omeowners are turning to solar panels in droves as a way to save money on monthly energy bills. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, solar power is now a more cost-effective solution than ever. Despite this, not all solar panels are created equal, and buyers need to be informed about what to look for in order to make an informed decision. The right solar panels can result in huge savings on energy bills, while the wrong choice can lead to a less-than-ideal return on investment.
To fully benefit from solar panels, it is important to understand how they work. Solar modules convert sunlight into electrical energy, which can be used to power your home. The amount of energy generated by solar panels depends on several factors, including the amount of sunlight they receive, their size, and the efficiency of the solar cells. When choosing solar panels, it is essential to look for models with the best possible efficiency, as this will maximize the amount of energy produced per square foot of panel.
In addition to efficiency, other important factors to consider when choosing solar panels include durability, warranty, and the manufacturer's reputation. It's also important to weigh both the initial cost and the long-term savings that you can expect to receive. Investing in high-quality solar panels can save a considerable amount of money on your energy bills over time.
Choosing the right panels is not always easy, as there are many different brands, models, and specifications to choose from. In this article, we will explore the top 10 solar panels for homeowners to simplify your search for the best one. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced solar owner looking to upgrade your existing panels, this article is your one-stop guide to making the best choice.
Selecting the best solar panel with ease: A look at PV panel types
Before we get into the topic of the top panels for solar projects, let's take a moment to understand the different solar panel types. Over time, they've undergone changes in design and materials, resulting in various options available on the market. The most well-known are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are crafted from a single, pure silicon crystal structure. The big crystal is then sliced into tiny wafers, which serve as individual cells forming the panel. The cells in monocrystalline solar panels are fabricated to be as uniform as possible, allowing them to produce a more consistent electricity output. This also makes them less prone to issues such as hot spots and decreased performance over time. With their sleek, black appearance, monocrystalline solar panels are a popular option for both residential and commercial installations.
Monocrystalline modules are generally considered the best solar panel type. They are highly efficient due to the uniform structure of their single crystals, which enables them to convert more of the sun's energy into usable electricity. For the same size, this type of solar panel generates more power, making it an excellent option for limited spaces where you need to maximize energy production in a smaller area.
The single crystal structure of monocrystalline solar panels also results in a more uniform and consistent performance, which helps to ensure that they are reliable and long-lasting. Additionally, monocrystalline modules tend to be more durable and resistant to environmental factors such as extreme temperatures and harsh weather conditions.
Despite their high efficiency, monocrystalline solar panels are also some of the most expensive on the market. This is due to the high cost of the pure silicon used in their construction, as well as the more complex manufacturing process involved.
Polycrystalline solar panels
The second type is polycrystalline solar panels setup. Unlike monocrystalline models, which come from one large crystal, polycrystalline panels are put together from multiple small crystals. The process of making these modules involves filling a square mold with molten silicon that hardens into a solid block. The block is then sliced into wafers, which are assembled into the solar panel. The multiple crystals in these panels create a blue hue and a more speckled look compared to the uniform dark black look of single-crystal panels.
Polycrystalline panels have several advantages over their monocrystalline counterparts. Firstly, they are less expensive to produce, making them a more affordable option for homeowners and businesses. Secondly, the use of polycrystalline solar panels is more environmentally conscious compared to monocrystalline panels as the production process does not require individual crystal shaping and placement, reducing waste and maximizing silicon utilization.
However, this solar panel type is known for its lower efficiency. Polycrystalline modules also have a lower thermal tolerance, meaning they can become damaged at higher temperatures. This type of panel is also more susceptible to shading, which can cause a decrease in power production.
Thin-film solar panels
Thin-film solar panels are a type of photovoltaic technology that can produce electricity from the sun. Unlike traditional modules that use crystalline silicon to convert sunlight into electricity, thin-film panels use thin layers of other materials, such as amorphous silicon or cadmium telluride. The thin layers make these panels lighter and more flexible than traditional solar panels, allowing for more versatility in their use and placement. The thinness of the material also makes this panel type the best choice for compact solar applications such as small homes, remote cabins, and portable electronics.
