Finding the best solar panels for your home can feel like a daunting challenge. There are more than a hundred different brands of solar panels and other solar equipment on the market at any given point.
What are the best solar panels available?
Generally speaking, SunPower, LG, and Panasonic manufacture the best solar panels on the market in 2018 due to the high efficiencies, competitive pricing, and stellar 25-year warranty offered by each brand. These companies combine durability and reliability with premium protection and fair prices, making them the brands with the best solar panels available. SunPower is widely considered the best solar panel manufacturer with module efficiencies upwards of 22%.
Best solar panels ranked by efficiency
A solar panel’s efficiency is a measure of how well it converts sunlight into electricity. Based only on maximum module efficiency, here are the top five best solar panel manufacturers:
Best solar panels ranked by temperature coefficient
A solar panel’s temperature coefficient is a measure of how much or little a panel’s production is lowered in hot temperatures. Based only on the lowest temperature coefficient available in a panel, here are the top five best solar panel manufacturers:
Best solar panels ranked by materials warranty
A solar panel’s materials warranty (or equipment warranty) protects against equipment failure due to environmental factors or manufacturing defects. Based only on the longest materials warranties available from solar companies, here are the top five best solar panel manufacturers:
As shown above, all five of the top solar panel manufacturers ranked by materials warranty offer the same length of warranty, setting this tier of companies apart. For reference, the industry standard for panel materials warranties is 10 years.
What are the top solar panel companies today?
How can you determine which of the top companies’ panel models offer the right combination of price and quality for your needs? To solve this problem, EnergySage combed through the detailed technical specifications for every panel manufactured by the most popular companies on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. In total, we assessed nearly a thousand panel models.
The top solar panels of 2018 by EnergySage rating
|Manufacturer||Efficiency Range (%)||Temperature Coefficient Range||Materials Warranty (Years)|
|Amerisolar||14.75% to 17.01%||-0.43||12|
|Axitec||15.37% to 17.9%||-0.44 to -0.4||12|
|AUO BenQ Solar||15.5% to 18.3%||-0.42 to -0.3||10|
|Boviet||15.4% to 17.5%||-0.43 to -0.33||12|
|Canadian Solar||15.81% to 18.63%||-0.41 to -0.39||10|
|Centrosolar||15.3% to 17.8%||-0.44 to -0.42||10|
|China Sunergy||14.98% to 16.53%||-0.42 to -0.408||10|
|ET Solar||15.37% to 17.52%||-0.44 to -0.41||10|
|Flex||17.43% to 18.04%||-0.39||10|
|Grape Solar||16.21% to 17.64%||-0.5 to -0.4||10|
|Green Brilliance||14.24% to 15.58%||-0.45||5|
|Hanwha Q CELLS||14.7% to 19.6%||-0.42 to -0.37||12|
|Heliene||15.6% to 19.3%||-0.43 to -0.39||10|
|Hyundai||14.2% to 18.4%||-0.45 to -0.41||5 to 10|
|Itek Energy||16.49% to 18.94%||-0.47 to -0.39||10 to 12|
|JA Solar||15.5% to 18.35%||-0.41 to -0.39||10|
|JinkoSolar||15.57% to 18.57%||-0.4 to -0.39||10|
|Kyocera||14.75% to 16.11%||-0.45||10|
|LG||16.8% to 21.1%||-0.42 to -0.3||25|
|Mission Solar||15.98% to 18.46%||-0.42 to -0.318||10|
|Mitsubishi||16.3% to 16.9%||-0.45 to -0.44||10|
|Neo Solar Power||16% to 17%||-0.42||10|
|Panasonic||19% to 21.6%||-0.3 to -0.29||25|
|Peimar Group||15.4% to 18.4%||-0.45 to -0.43||20|
|Phono Solar||15.36% to 18.55%||-0.45 to -0.398||10|
|REC||14.5% to 17%||-0.4 to -0.39||10|
|RECOM||16% to 19%||-0.4 to -0.39||12|
|ReneSola||14.9% to 16.9%||-0.43 to -0.4||10|
|Renogy Solar||15.3% to 18.5%||-0.44||10|
|S-Energy||14.62% to 18.37%||-0.43 to -0.301||10|
|Seraphim||15.67% to 17.52%||-0.43 to -0.42||10|
|Silevo||16.9% to 18.5%||-0.27||10|
|Silfab||15.3% to 19%||-0.42 to -0.38||25|
|Solaria||18.7% to 19.4%||-0.4 to -0.39||25|
|SolarTech Universal||17.8% to 20.2%||-0.4079 to -0.3439||12|
