Solar Panel Guide

Today you’re going to get a crash course on the Solar Panel.

After you’ve read this definitive guide you understand what they are, how they work, what types there are and more.

Let’s get started.

Understand How Solar Panels Work

Solar Panels, how they work

When you strip it down to the basics, a Solar Panel is an aluminium or stainless steel frame. And inside this frame is a silicone cell. The cell is protected by a thick and clear sheet of protective glass.

Now, the silicone cell is the magical component that turns the UV rays into DC energy.

How does that work?

Once the rays have been harvested and transformed into practical energy, it gets sent to an inverter.

After which the inverter takes the flow of energy through another transformation that deals with switching it from DC energy to AC. The latter is the energy/electricity that gets used inside your home.

To clarify, the inverter and the Solar Panel are two separate pieces of solar power equipment but work together as a unit.

Which leads on to the next important part…

The Different Solar Panel Types Available

1. Monocrystalline Solar Panel

Monocrystalline panel

Monocrystalline panel

The Monocrystalline panel is made from a single crystal structure. Out of the different varieties, they are the oldest technology, the solar cells have a uniform flat colour.

They are more expensive per watt but are more efficient, this means you can install fewer high-efficiency panels.

Best used:

  • Residential and Commercial projects
  • If there is limited space available

Pros

  • Most efficient
  • More heat resistant

Cons

  • Most expensive per watt
  • Fragile

View our range of Monocrystalline panels

2. Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Polycrystalline panel

The Polycrystalline panel is a newer technology. Therefore silicon panels have a less uniform appearance due to the silicone cooling unevenly.

They tend to be the most affordable with the lowest price per watt, although they put out a little less power they are gaining in efficiency. Their production is better for the environment as they require fewer resources to make, making them the “greener” option.

Best used:

  • For Grid-Tied systems
  • If on a budget
  • Looking for the “greenest” option

Pros

  • Most affordable
  • Long lasting
  • Require less silicone

Cons

  • Least efficient
  • Fragile

View our range of Polycrystalline panels

What Solar Panel Brands Are Best

Solar panels aren’t all made equal, which makes the brand of solar panel you choose very important.

Here are the best brands we recommend:

Canadian Solar

In terms of size, Canadian Solar boasts with a reputation for being among the three largest solar panel brands in the world.

Their employee base has grown to more than 9700 staff members, and the brand operates on no less than six continents.

Top features:

  • High-quality panels
  • Production lines in South Africa
  • Affordable Solar Panels
  • Global leaders in Solar Energy
  • Great support
  • Offer guarantees
  • Long lasting Solar Panels

View website | View range

JA Solar

Best Solar Panel brands

Based in Shanghai, and it’s been operational since 2005. Over the years the company has gained a strong reputation for producing some of the most high-performance cells and modules used for solar panels, and their international client base is growing at a rapid pace.

Top features:

  • High-performance panels
  • Innovative
  • Affordable Solar Panels
  • Global leaders in Solar Energy
  • Trusted brand
  • Offer guarantees
  • Long lasting Solar Panels

View website | View range

ReneSola

A leading international manufacturer ReneSola has been around since 2005, they were listed on New York Stock Exchange in 2008.

Based in China, they also produce inverters and LED lighting. They develop solar farms and large-scale rooftop solar projects.

Top features:

  • Involved in large-scale Solar Projects
  • Supply products world-wide
  • Trusted brand
  • Offer guarantees
  • Good quality products

View website | View range

Jinko

Jinko is a heavy-weight solar panel brand based in China. They employ more than 15 thousand people and manage 8 global production facilities with 16 overseas subsidiaries.

Supply countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and many others, it only proves they know what they are doing with their solar cells.

Top features:

  • Supply products worldwide
  • Trusted brand
  • Specialise in only Solar Panels
  • Good quality products

How The Solar Panel Fits In With A System

Solar Panels don’t work on their own, they need other components in order to actually work.

Here is a list of what you’ll need:

Inverter

The inverter has one specific purpose – to safely switch the DC energy from a solar panel to AC energy, which can be used inside the home.

