Best Solar Panels
When it comes to solar panels, every home is different
When looking to install solar for your home, one of the most significant decisions you’ll need to make is choosing the best home solar panels for your situation. Also known as solar modules, solar panels are not one-size-fits-all. They are chosen based on their specific application. Read all about our solar financing solutions to see what payment plan works best for you.
The Best Solar Panels for Home Use
Every home solar system is custom designed with software by an engineer. An expensive, high efficiency panel may perform just as well as a standard or economy panel under certain circumstances. Bigger is not always better. The best solar panels for your situation are highly dependent on the two factors below.
The amount of annual household electricity use
The more electricity you consume, the more solar power you’ll need to generate. You should ideally produce enough power to offset 100% of the electricity you consume. It’s useful to have a full year’s worth of electricity payments for reference on your bill, so your system designer can factor in household usage patterns that fluctuate month to month.
The characteristics of your roof
Most residential systems are placed atop your home on the roof. Your roof’s tilt, type, age, and amount of shading can all affect the number of solar panels you need. Generally speaking, it’s better to have more panels placed on the southern side of your roof, as that’s where the sun shines the most in the northern hemisphere.
Keep in mind: Choosing the best solar panels company for you is significantly dependent on these variables. Be sure you’re working with a knowledgeable company that encompasses all of these factors into your project.
Solar Panel Inverter Compatibility
Solar panels and inverters work together to form the main components of your solar system.
In a nutshell, your panels generate Direct Current, or DC, electricity, and then your solar panel inverter “inverts” that power to Alternating Current, or AC, electricity. This is necessary because your home appliances and the electricity grid runs on AC power.
Some photovoltaic panels are compatible with only specific types of inverters, some with all inverters. Your panels and inverter must fit together like puzzle pieces. The type of system your home needs, and your own personal preferences, will determine which inverters and panels are an option for you.
If your roof only needs one single plane for panels and has good southern exposure, a standard string inverter will be sufficient to manage your solar panels. String inverters control all of your solar panels generation at once, as a single “string” or series connection.
If your roof requires multiple planes for panels or has some shading from trees, consider paying a little extra for microinverters. Microinverters invert solar power on a panel-by-panel basis. If one panel is impacted by shade, all other panels will still generate at full power. With a string inverter, all panels would generate at the level of the panel impacted by shade.
If you have very limited roof space, you’ll need higher efficiency panels like Sunpower modules. SunPower features AC modules that have microinverters directly integrated to the panels. This comes at a cost premium, but you’ll be producing the solar you need from a lesser number of panels.
Here are some of the biggest solar inverter brands for the home solar market. The number one choice on Solar.com’s marketplace is Enphase, which specializes in microinverter products. SolarEdge manufacturers string inverters and power optimizers. Sunpower manufacturers AC modules with integrated inverters on each panel.
Keep in mind: Doing a little research into inverters will help you determine the best residential solar panels for you. Again, an expert who is properly assessing you electricity usage and roof conditions will be able to provide you with appropriate equipment options for your project, and can advise you on the value of different solar panel inverter prices.
When evaluating the solar panels themselves, be sure to review the efficiency, power rating, warranty, and bankability of different manufacturers.
Here are the main components of a solar panel
When industry insiders speak of panel efficiency, they mean the amount of sunlight that reaches a solar cell that is actually converted into electricity. For conventional silicon-based panels, this is typically around between 14-22%.
Every panel has a different wattage, or power, rating. This signifies the amount of power a panel can generate, and is usually between 250 and 350 watts. Higher wattage panels are often more efficient, but also larger in size and pricier.
Your solar installer and solar equipment manufacturers will provide various warranties to ensure your system functions smoothly over it’s lifetime. Warranties will vary in duration and terms, but are typically between 10 and 25 years.
When choosing a solar panel brand, be careful to make sure that the company you choose will still be around to honor your warranty. Typically, larger corporations like LG, Panasonic, and Q CELLS are safe bets and highly bankable.
In terms of power and efficiency, the 2020 top solar panel manufacturers are Q CELLS, LG, Solaria, Panasonic & REC. However, there are many other module makers vying for a spot on the podium.
All five of these manufacturers have a powerful 25 year warranty on their products. REC is one of the most established solar companies, and LG and Panasonic are both huge, multinational corporations. All three are therefore very bankable and will in all likelihood still be around to honor your system’s warranty in 25 years.
