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What is a Tier one solar panel?

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What is a Tier one solar panel?

Tier one solar panels is often used in advertising for solar in Queensland but what does it really mean?

 

Well to be fair, not much in the way of quality. 

 

Tier one is a way  of describing how many solar panels a company makes every three months by a company called “bloomberg new energy finance”

It is absolutely not a measure of quality or long term performance.   It is a major mistake to think that just because a panel is a “Tier one” that it can be  lumped in with quality or high end brands.

There are some  panels of low quality build in the list that are very near the top, simply because they are cheap so they sell alot of them.

A great example of this is Jinko solar panels which we lovingly refer to as the “banana panel” as they are often so out of square it makes them difficult to install without it looking like a banana.

They are often right up the top of the “Tier one solar panel list”  as they are a cheap build but are not even in the same league as other panels such as Q-Cell, LG, REC and  Longi solar panels.

Often unscrupulous sales companies and sales people will use the “Tier one solar panel list”  to sell you cheap nasty panels as a top brand and unbelievably low prices comparing them to premium brands such as Q-Cell.

Don’t get me wrong , Tier one solar panels are always going to be a bit better than a tier 2 or 3, which you should never consider buying,  but its important to understand that the place on the list does not mean quality, it means size.

Would you consider great wall car to be better than a porsche just because they make more of them? Of course not.  The tier one list is very much the same.

The most important thing when buying solar panels in Queensland is to get reputable advise from a company that tells the truth.  There are plenty of decent brands in the Tier one list and many of them at very good prices, but don’t let a shifty sales person talk you into thinking the brand is top quality just because “it’s on the list”

Below are some great brands we have worked with for many years and through our own experience of 10 years are happy to support as being quality.

My personal favourite is Q-Cell as they are top quality but still within a very decent price range. ET is a great value brand and LG being extremely expensive but also very good.

 

 

If your installing solar panels in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay or Rockhampton where the weather conditions are quite extreme it can also be a very good idea to consider the wind loading or cyclone rating of the solar panels.

While most have a standard wind loading of 2500PA,  premium brands are often much higher. For example Q-Cell can be as much as 5000PA double the normal resistance to wind. Which over the long term will make a very big difference to how the panels survive.

 

Cheers,

Leon

 

 


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Which roof face should I put my solar panels on in North QLD?

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The direction you choose to have your solar panels on can definitely have an impact on the results you get.

There are a number of factors to consider

  •  What time of day do you use the most power?
  •  Do you mind if your solar panels face out to the street?
  • Are there any shading issues in particular directions?
  • How many solar panels can you fit on each face?
  • How far north or south are you?

 

Each of these can and should have an impact on your decision.  So let’s go through the impact of each.

What time do you use your power? 

A few years ago when feed in tariffs were very high, the time of day you used power was not really that important.  The idea was to feed as much power into the grid as possible.

Now in Queensland 2018 it is the total opposite. Maximising your self use is the key to getting the most out of your solar PV system.

So ask yourself do you tend to use power in the afternoons more than the morning? Only at night? An even spread throughout the day?

  • If you tend to use more power in the afternoon, often west may give you the most benefit as the system will shut down late in the day.
  • If you use it only at night then feeding as much into the grid is the best way, north may give you the best benefit.
  • If you use an even spread through out the day, east and west can often give you the best benefit.

Are the aesthetics important to you?

  • Remember your solar panels will be there for a very long time. Many people do not like the look of them all over the front of the house facing the street. It may also effect the saleability of your home in the future.  Of course if you only care about power production then it is not a concern.

Personally I love the look of my whole roof covered in clean green renewable sources, but it is not uncommon for people to take this into consideration and install in a different location for this reason.

Are there any shading issues in particular directions?

The number one killer of performance in solar pv systems is shade. While there are products that can help like optimizers and micro inverters  the cold hard facts are solar need sun to work.

Often the performance benefits of micro inverters and optimizers are wildly overstated by  sales companies who know they can get better profits from selling a product with more “selling points”  rather than the actual benefits being relevant to your result over time.