Without an inverter, you won’t be able to utilize the energy for appliances or lights. It’s also logical that you want to invest in a quality inverter, given its critical place in the equation.

You can find out more about solar inverters right here.

Batteries (optional)

Batteries are an optional component so without them, you are essentially using solar power on demand, this means they only use solar energy when the sun is shining. It also means they don’t have solar power during the night.

For the most part, when people install a solar array, they take the battery option as well.

Provided that you probably spend most of your day at work and use most energy at night, batteries just makes sense. You get different sizes, models, and quality options, but this is why we have a solar battery section to keep you informed.

Solar Charge Controller/MPPT (optional)

Just like the batteries, a solar charge controller is an optional component. It regulates the current used to charge the battery which comes from the inverter.

A Solar Charge Controller does become a necessity if you are using panels with high outputs. If you want to maintain the health of your battery and the overall efficiency of the solar array, read more about solar charge controllers right here.

Complete Solar Power System Kits

In simple and plain terms, Solar Power Kits make the purchasing process easier for you.

If you don’t feel like mixing and matching different solar equipment, look at the Solar Power Kits section. 

There aren’t too many components involved with a Solar Power Kits. But some equipment and brands just work well together. Buying a complete kit that has been carefully put together means you get the complete setup for a better price.

The appeal when buying a complete kit includes:

  • Convenience, in the sense that they have all the necessary components
  • You’ll save money when buying all these components together
  • Kits consist of equipment and brands that work well together

Calculate How Many Solar Panels Do You Need

Now to work out what you need, it might seem daunting at first but it’s relatively straightforward.

In order to find out how many kilowatts you use simply get your electricity bills, then, get an average of what you use.

Enter that into the calculator below to get an idea on how many Solar Panels you may need, don’t worry that it’s not 100%, we will help fine-tune exactly what you will need.

Solar Power Estimation Tool

Calculate your Off grid Solar systemIf you want to work out how many kilowatts you use exactly, head over to our Solar Power Estimation Tool.

  1. Simply choose either option (Grid-Tied or Hybrid)
  2. Select the appliance you have and use
  3. Enter the average number of hours you use per month
  4. After proceeding, take a note of the kilowatts you use
  5. Enter your email if you want to send us your estimations

Solar Power Estimator

Solar Panel Prices in South Africa, How Much Do They Cost

Over the years Solar Panels have come down in price, now with the market growing it’s never been a better time to get affordable Solar Panels.

You can buy a panel for under R500 if you want the biggest, most efficient panels you can pay just under R2000. It gets even cheaper if you buy a pallet of Solar Panels.

Take a look at the range of Solar Panels here

Don’t forget that you will need mountings for your panels.

Solar Panel Kits

Each kit comes with a different number of Solar Panels, depending on the energy that you want to harvest.

The quality of the Solar Panels will differ in terms of efficiency and output. For example, on the high-end kits provided by SolarAdvice are Canadian Solar Panel brand.

In fact, you will only find the best Solar Panel kit combinations at SolarAdvice. Whether you are looking for a budget investment that will help you save on your electricity bill or a high-powered system that almost takes you off the grid, we have it.

Resources

Here’s a list of external resources that will help you learn more about Solar Panels:

SolarAdvice Rating
Overall
4.4
  • Return on Investment
    (5)
  • Affordability
    (5)
  • Energy Saving
    (5)
  • Overall Cost
    (4.5)
  • Installation (Speed)
    (4)
  • Installation (Cost)
    (3)

Solar Panel Review Summary

Overall the Solar Panel is undoubtedly one of the best investments you can make, the price for a Solar Panel has gone down over the years making it one of the cheapest components to the system.

Not all Solar Panels are created equal, this overall review is based on the different Solar Panels combined. Quality, price and efficiency differ on every brand so we recommend researching each brand individually before making your purchase.

Ask A Question About A Solar Panel

At this point, I’m sure you have a few questions, Solar Power is very broad and with so many options every home or business has a unique setup.

Leave a comment below and we will try our very best to answer every question.