Installing the best solar panels on the market to offset the ever-increasing energy costs has become a viable and realistic option for many people today.
Solar panels are becoming more affordable and accessible than ever before. Over the past decade, a remarkable drop of over 50% in solar installation costs has fueled the industry’s expansion to new highs.
U.S. Solar PV Pricing Trends
In the first quarter of 2023, the U.S. solar industry witnessed an addition of 6.1 gigawatts-direct current (GWdc). This impressive growth propelled the total installed capacity in the U.S. solar industry to 149 GWdc. In a language we can all understand, that’s enough to power 26 million American homes .
It’s exciting to see how rapidly the solar industry is growing and transforming the way we think about energy. And it seems that the sun is far from setting on new solar developments.
Just recently, president Joe Biden has signed a new legislation that includes $369 billion investments in renewable energy and measures to tackle climate change. One of the provisions in this law is the extension of the 30% solar tax credit, valid until 2032, to encourage even more Americans to consider “going solar”.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 4 in 10 homeowners were seriously thinking about installing solar panels for their homes. And we can clearly see those positive sentiments being translated into actions by the fact that solar energy contributed a record 54% of the nation’s new electricity-generating capacity in the first quarter of 2023 .
The trends in solar—and in the U.S. energy market—are clear and unmistakable. If you do decide to jump on the solar energy bandwagon soon, you certainly won’t be taking that leap alone.
In our quest to find the best solar panels for homes, we’ve done extensive research and analysis on the various products offered by the leading solar panel producers in the market. We’ve put up a list of the top providers in the field along with crucial tips on what to consider when selecting the best solar panels for your home.
Best Solar Panels in 2023
Before we continue, we would like to emphasize a very important point in regards to the best solar panels. There are a TON of websites on the internet that are creating so-called definitive rankings of the “best” solar panels. This is simply wrong and misleading. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to solar panels. There is no universal best. The best solar panels vary depending on your specific needs, budget, incentives, and location.
Your specific needs: These needs might include how much power you want to generate, the physical space you have for solar panels, and your energy goals (like offsetting 100% of your electricity usage). For example, if you have limited roof space but high energy needs, you might prioritize high-efficiency panels.
Budget: Your financial constraints will play a key role in the type of solar panel you choose. High-efficiency, durable panels are typically more expensive, but they might generate more savings over the long term. You’ll need to balance upfront costs against potential energy savings.
Location: Your geographical location impacts how much sunlight your panels will receive and thus, how much power they can generate. It also impacts the kind of weather your panels will need to withstand. For example, in a sunny, hot climate, a panel with a good temperature coefficient might be a better choice. In areas prone to hail, panels known for their durability might be most important.
Local incentives: Your local government or utility company might offer incentives that make certain types of panels more cost-effective. Check for any rebates, tax credits, or feed-in tariffs available in your area.
While there are objective benchmarks for assessing a solar panel’s quality—such as efficiency, durability, and the reputation and warranty of the manufacturer—the best choice for you will ultimately be determined by your individual circumstances.
A good place to start is to research the solar options available in your area. Enter your zip code below to discover the best local solar panel deals near you (free of charge).
That being said, let’s now explore the top-rated solar panel manufacturers in the industry:
- Sunpower – Best Overall
- Panasonic – Best for Extreme Climate
- CanadianSolar – Best for Customer Trust
- LONGi Solar – Largest Producer in the World
- First Solar – Largest Producer in the U.S.
- QCells – Most Popular Among Installers
Sunpower – Best Overall
If you’re looking for the best solar panels in the industry, look no further than SunPower. With over 1,000 industry patents, SunPower leads in innovation and quality as a solar panel manufacturer.
What sets SunPower apart is their unbeatable 40-year warranty coverage. This exceeds the typical 25-year warranty other manufacturers offer by 60% extra coverage.
SunPower’s extended warranty stands as a firm proof of their commitment to high-quality solar panel production. Based on a failure analysis program involving 15 million panels delivered to customers, it was reported a return rate of less than 0.005% – a number that clearly testifies their great performance .
