Choosing solar equipment
Last updated 3/28/2023
All types of solar equipment, from solar panels to inverters to batteries, have a long list of technical specifications that help you understand the performance, quality, and durability of the piece of equipment. With all of the different types of equipment available on the market today, it can be difficult to determine which solar panels, inverters, or batteries are right for your needs.
In collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), EnergySage developed a straightforward, industry-standard system for classifying and comparing the best solar panels, inverters, and batteries by evaluating key performance criteria and metrics for different equipment.
The rating system categorizes all solar equipment on a five-tier scale, from Poor to Fair, through Good and Very Good, and ultimately up to Excellent. The classifications are displayed on each panel, inverter, and battery page in the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide, and are automatically included in every custom solar quote you receive through the EnergySage Marketplace to help you compare your options and choose the best solar equipment for your unique system.
How EnergySage helps you choose solar panels, inverters and batteries
There are dozens of solar panel, inverter, and energy storage manufacturers on the market in the U.S., each offering multiple models of products, making it difficult for even the most research-oriented solar shopper to easily research, aggregate, and compare different solar equipment options.
But fear not! EnergySage is here to help. We’ve taken the time to transcribe all of the information from technical specification sheets into an easy-to-use, online database. What’s more, our rating system simplifies the process of comparing your different equipment options, and helps you to get the right solar (and storage!) system at a fair price.
Classifying solar equipment
The EnergySage rating system focuses on the technical specifications of different pieces of equipment included on publicly available documentation. Specifically, we look at the performance, durability and warranty of solar panels, inverters and batteries based on the data included on their technical spec sheets. Looking at a range of different metrics, the EnergySage rating system groups equipment into five different categories: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent.
When you receive custom solar quotes through EnergySage, you are highly likely to receive solar quotes for higher-end solar equipment than you would be offered outside of EnergySage. In fact, in 2019, we compared the quality of solar equipment quoted and installed through EnergySage versus what’s installed nationwide, as per Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s annual Tracking the Sun report. On EnergySage, you’re nearly twice as likely to receive a quote for the highest rated equipment than the rest of the market.
How to choose the best solar equipment for your needs
Solar equipment–whether panels, inverters, or batteries–rated as Poor or Fair are at the low end of what is currently available in the market, or may be outdated models no longer produced by manufacturers and rarely stocked by solar installation companies. Equipment receiving Good, Very Good, or Excellent ratings must meet a baseline set of rigorously developed criteria so that you can be confident that your solar energy system will meet your needs.
EnergySage regularly reviews and updates the rating system, to ensure that it’s constantly representative of the best the industry has to offer.
Excellent solar equipment
Equipment earning the Excellent rating is ideal for maximizing the performance of your solar energy system. The criteria vary for each type of solar equipment and represent the best available technology in the U.S. market. You’ll likely pay a higher upfront price for the exceptional performance, quality, durability, and warranty coverage of Excellent solar equipment.
- Panels: produce more electricity over a smaller area and last longer than other panels, though they may come at a price premium.
- Inverters: very efficiently convert DC to AC electricity, operate across a wide range of voltages, and have above average warranties.
- Batteries: very efficiently store larger amounts of electricity and maintain that high performance for many years.
Very Good solar equipment
Equipment earning the Very Good rating performs above average across a range of criteria, and may only miss out on the highest ranking due to a shorter warranty, lower efficiency, or decreased performance under sub-standard conditions. You can expect strong performance at lower costs than associated with Excellent equipment.
Good solar equipment
Equipment earning a Good rating is a safe and solid choice for your solar energy system under most circumstances. This equipment is in the average range for most or all technical criteria analyzed, though may offer a shorter-than-average warranty. Good solar equipment is ideal for solar shoppers seeking a bargain for their solar energy system or with enough space available for solar that the highest quality equipment isn’t necessary.
Fair solar equipment
Equipment receiving a Fair rating is at the low end of what is available for solar equipment today. This equipment may be older, no longer produced by manufacturers and likely rarely stocked by solar installation companies. Fair solar equipment may have received a higher rating during previous iterations of this rating system, but now has dropped in quality as the technology available across the rest of the industry has improved.
Poor solar equipment
Solar equipment receiving a Poor rating is at the bottom end of the spectrum of solar equipment, and should be priced accordingly if at all available. This equipment has been surpassed by advances in technology and performance of other equipment available in the industry.
Unrated solar equipment
Solar equipment is listed as Unrated if its technical specifications sheet does not include information necessary for the rating system.
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