FACT: Not all Tier-1 solar panels are created equal. In most instances, beneath the surface is an underperforming electrical mess, despite the bankability of a certain manufacturer. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- Tier-1 = Bankability.
- Bankability (of a company, not a panel) = Investment opportunities for share holders.
- Bankability does not = quality or performance of any solar panel.
TO CONSIDER. The Tier-1 solar panel list is similar to a stock broking firm announcing their opinion of the quarterly hot stocks in solar manufacturers. The appeal for investors is completely different to that of the appeal for consumers. In an alternative industry comparison, a major telco could be seen as a good investment opportunity on the stock market even though the end product and service for consumers is often poor or sub-standard.
Industry experts suggest “be the savvy shopper”.
Pictures tell a thousand words.
BELOW, WHAT THE INTERNET UNCOVERED in the last 2-years of critically failed Tier-1 solar panels installed in Australia alone. The images below from deemed Tier-1 manufacturers are less than 1% of catastrophic solar panel failures system owners have endured from 2015 to 2017.
Expel the myth that Tier-1 is a quality guideline. Exposed are the avoidable results of inferior product selection.
Click any of the above to jump to a particular section or keep scrolling to view in order.
In many cases a warranty wont protect you from the above. Learn more > Deceiving warranties of many Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers.
Micro cracks are stress/pressure induced cracks in the silicon solar cells of a solar panels, these cracks can’t be seen by the naked eye, but with different testing methods. Micro cracks are one of the main reasons for solar panel malfunctions and inactive cells in solar modules, some of the causes for these cracks are:
- Panels not being handled with care during installation.
- During transport if the panels are not handled with appropriate care.
- During the assembly (human errors do occur if the system is not fully automated).
- Heat effects (If the module cannot handle the climate).
- Low quality silicon cells.
Although micro cracks only cover a small percentage of the silicon cells surface, they can cause great efficiency degradation on the cell. In a study using Dark Lock-in Thermography it was shown that the micro cracks in the cell caused the local temperature to rise, even though the cracks are inactive sections of the silicon cell. These cracks inside a panel can lead to many malfunctions including glass cracks, dead cells, delamination and a local temperature rise which can cause hot spots.
There are rumours that say all panels have micro cracks, but manufacturers such as SolarWorld test their modules using a high-resolution diagnostic tool to bring these defects to light. There are two solutions to micro cracks, number one is quality, look for a product that has undergone all the required testing and has the requirements to endure the rapidly changing Australian climate. Number two is professional installers, make sure the installers have CEC accreditation and are in-house so that you are always covered.
Hot spots are localised temperature rises within the solar panel causing devastating effects to the efficiency and degradation of a solar module. If you see these on your solar panel immediately get in touch with your installer, hot spots are not stable and will eventually cause catastrophic failure, there are a few reason they occur:
- Silicon cell damage eg. Micro Cracks, handling without care, etc.
- Inferior materials used in production.
Hot spot are not something to brush to the back of your mind, these need to be taken care of ASAP, and are already causing irreparable damage. When hot spots are created by weather/climate or cell damage it is normally a case of the panel being made with poor quality materials, Australia is known for the dumping ground of poor quality solar panels that are labeled “Tier-1”.
There are ways to combat environmental caused hot spots by cleaning your panels regularly, all that is needed for this is water as using standard cleaning products will create a layer over the glass that can affect efficiency. Another way to ensure your panels don’t have this problem is to do your research before you invest in solar, look at the data sheets and testing data and if you can’t find testing data on a panel, has it been tested?
This is probably the frightening thing you could think of to happen to your solar panels, especially being on the roof of a family home. Solar panel fires are not as common as micro cracks, but they do happen. Fires within a solar panel can be caused by:
- Poor quality materials used in manufacturing
- Production faults
- Hot spots, micro cracks etc.
Most fires in the solar industry are not directly related to the panels, but the installation, this is why it is a good idea to make sure your installers are CEC accredited and in-house installers employed by the company. This doesn’t mean that solar panel fires aren’t an issue, most of the solar panel fires are because of the quality of the module and the materials used in production.
It is always a good rule to check if the panel has undergone the required tests, and research reviews on the panel. Glass-Glass panels have a higher resistance to fire because there is no plastics to ignite.
