What makes or brands of PV modules offer the best quality

Unfortunately, we are unable to recommend any particular makes or brands of PV modules, as we do not have the facilities to test and evaluate these products. Here is some information on what tests and guarantees are in place:

Most PV modules on the market today are sold with guarantees that they will still produce 80% of their original output after 20 or even 25 years - see our article about how long PV modules last.

Any module which is accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) – a requirement for receiving feed-in tariff income – will comply with BS EN 61215:2005 “Crystalline silicon terrestrial photovoltaic (PV) modules – Design qualification and type approval”, which specifies a number of tests including:

  • Performance at low irradiance
  • Outdoor exposure
  • Hot-spot endurance
  • UV preconditioning test
  • Thermal cycling test
  • Humidity-freeze test
  • Damp-heat
  • Mechanical load test
  • Hail test

The MCS accreditation process ensures that these tests have been carried out by a reliable independent test laboratory. It also involves regular factory inspections to check the quality of the production process. These tests are carried out by MCS certification bodies such as BRE, TÜV and BSI.
This does of course not necessarily mean that there are no quality differences between MCS products – but all products that are accredited meet a relatively high minimum standard.

Note that all the checks and criteria listed above are only concerned with quality and performance of the modules, not with ethical aspects such as environmental standards and workers’ rights. Here, there may be significant differences. Some of them may be governed by legislation in the country where the module was manufactured – but note that even modules which are “Made in the UK” or “Made in Germany” may be assembled from components produced in other countries. Other ethical considerations may involve the wider record of a company, e.g. their financial investments and other activities.
The Ethical Consumer magazine has produced a research report with a buyers guide on PV panels.

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