If you wish to take advantage of solar power for home use, the first step is assembling your home solar systems. This system will generally include a battery storage device, an inverter/microinverter, and of course an array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.
Based on factors such as efficiency, durability, product warranty, price point and temperature coefficient, we determined the following as the top solar panels for home use:
- SunPower (Maxeon): Most Efficient
- Silfab: Best All-Around
- Panasonic: Best Temperature Coefficient
- Canadian Solar: Most Affordable
- Trina Solar: Best Value
- Qcells: Consumer Favorite
- Mission Solar: Best American-Made
- REC Solar: Most Reliable
- Windy Nation: Best for Backup Power
As you can see, each of these solar panels excels in a certain area, and each one comes with its own pros and cons. Again, as you seek the best residential solar panels, it’s crucial to consider the specific needs of your home and your solar power system.
Methodology: How Did We Evaluate Each Solar Panel For Home Use?
In choosing our rankings, we carefully researched many types of solar panels from the industry’s top manufacturers, evaluating them according to several criteria. Some of the factors we used to arrive at our rankings include:
The efficiency rating of a solar panel refers to the amount of captured sunlight that it can actually convert into useful energy. Keep in mind that solar panel efficiency tops out just over 20%, and generally speaking, the most efficient solar panels will yield the greatest energy savings for your home. As a rule of thumb, the less space you have for solar panels, the more you’ll want to look for high-efficiency panels to get the most from your solar energy system.
Solar panels represent a significant investment, and naturally, homeowners want to select products that are going to hold up over time. This means you’ll want to buy solar panels that are made to be durable and to withstand even intense weather.
A good, lengthy performance warranty can give you peace of mind after you purchase residential solar panels. In the solar industry, a decent warranty may last anywhere from 10 to 25 years.
Price Point (20%)
Naturally, you will want to consider your budget before investing in solar panels. The cost of solar panels can fluctuate based on many factors. As you think about a panel’s price tag, however, also keep in mind things like durability, efficiency and warranty, which provide you a fuller sense of overall value.
Temperature Coefficient (10%)
Another important ranking factor is temperature coefficient. With solar panels, temperature coefficient refers to how much (or how little) the panel’s productivity is diminished when the external temperature rises. How solar panels work in extreme heat plays a key role in year-round energy production.
Yes, solar panels all contribute to generating clean energy, but not all are created equal when it comes to sustainability. For example, SunPower panels (made by Maxeon) are one of the only brands on this list designed with circular economics in mind, thereby conserving rare minerals and reducing e-waste. We take sustainability into account when making our rankings.
We certainly don’t think so, but a lot of homeowners out there think solar panels are ugly, and are therefore hesitant to install them on their home. These homeowners are likely thinking of solar panels that are decades old and still have silver frames and blue faces. However, we still take into account the sleekness of a solar panel in giving our ratings.
Watch Below: If you are just beginning to explore the solar industry, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself on how solar cells even work. In the below video, the TED team eloquently describes just that.
What Should You Look for When Shopping for Residential Solar Panels?
When looking for the best solar panels, here are a few tips to ensure you’re picking the right products.
1. Consider Solar Panel Efficiency
The efficiency of your solar panels is going to be one of the key drivers of how much you save on monthly utility bills and how quickly you recoup your investment. Each solar panel is rated for a particular efficiency level; the industry standard is between 17 to 20%, so anything in that range is going to be pretty decent. We’ll note that SunPower’s panels, with 22.7% efficiency, represent the highest rating we’ve come across.
2. Compare Solar Panel Cost
Something else to keep in mind is that the most efficient solar panels are not always the most affordable. In some cases, opting for a slightly less efficient product will actually provide superior value. You’ll also want to think about the cost of solar installation and additional parts such as inverters and battery banks when setting your solar budget.
3. Check Warranty Information
We also recommend comparing a panel’s warranty against the industry standard. Hopefully, any solar panels you buy will come with a warranty of 10 years at a minimum. If you can find something with a 25-year product warranty, that’s ideal.
