I’m not in sales basically because I can’t sell food to a starving person if I paid them, so this is not a sales pitch. This is what I’ve learned over the last six years working for a solar lighting manufacturer and what you need to know before you purchase a solar light or solar power system for any application.
All solar is not equal. There are many different types of solar panels available and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each type has its good and bad points for different applications, and knowing which type of solar to use for the project you are working on will cause fewer issues in the long run.
Multicrystal solar panels provide a larger surface area of silicon coverage, but have a lower efficiency rating. They use silicon cells that have grown from multifaceted crystalline material, i.e. the crystals have grown in multiple directions.
Single crystal solar panels are much more efficient; however, they are also much more costly. As the silicon cells are composed of cells cut from a single piece of continuous silicon crystal.
Light fixtures are not made equal as well. Most solar powered lighting systems in the past used compact fluorescent or specialized lamps, but with the inclusion of LED lamps, there is now a greater range of lighting options.
LEDs provide better lighting and use less power. They also run directly off the DC power provided by the solar making them more efficient and last much longer than any other type of lamp on the market today, up to 12 years or more.
Compact fluorescent lamps are also still popular in the solar lighting industry, but are slowly taking a back seat to the LEDs. CFL lamps do not last as long as LEDs, they contain mercury making disposal still hazardous, and need a converter ballast to operate, adding additional costs to the systems.
Finally, purchasing well manufactured products vs. cheaper, lower quality products definitely is better in the end. This doesn’t just go for solar lighting or solar power products; this goes for just about anything. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is so true, especially in this industry. That doesn’t always mean you have to buy the most expensive, but if you do your research on the system you are getting and the company that is providing the system to you, you are able to make a much more informed decision.