What Are the Best Solar Panels?

Best Solar Panels

How do you choose the Best Solar Panels for your situation?

When thinking about what components make the best solar installation, every homeowner’s situation is different. Finances, location, and personal values all play a role in deciding which is the best solar panels for you. We’ve decided to choose a best solar panel for common situations that come up when looking to install solar.

Some prefer the cheapest solar panel, while others insist their panels must be American-made. Or some people live in areas with heavy snow. It is misleading to think that a single type of solar panel work in all situations.

Any solar installation company will have different panel options which they should discuss with you, to help you choose wisely based on your situation and current availability.

To make our list as helpful as possible, we limited our search to typical residential sized solar panels. Panels with a capacity of around 240 to 300 watts comprised of 60 solar cells, as opposed to 72 cells commonly seen in larger commercial solar panels. This narrows our scope, especially in the lowest price category, as there are a handful of ‘bargain bin’ solar panels that, despite having 60 cells, produce around 220-230 watts due to their low efficiency (14 to 15%).

Tips for Choosing Solar Panels

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind before deciding which solar panel to buy:

  • Choose a reputable company with a proven track record (here’s our list of the top solar companies). You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on solar panels, then be stuck with 30 unwarrantied solar panels when the company goes out of business 10 years later. The solar industry is notoriously up and down and installers as well as manufacturers can and do go out of business, so be sure to do your homework before moving forward with a particular company.
  • Country of origin plays little part in the quality of solar panels. Homeowners in the US are often adamant towards installing only US-manufactured solar panels. However, these panels add quite a bit to the total installation cost and solar panels coming out of reputable East Asian countries are high quality and backed by long-term warranties.
  • Before choosing, seek the advice of local installers, as they often have experience with numerous different solar panels and can give you tips or advice on choosing the right panel to meet your needs.

Without further ado, here’s our list of the best solar panels!

High Snow Load Strength: Canadian Solar

Canadian Solar

Buy this panel on Amazon.com

Model: CS6P-265 (Data Sheet)

Cost: $1.22/watt (before incentives – gogreensolar.com)

Efficiency: Up to 16.8%

Warranty: 10 year material; 25 year power (with guaranteed 83% of original performance after 25 years)

At 40mm, Canadian Solar’s panels are about 20% thicker than other manufacturers, so they can withstand harsh environments and heavy snow loads. Because of this strength and fairly low cost, national solar companies choose Canadian Solar when an installation is located in an area with heavy snows during winter months.

Other solar companies, like SunPower below, produce quite beefy solar panels that can withstand almost anything Mother Nature throws at it, but at a much higher cost. Canadian Solar keeps the price quite low, providing the most cost-effective option if heavy loads are your most pressing concern but you don’t want to shell out huge bucks for your installation.

Lowest Price: Topoint

Topoint Solar panelModel: JTM240-60P (no website)

Cost: $0.72/watt (gogreensolar.com)

Efficiency: 14.75%

Warranty: 10 year material; 25 year power  (80% of original performance guaranteed after 25 years)

If price is your biggest concern and you have ample roof space, take a look at Topoint’s 240 watt solar panel. The solar industry is notoriously fluctuating and many solar panel manufacturers and installers have come and gone, so make sure you’ve done your homework, as there isn’t much information available on this little-known brand. That being said, they offer a standard 10 year material and 25 year performance warranty, so that assuages some fears.

The low price comes at the cost of efficiency, as these modules see about 2% less than others. If you have a large roof where space isn’t an issue and working with a little-known company doesn’t bother you, Topoint offers some of the cheapest panels around today.

Highest Efficiency: SunPower

SunPower X-series
Model: X-Series 335 residential

Cost: Panels must be purchased through installer-partners, so specific prices are unavailable, but supposedly 2x higher than comparable brands

Efficiency: 21.5%

Warranty: 25 year material; 25 year power (80% of original performance guaranteed after 25 years)

American-made SunPower panels are the most efficient residential solar panels in the world, clocking in at 21% – much higher than any other panel on the market. This high efficiency though comes at a much higher price. Some estimate that homeowners will spend about twice as much on these panels!

Why pay so much for 4-5% more efficiency? First, Sunpower offers an incredible warranty (see below). They’re American-made and ultra-high quality. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, and Sunpower is certainly top of the line, but most would probably have a hard time justifying the additional expense.

Best Warranty: SunPower

SunPower X-series
Model: X-Series 335 residential (Data Sheet)

Cost: Panels must be purchased through installer-partners, so specific prices are unavailable, but supposedly 2x higher than comparable brands

Efficiency: 21.5%

Warranty: 25 year material; 25 year power (80% of original performance guaranteed after 25 years)

We noted that SunPower has the highest efficiency of any solar panel in the residential market today, and its warranty is also much longer than any other company as well. With a 25 year material warranty, SunPower backs up its technology for a full 15 years longer than most other solar companies’ 10 year warranty. Sunpower’s warranty is driven by its belief in the longevity of the panel’s components, which include beefy electrical connections that can weather repeated contraction and expansion from extreme weather changes as well as general sturdy panel construction. In fact, the panel itself is even thicker than Canadian Solar’s panel by a full 2mm! As mentioned though, you don’t get the best for free and all of this comes with significant cost.

American Made: SolarWorld

Sunmodule Solar PanelsModel: Sunmodule SW280-Mono (Data Sheet)

Cost: $0.89/watt (before incentives – gogreensolar.com)

Efficiency: 16.7%

Warranty: 10 year material; 25 year power (86.8% of original performance guaranteed after 25 years)

If supporting local business is high on your list, look to SolarWorld, which has been creating solar panels in the US since 1975. While they manufacture across the globe, the majority of solar panels installed in the US are manufactured in their Oregon factory. According to its website, SolarWorld has spent more than $1.5 billion since 2008 in domestically-sourced equipment and parts and employs hundreds of people in their main US factory in Oregon.

SolarWorld’s flagship monocrystalline Sunmodule panels have decent specs, but as with any domestically-built product, prices are much higher than their imported counterparts. But if supporting quality American manufacturing is of upmost importance to you, SolarWorld’s panels definitely make the cut.

Best All-Around: Hanwha Q-Cell

QPro Solar Panel

See this panel on Amazon.com

Model: Q.PRO BFR-G4.1 265 watt (Data Sheet)

Cost: $0.75/watt (before incentives – gogreensolar.com)

Efficiency: Greater than 15.9%

Warranty: 12 year material; 25 year power

Hanwha Q-Cell solar panels are the ‘go-to’ solar panels for at least one national solar company and for good reason. The joint German-South Korean company is the largest solar cell producer in the world. Their panels see decent efficiency, their warranty covers a couple more years than the average warranty, and their price (at $0.75/watt) is difficult to beat.

The South Korea-based company entered the market fast and is now one of the major global panel manufacturers, working in countries around the globe. Hanwha itself is a large South Korean business conglomerate with their hands in a variety of markets, including financial services, hotels, chemicals, and even baseball. The size of their business likely allows them to source materials cheaply and produce huge volumes of panels, driving down prices.

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