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. In this article, we’ll discuss how solar panel manufacturers stack up to one another, and who makes the best solar panels.
Best solar panels: key takeaways
- LG, Panasonic, REC, and Sunpower are widely considered to be some of the top solar panel companies
- Make sure to consider efficiency, price, and warranty when comparing panel options
- Register on the EnergySage Marketplace to compare solar quotes with high-quality solar panels
2021 best solar panels for home installation
There are many solar panels available to purchase and install. Out of all the companies currently making solar panels, the top names most often associated with the best solar panels on the market are:
- Q CELLS
- Canadian Solar
- Trina Solar
Generally speaking, SunPower, LG, REC, and Panasonic make some of the best solar panels 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. If you’re interested in learning more about Panasonic or Silfab in particular, be sure to read our complete expert review for more information.
In almost all cases, the best solar panels for your home are made with premium monocrystalline solar cells. Monocrystalline cells are made with a single crystal of silicon instead of many silicon fragments melted together, as is the case with polycrystalline cells. This means that the cells are more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, plus they have a sleek black tint to them. However, it’s important to keep in mind that premium solar panels with monocrystalline cells generally come with a higher upfront price tag.
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 manufacturers that make the best solar panels:
Best solar panels by efficiency
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 (lower is more efficient), here are the top four best solar panel manufacturers:
Best solar panels by temperature coefficient
How do you determine the temperature coefficient?
Higher or lower cell temperatures will either reduce or increase the power output by a specific amount for every degree above or below 25°C—this is called the power temperature coefficient, measured in percentage per °C. How does this work? Let’s say your panels have a temperature coefficient of -0.30 and an overall efficiency of 20%. At 30°C, your panels would only operate at an efficiency of about 18.5%–a power loss of about 1.5%.
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 best solar panel manufacturers:
Best solar panels by material warranty
|LG Solar||25 years|
|Solaria ||25 years|
|Q CELLS||25 years|
|Mission Solar ||25 years|
|Certainteed Solar||25 years|
|Aptos Solar Technology||25 years|
As shown above, all 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.
Best solar panels based on your region and climate
After you’ve considered the efficiency, temperature coefficient, and warranty on any particular solar panel, it’s important to take the next step and think about your home’s individual circumstance. It’s no secret that solar panels are more often found in the Sun Belt compared to other parts of the country, but that’s not to say that homeowners in the Northeast or Midwest should totally rule them out.
First, there are several factors that affect solar panel efficiency—factors that can be impacted by your region and climate. These include irradiance, shading, panel orientation, temperature, location and latitude, time of year, and dust and dirt. For example, if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight and your home is prone to shade and overcast clouds, you’re not going to be able to produce as much clean energy for your home. When a panel is covered by shade, the power output is very low—even light shading can have a negative impact. In fact, subtle shading that covers a few cells or a single panel can reduce power output by 50% or more. This is why the orientation of your home in relation to the shade and wet weather patterns is so important.
For shady & wet climates
If you live in an area affected by rain, snow, or other cloudy conditions, but still want to install the best solar panels for your home, try opting for high-efficiency panels like SunPower (22.8%) or LG (22%).
For warm & dry climates
Living in the Sun Belt or in another hot and sunny region? You’re in a prime spot for premium solar panel efficiency. In this case, you may also consider temperature coefficient as a leading factor in your decision making—for example, Panasonic and REC both boast an impressive -0.26 temperature coefficient and a 25-year warranty which is great considering solar panels are a long-term investment.
On a final note related to region and climate, it can sometimes be useful to consider solar panel maintenance and cleaning as part of your yearly routine. Solar panels in areas that suffer from severe storms, wind, or even pollen buildup in the spring, can quickly accumulate dust and debris which reduces efficiency. A quick washing or professional soft washing should do the trick (note: we don’t recommend climbing on your roof to wash your solar panels).
How many solar panels do you need for your home’s size?
The first thing you should think about when answering this question is how much energy your household consumes every month. This will be important when determining how many solar panels you need, and the type that suits your home best: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film.
Then, consider the size of your roof. If you have a smaller roof size, you will need a higher efficiency solar panel system to generate more energy per square meter—this will require less overall area and hopefully fit on your roof. To put this into perspective, if you have 12 x high efficiency 360 W solar panels, like the ones from LG or SunPower with an over 21% conversion efficiency, you’ll benefit from up to 1100 W more total solar capacity than the same number and size 270 W panels that have a lower efficiency rating.
All in all, there isn’t a steadfast rule on how many solar panels your home will require to perform at peak efficiency, but the smaller your home is, the fewer panels you will be able to install—just make sure they’re conversion efficiency is premium to get your money’s worth.
What are the best solar companies today? Which manufacturers make the best panels?