In a Nutshell 🥜
- Highest efficiency rating
- Best warranty program
- Available in all 50 states
- High quality materials
- Slightly higher price than competitors
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Back in 2003, SunPower was leading the way in solar tech. They achieved a world-record efficiency rate exceeding 20% for their solar cells. To put it in perspective, the standard efficiency for solar cells during that period was only between 12% and 15% .
This was a massive milestone in the solar industry because it showed the real potential of solar energy to become a viable alternative to traditional energy sources.
Today, SunPower’s Maxeon solar panels are still top of the game with a peak efficiency of 22.8%.
We highly recommend Sunpower as the top choice for anyone who wants the highest level of performance, best warranty coverage and the greatest savings to their energy bill. They’re a true shining star in the solar industry.
Panasonic – Best for Extreme Climate
Like SunPower, Panasonic has been in the solar industry for a long time and their solar panels have proven to be reliable and effective.
Panasonic produces so-called HIT® solar cells. These cells can convert a maximum of 22.2% of sunlight into electricity. They fall just a bit short of SunPower’s maximum efficiency of 22.8%.
In 2014, Panasonic announced that it has achieved a conversion efficiency of 25.6% in its HIT® solar cells . While these results were just from a research level, they will surely become a strong competitor to SunPower’s Maxeon panels as soon as they become available for residential customers. Still no news about their new HIT® technology for commercial release 9 years later.
Panasonic offers a 25-year warranty on their solar panels, which is standard in the industry.
Panasonic’s solar panels have a temperature coefficient of -0.26%/°C and it is the highest output temperature coefficient in the industry right now. It is slightly better than SunPower at this aspect so you can definitely count on top performance with these panels under heat stress .
CanadianSolar – Best for Customer Trust
CanadianSolar has been lighting up the solar industry for more than 20 years. They have established themselves as a trusted provider, committed to cutting-edge solar technologies and high-quality solar panels. In fact, they rank among the top five solar panel producers in the world.
CanadianSolar panels come with a standard 25-year warranty and an efficiency rate of up to 21.3%. There’s a lot to look forward to in the future as we expect major technological improvements from the Canadian-based company.
March 2020 marked a significant milestone for CanadianSolar’s research and development team. They hit a record of 23,81% peak efficiency on their solar cells and even though these results were just on research level, SunPower and Panasonic should brace themselves for a stiff competition when these cells hit the market.
CanadianSolar’s growth trajectory is truly impressive. With a 66% increase in their year-on-year solar module shipments, they have solidified their position as a top provider of solar panels worldwide. This substantial growth reflects the trust and confidence customers have in CanadianSolar’s panels.
Furthermore, CanadianSolar is investing big in expanding their manufacturing. They are now building a state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic module manufacturing plant in Mesquite, Texas with the capacity to produce approximately 20,000 high-power solar modules per day.
This event marks CanadianSolar’s first manufacturing facility in the United States, and production is scheduled to start at the end of 2023.
LONGi Solar – Largest Manufacturer in the World
Founded in 2000, LONGi Solar is a Chinese multinational solar technology company and one of the oldest companies among solar manufacturers.
Through cutting-edge technology and solar innovations, LONGi Solar excels at both the quality and costs of their products. As one of the fastest-growing solar module manufacturers globally, LONGi Solar’s success relies heavily on the low-cost production of solar cells and modules compared to the more expensive ones from foreign competitors like American or European manufacturers.
In regards to innovative developments, LONGi embarks on a unique pathway compared to other leading solar producers that utilize N-type wafers to increase efficiency. Their Hybrid Passivated Back Contact (HPBC) cell technology constitutes one of the revolutionary advancements in the solar technology domain, achieving an impressive 22.8% peak efficiency in mass production.
Without any doubt we can say that LONGi Solar is on a mission to democratize sustainable energy access.