Still, the best solar panel company for you is largely dependent on your home’s unique characteristics. Many solar panel manufacturers are also raising the bar on their equipment warranties, and other large companies like South Korea’s Q CELLS are quickly gaining market share. Even historically smaller players/manufacturers are edging their way into the market lately. Solaria saw explosive growth in 2020 on Solar.com’s platform, for example. Many homes likely do not need the high efficiency of LG and Panasonic modules.
Our Solar Panel Reviews
Solar panel comparisons are not simple, and it’s better to have an unbiased advisor to assist you. However, if you’d like to learn more, referencing a solar panel comparison chart like the one below will help you understand the differing traits for different products. We dug through the specification sheets for each of these top solar panel manufacturers. Some of them are the top module providers on our Solar.com marketplace.
|Country of Origin:
|Efficiency Range (%)*||Power Rating Range (W)*||Equipment Warranty (Years)||Ultimate Performance Guarantee|
|Aleo||Germany/ Germany||17.6-19.2%||230-315||12||80% in the 25th year|
|Axitec||Germany/ Germany, Taiwan||16.29-18.55%||260-360||15||85% in the 25th year|
|Canadian Solar||Canada/ China||15.81-18.63%||260-405||10||80.7% in the 25th year|
|CSUN||China/ United States, Turkey||16.01-17.24%||300-320||10||80% in the 25th year|
|Q CELLS||Germany/ United States, Malaysia, South Korea||14.7-19.9%||300-345||25||83% in the 25th year|
|Hyundai||South Korea/ South Korea||14.2-18.4%||250-350||5-10||80.2% in the 25th year|
|Itek Energy||United States/ United States||16.49-18.94%||290-370||10-12||80% in the 25th year|
|JA Solar||China/ Malaysia, India||17.2-19.2%||280-380||12||80.7-83% in the 25th year|
|Japan Solar||Japan/ Japan||18.35-18.53%||300-360||10||80% in the 25th year|
|JinkoSolar||China/ Japan, Singapore||15.57-18.57%||225-360||10||80% in the 25th year|
|Kyocera||Japan/ Mexico, United States||14.4-16.4%||145-270||10||80% in the 25th year|
|LG||South Korea/ South Korea||16.8-21.1%||320-400||25||87% in the 25th year|
|Mission Solar Energy||United States/ United States||16.93-18.46%||290-365||10||80.2% in the 25th year|
|Mitsubishi Electric||Japan/ Japan||16.3-16.9%||255-265||10||80% in the 25th year|
|Panasonic||United States/ Indonesia||19.0-21.6%||315-330||25||91% in the 25th year|
|Phono Solar||China/ China, South Korea, Turkey||15.96-19.34%||265-380||10-12||80.2-80.8% in the 25th year|
|REC||Norway / Singapore||14.5-19.8%||260-355||10-12||86% in the 25th year|
|ReneSola||China/ China||14.95-17.52%||245-340||10||80.7% in the 25th year|
|S-Energy||South Korea/ South Korea||15.61-18.46||255-360||10||80.7% in the 25th year|
|Silfab||United States/ United States||15.3-19%||290-370||12||82% in the 25th year|
|Solaria||United States/ South Korea||18.9-19.6%||350-430||25||86% in the 25th year|
|SolarWorld||Germany/ United States||14.91-17.59%||285-350||20||80.2% in the 25th year|
|Suniva||United States/ United States||16.66-17.65%||260-340||10||80.2% in the 25th year|
|SunPower||United States/ Philippines||16.0-22.2%||320-435||25||92% in the 25th year|
|Sunpreme||United States/ China||21.2-22.5%||310-510||15||85% in the 30th year|
|SunSpark Technology||China/ United States||15.2-18.2%||250-300||10-12||80% in the 30th year|
|Talesun||United States/ Thailand, China||16.2-18.9%||265-375||10||80% in the 25th year|
|Trina Solar Energy||China/ China||15.0-18.6%||170-375||10||80.2% in the 25th year|
|Winaico||Taiwan/ Taiwan||16.53-18.9%||275-315||15||80.2% in the 25th year|
|Yingli||China/ China||15.3-19.1||250-370||10||80.7 % in the 25th year|
*figures are measured under Standard Testing Conditions (STC)
How We Came Up With Our Solar Panel Ratings
Solar engineers use a multitude of criteria for to design, engineer, and manufacture solar panels. Ultimately, there are only a handful of primary categories that are important when getting solar panels rated: solar panel warranties, solar energy performance guarantee, solar panel Efficiency, solar panel wattage, and solar panel aesthetics. Factoring in these five traits indicate to us how to determine the best rated solar panels. Namely, these factors will show us how much a panel will produce and for how long.