For example, if you have a  trees overhanging your north roof shading it for 4-6 hour a day but a clear south roof.  Particularly in North Queensland, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay,  panels on the south roof where there is clear sun will give you a much better net result than placing them in the shade using microinverters.

At the end of the day avoid shade as much as possible. If it is absolutely impossible to avoid shade, then it using enphase micro inverters or tigo optimizers may be the only workable solution.

Above – A classic example of a poorly designed solar panel system shaded by obstructions.

 

How many solar panels can you fit on each face? 

Solar panels operate in what is know as “Strings” . Depending on the inverter they all have different “operating voltages”  putting to many or too little in a string can effect performance considerably.

As an example, if your inverter startup voltage of 150 volts and you only have 5 panels in a particular direction. They may start to operate very late in the day and stop working much earlier than they should as they do not make it to the required voltages for the inverter to make power. Higher quality inverters often have “wider operating voltages” than there cheaper counterparts.

As a very general rule more series panels to a string (within the limits of the inverter operation capacity)  brings the voltage higher meaning it will start earlier and finish later in the day.

 

How far north or south are you?

In Cairns, Townsville and Mackay Queensland lower pitch south facing solar  panels can often outperform east or west that have a high  roof pitch.  How ever if you are in Melbourne, a south facing roof can have quite dramatic effects.  So its important to understand your location makes a very big difference to the result. Any reputable solar supplier will provide with an accurate performance estimate using good quality software that allows for orientation and location.  If they do not do this, then its a good bet you are not dealing with a quality supplier.

 

To conclude, solar is not a one size fits all solution.  The design can have long lasting results so it is important to deal with a company who actually understands the performance charactertics of your area.

Cheers.

Leon

 


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What makes Q-Cell panels so good?

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Q-Cell are one of the oldest manufacturers in Solar. Founded in Germany in 1999 which means at the time of writing they have been around for  19 years.

 

They have been at the constant fringe of development and technology since opening. From creating their first true 6 inch cells in 2001 to winning innovation awards in 2017 for their super strength frames.

While there are many “up and coming competitors”  in the ever changing landscape of solar, Q-Cell have consistently over decades been in the top tiers of performance and reliability.

They are also, considering they are a top performing premium brand with such long history, a lot cheaper than some other premium brands like LG, Sun-power and REC.

 

So if your looking for a really good mix of high performance at a decent price, Q-Cell is pretty hard to go past.

My favorite in the range is the Q-Peak 305. I have them on my own house and can say from experience they are very high performance module. With the black frames they also look great.

They also have the Generation 5 Q-Pro which are also a high performance 6 busbar module which are a little cheaper than the Q-Peak and also an absolutely excellent performance model.

 

 

Above – The 305 QANTAM – Q-Peak.

They integrate Q-ANTAM technology. Q.ANTAM  is  Q CELLS   proprietary cell technology and supercharges ordinary crystalline solar cells and modules.

The rear surfaces of Q.ANTUM solar cells are treated with a special nano coating that functions much like a typical household mirror. Rays of sunlight that would otherwise go to waste are reflected back through the cell to generate more electricity. Q.ANTUM delivers exceptional performance under real-world conditions.

The technology is  more commonly known as as a PERC cell now days, many other premium brands have copied the technology and incorporate tier own version of it in their flagship models.

They are currently the largest solar cell manufacturer in the world and have four  R & D centers across the world.

Its quite common for panel manufacturers to “hail a single award”  from a single year and wave it madly as a show of their quality and performance.   I regularly see solar retail companies quoting photon specs etc from years and years ago as if is in any way relevant.

The key in my mind, is consistency over many years.  Q-Cell have consistently been at the top and consistently won awards.  Where they lead, the others tend to follow.

Above – Some of Q-Cells more recent awards 

 

As you have probably guessed by now, I’m a bit of a fan of the brand but I believe with very good reason.

One of the most impressive things about Q-Cell is their “real world performance”  This can be shown at Desert knowledge testing centre in Alice springs.

This location is a publicly available and online testing center that quite a few of the biggest brands, most notably LG have refused to be subjected too. (perhaps one would guess as they do not want their real performance to be publically available when vs other much panels.  A common phrase in marketing is “only fight battles you know you can win”

 

Here is a sample of Data from 2018  at the time of writing in June.