4. Think About Your Home Energy Needs
In assessing your solar needs, think about things like your roof’s exposure to the sun, the available roof space, and the amount of energy your household consumes on a monthly basis. These factors are all important in determining the number of solar panels you need, as well as the type of solar panels.
See Also: EcoWatch Solar Calculator – Calculate Your Home Solar Energy Savings
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When shopping for solar panels, it’s also helpful to know the panel types that are available. The three basic solar panel categories are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of solar panel comes with its own list of pros and cons:
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline panels are made from a single, pure crystal of silicon. This allows them to have higher efficiency levels, but they also tend to be more expensive due to a more costly manufacturing process. Note: If you have less space on your roof and can only fit a small number of panels, monocrystalline solar panels may be the only viable option.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are also made of silicon, but in this case, they are assembled from smaller fragments. This means they are often a little less efficient than monocrystalline panels, but they are also a more affordable option.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Finally, thin-film solar panels can be made from a variety of ultra-thin materials. They are recommended when you need something that’s lightweight, flexible and portable; they may work better for RVs and camping than for homes. Thin-film panels can be relatively low in efficiency when compared to the other two options.
Do the Best Solar Panels Require Maintenance?
When weighing solar energy pros and cons before making an investment, one of the most common questions that homeowners have is whether their solar panels will require maintenance.
For the most part, all the hard work comes on the front end. Installing a home solar panel system requires in-depth knowledge of electronics as well as solar power, and in most cases, the installation process will take a few days. We recommend outsourcing this to trained solar professionals.
Once your system is in place, however, the level of upkeep required is fairly minimal. Besides routine cleaning, you shouldn’t have any issues that require maintenance with your solar panels for 20 to 30 years. And if you do run into an issue, your warranty will hopefully cover it.
What Impacts Solar Panel Performance?
Solar panels can vary quite a bit in their overall performance and productivity. There are a number of specific factors that can impact how your solar system performs, including:
- Orientation: When your home solar system is designed, your installer will be careful to position each panel in a way that maximizes its exposure to sunlight. If the orientation is even a little bit off, it can compromise the efficiency of your entire system.
- Weather and sun exposure: If you live in a part of the country that doesn’t get consistent sunlight, or if your solar panels are often under cloud coverage, you’re not going to produce as much clean energy for your home. (There is a reason why solar panels are especially popular in the Sun Belt.)
- Cleanliness: While solar panels are fairly low maintenance, you may occasionally need to wipe them down, especially in the aftermath of an intense storm or during a season like spring or fall when there is pollen or falling leaves that can block your panels. If panels become covered with grime or debris, they may not be able to absorb as much sunlight.
- Shade: Keep in mind that any shade cast over your roof is going to impact the efficiency of your solar panels. If your house is surrounded by tall trees, for example, that could impede solar production.
Watch Below: If you are just beginning to explore the solar industry, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself on how solar cells even work. In the below video, the TED team describes just that.
Bottom Line: What is the Best Solar Panel For Your Home?
As more and more homeowners seek clean energy solutions, solar power is increasingly attractive. By harnessing the sun’s natural energy, homeowners can reduce their dependence on traditional utility providers. Not only does this yield significant savings on monthly electric bills (potentially even eliminating those bills altogether), but it also reduces direct contributions to atmospheric pollution.
Ultimately, the decision about getting solar panels is a highly individual one. For some homeowners, going solar makes plenty of sense. For others, it may prove unfruitful.
As you consider what’s best for you, make sure you take into account your home: The surface area available on your roof, the kind of weather you get and the level of sunlight you’re exposed to.
Also think about the panels themselves: Which performance factors should you consider? Which type of panels is best? And which brand is best aligned with your needs and your budget?
By weighing all of these factors, you can make a well-informed decision about the best solar panels for your household.