Which solar panel reigns supreme?
REC and QCells panels dominate 8MSolar’s 2023 rankings for stellar solar panels. Both of these solar panel brands offer unrivaled efficiencies in big residential panels, backed by robust 25-year production warranties. Various leading solar firms provide both.
When you’re in the market for solar panels – whether to shrink your electric bills, make your power consumption more eco-friendly, or even become energy-independent – you might not necessarily need the cream of the crop. I’ve delved deep into solar panel details, creating a scoring system that prioritizes solar consumer concerns (details follow). Yet, despite the clear distinctions between solar panels, seasoned pros emphasize that securing a trustworthy installer is perhaps the most vital step. The optimal solar panels for you match your energy aspirations and financial capacity.
Why the current surge in solar panel adoption?
Given the recent erratic fluctuations in pricing, many are turning to solar panels, seeking stable energy rates for the next twenty years or longer. While the initial investment for solar panels can be hefty, they promise prolonged periods of energy cost savings.
Do solar panels offer financial benefits?
The solar panel market saw a significant surge in 2022, with a 40% growth in residential solar installations in comparison to 2021. This upward trajectory is predicted to persist, especially with the recent enhancements in tax breaks for solar and similar green energy sources. Yet, with the current elevated interest rates, getting a loan for solar comes with a higher price tag. This scenario makes the option of leasing solar panels increasingly appealing. However, if it’s feasible for you, paying outright can lead to more savings in the long run.
All this unfolds against the backdrop of our planet heating up due to excessive fossil fuel consumption. To counter the dire consequences of climate change, climate experts advocate for a swift reduction in heat-trapping emissions. Such environmental and sustainability concerns are additional factors motivating homeowners to opt for solar installations.
Top Solar Panels of 2023
Leading the pack
REC panels stand shoulder to shoulder with our other top-ranked solar panel, SunPower Maxeon. Although REC’s peak efficiency slightly trails Maxeon’s, the gap is a mere .5%.
In terms of lowest temperature coefficient, REC surpasses Maxeon, albeit by a slim .05% margin. Nitpicking these minor differences is often redundant. Your ideal panel might just be the one that’s accessible, fits your budget, and serves your requirements.
Qcells reigns supreme in the US residential solar market, delivering robust performance at a reasonable price point. SunPower’s collaboration with Qcells for cost-effective installations is a testament to their quality. Their widespread acclaim underscores the idea that ultra-high performance isn’t mandatory to reap solar benefits.
Gorgeous and Powerful
Silfab’s panels show efficiency metrics ranging from 20% to 21.5%. Post 25 years, their output is warranted to stay above 85%. Each panel from Silfab we surveyed flaunted an all-black aesthetic. Notably, Silfab has production units in the US, particularly in the northwest region of Washington.
Great for the Price
Solaria has been making a mark since 2000 and has earned praise for competitive pricing, elegant design, and robust performance. top-notch quality, remarkable performance, and sleek design. Their solar panel series, known as The PowerX, combines excellent efficiency with a pleasing aesthetic at an affordable price range. Solaria has proven its worth by passing stringent third-party testing in 2018 and by being part of groundbreaking projects in the U.S.
On par with the best
SunPower Maxeon is a household name in the residential solar sector, boasting some of the highest yields. While top-tier panels might not be a necessity for your energy aspirations, opting for Maxeon ensures you’re choosing a product that excels or matches top scores across most criteria we review.
Leader in warranty terms
While Panasonic panels slightly lag behind the front-runners solely in the size domain of our evaluation process, it’s one of our least emphasized criteria as it’s less likely to significantly influence performance. They rival the best in critical performance metrics like efficiency and temperature coefficient and are backed by robust warranties. Beyond the usual note that you might not need the creme de la creme, Panasonic is certainly among the elite.
Other solar panel contenders we assessed
JA Solar: JA Solar’s panels boast a top efficiency of 21.5%. They offer warranties assuring nearly 90% of their advertised output after a quarter-century. (In fact, JA Solar’s warranties extend for 30 years, ensuring 87% at that point.) Their temperature coefficient stands at -0.35%.