Above = Desert knowledge sample  performance Data.   Blue – Q-Cell,  Red – REC solar, Yellow Trina, Green -C-sun.

The data is publicly available on the link below.

http://dkasolarcentre.com.au/locations/alice-springs/graphs.

So all in all the reason i am such a fan of Q-Cell… in short..  is trust..  I know I can feel comfortable that a company that has performed consistently over decades. Manufacturers come and go and many talk the talk.. Q-Cell have walked the walk and are still going strong.

Cheers for reading

Leon

 

 


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Are Longi a good solar panel?

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So are Longi  solar panels a good idea for my home or business?

The worlds largest mono-crystalline producer. Longi solar have recently entered the solar market in Australia and have been shaking up the market with high performance modules at really decent prices.

Its creating quite a stir with traditional big players in the market suddenly looking quite expensive for less efficient models and no doubt has many of them worried.

So how did they do it?

Well Longi traditionally were a solar cell manufacturer providing cells to the worlds most famous and expensive brands like LG, Canadian Solar, Kyocera,  Mofo,  JA, the list is long.  Using their superior cell production ability it wasn’t a major effort to simply purchase an existing panel manufacturer  (Lerri) and then apply their well regarded and world record holding cell technology into their own brand of panels.  (very much to the dismay of the big brands)

Quite simply they decided to bring their world leading cell technology, direct to the market itself with amazing success.   With Panels ranging from 285 watt to 360 watt. The high efficiency black frame modules are very hard to beat considering they are priced similar to many lower end poly crystalline modules. The end result means they have very quickly become one of the leading brands in the very price competitive market of Australia.

In fact, they have joined the “silicon module super league” ( a term given for the largest 7 manufacturers in the worlds)  in their first few years of production.

So what about longevity, won’t I be safer with a more long term brand??

It’s a very good question. Certainly there are many well tested in the Australian market brands available in Australia, Q-Cell,  Canadian Solar, Sun power, LG to name a few.  how ever you will almost certainly pay more for their
“flag ship mono” models and often the same price for their cheaper less efficient Poly  models.

Longi recently was awarded the coveted “top ten module” from DNV (a large well respected German testing lab) so it’s a fairly safe bet that they are going to last a very long time.

Overall, price, performance, efficiency and looks. They are a panel that are quite difficult to beat.

 

 

           Picture – A recently Longi solar install by Lumax in Cairns QLD>

 

Leon.

 

 

 


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Is advanced solar monitoring worth it?

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If your new to solar you may not know that there are a number of types of solar panel monitoring you can have with your solar panels.  From basic “output” right down to individual panel monitoring.   Each have there advantages and of course, costs.

So which one is right for you?

Lets break them down.

Basic Monitoring.

Just about every inverter now days has the ability to have Wi-Fi output monitoring. This is usually done through an APP or on your desktop. It is usually fairly simply to set up and for most inverters does not add any costs. It is fairly simply to use and tells you how much your system is producing at any given time.   If your looking for a “set and forget” option for your solar, then this is probably the way to go for yourself.  It does not however, tell you how much power you are using in the house so it doesn’t really offer anything in the way of controlling consumption at your home or business.   If you want more advanced smart control of your home or business electricity consumption, it may be better to go for one of the more advanced options. below is an example of simple consumption monitoring for the Fronius Primo inverter.

Advanced consumption monitoring. 

Consumption monitoring is more advanced than basic monitoring and has a number of advantages. Most importantly, it shows the end user how much power they are using at any given time, how much the solar is producing and if there is a surplus or if they are drawing from the grid. It allows you to make smart decisions on things like when to turn pool pumps on,  if you can turn air conditioners and heaters on without it costing you anything as well as making sure you don’t get any nasty electricity bill surprises at the end of the month.

Advanced consumption monitoring also often comes with features such as alerts for low performance *solar analytics, and features for battery usage monitoring.  For Solar users that want “true control” of their solar and home or business’s power consumption it offers a much more advanced way to do it and empowers you to do so.  Not all inverters come with the ability to do this and it mostly it requires an add on of a smart metering system.  It adds a little more cost at the start but the benefits and rewards can far out weight the initial small investment  to gain complete control of your power consumption.  Below is an example

 

Advanced panel level monitoring. 