As mentioned previously, every home is unique and requires an expert assessment. Top rated solar panels such as SunPower, LG, and Panasonic are a great option, but they cost more than other panels that are manufactured to be economical.
Solar Panel Warranties
The length of a solar panel warranty is a message from the panel manufacturer that they think they’ve produced the best type of solar panel. The longer the warranty, the higher quality the panel. This is simply because the manufacturer is putting their money where their mouth is. When comparing solar panels, be sure you’re taking note of the warranty terms and conditions from each maker.
Warranties range from the low end of 10 years to as high as 25 years for premium panels. Although this is the warranted duration, solar panels often last much longer because of the inherent durability of the product. Because there’s no moving parts in panels, they can keep generating power until the solar cells completely run out of conducting material.
If your solar panel is discovered to be faulty within the warranty period, the manufacturer will replace that panel or repair it for you. It should be noted that if the panel fails due to an installer’s workmanship error, this will instead be covered with the installation company’s workmanship warranty.
Beyond workmanship fault, there are some other exceptions to these warranties that most manufacturers follow. Panels that are damaged from environmental pollution, salt water, flying objects, severe storms, and other “acts of god” are typically excluded from warranties. In essence, only the normal wear and tear of panels are covered.
Solar Energy Performance Guarantee
In addition to covering any defects with the Solar Panel Warranty, manufacturers also provide a Performance Guarantee for their products. At this time, most manufacturers guarantee a certain level of production over 25 years. If you want the best residential solar panels, be sure that your evaluating the level of production that the manufacturer is guaranteeing.
It’s well-documented that the silicon in solar cells slowly lose electrical conductivity over time, and it’s a manufacturer’s goal to limit this decay as much as possible over the guaranteed amount of time. SunPower is the industry leader in providing a Performance Guarantee – they guarantee their panels will produce 92% of rated power in 25 years. Typical Performance Guarantees are in the 80-85% range after 25 years. Top solar panels should be guaranteed to perform at at least 85% of rated power output.
Please note that the same exclusions from the Solar Panel Warranty also apply to the Solar Energy Performance Guarantee. So if your panels have been caked in dirt and are under-producing, the panel maker has cause to exclude your system from their guarantee. In fact, most manufacturers release their panel warranties and performance guarantees in the same document.
Solar Panel Efficiency
It’s important that every residential solar system has a monitoring system. This is the system that will allow you to view and measure real-time and historical energy production data of your system. Some monitoring systems display this energy production data via a physical display unit, while others employ an online interface, or both! As “smart” or connected homes become more prevalent, solar installers can provide whole-house energy consumption monitoring as well. In order to ensure your solar system is producing energy normally, it’s important to make sure your solar panels are paired with an energy production monitoring system.
Solar Panel Wattage
It is easy to confuse efficiency with wattage. Wattage is a unit of measure denoting the potential electrical output of a panel under ideal circumstances. The higher the wattage of a panel, the more electricity it can potentially produce for your home. Higher wattage panels are ideal for smaller spaces that need higher production. However, they often come at a higher price. So it’s not always best to invest in higher wattage panels if it’s not necessary for your home.
Additionally, sometimes higher wattage panels are physically bigger. This may mean less panels can fit in a certain space, thereby negating the advantage of having higher wattage. Solar panel brands and products will vary in size and wattage, so be sure your PV designer is taking this into account when he or she works on your array.
If you’re looking to compare solar panels, be sure to consider the panel’s efficiency and wattage in the same breath. A high-efficiency, high-wattage panel may seem ideal, but if you have enough roof space it may not be necessary.
Solar Panel Aesthetics
As more people are going solar, the need for well-designed, aesthetically pleasing panels is becoming a higher consumer demand. This is particularly the case in neighborhoods with some HOA requirements for solar arrays, or for a home that would need panels facing the road. Many homeowners with these considerations in mind prefer black panels when comparing solar panels, but there are various types of black panels to be aware of.
Most silicone cells are either dark blue or black. These cells are the squares that make up the face of the solar panels. The space between these cells is where you can see the backsheet. Having a black backsheet makes for a much sleeker, all black look. Finally, considering frame color is important. Most solar panel frames are anodized aluminum and come in silver or black. Choosing a black frame can enhance the look of your system greatly. You may be interested in getting “all black” panels, where the frame, backsheet, and cells are all the same black color.
Furthermore, top solar panels manufacturers like Sunpreme and Trina Solar manufacture frameless solar panels and no backsheet. Supported entirely by the glass coverings, these panels are sleek solutions for carports, ground mounted systems, awnings, and anywhere aesthetics might be a priority.
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