|SolarWorld||14.91% to 17.59%||-0.43 to -0.4||20|
|Stion||12.4% to 14%||-0.26||10|
|Suniva||16.66% to 17.65%||-0.42||10|
|SunPower||16% to 22.2%||-0.38 to -0.29||25|
|SunSpark Technology||15.2% to 18.2%||-0.47 to -0.4||10 to 12|
|Talesun||16.1% to 18.2%||-0.39||10|
|Trina Solar||15% to 18.6%||-0.41 to -0.39||10|
|Upsolar||16.5% to 19.4%||-0.4||12|
|Winaico||16.5% to 18.9%||-0.43||15|
How EnergySage Developed Its “Best Solar Panels” Ranking
When searching for the best solar panels for your home, you should take into consideration a panel’s performance, quality, durability, and warranties. There are three major technical specifications that can help you as you make your decision: panel efficiency, temperature coefficient, and the materials warranty. To develop our ranking of the best solar panels, EnergySage evaluated these metrics for all of the solar panels offered by the top manufacturers in the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.
Solar panel efficiency
Solar panel efficiency refers to how well your solar panel can convert sunlight into usable electricity. A higher efficiency rating is better, because it means that your solar panel is able to convert more of the sunlight it captures into electricity. The best solar panels available on the market today are SunPower’s X-Series Residential Solar Panels, which are 22% efficient and received a Premium + rating from EnergySage.
The temperature coefficient tells you how well your solar panels will perform in less-than-ideal conditions. Solar panels are like any other kind of electronic equipment: they operate most efficiently when they are kept cool (ideally around 25° C or 77° F). The temperature coefficient gives you a sense of how your panel’s performance will degrade during hot summer days. For every degree above 25° C (or 77° F), your solar panel’s electricity production will decrease by the temperature coefficient. A lower temperature coefficient is better.
For example, Panasonic’s VBHN240SA11 model has a temperature coefficient of -0.3 %/°C. This means that if your solar panel’s temperature increases by one degree Celsius (from 25° C to 26° C), its electricity production will fall by 0.3%. If the temperature increases ten degrees Celsius to 35° C (or 95° F), the panel will produce three percent less electricity. While 95° F might seem high to you, remember that the surface of your roof can get much hotter than the air around it when the sun is beating down on it.
Whether you’re buying a new TV, a car, or solar panels for your roof, you should expect the manufacturer to stand behind their product with a strong warranty. A solar panel’s materials warranty (sometimes referred to as the product or equipment warranty) protects you against equipment failures due to manufacturing defects or environmental issues.
Most companies offer at least a 10-year materials warranty, but the best solar panel manufacturers will guarantee against equipment failures for 15 or even 25 years. Many of the manufacturers in our ranking offer a materials warranty of more than 10 years.
Keep in mind that while not taken into account in this rating, solar panels also come with a 25-year performance warranty as well. Manufacturers typically guarantee that their panels will produce electricity at 80-90% of their original output at the end of that warranty period.
How to find the best price on your solar panels
If you want the best solar panels on the market, you’re going to pay a higher price. The panels listed above received our highest ranking, but the “best” solar panels aren’t always the right ones for your home. If your roof is small and you don’t have a lot of space for your system, investing in the most efficient, highest-performing panels can get you the performance you need. However, if you have enough space for a larger system, installing slightly less efficient panels can give you the performance you need at a more competitive price. Let’s review our:
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 upfront 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.