Which brand/model of solar panel works the best? We are thinking about incorporating solar in our new home.
We will have south-facing rooflines...geothermal heating/air.
In spite of what various solar salespeople may tell you, the difference in output between various brands of solar panels, in watts/square foot, is so close as to be of only a small consideration.
A few years ago, the government stepped in and required all solar panel manufacturers to actually test every panel rather than just a random sample, so you can be assured that whatever panel you buy will perform.
Choose your solar installer carefully
When you choose a solar installer, interview at least 2 or 3 and go with who feels the most honest.
Do your homework: check references, Google them, compare offers, and remember that the cheapest bid is not always the cheapest in the end.
Going beyond just solar panels
You mention you have or are considering geothermal heating. Geothermal is a great solution if you are looking for the most efficient method of heating you can get (disclaimer: I have geothermal myself) and it allows you to push all of your space heating costs onto your solar system.
There is one system I'd like to tell you about. It's called the Echo system. It's a relatively new system that offers a much higher theoretical efficiency than just solar. It does that by utilizing the heat -- solar panels get hot in the sun -- that is normally wasted, and moving some of that into a hot water storage system that you can use for either domestic hot water or helping to heat your home.
The perfect time to consider a system like this is during construction. There's a contact page on their website that will lead you to a local installation company.
Remember to include air sealing and duct sealing in your plans
I'd like to take a moment and urge you to also include air sealing and duct sealing in your plans and to test your home to ensure it's tight and efficient.
Thanks for heading towards a Net Zero home.
And consider having an open house for the public when you're done, to show others the benefits of an energy efficient home.
For more information:
Read "Are geothermal heating/cooling systems better in reducing energy costs than solar power?" a Q&A answered by Mick Dalrymple.
Also, read "How much will it cost to get solar panels on our 2200 sq ft Dallas home? Will we be able to eliminate our energy bills?" a Q&A answered by Dennis Cheslik.