What are the most efficient solar panels on the market?

most efficient solar panels on the market energysage

For those looking for the most efficient solar panels for their PV system, the first thing you need to know is how to compare efficiency metrics for different manufacturer brands. Simply put, efficiency (expressed as a percentage) quantifies a solar panel’s ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Given the same amount of sunlight shining for the same duration of time on two solar panels with different efficiency ratings, the more efficient panel will produce more electricity than the less efficient panel.

In practical terms, for two solar panels of the same physical size, if one has a 21% efficiency rating and the other has a 14% efficiency rating, the 21% efficient panel will produce 50% more kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity under the same conditions as the 14% efficient panel. Thus, maximizing energy use and bill savings is heavily reliant on top tier solar panel energy efficiency.

The High Efficiency Solar Panel Brands

Many consumers and people in the solar industry consider efficiency to be the most important criterion when assessing a solar panel’s quality. While it is an important criteria, its not the only one to consider while you evaluate whether to install a particular solar panel. Solar panel efficiency relates to the ability of the panel to convert energy at a low cost and high supply rate.

The most efficient commercially available solar panels on the market today have efficiency ratings as high as 22.5%, whereas the majority of panels range from 14% to 16% efficiency rating. SunPower panels are known for being the most efficient solar panel brand available on the market. Though they will come with a higher price tag, SunPower will often be the consumer favorite for anyone concerned with efficiency as a primal metric of interest. However, check out Exhibit 1 (below) to learn about all the top brands and the most efficient solar panels you can get your hands on.


Maximum Production or Maximum Offset: If your goal is to maximize the amount of electricity your system produces or want to ensure you buy the least amount of electricity from the utility, but the amount of roof space you have available to install solar panels is limited in size, you may choose to install higher efficiency solar panels. This will ensure you get the maximum production from your solar panel system.

Cost vs. Value:  More efficient solar panels tend to cost more than their less efficient cousins. You may want to analyze whether that upfront cost difference is justified by the increased saving achieved by generating more electricity over the lifespan of your solar energy system. Increased electricity production means you have to buy less power from your utility and in some states, may also generate higher SREC income. The EnergySage Solar Marketplace makes it easy for you to easily compare your savings from solar panels that vary in their efficiency ratings and if their premium price is justified.

How Efficient are Solar Panels? Efficiency Comparison Table

The two tables below present different views of the efficiency characteristics of the leading manufacturers who sell solar panels in the United States. Most panel manufacturers produce several solar panel models which range in efficiency ratings. The leading brands in this category will be those that utilize high efficiency solar cells such as LG and SunPower (who have battled back and forth for the world solar efficiency record) who are widely considered to be the top panel brand on the market for solar efficiency. However, it’s important to understand the difference between setting a maximum efficiency record and maintaining strong and consistent average solar energy efficiency ratings. Therefore, the following two solar efficiency tables (Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2) break down the best ways to compare different solar panel options by module efficiency metrics.

Exhibit 1 illustrates the range of each manufacturer’s offerings from the standpoint of panel efficiency whereas Exhibit 2 lists the average, minimum and maximum solar panel efficiency for the solar panels within each manufacturer’s portfolio.

