Product Reviews / Solar Blog

Seraphim Solar Panel Review

Seraphim solar panelsNo matter which solar company sales representative you invite into your home one thing is true of all of them, they will all tell you they have the best solar panels in the world. So how can they all make such a statement and expect you to believe it. Well quite simply the information required to justify this statement is open to a great deal of misinterpretation and false representation. More than one solar company has been guilty of putting up a claim on its website that it was given a certain award from a certain organisation certifying its chosen panel as being “the best”, only to have the Clean Energy Council (CEC) check up on them and fine them for inventing both the award and the fake organisation they have listed as presenting it. So, is it simply a case of “buyer beware”, or is there a way for the public to look up this information for themselves.

Because solar energy is such a new topic the general public has a limited amount of exposure to or knowledge about it. Unfortunately, it’s not like going out and buying a car which we are all familiar with and have been bought up being aware of. When buying a car we all know that the BMW’s and the Mercedes are the expensive models we pay a lot more for the name and prestige of, that the Protons and the Chery’s are the cheap ones that don’t last very long, the Fords and the Holden’s are the big factory multi-nationals that go alright, and that the Toyota’s and the Mazda’s are a little bit more “pricey”, but are also the most reliable and best-performing ones. So who produces the Mazda 3 of the solar world, i.e. the best performing panel, at a reasonable price?

Solar panel manufacturer Tier rankingsFirstly let’s deal with the TIER size, according to Pike Research the following definitions apply. This is a term used in Solar to describe the size of the company. Tier 1 companies are your larger companies that spend more than a few dollars on Research and Development, have an Automated Production System and are vertically integrated i.e. they produce the cells themselves in a manufacturing process and manufacture the whole panel from the ground up rather than simply assembling the parts from other manufacturers. Tier 1 companies also have to have been around for more than 5 years, which is a good indication that they have a sustainable business model in the fast changing world of Solar Power. This also means they are likely to still be around to service that 25-year warranty they provide on their products.

Tier 2 companies are considered to have only spent a small amount of money on Research and Development. Will only have a partially automated manufacturing process, and therefore an element of manual labour will be used. Usually they will have been operational for only 2-5 years.

Tier 3 Companies are not considered to be spending any money on Research and Development, have manual production lines, and only assemble the panels they sell after buying all the components from other companies. These companies are generally only considered to have been around for 1-2 years and make around 90% of the panels on today’s market.

In my opinion, the whole idea of the Tier system is okay as far as eliminating Tier 3 companies from the equation. There are plenty of Tier 2 companies about to qualify for the Tier 1 stage that are in a considerably more stable financial situation than some of the big Tier 1 companies struggling with massive debt, product quality issues and falling sales. The whole broad ruling of the Tier system detracts from the main issue of how well the panel performs and how long it will last, which is what the consumer needs to be assured of.

The only measurable system the public has access to in doing their independent research is that provided by Photon International. Their annual performance and yield test results do offer a level playing field, but again it’s how you interpret these results that counts. The test site for the panels is in Germany a country with a temperate climate which has extremes of cold and relative warmth. We here in Australia have a far different climate and particularly in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales where I am based we get no snow and maybe only a little frost, but high Summer temperatures. So immediately we have a difference to be considered in the data presented by the Photon report.

In general terms Mono-crystalline panels are considered to perform better than Poly-crystalline panels, however, the latest Photon report for 2013 shows only a 0.6% difference in the top panel in each field, which is hardly significant until you compound that difference over 25 years. Also as I stated above the conditions here in Australia are different to those in Germany. All my reading and research seems to agree, that in higher temperature conditions like those in Australia, it is Poly-crystalline that performs better than Mono-crystalline. This would result in removing 8 of the top 15 panels from the test as an appropriate choice for my location.

Seraphim Panels.