Delamination is when the plastic backing of a solar panel is separated from the glass, delamination is a common issue when low quality plastics are used. When this happens water can seep into the panel and cause extreme damage, the causes for delamination are as follows:
- Low quality plastics
- Manufacturing issues (if the plastic is not correctly melted to the glass or the glass is not cleaned before application)
- Micro cracks
Delamination is serious issue, it allows moisture to penetrate the solar panel which can cause catastrophic failure, this requires a replacement. As you can see from the images “Tier-1” panels are no stranger to this problem, being manufactured with low quality materials causing people to lose faith in solar. How to defeat this issue? Research before investing, glass-glass panels don’t have a plastic backing, the cell is sandwiched together between tempered glass making it virtually impossible to allow moisture inside.
Shattering solar panels are mainly caused by weather/climate conditions:
- Thermal Shock.
- Extreme Hail.
The durability of a solar panel is extremely important, it means you can install a system without having to worry about a cricket ball, tree branch or major hail storm destroying you panels. A great deal of panels are not tested under harsh enough conditions, and one little accident could mean replacing panels on your roof.
Ingress is when water penetrates the panel, this increases the degradation of the panel and eventually will lead to catastrophic failure of the panel. The causes for ingress are:
- Poor panel assembly
- Low quality materials
Ingress is mainly caused by low quality production, the only way to avoid this is to research into the best quality products and make sure they have undergone the required testing.
Deformation in a solar panel traditionally occurs in the centre of a panel, it will begin to slump and bend. This is simply caused by low quality materials used to manufacture the panel, the weather/climate conditions over time will degrade the panel, this causes the panel to lose all aesthetics and if not replaced, affect the overall value of your property. If this happens to one solar panel in the array, it’s more than likely going to happen to another which means constant repairs and maintenance.
Discolouration will make a panel appear a yellow/brown colour, this is a chemical reaction between the materials, this will appear in the first few years of sunlight exposure. This comes down to lack of testing and product quality to ensure that the materials used are compatible. It is not yet known the effects on efficiency of the panel that this chemical reaction causes.
It will happen to you.
Ever seen marketing with the words Tier-1, High-Efficiency, 25-year warranty? What’s actually being conveyed is Cheap, Outdated-Efficiency, prone to critical failures with 10-year product warranty (25-year warranty is an STC performance warranty only and worthless when the product fails beyond 10-years).
Warranties in most Tier-1 instances provide painstakingly limited protection with no recourse for monetory losses during the time it takes to action the warranty. With critical failures now more common than you would like to think, the right product selection from the start is key. High-efficiency tier-1 solar panels sound great but that’s about as good as it gets. Understand that to develop high-efficiency, robust, industry-leading solar panels takes a refined process which costs money and a calibre of integrity which exists beyond the Tier-1 norm.
An impressive product stands on its own without the over excited phrase Tier-1, due to notable advanced qualities. Features which are patented and impossible for the old technology of the world to compete. Therefore the inferior tend to exploit the term Tier-1. An overused word in the solar industry equally overused as the term High-Efficiency. The Tier-1 average is in fact 25% less efficient than the most efficient solar panels commercially available in Australia today.
Be the savvy shopper.
Select solar panels based on performance and superior build quality, with awards and accolades by recognised industry bodies. Modules which are proven to outlast in Australian conditions with better than expected returns. Tier 1 is the easy to believe in a lacklustre industry term extorted by low-end marketers, usually spruiking a price which appears too good to be true, backed by the same warranties as to the sector leaders, claiming to be industry leaders themselves.
The sad part, these unscrupulous companies exploit your little knowledge on a confusing purchase in a sea full of competition trying to win your business.
An extreme reputation. Beyond Tier-1.
Bank your money in a vault, not at the casino. Here’s our pick of solar panel manufacturers with an extreme reputation. A reputation with a proven history of manufacturing an enduring product with minimal requirements for warranty repair or action over the warranty period and beyond. A reputation far beyond Tier-1 solar panel qualification.
With the worlds greatest product warranty one should not ignore German made SolarWatt solar panels for superior quality. SolarWatt solar panels are available in Australia from September 2017.
Which panel to select? Selected glass-glass versions available only.
SolarWorld have had an industry presence producing high-quality solar panels for over 42 years. As Germany’s largest solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld manufacture every single element of each solar panel for complete quality control, from sand to module. Also backed by some of the industries greatest warranties, an investment in a SolarWorld solar panel is a secure investment.
Which panel to select? Glass-Glass or Bisun Duo versions.
You be the judge
Considering many of these solar panels are lacking first hand experience by our team and have not been tested in a controlled environment with golden panels. We would like to acknowledge the following Tier-1 solar panel manufacturers for for featuring in the above 8 categories:
COMMING SOON – Just clearing legal.