Jinko Solar: With efficiency scores soaring, Jinko’s solar panels have several in their arsenal exceeding 22%. However, their 25-year production warranty, set at 83.1%, trails some other brands featured here. They do produce all-black panels. An intriguing note: Jinko has a manufacturing hub in Jacksonville, Florida, which caught the attention of federal agents in an unclear investigation with limited available details.
ZNShine Solar: ZNShine appears poised to pioneer extended solar warranties. While some makers promise superior output at the 25-year mark, few venture beyond that by an extra 5 years. If this heralds a new norm, it’s certainly praiseworthy.
Trina Solar: Trina’s offerings closely resemble others on this compilation, mirroring specifications akin to Qcells. Their efficiencies can reach upwards of 22%, and their panel sizes are marginally larger. Trina assures a production of almost 85% for 25 years. Certain variants sport an all-black design.
Longi Solar: Longi presents panels with impressive efficiency markers of 21.3%. Their quarter-century production promise is nearly 85%, aligning well with industry norms. Their temperature coefficient, resting at -0.34%, falls within standard boundaries.
Talesun Solar: Talesun’s panels peak at about 21% in terms of efficiency. Their 25-year commitment is that they will function at 84.8% of their initial output—a fairly routine figure.
Breaking Down 2023’s Top Solar Panels
In curating this list, our focus was the comprehensive residential range from solar panel producers. Generally speaking, if a brand excels in a particular segment, say efficiency, their entire panel range tends to follow suit. For instance, while specific Maxeon panels might display lower efficiency compared to other brands, on the whole, they outperform many. The subsequent table depicts the pinnacle attributes of the collective residential solar panels, not pinpointing any particular model.
|Company||Max efficiency rating||Temperature coefficient||Length of production warranty||Guaranteed production at 25 years||All-black model?|
|Canadian Solar||22.80%||-0.28%||25 years||88.85%||Yes|
|Hanwha Q Cells||20.90%||-0.34%||25 years||86%||Yes|
|JA Solar||21.50%||-0.35%||30 years (87%)||89.60%||No|
|Talesun Solar||21.30%||-0.35%||25 years||84.80%||Yes|
|ZNShine Solar||21.55%||-0.35%||30 years (82.5%)||85.40%||No|
Is the best solar panel essential for you?
While on the hunt for solar panels tailored to your energy needs, it’s essential to pinpoint those that align perfectly with your unique needs – which might not necessarily top our rankings or any other reviews. We opted not to include price in our evaluation criteria due to the challenge of sourcing consistent figures across the United States, but it’s probably a major factor for most consumers.
Industry professionals often advise not to become overly fixated on a solar panel’s tech specs, like its efficiency. For the majority, the primary goal is securing a solar system that reliably and economically satisfies their energy demands.
A more pressing concern for consumers should be the return on investment. It’s equally crucial to identify a trustworthy solar installer, akin to sourcing a reputable contractor for any home renovation. A subpar installation can drastically hamper your panels’ output, possibly more than minor differences in efficiency or slightly varied performance guarantees over a 25-year period.
What’s the Price Tag for Solar Panels?
Your residential solar panel installation expenses hinge on individual factors. Though general estimates place costs between $3 and $4 per watt nationally, actual expenses might fluctuate based on the number of panels, local authorization fees, prevailing labor rates in your vicinity, and other variables.
Elements that could elevate the price of your particular solar setup are the intricacy of your rooftop and extra apparatus you’ve incorporated, like solar batteries or chargers for electric vehicles. On the other hand, aspects that might reduce the solar expenditure encompass the federal solar tax break and state-sponsored incentives.
To gain a precise understanding of the price of solar in your area, it’s recommended to get several estimates from trusted solar firms. Equally significant as the expenditure of adopting solar is the duration it takes for your solar panels to recoup their costs, known as the solar payback period. By utilizing your solar expenses and anticipated monthly savings, you can get a ballpark figure of this payback time frame.