First Solar – Largest Manufacturer in the U.S.
First Solar, established in 1999, is one of the most powerful players in the American solar industry. The company is a testament to American innovation and is deeply committed to preserving American manufacturing. No single solar module is manufactured in China and they don’t depend on Chinese crystalline silicon (c-Si) supply chains.
The company boasts the largest solar manufacturing capacity in the U.S., located in Ohio. This is set to expand further with the introduction of a third factory in Ohio in the first half of 2023 and a fourth American manufacturing facility due to be commissioned in the U.S. Southeast in 2025. By 2025, First Solar aims to achieve a global annual manufacturing capacity exceeding 20 GW, with operations in the U.S., India, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Their Series 6 and Series 6 Plus photovoltaic (PV) modules series come with a below-average 12-year product warranty. It is 48% less than the standard 25-year warranty in the solar industry. This is probably the weakest point we found for First Solar.
With a peak efficiency of 19%, First Solar may not produce the most efficient panels in the world but they make some really good ones. And the future seems very promising. Their research teams forecasted based on the current development progress that a 25% cell efficiency will be achieved by 2025 and pathways to 28% cell efficiency by 2030.
The standout feature we identified at Solar First is their amazing guaranteed degradation rate of 0.3% per year – the best in the industry.
This degradation rate would mean that after 10 years, the product would still retain 97% of its original performance. After 20 years, it would retain approximately 94%, and after 30 years, it would retain about 91% of its initial capacity. This is indeed a very high retention rate and indicates a product of high durability and reliability.
QCells – Most Popular Among Installers
QCells solar panels have a rollercoaster-like journey, almost as long as the modern solar industry itself. From humble beginnings to a global manufacturing powerhouse, the company underwent multiple rebrandings.
Founded in Thalheim, Germany in 1999 as Q CELLS AG, it quickly rose to prominence as one of the world’s top solar module producers. However, the late-2000s economic crisis coupled with strong competition from subsidized Chinese solar companies led to insolvency in 2011. This didn’t signal the end for QCells, as its assets were acquired by Hanwha Group, a South Korean company with a robust solar business of its own.
Post-acquisition, Hanwha successfully blended its German engineering expertise with world-class manufacturing capabilities, rejuvenating the QCells brand and securing a position among the world’s top 10 solar module manufacturers.
Today, QCells boasts manufacturing facilities worldwide, with a key plant in Dalton, Georgia. This US facility, the second largest solar manufacturing plant in the country, has positioned QCells as a top solar panel producer in North America. The company is projected to nearly double its production capacity in Georgia by the end of 2023.
In terms of efficiency, QCells solar panels reach up to 21.5% with their flagship Q.PEAK DUO modules. These numbers underline their high-efficiency status, even if they don’t represent the absolute pinnacle in the market.
And with QCells, quality is guaranteed. Their high-grade modules come with a 25-year product warranty, providing peace of mind alongside clean, renewable energy.
Should You Get Solar Panels Now or Wait?
Every year you wait to install solar panels is another year you’ll be purchasing 100 percent of your electricity from the grid, thereby postponing your quest for energy independence. Depending on the size of your home and family, switching from grid power to solar energy could save you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per year on your utility bills in the long-term.
Another reason to make the jump to solar as quickly as possible is so you can enjoy the special financial benefits that are currently available, but may not be for much longer.
For example, net metering practices that allow homeowners to sell their excess solar power to utility companies have become increasingly controversial. Many states have announced cutbacks in net metering practices, and some may ultimately eliminate net metering altogether (Hawaii and Louisiana are two states that have already done so) . Other states are planning to keep their net metering programs but eventually to begin restricting access to existing solar customers only.
By installing your new solar panels this year, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of net metering while they’re still available and still generous.
Tax credits and rebate programs that can help offset solar equipment purchase and installation costs may also be at risk. Some of these initiatives will be allowed to expire (the 30 percent federal tax credit is currently set to expire in 2032), others may be phased out gradually, and still others might be ended abruptly by states, counties, or municipalities dealing with sudden budget crunches.
