Solar Panels Guide

Solar Panels

Today you're going to get a crash course on Solar Panel prices, how they work and what to look out for.

After you've read this definitive guide you understand what they are, how they work, what you should be paying and the different types available.

Let's get started.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar Panel Diagram

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

What is a Solar Cell

The Solar Cell or “Photovoltaic Cell” converts photons that come directly from the sun and transforms it into electricity, amazing right?

Note:  The silicon solar cell is the magical component that turns the UV rays into DC energy. 

You can read the real science over at Wikipedia.

How does it work in a solar power system?

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.

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

The Different Solar Panel Types Available

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panel
Polycrystalline Solar Panel

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

Note:  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
  • Best Solar Panel price
  • Looking for the “greenest” option

Pros

  •  Most affordable 
  • Long lasting
  • Require less silicon
  • Durable

Cons

  • Least efficient

Monocrystalline Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline Solar 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.

Note:  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
  • Durable

Cons

  • Most expensive per watt
Here is a great video on the different types with their Pros and Cons as well as how to work out your solar array, this includes working out the size of the system and the arrangement. It also covers Series vs Parallel wiring which is vital when planning out your Solar Power System.

What Solar Panel Brands Are Best

Panels aren't all made equal, which makes the brand you choose very important, this list of popular brands is regardless of price.

Here are the brands we recommend:

Canadian Solar

Canadian solarIn 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 Panel price
  • Global leaders in Solar Energy
  • Great support
  • Offer guarantees
  • Long lasting 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, and their international client base is growing at a rapid pace.

Top features:

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

Top features:

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

Is Your Roof Suitable For Panels?

One of the important factors when investing in Panels is how they will work with your roof. This can be straight forward or it can be a bit more complex depending on the size, shape, angle and stability.

How Complex Is The Roof?

Complex roof arrangementThe visual appeal that comes with a complex roof will leave you at a slight disadvantage. Even though it's not impossible to install panels, it's probably going to cost a little more, take for example this beautiful house and compare it to the more basic design.

The cost of installing the panels are obviously going to be more for the house with the complex design because you want all the panels to face in a certain direction and you want it with as little effort as possible.

It's in cases like this that it works out well to have a standard roof with an average tilt.
On the same note,  you want to pay attention to the direction your roof is facing .

Ideally, it should be facing due north and tilting level with your latitude but this only reduces the amount of planning and time spent on installation.

What Material Is The Roof Made Of?

The material of your roof is also going to affect the cost of installation, but it's not money you'll be spending on the service. Instead, you'll be looking at how well the roof material can hold the panels.

Depending on the tracking system of the panels, and whether you even want the panels to move or not, you might want to get an expert opinion.

Take for example Spanish tiles and shake, which have to be removed before the panels can be installed. These are things you want to be aware of before doing any installations.

The Amount Of Shade Covering The Roof

Fitting Solar to awkward roofsRemember that solar panels are powered through light and heat can, in fact, lower the efficiency, in other words,  you don't want any shade on the section of the roof where panels are going to be used .

In most cases, it will be large trees, which can be trimmed and handled. More extreme cases the shade could be coming from a nearby building.

If there's a way you can get around this problem, your local specialist should be able to inform you after looking at your specific situation.

Age And Support

It might not be easy to hear, but your roof has a time limit, and with this time limit comes a level of support it can provide to the solar array. Once again, you want to contact an expert in this area and take a deeper look at the condition of the roof.

Once all is said and done, there is a multitude of variables that go into installing panels. The good news is that there's usually a way around the problem. Solar panel prices are at an all-time low, installations are typically quick and in the long run, you'll be smiling.

Need to calculate how many Panels you need?

This calculator will give you an estimated system size to use when shopping for Solar Panels.

  1. Add your appliance and the number of hours it is used in a day
  2. Select if you want the appliance to have battery backup
  3. Take note of the output below to see if the kit will work for your setup
Your usage

24 hour

Per month

Per year

System size

Inverter size

kW

Battery

Panels

Email us your system size

We will also send you a copy

























    Solar Panel Prices, How Much Do They Cost

    Solar panel price declineThe truth is that  panel production is at an all-time high , while panel prices are at an all-time low and according to the experts, the price drop trend won't be slowing down anytime soon.

    To top it all off,  more and more advanced technology is coming into play, which means more efficient panels .

    It may leave you with the thoughts of waiting a little longer and let the price drop a little more and see what the latest models have to offer.

    This cycle is never going to stop. Just like new cars and cellphones,  solar panels will continue to evolve in affordability and design .

    How Much Do They Solar Panels Cost in South Africa?
    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 Panels.
    Don't forget that you will need mountings for your panels.

