If you are new to the solar energy market or an experienced solar owner and user, something remarkable has happened in the past several years regarding the prices of solar panels. Solar photo-voltaics (making electricity from the sun) has long been disregarded as too expensive and cost ineffective. Not any more.
Thanks to a worldwide increase in demand for solar panels and increased manufacturing output followed by a worldwide economic decline, solar panel prices have never been better. Manufacturer's manufacturing efficiency has also improved and competition for market share is relentless.
Update August 2013
A lot has happened in the solar panel world since this page went online in 2011. A number of manufacturers from around the world have gone under like my beloved Evergreen in Massachusetts. Best large 12 volt panels ever made - I own and use five.
A number of large manufacturers like Bosch in Germany have gotten out of the market. There are new USA entrants like Grape Solar and Suniva. There has been lots of consolidation among manufacturers and lots of bankruptcies. The USA trade dispute with China has impacted production especially of smaller 12 volt modules due to a duty penalty on the dumping of Chinese made cells, so China is buying cells from Taiwan, Korea and Germany and still assembling panels. This has kept 12 volt panel prices up, but there are some good deals available if you know where to look. We do.
On the 12 volt side, prices have not moderated much. Per watt, 12 volt panels cost more than larger 24 volts panels. For most single panel applications for things like water pumping, refrigeration, greenhouse ventilation and small battery backup systems, 24 volt panels represent a much better value.
Here's why. A good quality A grade 250 watt 12 volt panel is presently selling around $1 a watt. Output in amps (Imp or Impp on the panel label) is about 8.5. If you use a small MPPT charge controller to step down the voltage to charge a 12 volt battery, you get 17 amps at 12 volts. A 140 watt 12 volt panel I am presently selling at an overstock price is $195 and outputs 8.14 amps. So the 24 volt panel price is $14.70 per amp. The 12 volt is $23.96 per amp. The price comparison is for a 12 volt system.
So, when pricing panels don't look at just the price per watt. Look at the price per amp also?
The information down this page about B Grade panels is significantly less important that two years ago. It appears to me that most B Grade panels and especially those made with Chinese cells are going to other places around the world. Prices are much lower for A grade panels now than what B grade panels were selling for two years ago.
There are lots of good deals in the market that come and go quickly. If you have a plan for what you want we will be pleased to work the market for you.
Be Your Own Power Company
The alternative to ENERGY INVESTMENT is ENERGY EXPENSE with unending increases in fossil fuel prices and declining supplies that mean consistent unending future cost increases. The other sneaky revenue generator for public utilities is the Smart Meter. Everyone I have talked with around the country with smart meters has seen a significant increase in their utility bill with no change in their energy use behavior. These meters are also a proven source of radio radiation that cause a wide range of human health problems.
Rather than paying higher and higher prices for the energy that you need, an INVESTMENT IN SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS gives you an almost 100 percent guarantee of your future energy costs for at least 25 years. Your future energy cost is near ZERO other than replacing your batteries every 7 to 10 years.
Check to see what incentives are available in your part of the USA along with the 30% Federal Tax Credit.
One of the negatives regarding the current market trend is that manufacturers are working on manufacturing larger panels and small panels under 100 watts may hard to find. This is less true in 2013. We are panel hunters and have sources for smaller panels when they are available. If you are looking for small solar panels for sale, ask us what we know. The market changes every day.
Best Solar Panel Prices from Sunshine Works
We are a solar panel reseller, not a major stocking distributor, but we work almost every day with the major distributors who have the best solar panel prices for the best products. Thanks to our low operating overhead and reasonable profit margins, we can sell solar panels and compete with anyone in the USA or Canada.
Note that the market is constantly changing and special deals come and go quickly.
How to Save Money on Solar Panels
If you can find them (and we can), the best deal on the market is to purchase what is called in the solar energy trade as Q or B Grade panels which have slight cosmetic defects that have nothing to do with performance or warranty. The output and reliability of these panels is the same as A Grade panels including a full manufacturer's performance warranty, typically 25 years.