Key considerations when picking solar panels
Solar systems offered by various companies are generally adept at fulfilling most energy requirements. If you’re keen to delve deeper into the intricate details of solar panels, consider the following aspects.
Types of Solar Panels
An overwhelming majority of solar panels installed in homes are monocrystalline models, named after the silicon constituting their solar cells. These panels typically outperform their counterparts, polycrystalline or thin-film panels, in terms of electricity generation and investment returns. Learn more about different types of solar panels here.
Efficiency metrics of solar panels
Solar panel efficiency indicates the portion of sunlight’s energy that a panel can transform into electricity. For instance, a 20% efficient panel is unable to harness the remaining 80% of the sun’s energy. However, contemporary solar panels have displayed significant efficiency advancements over the years. Back in 2007, nearly 95% of the panels had efficiency levels below 16%. By 2021, that efficiency level surged to over 19% for a similar percentage of panels.
Note that efficiency isn’t restricted to panels alone; solar inverters and batteries too have their efficiency ratings.
Impact of temperature on efficiency
Solar panels tend to see a dip in efficiency with a spike in temperatures. The temperature coefficient quantifies this dip in solar panel efficiency for every Celsius degree above 25 (equivalent to 77°F). A coefficient of -0.34% implies a corresponding reduction in the panel’s performance for each Celsius degree increment in temperature.
Power output measure
The wattage indicates the size of a solar panel. Essentially, under optimal circumstances in an hour, a solar panel rated at 400 watts would generate 400 watt-hours of electricity.
However, real-world conditions aren’t always perfect. Obstructions such as clouds, a thin layer of dust, or even smoke from wildfires can hinder the sunlight reaching the solar panel, affecting its efficiency. A panel with a higher wattage rating, though, will inherently produce more electricity.
While you might stumble upon a solar panel that piques your interest, the smarter approach would be to prioritize finding a reliable solar installer. Solar panels are merely one component of the entire setup, and in case of any issues, it’s crucial to have the assurance of quality service for the foreseeable future.
How to pick a solar installer?
The most effective strategy when exploring solar options is to obtain multiple estimates from trustworthy installers. Unless you possess in-depth knowledge of the local solar landscape, comparing various proposals against each other is the only way to gauge their quality. Being well-versed with local solar regulations and incentives, as well as broadening your search criteria, can shield you from potential misinformation. (This isn’t implying deceptive solar selling practices are prevalent.) Even top-tier solar firms might not be the ideal choice for everyone. If your vicinity has residents with solar panels, it’s worthwhile to inquire about their installation experience.
It’s imperative to comprehend your energy consumption, the availability of net metering in your area, and the nuances of incentives, like the solar tax credit.
The Department of Energy advocates partnering with solar installers who are either licensed or accredited by a recognized authority. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners maintains a roster of certified installers. It’s important to inquire about the certifications of the installation company.
Our approach to selecting top solar panels
The solar panels featured on this compilation are among the most frequently deployed in household solar setups within the U.S. If you’re sifting through and comparing estimates for a residential solar installation, you’re probably going to encounter one of these brands. We’ve simplified matters for you by gathering detailed specs from leading solar panel brands for a head-to-head comparison.
Should you lean towards a panel not highlighted in our list or get an estimate for one not mentioned, checking their specifications is straightforward. The majority of solar panel producers provide comprehensive details and guarantees about their products on their official websites. It’s merely a matter of pinpointing where these details are posted.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of our scoring matrix.
|Temp. coefficient||0 to -0.29%||-0.3% to -0.34%||-0.35% to -0.39%||-0.4% to -0.44%||-0.45% and below|
|Production warranty level||>90%||85-89.9%||80-84.9%||75%-79.9%||<75%|
|Production warranty length||30 years||25 years||NA||NA||NA|
Let 8MSolar Help You Decide
Choosing solar panels for your solar project can be overwhelming. If you are looking for a North Carolina solar installer, reach out to 8MSolar and we will gladly help you build out the solar energy system of your dreams.