    How The Panel Fits In With A System

    Panels don’t work on their own, they need other components in order to work as a complete system.

    Solar Power System in the Home

    Here is a list of what you’ll need:

    The Inverter

    Solar panel system inverter The inverter has one specific purpose – to safely switch the DC energy from a 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 how inverters work and the different types available by reading our in-depth Solar Inverter Guide.

    Batteries (optional)

    Solar Panel system batteriesBatteries are an optional component so without them, you are essentially using power on demand, this means they only use solar energy when the sun is shining.

    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 make sense .

    We have a dedicated guide to Solar Batteries, how they work, the different brands and how to calculate how many you need.

    Solar Charge Controller/MPPT (optional)

    Solar panel system MPPT charge controllerJust 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 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, learn more about Solar Charge Controllers by reading our guide.

    How Much Does a Solar System Cost?

    A system that provides power to an average home will cost R46,710.70, this system will power all your appliances except your geyser, heaters and pool pump. The price will exclude the installation of the system itself which can vary depending on what area you live in and your local installer. On average installation costs around R8,000 bringing the complete total with everything included to R54,710.70.

    If you are interested in Solar Power Kits move on to our next section.

    Solar Power Kits

    Fusion 5kW - Dyness 3.6kWh Lithium-ion - Solar Power Kit

    Solar Power Kits have all the components you need, this is ideal to get started quickly.

    They have been designed by our Solar Engineers so everything works harmoniously together, all you need to know is how much power you need. Use our Solar Power Estimation Tool to get this kilowat (kw) number.

    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 Solar Power Kits. Some equipment and brands just work better together, this is why buying a complete kit that has been carefully put together is not only more optimal but cheaper.

    The appeal when buying a complete kit includes:

    Resources

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

    Ask A Question About A Solar Panel

    I'm sure you have some questions at this point Solar Power is very broad with so many options for every home or business, it's good to ask questions. Leave a comment below and we will try our very best to answer every question.

    6 comments

    1. Chritie Engelbrecht

      I use at present 480 kilowat a month mainly at night,how many panels i need and size of back up battery and can i use at night a heater of 1,5 kilowat for 14 hours and what is total cost of the package?what happens in winter when here westcoast sometimes overcloud for 2 weeks?thankyou in advance also.

      1. Armando da silva

        Hi,

        480kw / 30 days = 16kw p/day
        16kw / 5.5 peak hours =2.91kw solar array
        2.91kw / 330w = 8.7 / 9 x 330w panels.

        The storage would be according to what % of that energy is required to be used at night. So if 50% is night usage, then 8kw back up is required.

    2. I am using 430kwh per month. I have gas stove usage 99% of the time, my geyser is retro fitted with the evt tubes.
      I am interested in the hybrid grid tie system.
      what system will be Ideal form me? At night I am mainly running fridge and freezer(24 hr run), TV and 1 or two two lights,rest of the lights go on only on demand.

      kindly help.

      1. Hi, thanks for sharing your monthly usage. The fact you have a solar geyser and you’re also on gas makes solar perfect for your situation.

        A Hybrid system will be perfect for you, here’s how we work out the size:

        430kwh * 30 days (1 month) / 5.5 (average sunlight hours a year) = 2.6kw

        So the max output is 2.6kwh, BUT to be safe we advise taking an Inverter that can handle more, so you can go for a 3.6kw or 4kw kit (we highly recommend the Goodwe version), so any of the kits here except the 2kw option: https://solaradvice.co.za/shop/solar-power/solar-power-kit/hybrid-solar-power-kits/

        Then you’ll need to consider your backup options, you can go for a 1.96kwh option and add later, or increase it to whatever you want, depending on how many hours you need in the evening.

        Average is around 4 hours plus appliances like your fridge and freezer. You will also have the grid to fall back on if some evenings you exceed this.

        Hope that helps, feel free to ask more questions, we love helping!

    3. Rohann van Zyl

      Good day! I am looking to bring my 980 units monthly down to under 600 units to stay in a certain tariff, i have 60A 3 phase supply (also solar geyser and gas hob)- and thought of getting a 3 phase 8kw pv solar inverter ( 30x 330W panels)for saving only (no battery backup. i have a few questions you might help me with, 1. what would the application to the city cost? 2. Will it be worth while spending R80 000 to do this? 3. i have a prepaid meter – would i need some smart meter or something. I really would like to Spend R900 instead of R2000 a month so i can pay back the system over 80 months (6 years) – does it seem possible? Thanks so much

      1. Hi, we will reply back via email as soon as we can get to your request.

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