Do I need to buy European to get the best quality home solar system?
A question we get asked a lot is the one regarding European versus Chinese for home solar systems and it is one I relate back to the general technology sector where Chinese made is now accepted as being of good to very good quality.
In the early days of solar PV panels and inverters from China were cheap in every sense but like most other products they have paid close attention to quality and over recent years they have lifted the game while driving prices down across all international suppliers.
Like cars, the European brands have retained a strong lead in terms of quality even though in some cases this is perception rather than reality. Top non-Chinese brands like SMA, Fronius, LG, and Solar Edge can come with better warranties or provide better local servicing and still retain their top ranking but there are many strong Chinese brands that are not far behind them.
With the proliferation of panels and inverter suppliers, it is easy for clients to get confused with all the marketing that takes place and one of the filters that we suggest being considered is that manufacturers have a local base here in Australia. This provides greater warranty protection where the client can go straight to the manufacturer to get warranty replacement if the retailer is no longer in business. While some retailers may quote great warranties with imported Chinese product good luck getting these if the retailer/ importer has gone out of business and you have to deal directly with the China office.
Most solar panels today are made in China (Yes even Q Cells and Canadian solar panels are made in China) today due to their modem manufacturing sites, high innovation and lower production costs. Overall panel quality is now high across most major brands and most retailers use the Tier1 ranking to promote the panel supplier quality even though this is a reflection of their financial strength rather than a panel quality measure. Our suggestion is to pick a top-selling brand that is well known and well accepted in both residential and commercial installs. Also, look to get the updated panel spec not old stock that may be floating around such as lower wattage and some of the older Poly panels. The average panel spec today for residential solar is in the 315watt Mono range and heading higher.
So, in short, yes European can still hold an edge to Chinese supply but it’s a very fine line and whether that is worth the premium you will need to pay which can be up to 50%, then that is for you to decide. My suggestion is to get two quotes with the second being a top quality Chinese brand and then you decide which way to go. Also, look at extended warranties which can give you additional 5-year peace of mind coverage for a little extra cost.