Why installing high efficiency panels will save you money in the long run.

When it comes time to install solar on your premises, there are going to be a lot of variables to consider with regard to selection of a solar panel. There is a large variance in the quality of a panel, the ethics of the manufacturing process, the price of the panel, the size and the aesthetics of the panel. Today I’m going to write about the efficiency of the panel and cells.
Efficiency is the amount of power you will be able to get out of a set area. The common sized panel that you will see on your suburban roof is around 1m wide, by 1600mm tall. For the past couple of years, the most common output of these panels was 250 Watts (W). Technology has been improving though and you can now get more Watts out of the same panel area. At the time of writing Sunpower have a 345W panel and LG have a 320Watt panel, with 350W due soon and even a 400W panel reportedly available in 2018. Other panel manufacturers are not too far behind.
The advantages of a high efficiency panel are not immediately obvious though, as they are more expensive. As we see the cost of grid sourced power rising, and the cost of LPG on a steady increase, there is a clear incentive to producing and using as much of your own power as possible. There is growing talk of “all electric” houses, and people are defecting from their gas connection to eliminate the extra service charge for running only one or two appliances. The are also the environmental benefits to not burning a fossil fuel which may have been sourced by some very environmentally controversial mining methods.
Another consideration is that Electric Cars are starting to gain traction and home storage batteries are getting closer to becoming financially and environmentally viable. All of these forecasts lead to a house using more electricity (though net energy consuption may remain the same or potentially shrink).
This increase in electricity consumption inevitably leads to the homeowner considering how they can produce more electricity on-site, through an expansion of their solar power system. Once we start talking about this size system, the main limitation we come across is rooftop real estate.
There is a finite amount of usable space on your rooftop, and if you fill it upĀ  now with low efficiency panels, when it comes time to consider an expansion, then you will run into a problem; there’s no room for the panels.
It is therefore in your best interests to install the highest efficiency panels that you can afford, and keep that space for future expansion.
I still recommend only installing as big a system as you need to service your current usage patterns, but don’t blow your valuable roof space all at once on cheaper low efficiency panels, because that’s all you need right now.