How To Find The Best Solar Panels For Your Home: 2022 Edition
9 - Minute Read
Apr 6, 2022
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What Should You Consider When Shopping For Solar Panels?
Some solar panels perform quite well and offer excellent warranties, but they don’t have an all-black appearance, and they cost more than other options. Other models look great but aren’t as efficient. Let’s explore key factors in selecting the best solar panel, given your project goals, aesthetic preferences, budget, and property.
Most residential solar power systems are mounted on the roof of the home, where they are exposed to the elements, day in and day out. Depending on your climate, they could be exposed to ice storms, high winds, hail, and hours and hours of intense sun. Therefore, homeowners in harsh environments need to be particularly mindful of choosing durable solar panels. Durability and degradation are critical topics because solar panels can last 25 to 30 or more years.
As a result, researchers conduct solar panel tests to determine how they will perform in some of the harshest environments. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panels may fail due to thermal cycling, damp heat, humidity freeze and UV exposure.
Thermal cycling can cause cracks in the panels or solder bond failures, whereas damp heat can cause delamination of encapsulants and the corrosion of solar cells. UV radiation can cause failure of the backsheet of panels, which protects it from harsh weather conditions throughout its lifespan. Humidity freezing can result in failure of the junction box adhesion.
The PVEL 2021 PV Module Reliability Scorecard provides independent reliability and performance data. The top performers include Jinko, Trina Solar, JA Solar, Q CELLS, REC Group, SunPower, Silfab, Vikram, First Solar, LG Electronics, and Panasonic (in 2020).
High-efficiency solar panels can produce more electricity per square foot. Solar panel efficiency measures the percentage of sunlight (irradiation) that is converted into solar electricity. It is usually between 14% and 22% and varies partially by the materials used to make the PV panels. In addition, age and location are also big factors.
Polycrystalline solar panels are blue and consist of multiple silicon crystals. These panels tend to be less efficient but usually have lower prices. By contrast, monocrystalline solar cells have a black appearance and tend to be more efficient and a bit pricier. PERC solar cells are another option, offering up to 10% more efficiency than conventional cells. If space is tight, the extra efficiency is likely worth the additional cost.
Before going solar, it’s essential to determine your project goals. For example, do you want your system to generate all the electricity for your home? Is your roof space limited? If so, a high-efficiency solar panel from a company like Qcells might be a good choice. Qcells produces high-efficiency solar panels using PERC technology.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, solar panel efficiency decreases after they reach 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit). That means your system will likely produce less solar energy per hour in hot weather compared to cooler days, if other factors are the same. During the dog days of summer, your solar panels will likely get far warmer than is ideal for energy production. In fact, solar panels can reach temperatures of 149° F!
The temperature coefficient is the percentage of power output decrease as the temperature rises above 25° C, and it varies by the model of the panel. Temperature coefficients are commonly in the range of -0.2%°C to -0.5%°C.
The temperature coefficient of modules indicates how well they will perform in hot weather; the closer the coefficient is to 0, the better. If you live in a warmer climate, it will have a bigger impact on performance and is a more important consideration. Panasonic and REC are among the solar panel brands with the most optimal temperature coefficients at -0.26, followed by SunPower at -0.29.
Energy Bills Stink
If your budget is limited, it’s a good idea to consider lower-cost solar panels, especially if efficiency isn’t as critical. Some solar panels on the market cost less, including Trina, First Solar, Jinko, and JA Solar panels.
However, the lowest-priced solar panels are often less efficient models with shorter product warranties. Just because a solar panel price is lower than other models doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Also, although they are the most visible part of a solar system, they are only part of its total cost, which also includes labor, additional solar equipment, and other expenses, like permitting.
New cars, appliances, or electronics commonly come with warranties to protect consumers from product defects, and solar panels are no different. When solar companies provide a proposal, it will often include solar panel warranty information. Therefore, it is important to read the fine print and understand the warranties before moving forward.
In recent years, many solar panel manufacturers have started offering longer product warranties and higher output warranties. Examining the product warranties might be a way to differentiate two possible panel options. The longer the warranty, the lower the investment risk, in theory. Silfab leads the industry with long output warranties, whereas Trina Solar has a shorter product warranty than many.
However, the labor is often not included in replacing a defective solar panel unless it is provided by the installer itself. Therefore, homeowners may need to pay a solar technician to swap out a failed solar panel, even if the unit itself was covered by the warranty.
Solar Output Warranties
Panel manufacturers offer a power production guarantee or output warranty to ensure they deliver a minimum percentage of optimum output for a given amount of time. The higher the percentage and the longer the period, the better. Typically, PV panel manufacturers guarantee 90% power production for ten years and at least 80% for 25 years.
However, some panel manufacturers differentiate their products by offering better warranties. For example, both Silfab and First Solar offer a 30-year output warranty. Although its power performance warranty is for 25 years, SunPower and LG offer some of the highest output guarantees at the end of the warranty period, at 92%.
Product warranties cover panel defects and help offer protection against equipment failure. However, solar panel warranties may vary significantly between manufacturers, and this often correlates with the price range of the equipment.
For example, LG, Panasonic, Q CELLS, SunPower and Silfab offer a 25-year product warranty, whereas Trina and Jinko offer just a 10-year warranty and First Solar panels have a 12-year product warranty.
