“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”
The word “Quality” is all around us every day in every part of our lives. It seems, that everybody knows what it means but most people struggle when asked for a definition. Try it yourself and you will see that it is in fact not so easy to define quality as such. With this blog post I want to highlight this versatile theme to bring a higher awareness along with a different perspective.
Before we start associating this term to the field of photovoltaic (PV) systems, I would like to point out a definition I find is accurate. People may agree or disagree, but I will begin with this as the foundation.
“Quality is the degree which a commodity or service meets or exceeds to fulfill the expectations of the customers”
This definition shows that quality has a subjective perception. It depends on the expectations of individuals and is therefore not to be seen as a fixed term, leaving space for interpretations.
The word itself does not value the condition of a product. Only with the addition of “good”, “high”, “poor” or any other rating it receives as a valuation, provides a new customer information to help make a buying decision. Of course, the price plays a major role in the decision-making process, too but is only one factor out of several different influences.
Adding “Reliability” here it becomes more clear. This introduces a degree of quality and is one of the most relevant requirements needed to optimize PV system performance.
With increasing degrees, more effort and money flows into the process for a manufacturer to bring a product into existence. For a consumer, a high price is unquestionably related with a high-quality product.
If we now transform this background knowledge specifically into a conversation about PV system equipment and performance, three main pillars will lead to long lasting and reliable energy harvesting:
- Quality – A matter of component selection
It is important to be aware when investing in solar equipment, to select reliable, proven quality components. It will secure the realization of initial ROI calculations. This applies for on-grid, off-grid and unreliable grid conditions. If the solar panels, mounting structure, charge controller, inverter, batteries, or other installation materials are low in quality, the expected PV system generation could be lower than expected over time. Beyond that, if equipment life is shorter than anticipated, potential downtime issues, replacement costs, and maintenance efforts/labor expenses could exceed the initial turnkey investment cost by far.
To show a simple example is the purchase of a $50 solar charge controller which lasts 3.5 years vs. a $100 charge controller that last 10+ years. The customer could pay approximately 30% more for a low-quality product in the same time period. This simple chart doesn’t even list the shipping, labor, and downtime costs that could also be incurred.
2. Quality – A matter of cooperation and additional value
Choose trusted, experienced partners. Manufacturers, system designer, system integrators, logistic companies, all have a big impact in the success of the project. If the following points are considered, the project is already on a successful path.
- Honest and trusted information exchange
- Service & support
- Uncomplicated and fast processes
Treat your partners as you would like to be treated!
3. Quality – A matter of installation excellence
Beyond the design, the components, the purchase, the delivery, etc., proper installation is a key step to ensure the reliability of the complete system is realized. The best components can only unfold their performance when they are connected properly and safely with each other. Therefor I recommend to:
- Follow best practice installation and electrical techniques and read the product manuals to confirm safe and optimized performance of components
- Use professional mounting systems
- Avoid damages through wind, rain, extreme heat, etc.
- Take care of proper connections with the right type of materials, meant to last in harsh conditions
- Understand proper wire sizing/choose suitable cable diameter.
- Use cable shoes and connectors avoiding short circuits and damages through over voltage
- Mount the solar charge controller near the battery and set it up for temperature compensation
- Take care to follow and keep installation manuals from the suppliers
- Ensure air circulation is appropriate, when required
Seek out specialized, professional installation companies, which are trained or certified by quality suppliers!
Image: An example of poor installation execution when someone doesn’t follow best practices and manual installation instructions.
Considering these basics as a guide, customers can enjoy worry-free and cost-free energy from the sun for a long time after the initial investment is paid back.
Ask the Phocos team for more. We have ‘quality’ in our DNA.