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Our Top Solar Panels for 2021
For those who wish to take advantage of solar power, the first step is assembling a solar system for home use. This system will generally include a battery, an inverter and of course an array of solar panels. Based on factors such as efficiency, durability, warranty, price point and temperature coefficient, these are the 10 best solar panels for home use:
LG: Best Overall
SunPower: Most Efficient
Panasonic: Best by Temperature Coefficient
Silfab: Best Warranty
Canadian Solar: Most Affordable
Trina Solar: Best Value
Q Cells: Consumer Favorite
Mission Solar: Best Small Manufacturer
Loom Solar: Most Reliable
WindyNation: 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.
How We Ranked the Best Solar Panels
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.
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, strong performance warranty can give peace of mind after you purchase residential solar panels. In this industry, a decent warranty may be anywhere from 10 years to 25.
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 factor in things like durability and warranty, which provide you a fuller sense of overall value.
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 power output.
10 Best Solar Panels for Home
Based on the criteria outlined above, these are our picks for the top 10 best solar panels available in 2021.
1) Best Overall: LG
For our top selection, and our vote for all-around best residential solar panel, we’re going with LG. LG is a top-tier electronics company, and its solar panels are known for their quality and durability. Truly, these are premium products that work well with almost any home solar configuration.
A quick look at LG’s technical stats confirms this. In terms of efficiency, LG solar panels are almost unbeatable. (They are rated as 22% efficient; the only brand we’ve found that can surpass that is SunPower, and by less than a full percentage point.) A competitive price point and robust 25-year warranty just sweeten the deal and make LG the most recommendable of home solar panels.
2) Most Efficient: SunPower
If you’re buying residential solar panels based solely on their efficiency, SunPower is the name to beat. (Remember, efficiency refers to the amount of sunlight that the panels can absorb and turn into useful energy for your home.) SunPower has the highest efficiency we’ve seen from any solar panel: 22.8%. And on top of that, we’ll note that SunPower is reasonably priced and comes with a decent product warranty.
The bottom line: If you’re mainly looking for a powerhouse, SunPower is definitely a solar panel manufacturer for you to consider.
3) Best by Temperature Coefficient: Panasonic
Panasonic is our choice for the solar panel with the best temperature coefficient. Basically, that means it will continue to perform at a peak output even when the external temperature rises. For those who live in extremely warm climates, this is an important consideration. (As for technical specs, note that the temperature coefficient rating for the Panasonic solar panel is -0.26.)
Beyond that, this is another example of a well-made product by a top-tier electronics company, and we think homeowners will love it for its durability and its overall quality.
4) Best Warranty: Silfab
When it comes to solar panels, the typical warranty may be anywhere from 10 years to 25 years. There are actually a number of products that hit that 25-year mark, including some that we’ve mentioned already, but we’ll give the honor to Silfab. Not only does this solar panel come supported by a robust warranty, but it routinely wins accolades for longevity and for overall customer satisfaction.
Silfab is a less prominent name in the solar energy space, but it really deserves your attention. It’s a great product that offers tremendous value and is one of our top picks for best solar panels for home use.
5) Most Affordable: Canadian Solar
If you’re looking to secure some decent solar panels for a lower price point, Canadian solar may be your best option. This company makes high-quality panels that are not too far off from the industry leaders with regard to efficiency, temperature coefficient and other technical considerations. However, Canadian Solar makes its panels available at a much cheaper price.
One caveat: The warranty for Canadian Solar panels is 12 years, which is reasonable, but certainly a far cry from the industry-leading 25 years. With that one quibble, though, we believe Canadian Solar represents one of the best overall values for home solar panels.
6) Best Value: Trina Solar
Speaking of value, we also want to mention the residential solar panels from Trina Solar.
Trina Solar is a Chinese company, and like Canadian Solar, it does an admirable job of producing premium-quality cell technology at competitive price points. Their panels are almost as cheap as the ones from Canadian Solar, and come with a comparable 12-year warranty. They may actually be just a tad more durable, which is why we rank them as a slightly better value overall. Keep this brand in mind as you seek the best use of your solar dollar.
7) Consumer Favorite: Q Cells
As we considered the best solar panels on the market today, we took into account consumer reviews. Basically, we wanted to get a sense of how actual homeowners rank the leading products. The results were somewhat surprising: Based on reviews from a number of different websites, we found that a smaller company called Q Cells consistently rose to the top.
In terms of sheer customer satisfaction, this may be the company to beat… and of course, Q Cells also offers excellent efficiency, value, durability, and more.
8) Best Small Manufacturer: Mission Solar
The residential solar space is dominated by big tech and electronics companies like LG, Panasonic and even Tesla. For some homeowners, though, there’s something appealing about going with a smaller, more niche brand. And if that’s the boat you’re in, then we’re happy to recommend Mission Solar.
These panels are made in the San Antonio, Texas, area, which makes them some of the best U.S.-made products in the solar field. The technical specs are all on point, and the company pulls some robust customer satisfaction numbers, too. Keep Mission Solar on your radar as you seek the best solar panels for home use.
9) Most Reliable: Loom Solar
Buying solar panels is going to require a significant investment, even if you opt for some of the cheaper options. Naturally, you’ll want to select robust technology that will withstand the test of time, and also hold up well in extreme elements.
Loom Solar panels are well-regarded for their ruggedness and durability. They are carefully designed to perform well even in intense storms. What’s more, they are calibrated to run well even in low light or under cloud coverage.
As you seek solar panels that have a long lifespan and will work well no matter the weather, Loom Solar is a company to keep in mind.
10) Best for Backup Power: Windy Nation
Windy Nation makes panels that are a bit smaller and less robust, so you may not wish to use them as your primary energy source. However, they work extremely well for backup power options, and are also great for powering your RV or your cabin with renewable energy.
We’ll also note that, for their size, Windy Nation panels are quite efficient. And, they come backed by a 25-year warranty, which should instill some confidence as you buy.
How to Choose the Best Home Solar Panels for You
When looking for the best residential solar panels, here are a few tips to ensure you’re picking the right products.
The efficiency of your solar panels is going to be one of the key drivers of how much you cave 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 16 to 18%, so anything in that range is going to be pretty decent. We’ll note that SunPower’s panels, with 22.8% efficiency, represent the highest rating we’ve come across.
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 find something with a warranty of 25 years, that’s ideal.
Compare Price and Efficiency
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 panel installation and additional parts such as inverters and battery banks when setting your solar budget.
Think About Your Home Energy Needs
In assessing your solar needs, think about things like your roof’s exposure to the sun, the surface area available on your roof 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.
What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?
When shopping for residential solar panels, it’s also helpful to know the basic types that are available. The three basic categories are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of solar panel comes with its own list of pros and cons.
Monocrystalline: 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: 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: Finally, thin-film solar panels can be made from a variety of ultra-thin materials. Thin-film panels are recommended when you need something that’s lightweight, flexible and portable; they may work better for RVs and campsites than for homes. Thin-film panels can be relatively low in efficiency when compared to the other two options.
Do 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 system requires in-depth knowledge of electronics as well as solar power, and in most cases, a solar installation 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 extremely minimal. You will likely have little or no issue 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 residential solar system performs, including:
Orientation: When your 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. 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.
Bottom Line: Are Solar Panels Worth it for Your Home?
As more and more homeowners seek clean energy solutions, solar power is increasingly attractive. By harnessing the sun’s natural rays, homeowners can reduce their dependence on traditional utility companies. 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 unwise or 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.