most efficient solar panels graphic

Exhibit 1:  The Highest Solar Panel Efficiency by Manufacturer

most efficient solar panels


Exhibit 2:  Efficiency Rating of PV Models by Solar Panel Manufacturer

Solar Panel Manufacturer Minimum Efficiency (%) Maximum Efficiency (%) Average Efficiency (%)
Amerisolar 14.75 17.01 15.97
Axitec 15.37 16.9 16.1
Canadian Solar 15.88 17.72 16.58
CentroSolar 15.3 17.8 16.21
China Sunergy 14.98 16.53 15.78
ET Solar 15.37 17.52 16.51
Grape Solar 16.21 17.64 16.75
Green Brilliance 14.24 15.58 15.03
Hanwha Q CELLS 15.9 18.3 16.97
Hanwha SolarOne 14.7 16.2 15.45
Heliene Inc. 15.6 19.3 17.31
Hyundai 14.2 16.5 15.37
Itek Energy 16.49 18.94 17.71
JinkoSolar 15.57 18.57 16.95
Kyocera 14.75 16.11 15.42
LG 16.8 19.5 18.28
Mission Solar 15.98 18.36 17.18
Mitsubishi Electric 16.3 16.9 16.6
Panasonic 19 21.6 20.3
REC Solar 14.5 17 15.62
ReneSola 14.9 16.9 15.91
Renogy Solar 15.3 18.5 17.3
Seraphim 15.67 17.52 16.55
Silevo 16.9 18.5 17.7
Silfab 15.3 18.4 16.75
Solaria 18.7 19.3 19
SolarWorld 14.91 17.59 16.64
Stion 12.4 14 13.2
SunEdison 15.5 16.8 16.12
Suniva Inc 16.66 17.65 17.14
SunPower 19.1 22.2 20.58
SunSpark Technology 15.2 16.1 15.65
Trina Solar Energy 15.2 17.8 16.3

To learn more about solar panel efficiency as well as other criteria to evaluate solar panels, see the EnergySage research titled, “How to Evaluate Solar Panels

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 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.


high efficiency solar panels

25 thoughts on “What are the most efficient solar panels on the market?

  1. Pingback: 4 Reasons the Cost of Solar Energy Keeps Falling » GreenEnergy4.us

  2. Pingback: Solar Panel Efficiency Matters, But Not as Much as You Think

  3. Bill Fold

    The term “efficiency” is essentially meaningless to the average customer. Prey tell, What is the average number of watts a panel will pump out ON AN AVERAGE day, is the information I need. It is conspiciously missing.

    So tell me, How many square feet of panels does one need for total electric production of a typical 2000 square foot home with Air conditioning?

    1. david

      The output depends on your location and the orientation and tilt of the panel. Whether it is partially shaded during the day also matters. NREL has a nice online calculator to help. The solar panel makers won’t know those details so can’t report what you ask for.

      The sun delivers about 1000 watts or energy per square meter. At 20% efficiency, you could make 200 watts of electricity with a panel facing the sun. If you lived somewhere with 5 hours of full sun per day, oriented the panel to the south, and tilted it the correct amount, you would get 1000 Watt-hours (or 1 KWh) per day – on average from 1 square meter of solar panels. Some days more. Some days less.

    2. Tx

      The size of your home is generally irrelevant. What is relevant- your annual consumption of energy in kWh? Where do you live? Ex central Texas= less panels than Seattle Washington, bc there are more hrs of sunlight hitting the panels each day. This article is addresing the misconception of efficiency and how it plays a role, but is not necessarily the most important factor when determining the right solar system for your needs I.e. cost vs benefit.

      – TX Solar Trainer JP

    3. Zack

      There is a wattage calculator uou can use online to figure out how much wattage you need. Then get the wattage on the panels to add up to that, for examply if yo needed 3000w you and only had 20 feet of roof space you would get ten 300w panels just make sure the size of the panels before you purchase too. If they are.over 2 feet wide ypu will need to up the wattage or arage them diffrently. Efficency only tells you how fast it will beabale to produce the wattage on the panels.

  4. Pingback: What Solar Panels Are The Most Efficient? - Solar Melon

  5. Pingback: 4 Reasons the Cost of Solar Energy Keeps Falling - Earth911.com

  6. Bill Fogel

    You are thinking wrong. The size of your home doesn’t matter, it’s your electric usage. Depending on usage and roof space different wattage panels, need to ask for quotes- “What is the installed cost per watt?” # of panels x # of watts divided by gross cost, generally below $4.00 per watt. Then ask for 20+ year product warranty, 90% production guarantee.

  7. V Gopal

    Normally 30 Wp is harvested , for a 2000 sq.ft air conditioning 15 to 20 ton capacity is required and the approximatetly 1.02 KW power per ton required

  8. Rene Moerman

    Glad this article is published as it shows a lot of things.

    First of all that the price in the US is extremely high. $ 4 compared to other countries where is ~ $ 1.50

    And I fully agree that you buy a long term article and that means don’t look to the price but what makes the best return over the lifetime. And you don’t have to be a scientist to make the calculation when you pay initial 20-35% more for the modules when you produce 25 years 30-60% more energy.