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 over a thousand panel models.
The top solar panel manufacturers
|Manufacturer||Efficiency range||Temperature coefficient range||Materials warranty||Cost per watt|
|Aptos Solar Technology||18.85% to 20.65%||-0.4 to -0.36||25 years||$2.46|
|Axitec||15.37% to 19.41%||-0.44 to -0.39||12 years||$2.53|
|Canadian Solar||15.88% to 19.91%||-0.41 to -0.37||10 years||$2.96|
|CertainTeed Solar||17.2% to 19.9%||-0.42 to -0.37||10 years||$2.74|
|First Solar||17% to 18.3%||-0.32 to -0.32||12 years||$2.53|
|Hanwha||19.3% to 20.3%||-0.35 to -0.35||12 years||$2.80|
|Heliene||15.6% to 19.3%||-0.43 to -0.39||10 years||$2.89|
|JA Solar||15.8% to 20.4%||-0.4 to -0.35||12 years||$2.66|
|JinkoSolar||18.67% to 20.38%||-0.39 to -0.35||10 years||$2.79|
|LG Solar||18.4% to 22%||-0.4 to -0.29||25 years||$2.75|
|LONGi Solar||18.2% to 20.9%||-0.37 to -0.35||10 years||$2.81|
|Mission Solar Energy||18.05% to 19.35%||-0.38 to -0.38||12 years||$2.62|
|Panasonic||19.1% to 21.2%||-0.26 to -0.26||25 years||$2.71|
|Peimar||19.05% to 19.05%||-0.4 to -0.4||20 years||$2.65|
|Phono Solar||15.66% to 18.44%||-0.45 to -0.4||12 years||$2.89|
|QCELLS||17.1% to 20.6%||-0.39 to -0.35||12 years||$2.70|
|REC||16.5% to 21.7%||-0.37 to -0.26||20 years||$2.76|
|Risen||16.3% to 19.6%||-0.39 to -0.39||12 years||$2.30|
|S-Energy||15.61% to 19.8%||-0.4 to -0.36||10 years||$2.57|
|Seraphim||15.67% to 17.52%||-0.43 to -0.42||10 years||$2.65|
|Silfab||17.6% to 19.7%||-0.38 to -0.36||25 years||$2.81|
|Solaria||19.4% to 20.5%||-0.39 to -0.39||25 years||$2.86|
|SunPower||16.5% to 22.8%||-0.38 to -0.29||25 years||$3.35|
|Trina||16.2% to 20.4%||-0.41 to -0.37||10 years||$2.82|
Solar panel durability
A solar panel’s durability is a measure of its ability to perform at maximum capacity amidst conditions that are expected to diminish that optimum performance. Solar panels spend their entire functional lives outdoors subject to everything nature has to throw at them, which is why it is so important to invest in durable solar panels that you can trust to not break or malfunction in the elements. Solar panels are put through several standardized tests to determine their durability in the elements:
- Damp heat test: measures resistance to humidity
- Thermal cycling: measures resistance to temperature fluctuations
- Dynamic loading: measures resistance to weight or pressure
A solar panel’s durability directly impacts its efficiency. Since the most durable solar panels will have the lowest degradation rate, they will be best at maintaining their efficiency rating. Refer to our list of “best solar panels by efficiency” above for more insight on which companies manufacture the most durable solar panels. Check out our article on how long solar panels last to learn more.
How often do solar panels need to be serviced?
Solar panels require little to no professional servicing, unless something is immediately wrong with your PV system. If you live in an area or climate where your panels are subject to become dirty to the point where rain won’t do the trick, occasional cleaning is recommended to keep your system running optimally. Check out our article on solar panel cleaning to learn more.
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 for your home, 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 A-Series Residential Solar Panels, which are 22.8% efficient at their maximum.
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, LG’s LG350Q1C-A5 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.
Common questions about the best solar panels
Knowing which solar panels are the best depends on your unique solar needs. Here are a few common questions and answers about the best solar panels to keep in mind:
Most high-quality solar panels should last about 25 to 30 years before their production starts to dip significantly. As long as you keep them clean and maintained, you can certainly keep using solar panels past their warrantied lifespan. They just might not produce as much electricity as you need anymore.
Currently, the most efficient residential solar panel available to install is the SunPower A-Series, which comes in at a whopping 22.8 percent.
Generally speaking, SunPower, LG, REC, and Panasonic make the best solar panels. Their high efficiencies, competitive pricing, and 25-year warranties set them apart, but there are plenty more brands of solar panels that are worth installing.
How to find the best price on your solar panels
If you want the best solar panels for your home, 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. The best place to get started? Register for free on the EnergySage Marketplace today to start comparing your solar options.