Another advantage of thin-film solar modules is their low cost. Because the material used to make them is less expensive than crystalline silicon, thin-film panels are typically cheaper to produce.
Despite being lighter and more flexible than traditional solar panels, this panel type has some disadvantages that need to be considered. Firstly, the efficiency of thin-film solar panels is lower than conventional alternatives, meaning they need more space to produce the same amount of energy. Secondly, they tend to have a shorter lifespan and are less durable, which makes them more susceptible to weather damage. Additionally, their production process requires using hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
Ultimate solar panel ranking: 10 solar panels you should consider
With so many solar panel options available, it can be challenging to determine which panel is best for your needs. To make the decision easier, we have compiled a list of the top 10 best solar panels on the market right now. These 10 solar panels are made with cutting-edge technology and materials that ensure maximum energy output and minimize energy loss.
Criteria used in our solar panel ranking
You might be curious about what factors went into determining the best 10 solar panels. The first criterion used in the solar panel ranking is the efficiency rate, which is a measure of how well the panel converts sunlight into usable energy expressed as a percentage of the total energy falling on it. High-efficiency premium panels are more expensive, but they are worth the investment if you have limited roof space or want to produce more power with fewer panels.
Another crucial aspect is durability. They need to be able to handle harsh weather conditions and maintain their efficiency for a long period of time. The use of high-quality materials such as tempered glass, anodized aluminum, and a sturdy frame is crucial in ensuring durability. Solar panels with a higher durability rating will be less prone to wear and tear over time, providing a better return on investment.
Warranty is also an essential consideration in this solar panel ranking. Both the length of the warranty and the company's track record for upholding it are important factors to consider. A lengthy warranty can provide peace of mind and protect your investment in case something goes wrong with the panels. Companies known for honoring their warranties are generally considered more reliable and trustworthy partners for your solar power needs.
Finally, we considered the manufacturer’s reputation. Solar panels are a long-term investment, and it is vital to choose a panel from a reputable brand that has a proven track record of delivering top notch products and excellent customer service.
Top panels for your solar project: An overview of best brands & products
It's time to take a closer look at the top panels on our list. Below, we'll examine ten different brands and their best offerings to give you a better understanding of the solar panel market. Keep in mind that this ranking is based solely on the panels suitable for residential setups.
SunPower A-Series (Maxeon) - The most efficient solar panel
SunPower is a highly sought-after name in the solar industry. The company, which was founded in California in 1985, initially aimed to create concentrated solar systems. However, it has now become a household name in residential solar panel production. SunPower declared in 2019 that their attention would shift away from PV panel manufacturing, with the new company Maxeon Solar stepping in to handle it. Meanwhile, SunPower would continue to focus on designing and overseeing solar systems.
SunPower's residential solar panel line-up includes the A-Series, M-Series, X-Series, and U-Series. The A-Series is the star of the show, delivering a maximum power output of 400 W to 425 W and an impressive efficiency of up to 22.8% - the best on the market.
Each panel consists of 66 Monocrystalline Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells each and comes equipped with a microinverter that is lighter by 60% compared to previous models. For those living in areas with frequent cloudiness, rainfall, and snowfall, the half-cut design of the A-Series makes it an excellent choice, as it will take advantage of any sun that manages to shine through.
Although SunPower's A-Series are top panels in terms of efficiency, their temperature coefficient of 0.29% is higher compared to panels like REC and a few others, which could affect their performance in very hot or cold climates.
Canadian Solar HiKu - High-performance panel at a reasonable price
Canadian Solar was established by Dr. Shawn Xiaohua Qu in 2001 in Canada, and he remains the head of the company as its Chairman, President, and CEO. The company's main headquarters is located in Guelph, Ontario, with a 500 MW manufacturing facility in Canada. However, the bulk of Canadian Solar module production takes place in China.