    So look at the entire picture.

    The last one not mentioned here is the lifetime. Several companies mentioned in the list will have for sure problems before that. In other words how about the warranty?
    Don’t say we have 25-year warranty. In general, the warranty is an empty shell. Over the last 10 years, more than 100 companies bankrupted. So what is the value of 25 year warranty in that case?

    In other words the financial stability of the supplier is a totally ignored issue while it is crucial.

  9. Franklin Berzack

    The tables above show that Panasonic is the best. But whoever arranged these tables used list in alphabetical order so that their brand will be somewhere in the list. A smart person would use the table in top efficiency order being the Panasonic first; but then heir brand will be secod. So this page is biased.

    1. John Denver

      Uh, Panasonic is #2 in every field – min, max and average…
      But, I agree who would order this table in alphabetical order and not efficiency order especially since the article is about efficiency.

    2. Andrew

      This is a snapshot of all the brands available. If this list was put in order of efficiency the bottom brand would appear to be the brand that is bottom of the market. This may not be the case. These brands could be representative of the top brands and the bottom brand here could be the middle of the available range.
      Conversely, This could be a representative list of the most inefficient brands and the top brand here could only be middle of the range. Therefore there could be a lot more efficient products on the market that are not listed here.
      An alphabetical list is the only way to represent the nature of the brands provided. Its just common sense to do it that way.

  10. Marion E Kessy

    Good insight.
    The warranty can be an index of quality. For example, when you purchase tools–the tool that has the best warranty is quite often of better quality. Not always, but most of the time. But companies that make tools-like Dewalt or Makita have been on the market for decades. Their products compete on quality -since the science and technology are ‘mature; and only incremental advances are made.
    Not for a product like the Solar Industry -where the technology is still in ‘flux’–new physics, new chemistry, new manufacturing, new incentives, are coming on-line each day! All contributing to the obsolescence of the final products and the longevity of entrepreneurs.
    So my thinking is–take solar installation warranty the way you treat a ‘mattress’ warranty–good quality mattresses usually have long, good warranties but DO NOT count on returning the mattress-since the cost or shipping it is not worth the trouble. In the same way your installer, or the manufacturer are unlikely to be there anyway because of the rapidly changing market. Besides–your roof may not make it to 25-years not to mention 10-years! If your warranty does not include your roof!!!
    So in summary -take the warranty only as one of several indices of quality–and then do the economics on a reasonable term (how long you will stay in the home, or the resale price, whether you need to replace the roof, etc)

  11. Bapty.S

    Good very sensible article, comments and discussions. With solar one has to be practical to look at many options and practical factors. If you are a migratory bird investing money on solar may not be best option. So, life of roof , panels and warranty. Perhaps I a practical way about 10 to 12 yrs warranty and guarantee could make sense.
    Many points have been sensibly commented and hence all this considered could cover the whole gamut of solar power for a house. Over ten yrs or so solar is no big investment ,but a big saver in terms of clean energy.
    Thank u.

  12. Pingback: 1366’s kerfless wafers achieve record 20.1% and 20.3% efficiencies – pv magazine USA

  13. John F. Donaho

    I do not see anyone speaking about degredation factors. I.E. over the 20-30 year span, how much per year are these panels going to degrade, thus loose output and devalue your investment. The smartest panels I have seen are double sided, using reflection off of a laid platform of even a mirrored plastic , as long as its putting out. Mirrors are another item not mentioned that can increase that “6” hour output window into a viable 8 to 10 hour. Does it hurt the panel? Are you shitting me? They are made for sunlight! Duh!

  14. Crash

    The rankings are sunpower, Panasonic then lg and then the rest. I went with sunpower. Waiting for my system to be turned on.

    1. Susie

      I’m looking forward to an update once you’ve been using it for a while. I’ve been thinking of buying Sunpower also. Thanks!

  15. Michael Slattery


    You do not include Jinko panels in your panel listing.

    Will you be doing so in the future ?

    They are a big suppler.


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