When it comes to solar panel manufacturers, there is no shortage of options for homeowners in 2017. Solar panel technology is improving every year, and many solar panel companies offer products that boast both high conversion efficiency numbers as well as impressive long-term warranties. SunPower is the leader with regard to efficiency across the board while LG solar panels are known for top tier design and aesthetic, but companies like SolarWorld and Suniva offer much more appealing prices for their solar panels. How do the top PV manufacturers stack up? We’ll help you compare and contrast your options among the industry leaders – SunPower, Panasonic, Canadian Solar, SolarWorld, LG and Suniva.
SunPower vs LG, SolarWorld and other Solar Panel Manufacturers
|Solar Panel Brand||Average Efficiency (%)||Average cost ($/watt)||Product Warranty (years)|
1. SunPower: the leader of the pack
Widely considered to be the world’s best solar panel manufacturer, SunPower is responsible for some of the highest performing panel technology on the market in 2016. Compared to some of the more cost-competitive brands like SolarWorld and Canadian Solar, SunPower offers the most expensive solar panels you can buy.
What makes the price worth it: panel efficiency that tops all competitors by a significant margin. SunPower offers a world record high for panel efficiency upwards of 22% with an average efficiency rating of 20.6%. Fellow premium panel maker Panasonic is not far behind SunPower, offering average panel efficiency of 19.7%. However, SunPower’s impressive 25-year warranty, and the lowest equipment degradation rate on the market, sets the company apart. As a brand in PV manufacturing, SunPower has a lot of selling points. Overall, it’s safe to call this company the top panel firm in 2016.
2. SolarWorld: massive market share, competitive prices
SolarWorld is technically a German company and has its headquarters located in Bonn, Germany. It’s also the biggest solar panel maker in the U.S. market and currently operates the largest cell manufacturing facilities in the nation. The company doesn’t offer the record-breaking efficiency that companies like Panasonic and SunPower can provide, but SolarWorld is at the forefront of PV innovation nonetheless. The manufacturer behemoth boasted a high of 21.5% for panel efficiency last year and prides itself on offering some of the most durable solar equipment in the world. When it comes to the bigger panel brands with quality warranties, SolarWorld also offers some of the best prices you can find. If they take their efficiency innovations to scale, SolarWorld will be able to compete with SunPower solar panels on multiple fronts.
3. LG: a premium/luxury solar product with lower prices than SunPower solar panels
Though LG is already a well known household name for electronics, the company is one of the newest panel makers out there. There are few companies who can compete with SunPower or Panasonic on an efficiency basis, but LG solar panels are still considered some of the best high-efficiency P products at 18.3% average efficiency. LG’s product specifications are even more attractive when paired with the company’s average cost per watt ($3.58), which is a full $0.50/watt cheaper than SunPower solar panels.
LG also offers sleek black panel design comparable to SunPower – a customer favorite in the U.S. solar market in terms of aesthetic. While there’s no comparison for SunPower’s 25-year warranty offering, LG does offer an above-average 12-year warranty. Overall, LG matches the national average for cost per watt while being considered a premium panel brand: a pretty impressive feat in the cutthroat PV industry.
Another competitor to SunPower in terms of efficiency is Canadian Solar, the manufacturing giant out of Canada that ranks 4th in terms of global market share for solar manufacturing. Canadian Solar is the largest provider on this list – it alone is responsible for over 150 MW of Germany’s installed solar to date.
4. Suniva: higher affordability, higher efficiency than SolarWorld panels
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Suniva is one of America’s biggest panel brands and hits the “sweet spot” between efficiency and affordability for many homeowners. Suniva proved to be the cheapest top solar manufacturer from our EnergySage Marketplace data, besting even SolarWorld’s cost per watt. With an average conversion efficiency above 17%, Suniva may be the best option for a homeowner trying to get a good deal for their PV system.
Suniva is known for its strong involvement in solar research and development – the manufacturing firm has been involved in R&D for the solar industry for 40 years. Suniva also boasts an influential partnership with Georgia Tech that allows students to contribute to Suniva’s product development as well as PV innovation for the industry. Furthermore, for the patriotic solar shopper, Suniva’s panel is made with 80% American materials – one of the highest percentages in the world for solar equipment.
Making a decision, finding the best solar panel system
Though it may sound cliche, there’s really no bad choice among the leaders in solar manufacturing –the choice you make for your home is dependent on your priorities. Though SunPower may seem to be the undisputed complete package, their product may not prove reasonable in terms of affordability for the average homeowner.
Whether you value price, efficiency, warranty or aesthetic, there will be a clear best option for you when choosing your solar equipment. Ultimately, the point is to make sure you fully understand and can effectively compare your options. Try this guidance that we offer to any homeowner considering solar:
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.