This is for people who really want to know every little thing about their solar panel systems.  It offers information on individual panels performance and shading analysis.  For large commercial installations this feature can save many costs in cases where a panel has issues. instead of spending many hours trying to fault find and test individual panels the technician  and customer can clearly see which panels are under performing and fix the issues.  The downside is every panel needs to be fitted with optimizers such as Tigo or Solar edge which adds a great deal to the costs.  In most cases for residential applications it does not offer a lot more in the way of “useful information” but it is very cool. Below is an example if panel level monitoring.

 

So in Summary, its a good idea to think about the type of monitoring you would like when you decide to join the solar revolution. Each type of solar panel monitoring suits different kinds of customers.

Have a great day!

Leon

 


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Should I get a 10kw system in QLD?

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With the recent changes to allowable PV limits. Many companies are now pushing customers to get large 10kw systems on a single phase residence.

So you may be asking yourself  is this right for me?

There is a couple of questions you need to answer to know this and it defiantly is not a “one size fits all” answer as many companies would have you believe.

Most of these systems will need to be limited to 5kw export limiting.  This means if you are not using a lot of power during the day, your system simply wont produce any more than 5kw anyway! Its like having the handbrake on all day and you have simply paid way to much for a system that is not going to work properly.

However, customers with very high day time usage can defiantly benefit from having the larger system.  If you use air conditioning, pool pumps, heaters and generally use more than 4-6kw every hour during the day then it defiantly may be of benefit to get the larger system.

It’s important to make an educated decision when working this out, or you may find you have spent far more than you needed too and getting no more result than if you had installed a standard 6kw system.

Lets take an example;

John and Judy both work during the day, most of their consumption is late afternoon and early evening, they don’t have a pool and and there usage is about 20kw a day.

If they were to get a 10kw system. It would simply run at 5kw all day due to the export limiting functions required by Ergon and they would have wasted their money getting a larger system.  The system would produce about 26kw per day and they would have paid as much as $5000 more for their system. A very unfortunate outcome indeed!

So in summary be careful of “one size fits all” solutions from companies trying to sell you their “highest profit” solution.  Make and informed decision.

 

 


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Why Choose a Quality product

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All solar systems are basically the same right? Said cheap low quality companies..

 

Fact – You will NEVER hear a reputable company say this.

 

The thing to ask your self. Is anything that produces up to 700 volts and sits on your roof producing electricity for up to 25 years a good bet to put the cheap junk up there?

The simple facts are many, many PV systems being sold on the market today are very low quality and give the home owner very significant risk to their safety.

At Lumax we refuse to sell the cheap and nasty.  We live and breathe the energy revolution and it is part of who we are.

There are some very simple rules no matter who you purchase your products from.

 

  • Only buy Tier one products.

  • Only purchase systems from reputable companies.

  • Make sure your company gives all the information.

 

 

If a company ‘glosses over’ the important  differences in each type of system available or worse ‘sells you over the phone without a significant consultation process’  Our advise is RUN!

 

 

These companies prey on peoples lack of information and a crazy belief that ‘All solar panels are the same’

 

The facts are a low Quality solar system could BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN.  you are risking your family and your home.

The renewable energy revolution is the most exciting thing to happen in the last twenty years, and it can be absolutely fantastic.

IF:

  • You purchase from a reputable company

  • You have been educated on the benefits and how to maximise your return.

  • You buy a quality system.

 

please check out this video below.

 


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Choosing a PV system

Choosing the right system for your needs is very important.  There are several factors that need to be considered.  Our friendly energy consultants will step you through every part of the process.

When considering solar the most important things are

  •  Electricity bill day time and night time usage
  • Roof space
  • Quality
  • Budget
  • Shade
  • Electricity retailer in regards to their best feed in Tariff
  • Future needs.

It’s important to understand that solar varies greatly in

  •  Size,
  •  Amount of energy produced
  •  Quality
  •  Type of monitoring and data collection
  •  Durability
  •  Safety

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