Seraphim Solar Panel Review
Seraphim Solar Panel Review

Of the 7 remaining Multi-crystalline panels only 2 have been on test for longer than 2013’s new entrants into the test (Seraphim and Siliken) and one of those is now no longer in production (Siliken). On taking a closer look at the only panel with a two year history of being tested from Seraphim several key points emerge;-

  1. They were installed in October 2011, which means they were subjected to environmental degrading for 3 months before testing and recording began, (this is important to consider as panels are generally thought to degrade most in their first year around 2-2.5% and then have a more linear degradation of around 1% per year).
  2. The first years (2012 Test Results) Performance ratio of these panels was 93.6% which is 0.3% higher than the best of the new Multi’s on test for 2013 (Hanwa Q Cells) and only 0.4% behind the top Mono (Sopray), for the 2013 test. Based on these facts the Seraphim panels are the best performing Multi’s based on their initial performance ratio.
  3. They were the top performing Multi for 2012 with only Sunpower Thin Film Panels out-performing them in this test. Again thin film panels are not deemed suitable for the harsh Australian conditions and Photon are currently reviewing the testing procedures for these types of panels which has resulted in their removal from the test results posted in 2013.
  4. The Seraphim panels are the highest placed panel that have a two year history on test and have only lost 1% in performance in the time between the two tests.
  5. If the test was adjusted to show initial performance ratios and then subsequent annual results, then instead of 12th place on the chart Seraphim would come in at number 3.
  6. Further to the Photon International tests the Seraphim Panels have been the first panels to pass the new Thresher Test initiated by TUV SUD in Germany. This is a test designed to be 3 times more stringent than the current IEC tests towards the consistency of output and longevity of the panel.
  7. The partnership with FUJIFILM on developing a new more stable backing plate for their panels has been a key factor in the attainment of this new award.
  8. As a result of the Thresher test award Seraphim have been able to increase both the manufacturing (12 years), and performance (90% at 15 years and 80% at 30 years), warranties with the full backing of their financial partners.
  9. No other panel currently in production has a proven test history that can match that of Seraphim panels.
  10. The Renesola panel at number 8 on the chart is listed as a Quasi-Mono panel which according to the company product literature, supposedly means it is a Multi that performs like a Mono. It’s score of only 93.1% even if counted as a Multi for the terms of this report is still 0.5% behind the initial performance of the Seraphim panels.

seraphim_photon_coverPhoton Test Disclaimer.

While the Photon International test is a great indication of the performance on the panels it does have its flaws. I for one would like to see a year by year comparison chart for those panels that have been on test for longer, as I believe this is of major concern seeing how most of last year’s top 20 panels have dropped down the rankings on performance in only 12 months. To do this Photon would have to accurately measure the available sunlight on sight and work out a conversion between each year of the test to allow for the difference in yield available each year.

Also stated in the report is the fact that the panels were not cleared of snow during the winter season. Having looked at the accompanying picture of this I would have to point out that those panels mounted on the upper tier of the test racking were presented with a slightly higher temperature and exposure to sunlight causing the snow to melt and clear from them at a faster rate than those below and that this has therefore allowed those panels a very slight advantage over those placed on the lower racking. I believe that Photon should address this matter by mounting all panels at the same height above the ground and also ensure the snow and any other physical barriers (e.g. bird excrement), should be cleared from the panels at the earliest opportunity for all future testing purposes.

The test authors have stated that they consider there to be little difference between panels scoring within 0.5% of each other, due to the variables of the test site and procedure used. This would put the Seraphim panels on a par with the top performing panel on the list based on initial performance ratios.

Even my own interpretation of the Photon Test results will be open to criticism, however I believe the results and my conclusions will help anyone living in the South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales pocket, make an informed decision on the best panel available to them on the market at present. With the new Thresher test adding to the already impressive results in two consecutive Photon International Reports, and their developmental partnership with Fujifilm. Couple this to the increased warranty periods covered by a company with a 44 year history of innovation and development, and it leads me to believe that the SERAPHIM panels are currently the best available on the market.

seraphim PanelWith the upcoming review of the Renewable Energy Targets (RET’s) by the Federal Government and the likely reduction or scrapping of the current Small Trading Certificate (STC) rebates, it is likely that there will be a sharp increase in the cost of solar systems across Australia as it changes from a buyer’s to a seller’s market once more. As occurred with the cut-off date for the 44c tariff removal in Queensland, and with the public attempting to cash in on these government rebates before their reduction or removal, the solar landscape will once again have to evolve. During such a rush of consumer activity, there is bound to be a great many quick and high-pressure sales decisions made. Consequently, a great many mistakes will be made, that will cost the consumer a great deal of money if they are not careful in the choices they make. My advice would be to start your research and fit your system now, as I firmly believe there will never be a better time to do so.

