary from month to month and study to study, JA solar are always among the top 5 tier-1 manufacturers, along with Canadian Solar who are usually in the top 3. JA Solar, again, are well supported and represented in South Africa; as mentioned before, that is very important to us.
This is not to say these are the ONLY bankable manufacturers in the world, not by a mile. There are also Trina, Jinko and Yingli to name a few. Also, the brands on offer in South Africa are always in flux. You may see Trina or Jinko Solar on offer widely for a few months; and then as that stock depletes, another brand will take it’s place. Living Solar buys panels from the most reliable distribution sources to try avoid this scenario, but it is not always possible.
We also currently offer Enersol (by Solaire direct) PV panels as a slightly more affordable alternative, and while this company is not as far as we are aware on any tier-1 list, their “A” grade panels have proven to be reliable over the years, so we carry them based on our first hand experience.
So in conclusion, buying tier-1 brands makes a lot of sense. Lesser known brands (which seem to be prevalent in our country due to slightly lower costs) may seem appealing when purchasing due to this small savings, but this little savings could come back to haunt you later.
Living solar is committed to the quality and serviceability of all our off grid energy systems, and this commitment is reflected in our product range.
Click below to see our range of solar panels.