A considerable barrier for the expansion of residential solar is the relatively low level of purchasing knowledge possessed by the average consumer. For most people, the first quote they get for an installation on their roof is the first quote for a solar panel system they’ve ever seen.
Recognizing this issue in education and product familiarity, online solar marketplace EnergySage has launched the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide, a new tool for customers to compare the top residential brands and models for solar panels, inverters and home batteries and choose the system that’s right for them.
“Most people reading a quote for a solar energy system are doing so for the first time, and aren’t familiar with the equipment they’re being offered,” said Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage. “Until now, there hasn’t been an easy way for them to check equipment quality, if it’s priced appropriately, or how it stacks up against alternative offerings. Our Buyer’s Guide is designed to help shoppers better understand the equipment they’re being offered so they can make more informed purchase decisions. We hope it also helps solar installers and distributors better plan for future inventory stocking.”
All of the products under those three categories are assigned a quality designation based off of a five-tier ranking system (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent).
While the criteria for each lev el of quality ranking is not shared on the website, a representative of EnergySage shared with pv magazine how subjective determinations are made from each piece of hardware’s specs.
- Solar panel ratings: The previous panel rating system scored individual modules based upon the following metrics: efficiency, temperature coefficient, and product warranty length. The new rating system keeps the same structure and adds three new metrics – annual panel degradation rates, power tolerance, and performance warranty length.
- Inverter ratings: Similar to panel ratings, inverters are scored based on their efficiency and warranty. Additionally, an inverter’s nighttime consumption and voltage range are taken into account in its quality rating.
- Solar battery ratings: The solar battery rating system scores batteries from Poor to Excellent according to efficiency, warranty, degradation rate, useable capacity, and maximum charge and discharge power.
The guide is, in a word, expansive. There are over 1,450 different modules alone, ranging from 55-435 W. Of that figure, nearly 800 modules register as either ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’ To wade through the options, the list can be sorted by featured modules, efficiency, material warranty term, rated power and output warranty term. For additional sorting, buyers can trim the proverbial search results fat by adding the given filters: ratings & efficiency, warranties, appearance, panel details and availability.
And if you thought there were a lot of modules, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The inverter guide covers seemingly every option under the sun, listing over 4,500 different inverters. And, while you can filter inverters for maximum output, inverter type, nominal voltage and weighted efficiency. However, unlike the modules, you can’t filter inverters by the guide-given ranking, which can be tedious if you’ve already applied other filters but only wish to see inverters ranked ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’
Falling under the shadow of their expansive-in-selection brethren, the solar battery buyers guide includes 33 different models. However, with weaker numbers come stronger rankings, as 28 of the 33 listed batteries score ‘very good’ or above, with two being ranked as just ‘good’ and the remaining three being unrated. If one finds themselves needing to filter through this, the briefest of the listings, the can do so by manufacturing, rating, power, size, expected life & cycles, capabilities and market.
The guide is the culmination of more than a year of work and preparation, which included data and analysis from NREL and “Consumer Reports-style” modeling.
Learn more about the costs and benefits of solar panels on EnergySage, the trusted online solar marketplace.