Should you decide to wait to purchase solar panels for two or three years, you might get lower quotes from solar installation companies than you’d get next week or next month. But those savings may be an insufficient substitute for the benefits you’ll enjoy by going solar now, while governments are still enthusiastically supporting the industry.
How to Find the Best Solar Panel Deals
Investing in solar panels for your home can provide a significant long-term benefit, not only to the environment but also to your wallet. However, finding the best solar panel deals can be a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with the technology or industry.
A good place to start is to research the solar options available in your area. Look for panels that have high efficiency ratings and long warranties, as these factors often indicate a high-quality product that will last for many years and they come with the best return on investment in the long-term.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power a House?
The average American home will require somewhere between 15 and 19 solar panels to meet 100 percent of their energy needs. The final number is based on a homeowner’s individualized energy use habits, which vary by home size, home architecture, family size, and lifestyle.
Fortunately, you won’t have to guess how many solar panels your home requires. There is a simple calculation you can perform, using readily available data, that will help you determine this number.
This equation is:
Average Monthly Energy Consumption (In Kilowatt-Hours)
To determine the first number, you’ll need to check your utility bills, covering a 12-month period, to find out how much electricity you use in a single year. This data may be provided on one monthly bill, or you may need to add your energy use totals from 12 separate monthly bills to get this number. You’ll then divide the number by 12 to obtain your average monthly consumption total.
Average Monthly Peak Sun Hours
Peak sun hours are when the sun is more or less directly above you. They are important because it is during these times when your solar panels will be producing the vast majority of their daily energy. Peak sun hours will vary based on season, but you can still get a good approximation of how many solar panels you’ll need by using the average monthly number.
To get that number, you should multiply your state’s peak sun hour daily average by 30.
When you divide your monthly electricity consumption by peak sun hours, your answer will be expressed in kWh. The number you get will tell you how big your solar panel array will need to be to meet 100 percent of your electricity needs.
For example, if you consume 1,000 kWh of power each month, and live in an area with an average daily peak sun hour total of five, you would divide 1,000 by (5×30) 150, which would produce an answer of 6.67 kWh—which is the size of the solar energy system you’d need to purchase to meet all of your home power needs.
To convert this into actual solar panels, you’ll need to multiply your answer by 1,000. This converts kilowatt-hours into watts (6.67 would become 6670 in our hypothetical example), and you’ll need this information because solar panels are rated by the number of watts they are capable of producing.
The best solar panels will likely be rated at around 400 watts, which is an expression of its power-producing potential.
If you decided to install standard-size panels in our hypothetical example, you would divide 6670 watts by 400 watts, and your final answer would be 16.67. Rounding up, this would mean you’d need to purchase 17 standard-sized, 400 watt solar panels to meet 100 percent of your home energy needs.
Naturally, you could reduce this number by purchasing high-efficiency panels, which convert a greater percentage of sunlight into electrical energy. High-efficiency panels aren’t likely to cost you more on a per watt basis, and should be the preferred choice when roof space is limited.
Should You Purchase Extra Solar Panels?
It is recommended to install a solar panel array that includes a 25 percent “cushion,” or extra generating capacity, to make up for the fact that your solar panels won’t work at their highest potential efficiency at all times.
This may happen because:
- Weather conditions (clouds or storms) reduce actual peak sun hours on some days, enough so that your battery storage isn’t always sufficient to meet all of your energy needs
- Your rooftop’s orientation or tilt angle doesn’t allow your solar panels to be installed at an optimal angle for capturing the sun’s rays
- Shading over your rooftop decreases sunlight exposure at certain times of the day
- Your solar panels are a few years old and have lost some of their energy-generating capacity (this type of attrition is expected)
You should consult with your solar contractor about these issues, and they can help you decide whether or not you really need to install extra panels.
