Cheap Solar Panels: Why you should steer clear of them

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Cheap Solar Panels: Why you should steer clear of them

You may have seen ads for cheap solar panels and thought they were too good to be true. Well, in most cases, they are. Low quality materials used in cheap solar panels mean they aren’t built to last. In the long run, you’ll end up spending more money on repairs and replacements than you would have if you’d just invested in higher quality solar panels from the start. So, why take the risk? Steer clear of cheap solar panels and opt for a quality product that will save you money in the long run. Your home and wallet will thank you!

Low quality backsheet materials break down quickly

The past 12 months have seen extraordinary hikes in solar panel prices. Like most building materials, the ever-increasing supply demands, material shortages and pandemic-related freight issues have adversely affected solar panels. But, as the saying goes – what you pay for is what you get – cheap solar panels are no different.

Cheap solar panels made from low-quality materials  break down quickly – especially in the harsh Australian climate. One of the most important components of a solar panel is the back sheet. The role of a back sheet is to effectively insulate the rear of the panel electrically and prevent mechanical and environmental degradation of the internal module components. Most importantly the back sheet protects the solar cells from UV radiation and moisture penetration, while offering durability to the panel as a whole.

For years, cheap back sheet materials have infiltrated the market in a bid to reduce manufacturing costs. This is increasingly worrisome as more and more Australian households choose panels that have poor back sheet quality. An easy visual test to see the quality of a solar panel is the translucence test. As seen below, you are able to see  through the back sheet on the cheap “tier 1” panel. Whereas the LONGi panels feature a high-efficiency back sheet technology which lets very minimal light through.

What is the alternative? Meet DuPont™ Tedlar®

A market leader in back sheet manufacturing is DuPont™ Tedlar®. Tedlar is a Polyvinyl Fluoride (PVF) surface protection, used across a multitude of industries and materials including aviation and construction. Tedlar’s biaxially oriented film allows excellent resistance to weathering, outstanding mechanical properties; in addition to inertness towards a wide variety of chemicals, solvents, and staining agents. Only the world’s leading solar panel manufacturers such as LONGi use Tedlar to ensure durability of their products.

Graphic showing layers of solar panel with tedlar backsheet. Not a cheap solar panel

Cheap solar panels can be fraudulent

Another danger to consider when purchasing cheap solar panels is the possibility that they are fraudulent.  Certain manufacturers (especially those in the Altman-Z danger zone) sell their panel serial numbers to substandard factories. These factories then take a multitude of shortcuts and bad practices, including poor backsheet materials in order to cut costs while portraying a brand-name “tier 1” panel.

These cheap fraudulent panels will last about 5 to 10 years at most and then fail, leaving the customer out of pocket and needing a new system.  This is a timely reminder of the importance of going with a reputable supplier with local operations who distributes and backs their products. Similarly, when choosing a solar installer, it is important to choose a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer.  You can learn more about how to choose your solar retailer in our previous blog.

Why is the Backsheet so important?

low-quality backsheet is well known to cause a variety of issues with the panel as it breaks down. This includes both micro cracking and glass cracking, delamination, water ingress, panel oxidation and cell-burn.

These issues can present much larger dangers over the lifetime of the panel, including electrocution and fire risk. As more issues arise and more panels start to degrade and break down, the efficiency of the system is dramatically reduced, rendering it almost inoperable. This means you will potentially need to replace your system within 5 to 10 years of the original installation – costing you a lot more money than if you were to choose a reputable panel model with a 25-year performance warranty in the first instance.

Cheap Solar Panels - Degradation Issues


How to choose a reliable solar panel?

Browse the CEC approved module list

The easiest way to choose a solar panel brand is to refer to the above CEC approved module site and select the “Enhanced Listings” dropdown.


Screenshot of CEC website showing high-quality, reliable panels not Cheap Solar Panels

As seen above, LONGi and Jinko are they only two manufacturers that have demonstrated backsheet durability to the CEC through the Module Accelerated Sequential Test. The MAST addresses known failure mechanisms with panel back sheets which lead to significant field failures (cracking, delamination and water ingress). The test sequence replicates these premature field failures and gives confidence that the back sheets will last the expected 25+ year lifetime.

Ask your installer in-depth questions about the proposed panels

Additionally, the quality and efficiency of panels can differ greatly between manufacturers and models. Many people think that they should buy cheaper panels and splurge on the inverter; however, this is not true. Both the panels and the inverter are equally important when it comes to system efficiency. No matter what your budget, you should always research the panels that your installer proposes to ensure they are best suited for your needs. When selecting a panel, ensure:

  • The manufacturer has a local presence in Australia (i.e. an Australian office and local distribution network).
  • They are tier one and have been around for at least 15 years.
  • The manufacturer offers extensive warranties and is financially sound so that it is still around to honor these warranties. Read about the LG Solar closure and how it will affect their customers here.
  • The panel is tried and tested in Australian conditions
  • Your installer has proof that the panels are legitimate and not fraudulent. Read more about solar scams and counterfeit panels here.

What panel brand is the best?

At Goodhew Electrical and Solar, we recommend LONGi solar as one of the most reliable, high-quality panel brands. Established over 22 years ago, today LONGi is the world’s largest monocrystalline cell manufacturer. The company has received numerous awards, including:

  • Bloomberg 100% Bankability rating (AAA financial rating)
  • 2021 Intersolar award for best panel
  • 2021 Renewable Energy Centre top performer award
  • 2020 Renewable Energy Centre high achiever award

Additionally, LONGi holds a number of world records for HJT, FBC, P-Type TOPCon, N-Type TOPCon and PERC cell efficiency.

Why does Goodhew choose to install LONGi Solar?

As a retailer, we are held responsible for any warranty claims made on any of the products that we supply. At Goodhew we only partner with manufacturers of reliable products that have been in the game for long time. Moreover, LONGi is the only manufacturer that holds a AAA finance rating and is the long-running no. 1 in panel manufacturer bankability indices. Therefore, LONGi has proven itself as the manufacturer of choice and their proven track record helps assure us that they will be around for the long term and not join the thousands of other solar manufacturers that have come and gone over the years.

If you would like more information on LONGi or other brands for that matter, please contact us today.