If the panels are going on the roof or a pole mounted or elevated array support, who will ever see these little defects? Likely only the installer, the birds and the squirrels.
If you are interested in B or Q Grade panels, be ready to make a decision because these panels are a very good value and they move quickly. For example, one of our sources had 237 each 200 watt 12 volt panels on Friday and none on Monday. Someone bought all of them over the weekend.
Another Way to Save Money on Solar Panels
With many technical solar energy sales engineers the big push is on higher efficiency per square foot or square meter, which is measured in amps - when you look at solar panel specifications the measure is listed as Imp for amps and Vmp for volts. For example, the Imp of my new 205 watt panels is 10.93 amps for 205 watts with a Vmp of 18.30. The higher the Imp per watt, the more efficient the panel.
If you have a limited space installation, this could be important. Otherwise, the price per watt and the amps produced is the best way to determine a panel's value.
So, rather than letting some solar sales engineer push you toward super efficient panels as a sales buzz, you can now do your own evaluation of a solar panel's price versus value? Less efficient panels which still perform admirably usually have the best prices.
What Voltage Panels Should You Buy?
See the updated information up the page August 2013. For small off grid solar power systems, lower voltages are usually the best way to go. 12 volts is the standard for small installations. 24 volt is also common and is useful if you have some distance to travel with the wire between the panels and your battery bank. The lower the voltage the greater the resistance or impedance, which means you need bigger wire with a limited maximum transmission distance, especially for 12 volt DC.
What's Happened With Large 12 Volt Panels?
With the demise of Evergreen in 2011 the manufacture of large USA 12 volt panels is all but gone. For the same footprint you can get 20-40 percent more amps from 24 volt panels using an MPPT charge controller to charge 12 volt batteries.
On occasion, we know the whereabouts of large 12 volt panels like some whopping 235 watt 12 volt panels available now (December 2012). They come and go on occasion.
Yet Another Way to Save Money on Solar Panel Prices
Panels with voltages higher than 24 volts are often priced lower per Imp that comparable lower voltage panel prices. Why? Usually because of less demand. 24 volt panels are not usually available in the range of watts available for 12 volt, but we do have some small 24 volt solar panels
You can use these higher voltage panels for your 12 or 24 volt system by using a MPPT charge controller which automatically senses the voltage of your battery or battery bank and steps down the charge voltage automatically. MPPT stands for maximum power point tracking, a sophisticated method of maximizing the performance of your solar panels while protecting and maximizing your battery life by several charge control methods including temperature compensation. Read more about solar charge controllers here.
Note that MPPT is only of significant performance improvement for solar panel arrays greater than 500 watts. For less than 500 watts, the performance improvement is nominal and the cost of the MPPT controller is usually 3 to 5 times more than the next best sophisticated alternative. An exception to this is the small MPPT charge controllers made by Genasun. There are other smart controllers that do an excellent job for small systems.
Don't Make These Common Mistakes
If you are planning on using your panels for the long haul, here are a couple of important things to consider.
When sunshine knocks the electrons out of your panels to make electricity, the panels degrade over time. Most manufacturers offer a 90 percent as rated guarantee after 10 years and an 80 percent guarantee after 20 years. When you are calculating the output of the panels you need, factor in the depreciation of performance. If you need 100 watts, 20 years from now you will need a 125 watt panel today to give you 100 watts of output then.
If you are planning on expanding your solar energy system in the future, being able to match the panels you buy today may be important unless you are going to create a new array with the new panels. Stick with brand names that are likely to be around when you are ready to expand your system.
We Want Your Solar Panel Business
We would appreciate an opportunity to help you with your solar panel requirements. We can help you find the best products at the best prices with immediate delivery. We have sources east and west, north and south to speed delivery and save money on shipping.
In November 2012 we sold over 1,300 panels. We must be doing something right?
We are also experts in the export solar equipment market and are here to help.
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