The company's best panels are the HiKu solar panel series, offering multiple choices using either polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon technology with configurations ranging from 108 to 144 half-cut solar cells. This product line consists of three variations: HiKu Mono, HiKu Poly, and the sleek All-Black HiKu. Monocrystalline panels are the top choice among consumers, with efficiencies reaching 20.8% and the capacity to generate 385 watts of solar power at the most.
If you're a homeowner trying to keep expenses low, Canadian Solar well-crafted solar panels might be the best solution. Although they don't have the same efficiency level as some premium solar panels, they're an excellent option for anyone looking for an affordable solution for their home.
REC Group Alpha Pure-R – The best panel for high temperatures
Founded in Norway in 1996, REC is considered one of the best solar panel producers in Europe. Known for producing top performing photovoltaic modules, the company is one of the original solar panel brands in the industry. With a vertical integration model, REC handles the complete solar energy production cycle. They design and manufacture their own silicon wafers, cells, and top notch panels, which are well-regarded for their quality and low warranty claims.
If you're in the market for high-efficiency solar panels, consider the Alpha Black series from REC. They stand out with their sleek black design and range in efficiency from 20.3% to 21.4%, depending on the wattage. Although not as efficient as SunPower's A-Series, they still perform better than the majority of solar panels available.
The best feature of Alpha Black solar panels is their heat tolerance. REC panels possess a temperature coefficient of -0.26%/C, equal to that of Panasonic and at the forefront of the industry. This ensures their performance remains strong in high heat. This makes them an ideal choice for those who live in hot areas.
Qcells Q.Peak Duo - The best value for money in the ranking
Q Cells was established in 1999 in Thalheim, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. However, it wasn't until the company merged with Korean-based Hanwha Solutions in 2012 that their solar panel and battery production really took off. Since then, Q Cells has become known for its strict quality control, advanced tracking technology, and attractive designs. The company operates manufacturing facilities in China, Malaysia, South Korea, and the United States.
The latest addition to Q Cells' range features three half-cut monocrystalline Q.Peak Duo panels. These panels offer an impressive efficiency of 20.6% to 21.4% and produce power outputs of 350 W to 415 W.
For homeowners with limited budgets, Q.Peak Duo panels offer the best balance of performance and affordability. These panels are backed by Q Cells' 25-year warranty, which promises that they'll produce at least 98% of their output in the first year, with a gradual decrease over time. After 10 years, production will remain at 93%, and by 25 years, it will be at least 86%.
Silfab Solar Elite - The best solar warranty
Silfab is one of the top solar panel brands, producing panels specifically for the North American climate. With headquarters in Toronto and two additional sites in Washington, the company has a strong presence in the region. The U.S. military and FAA are among the many organizations that use Silfab's products.
The company has a large selection of efficient PERC monocrystalline panels to choose from. The Elite series features their top panels, boasting efficiencies between 20.8% and 21.1% in panels with a capacity of 370W, 375W, or 380W. Silfab made the Elite panels more efficient and appealing by decreasing the space between the solar cells and getting rid of external bussing.
Silfab offers affordable pricing and a superior warranty for homeowners. The company provides a 25-year warranty on product workmanship and a 30-year warranty on power performance, which is often considered to be the best in the industry.
Panasonic EverVolt – The best balance of cost and quality
Panasonic has been a leading player in the solar panel industry since 1975, starting with the production of amorphous solar modules. In 1997, the company switched to producing HIT (heterojunction) solar panels, which they have become well-known for. In 2021, Panasonic revealed their plans to stop making solar panels and discontinued their partnership with Tesla. Third-party companies now produce Panasonic-labeled solar panels, however, Panasonic still manufactures battery banks and inverters at their Japanese plant.
The EverVolt series is Panasonic's flagship product, available in 360W, 370W, and 380W. Incorporating half-cut cells and heterojunction technology has led to exceptional efficiency, with ratings from 20% to 22.2%.
EverVolt panels offer impressive specifications and a 25-year warranty, though they may not quite match premium solar panels like SunPower in performance. However, they are slightly more affordable.
