Is It Worth Installing an Older Model Solar Panel if It Is Cheaper?

Are you considering a cheaper, older-model solar panel system? Here's what you need to know about efficiency, rebates, and long-term value to decide if it's the right choice for you.
Older Model Solar Panel

The Australian sun is a powerful resource; harnessing its energy with solar panels is a fantastic way to reduce your electricity bills and environmental impact. However, with the constant advancement of solar technology, a question arises: is it worth installing older model solar panels if they’re significantly cheaper?

Both sides have compelling arguments. This article will delve into the pros and cons of opting for older solar panels in Australia, helping you decide based on your specific needs and budget.

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What is an older model solar panel?

Reputable solar panel manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development. This leads to newer and greater technology – which can relegate their earlier models to the ‘old’ category. While the panels may still be approved by the CEC and eligible for STCs, they may not be the latest panels nor the best technology available.

Saving now vs. long-term gain: The allure of affordability

The primary advantage of older solar panels is their lower upfront cost. Technology advancements often translate to a price increase for newer models. With older panels, you can achieve a quicker return on investment (ROI) as you’ll save on your electricity bills sooner.

This affordability can be particularly attractive for budget-conscious homeowners or those with limited initial investment capital. In a country with high sunshine hours like Australia, even older panels can generate significant clean energy, leading to substantial cost savings over time.

Efficiency matters: Understanding the trade-offs

While the initial cost is lower, their efficiency is the key consideration with older panels. Newer models boast higher efficiency ratings, converting more sunlight into usable electricity. This translates to a greater energy output per square meter of panel space.

Here’s where the trade-off comes in:

Lower efficiency

Efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight a panel converts into electricity. Newer panels boast higher efficiencies, generating more electricity per square meter of roof space. This translates to a smaller system size needed to achieve your desired energy output, potentially saving you on installation costs. 

On the other hand, older solar panels have lower efficiencies, requiring more panels to generate the same amount of electricity, potentially increasing installation complexity and cost.


Solar panels naturally degrade in efficiency over time. This degradation rate is typically lower in newer models due to advancements in materials and manufacturing processes. While older panels may still function, their electricity production will decline faster, impacting long-term energy savings.


Most reputable solar panel manufacturers offer warranties on their products. Newer panels often come with longer warranties, offering peace of mind and protection against potential performance issues. Older panels may have shorter warranties nearing expiration or outside the warranty period altogether, leaving you with the burden of any repairs or replacements.

Technology advancements

Newer panels often incorporate innovative technologies like half-cut cells and bifacial designs. Half-cut cells offer better shade tolerance, while bifacial panels capture sunlight from both sides, increasing energy production. Older panels may have different features, potentially limiting their performance. Read more about Types of Solar Panels in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide.

Government solar incentives

In Australia, government incentives like the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) offer financial rebates based on the system size and efficiency. While older panels may qualify for the SRES, the lower efficiency might translate to a reduced rebate amount.

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The future of solar power

Solar technology is constantly evolving, and newer panels offer bifacial design (capturing sunlight from both sides) and higher power density (generating more power per panel).

While older panels may be sufficient currently, you might miss out on future advancements that could further enhance energy production and cost savings. Upgradability can also be a factor. Newer systems might be designed to easily integrate future technologies like battery storage.

Making the right choice

So, is opting for older-model solar panels a good idea in Australia? The answer depends on your priorities and circumstances. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:

Consider older panels if:

  • You are on a tight budget and prioritise a quicker ROI.
  • You live in a high sunshine area like northern Australia.
  • You have ample roof space for a potentially larger panel array.

Opt for newer panels if:

  • You prioritise long-term energy production and efficiency gains.
  • You want a longer warranty and lower maintenance costs.
  • You are interested in future-proofing your system with newer technology.
  • You qualify for government rebates specific to newer, more efficient models.

Additional considerations

  • Research the specific model: Not all older panels are created equal. Research the specific model you’re considering to understand its efficiency, degradation rate, and warranty details. Newer doesn’t always guarantee better—compare the specs of both newer and older models to make an informed decision.
  • Consult a reputable solar installer: A qualified solar installer can assess your needs, roof space, and budget to recommend the best system for you, considering new and older panel options. They can also provide a detailed cost comparison and estimated ROI for different scenarios.
  • Consider future needs: If you plan to increase your electricity consumption, factor that into your initial system design. Newer, higher-efficiency panels may be a better long-term investment.
  • Compare solar quotes: Get quotes from reputable solar installers offering newer and older models. This will give you a clearer picture of each option’s cost difference and potential system size.

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The verdict: Weighing your options

While the initial cost savings of older panels are attractive, the long-term trade-offs in efficiency, degradation, and potential system size might outweigh the benefits. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:

  • Prioritise upfront cost: If budget is the biggest concern, older panels might be a consideration, but factor in the potential need for more panels.
  • Focus on long-term savings: If you prioritise maximising electricity generation and long-term cost savings, newer, more efficient models are the better choice.

Always get quotes from reputable solar installers who can assess your needs and recommend the most suitable panel type. By weighing the pros and cons, you can make an informed choice and invest in a solar system that helps you harness the power of the Australian sun while maximising your return on investment.

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*Prices quoted are to be used as a guide only and do not factor in state and other rebates and incentives. Includes STC discount.

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