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8 thoughts on “Seraphim Solar Panel Review

  1. Hi ….. my wife and I live in the UK and have recently decided to have solar panels installed on our bungalow. Only one company that we have spoken to has offered us Seraphim Solar Panels. As you say they all claim to have the best and I was quite surprised as I had never heard of Seraphim. I did the usual ‘google’ and came across your article. Would you think that the Seraphim Panel is ideal for the UK climate ? especially as we tend to have severe winters. In fact we have already been warned that this coming winter is going to be the worst for decades, possibly -20 degrees. I don’t know if panels have been tested at this level. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as I know only what I have read, and as you say there is so much conflicting evidence.
    Kindest Regards
    Keith

    1. Hi Keith,

      Thanks for your enquiry, wow the wonders of the internet getting us published in the UK, AMAZING!!!

      Okay good news is that Seraphim panels do a monocrystalline version which would probably be more suitable for UK conditions, bad news is I have no details on either pricing or supplier.

      My best advice to you is to check out any panels you are being recommended on the Photon International website which is an independent reviewer based in Germany (so very efficiently run).

      Installation company should have been in operation at least 5 years and check out online reviews on them as well as their own website. Any company should have a mixture of reviews as people get confused with all the new technology and will tend to vent at the installer, a good installer will leave such rants up and respond to them with information that answers all their concerns. Any company showing nothing but 5 star glowing reviews is likely to be dodgy.

      Ask around for referrals from other people you know who have been fitted out and ask for feedback on their installers and reduction in power consumption.

      Hope this helps.

  2. Hi there
    I am trying to wade through the huge amount of information out there and make the right decision first up on installing solar.

    I am considering an ABB Aurora Inverter. It was a toss up between this and an SMA.

    Then with the solar panels I can’t decide between:
    C Sun (which most of the companies I’ve had out have quoted on) which is the only reason it’s on my list.
    I have friends who have Bosch panels but from what I can see they may not now be what they used to be.
    So then I’m left with Trina Honey or Seraphim. While none of the companies I’ve had out have quoted on Seraphim they appear to rate well.

    I just need an honest opinion. Can you please help?

    I am open to other suggestions.

    Thank you in advance for your help.
    Regards
    Marion

    1. Hi Marion,

      Welcome to the confusing world of Solar selection where everyone tells you their products are the best and everyone else just sells rubbish.

      Okay down to brass tacks for you;- both ABB Aurora and SMA are good inverters with a long established history in solar, so lots of familiarity around them…. However SMA are expensive and have had problems moneywise which is making them look a bit shaky at the moment, ABB have taken over from Power One on the Aurora inverters and picked them back up again without really developing anything new.

      We would recommend looking at the Solax inverter range as their connect ability to upcoming battery technology is superior to most and they are the only Inverter with a Tier 1 rating and Chubb insurance for around the same pricing as the ABB Aurora. Their own battery systems are modular and we believe superior to 90% of those on the market at reasonable prices, (we still advise waiting on battery technology purchase until after Tesla has launched and prices come down though).

      Panel wise with Seraphim about to become Tier 1 and having the Thresher Test qualification we believe they are the best panel on the market at the moment, so we believe you are on the right track there.

      Installation is your next consideration and with a heap of companies and one man operations to choose from we advise on a reputable company with at least 5 years in the business and at least a 10 year installation warranty. We also advise you stay away from anyone requiring more than a 20% deposit to get your system installed. Any contract should include details on your power-box being suitable and not requiring any upgrade to it (a common excuse to hit you with extra costs on the day of installation after you’ve already paid upfront).

      We are happy to recommend SAE Group and Infinity as two companies fitting the bill as decent operators. We have a deal in place with SAE Group as Solar Compare Magazine installer of the year for two years running, that if you contact them via their head office 1300 182 050 and go through their sales manager Leigh Dukes mentioning Qld Solar Adviser you will be eligible to receive a discount of $50 per kW on your solar purchase.

      Happy to advise further should you require.
      QLD Solar Advisor.

  3. Hello,

    You have good recommendations their for QLDS installes, SAE gorup adn infinity, can you provide for Victoria?

    Thanks
    Ben

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