What to Look for When Buying Solar Panels
Investing in solar panels is a significant commitment, and naturally, you want assurance that your investment is protected should any issues arise. It’s a reasonable expectation, isn’t it? With such an investment, it’s only fair that you deserve the peace of mind that comes with a comprehensive and reliable warranty.
Typically, solar panel warranties extend to 25 years, and we strongly advise opting for a warranty period that meets or exceeds this standard. A manufacturer offering an outstanding warranty distinguishes themselves in the competitive market and demonstrates their confidence in the durability and quality of their products.
Best Panels Ranked by Warranty
|Solar Panel Company||Solar Panel Warranty|
When it comes to solar panels, efficiency is key. The efficiency of a panel refers to how much sunlight it can turn into electricity. The more efficient a panel is, the more electricity it can produce. With other words, you can generate more energy with fewer panels.
When it comes to efficiency, the company that puts the most effort into improving their solar technology and ensuring their customers are satisfied is sure to hold a top spot in our rankings.
In terms of efficiency, companies that consistently invest in enhancing their solar technology and ensuring customer satisfaction are the ones you should consider. This not only showcases their commitment to innovation but also underlines their focus on delivering superior value to their consumers.
Best Panels Ranked by Efficiency
|Solar Panel Company||Max Efficiency (%)|
The temperature coefficient is an essential metric indicating how a solar panel’s efficiency—its ability to convert sunlight into electricity—diminishes as temperatures rise.
In essence, a higher temperature corresponds to a decline in efficiency, resulting in less electricity production from the same quantity of sunlight. Given that solar panels are frequently subject to prolonged sun exposure, especially in warmer climates, this coefficient demands careful consideration.
Optimally, the temperature coefficient should be as minimal as possible. A lower coefficient implies that the solar panel, despite being exposed to higher temperatures, won’t lose as much efficiency.
Best Panels by Temperature Coefficient
|Solar Panel Company||Temperature Coefficient Pmax (%/°C)|
The degradation rate determines how much efficiency your panels will lose over time. High initial efficiency might sound appealing, but what if the degradation outpaces it? After all, even the most high-quality solar panels are not immune to the inevitable processes of aging and deterioration.
Consider this: the typical degradation rate stands at 2.5% in the first year, followed by an average yearly rate of 0.5%.
Opting for panels with below-average degradation rates ensures a higher level of long-term energy production, translating into substantial savings for you in the grand scheme of things. A lower degradation rate means the sun will keep your savings account brimming for longer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panels
Here are some of the most common questions that homeowners frequently ask when they’re considering solar power:
Are ground-mounted solar arrays as good as rooftop panels?
Nevertheless, ground-mounted solar panels can be an excellent alternative if your roof:
- Has a tilt of greater than 40 degrees
- Is made of wood or slate
- Is excessively shaded with trees or buildings that can’t be removed
- Has less than 300 square feet of open and unobstructed area
Do I need a solar battery for energy storage if I have a grid-connected system?
If your solar array remains connected to the grid, you can usually qualify for net metering credits that create a favorable balance of payments on the grid energy you purchase. In this situation, you’ll have no need to include battery storage with your system.
However, if you live in a state that offers reduced or wholesale rates in place of full-value net metering credits, you’d be better off storing your excess energy in a solar battery and using it yourself, rather that diverting it to the grid .
If you should ever decide to go completely off-grid, you’ll absolutely need to have battery storage for your system, since solar panels can’t produce electricity 24 hours a day.
You should realize, however, that you’ll need a bank of batteries to handle an off-grid system, which means you may have to invest an additional $10,000 or more on batteries to meet all your power storage needs.
Are solar leases and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) a good way to take the leap into solar?
As an alternative to purchasing solar panels, you can contract a third-party to install them for you, with no money down required. Under these arrangements, you won’t own the panels outright, but will still have the right to purchase the power they produce for a set monthly fee (solar lease) or sliding fee based on consumption (PPA).