Trina Solar Residential – The best budget-friendly panel
Trina Solar, founded in 1997 and based in Changzhou, China, is not just a trailblazer in China's PV industry but also a significant influencer in the global solar industry. If you want to save money on solar panels, Trina Solar is the best choice.
Their top panels for residential use are the Residential series, which includes two models. The first high-performance solar panel boasts 355-380 W of power and an impressive 20.6% efficiency. It features 132 half-cut monocrystalline cells and boasts a temperature coefficient of -0.34%. The second panel, with its sleek black frame and sleek look, offers 310-335W of power with 120 half-cut monocrystalline cells and a 19.9% efficiency.
Trina Solar offers a generous 25-year product and performance warranty exclusive to the US market. This is not a typical offering in the solar industry, making Trina's solar panels a smart investment for the long term.
LONGi Hi-MO 4 - Solar panel on a budget with great efficiency
LONGi Solar, a company founded in 2000 with headquarters in China and a global reach including the U.S., has been a trusted player in the solar photovoltaic market for over 20 years. LONGi's vertically integrated approach to panel manufacturing allows them to deliver cutting-edge technology and outstanding performance, all while keeping costs low.
LONGi offers three main types of monocrystalline modules, the best of which for residential use is the Hi-MO 4. These solar panels are made with the latest monocrystalline PERC half-cut cell technology, which increases performance and extends the lifespan of the panels by cutting the cells in half.
The degradation rate of these panels is 0.45% annually, meaning they will retain around 11-13% of their output after 25 years. This level of performance is comparable to top quality solar panels.
JA Solar JAM60S20 – Top quality from a trusted brand
JA Solar was established in 2005 and has since become one of the best solar panel brands. With headquarters in Shanghai, China, the company has a global presence, including an office in San Jose, California. They specialize in budget and mid-range solar panels and have become renowned for producing high-quality products in that market segment.
The JAM60S20 solar panel from JA Solar is considered the best company’s offering among homeowners. It offers excellent efficiency at an affordable price, and while the warranty may not be as comprehensive as others, the high customer satisfaction ratings show that this is not a major concern for most people.
The panel performs just as well as some premium brands, with a temperature coefficient of -0.27°C and strong resistance to LID+LETID degradation. With a 21.2% efficiency and the ability to generate up to 395 W, the JAM60S20 solar panel provides impressive performance at an affordable cost.
Mission Solar MSE PERC 66 – One of the best made in the US
Mission Solar Energy is a Texas-based manufacturer of solar panels that started operations in 2014. All aspects of production, from design to assembly, take place at its San Antonio factory, where quality control standards are upheld to meet the highest standards. Although still considered a small-scale manufacturer, Mission Solar product has received many favorable reviews.
Mission has an extensive range of solar panels, suitable for both grid-tied and standalone systems equipped with battery packs. The panels come in two product categories: MSE PERC 66 and MSE PERC 72, with the MSE PERC 66 line being best suitable for home use. This module offers 390 W to 400 W power output with an efficiency rating of 19.9%.
Mission Solar provides a 25-year linear production warranty and a 12-year warranty on the product, guaranteeing that the solar panels will operate without flaws for 12 years as long as they are installed and used according to guidelines. Registering your panels online with Mission after installation will extend the product warranty to 25 years.
Solar ranking recap: Selecting the best PV panel for your needs
The ranking of the top panels provided in this article is designed to help those looking to make the best decision. With careful consideration of the factors and criteria used in determining the ranking, we hope this information will help guide you toward making an informed choice.
Each of the 10 solar panels we listed has become well-known and highly regarded among customers and industry professionals. When searching for high-efficiency panels and the cost is not your top priority, SunPower, Silfab, and REC are good options to consider. For hot climates, consider panels from REC or Panasonic. Qcells and LONGi, both Chinese manufacturers, might be a good choice if you're looking for an affordable yet efficient solution. If you prefer to support local US companies, go with Silfab or Mission Solar. Lastly, it's always a good idea to talk to a solar expert who can help guide you toward the best choice for your specific needs.