These plans will offer some savings in comparison to your normal utility bills. But you’ll never actually own your solar panels and will therefore never enjoy the benefits associated with a direct solar panel purchase. The company that owns the panels will cash in on the rebates, tax credits, and SRECs, which makes a leasing or PPA arrangement vastly inferior to a cash purchase or loan-financed purchase in the long run.
Over a 20-year period, you’ll save one-and-a-half times more on utility bills with a financed solar panel purchase, and two-and-a-half times more if you buy your solar panels outright with cash.
Do you really need to purchase more solar panels as a “cushion” for power deficits?
If you plan to install a grid-connected solar energy system, or purchase and install a home battery system to store excess solar energy for later use, you are unlikely to need extra solar panels beyond the recommended level. As long as you have excess ground or roof space, you could always add a panel or two later if necessary.
The one exception to this advice is if you know you’ll be remodeling or renovating in the near future. This could increase your daily demand for electricity and require a more expansive solar array.
In general, it’s an advantage to have unused roof or ground space after an installation is complete, since this will allow you to add more panels later if your current system proves inadequate for any reason.
How will having solar panels installed affect my property values?
Research reported by Zillow shows that adding solar panels to your home can increase its value by 4.1% more than homes without solar installed .
To fully enjoy this benefit, however, it is important that you don’t still owe money on a solar loan while you’re trying to sell. This can scare off potential buyers who worry you’ll abandon your obligations and refuse to pay back your loan once you’ve moved out of the home, leaving them in a sticky situation.
How much do solar panels cost?
While solar panel costs fluctuate based on factors such as the size of your home, geographical location, and energy consumption, you should be prepared to make an initial investment ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 before applying tax credits or rebates.
It’s essential to keep in mind that this initial outlay can be offset by the substantial savings on your electricity bills throughout the system’s lifespan.
Do solar panels require regular maintenance?
Despite what you might initially think, solar panels are relatively self-maintaining. You’d merely need to occasionally check for accumulated dust or debris that might obstruct the sun’s rays.
With a proper installation, your panels should withstand the elements pretty well. However, an annual professional inspection is always a good practice to identify any unforeseen issues that could impact the panels’ efficiency.
How long do solar panels last?
Your solar panels aren’t immortal, but they’re impressively long-lived. Typically, they have a lifespan of between 25 to 40 years. Beyond this point, they won’t cease to produce electricity but their output significantly decreases.
It’s comforting to know, however, that many manufacturers provide warranties ensuring a certain level of productivity for a considerable period, up to 40 years.
How well do solar panels work in winter?
Solar panels can perform very well during winter months, so long as they receive adequate sunlight. Chilly temperatures can actually enhance solar panel efficiency, not decrease it.
The main challenge in winter arises from heavy snowfall blanketing the panels and obstructing sunlight. Nonetheless, since most panels are set at an angle, snow is likely to slide off naturally.
Do solar panels work on cloudy or rainy days?
Yes, your solar panels will still function even when the skies are gray or the rain is pouring. Their efficiency does dip compared to bright, sunny days, but they’re capable of absorbing indirect sunlight.
Which type of solar panel is best?
Selecting the best type of solar panel largely hinges on your unique circumstances, including budget constraints, available installation space, and specific energy requirements.
There are three primary types to choose from: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Monocrystalline panels are known for their superior efficiency and durability but command a higher price. Polycrystalline panels offer a slightly lower efficiency at a more budget-friendly price. Thin-film panels are the least expensive and least efficient, but their flexibility makes them a viable option for certain applications.
This short list of queries is just to get you started. You can find more important questions to ask when buying solar panels here.
Are You Ready for Solar? It Is Definitely Ready for You
Right now, solar panel arrays are spouting like sunflowers on rooftops and lots across the American landscape. If you join the solar movement, you’ll be adding your name to the rolls of a growing club of solar enthusiasts, who are doing their part to save the planet while also enjoying significant savings on their utility bills.
Solar is a virtuous technology, and its virtues make it an easy sell to consumers who are paying attention.