For some solar shoppers, the country of origin is an important consideration. Although many solar panels are manufactured overseas, some are made in North America. Often, panel manufacturers have facilities in multiple countries, so it can be hard to know in advance where the panels originate.
Silfab, Canadian Solar, Q CELLS, SunPower, LG, and Jinko all have some manufacturing centers in North America. For example, Q CELLS has a large factory in Georgia, and LG has a factory in Alabama.
Although some solar manufacturers are not based in North America, like Jinko and Q CELLS, they may still have domestic manufacturing centers, in addition to manufacturing abroad. By contrast, Trina and JA Solar products are manufactured exclusively in Asia.
Traditional panels have white backsheets and silver frames, while all-black modules have black backsheets and black frames. If you want your solar system to have a sleek appearance, the all-black panels are a great option, and numerous manufacturers produce them. However, because all-black solar panels tend to run a bit warmer, it can reduce their efficiency a bit, especially in warmer climates.
Also, some solar panel manufacturers, like Panasonic, offer anti-reflective glass to prevent glare or low-profile modules that blend better with the roof.
What Are The Best Solar Panels Of 2022?
As electricity costs increase across much of the U.S., solar energy is an appealing alternative to many households. In addition, federal and sometimes state tax incentives can reduce the total cost of going solar, lowering the total system cost. As a result, many are turning to solar energy to keep electricity costs more manageable.
When it comes to choosing the best solar panels, there are many reputable panels on the market, but we kept our list to the top 6. The best solar panels available in 2022 include LG, SunPower, Panasonic, Silfab, Trina Solar, and Q CELLS. LG produces the best panels overall, SunPower are the most efficient, and Panasonic panels have the best temperature coefficient. Silfab provides the longest warranty, Trina panels are the best value, and Q CELLS are popular among homeowners.
Known for excellent consumer electronics, LG is also a trusted solar panel and battery manufacturer. It has manufacturing facilities in South Korea and Alabama, and its U.S. headquarters are in New Jersey.
LG produces some high-efficiency modules. For example, the 440-watt LG NeON® R is 22.1% efficient, making it an excellent choice when space is tight. The panel includes a 92% power performance guarantee for 25 years and a long product warranty. Its solar cells and frame are black, and it has a silver backsheet. With a temperature coefficient of -0.29, these panels will perform better than most on hot days.
For homeowners who want an all-black panel, the LG NeON 2 are a good option, but are a bit less efficient and have a lower temperate tolerance.
This U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer is headquartered in California, and it has facilities across the globe, including the U.S., Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, and France. The SunPower name is synonymous with high-efficiency solar panels, with models that are 22.8% efficient. In addition, SunPower is the first solar company to be Cradle-to-Cradle Certified® for some of its solar panels, demonstrating excellent social and environmental performance by using materials that are safe for humans and the environment, and ensuring that materials can be recycled at the end of the panel’s life.
The 425-watt SunPower A-Series are 22.8% efficient, have an output warranty for 25 years at 92%, and a 25-year materials warranty. These monocrystalline modules have black frames and solar cells, with a white backsheet and a temperature coefficient of -0.29, so they will perform relatively well in hot weather.
If you’re looking for an all-black SunPower panel, the 345-watt X-series is a good option. It is 21.5% efficient and has the same warranties as the A-Series panels.
This Japanese company recently announced that it will no longer manufacture its panels in-house and will start outsourcing its manufacturing. Thus, it is no longer manufacturing solar panels at the Tesla Gigafactory in New York, and it’s a bit tricky to know where the panels originate.
The 370-watt EverVolt WBS panel is 21.2% efficient and has a power-performance guarantee of 92% after 25 years. The EverVolt WBS panels feature black cells and frames with white backsheets. Impressively, their temperature coefficient is -0.26, leading the industry. Therefore, Panasonic panels are a good choice for homeowners in warm climates who want a high-efficiency panel with excellent warranties.
For solar shoppers that want an all-black solar panel, the EverVolt BBS is a good option and is just slightly less efficient than the 360-watt EverVolt WBS at 20.6% efficiency. However, it features the same warranties and temperature coefficient.
Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with manufacturing facilities in Washington and Toronto, Silfab is an excellent option for homeowners who want a panel produced in North America, from a manufacturer known for high-quality customer service. In fact, many existing customers rave about their durability, sleek appearance, and how easy it is to get a representative on the phone.
The 380-watt Silfab Elite SIL BK panel is manufactured in the United States and has a 21.4% efficiency. It features a black backsheet, so the panel is aesthetically pleasing. With a temperature coefficient of -0.37, it will produce fairly well in hot weather, but not as well as many Panasonic panels.
The product comes with a power-performance guarantee of 82.6% after 30 years, which is a longer period than most other output warranties. In addition, Silfab offers a 25-year product warranty.
This Chinese solar company was founded in 1997 and manufactures PV panels in China, Thailand and Vietnam. It is known for producing a reliable solar panel at a very reasonable price.
The 340-watt Honey Black TSM panel features an all-black appearance, and is 19.9% efficient. With a temperature coefficient of -0.37, it performs fairly well in hot weather. It has a 25-year output warranty at 80.0% and a 10-year product warranty. Although it is less impressive in some ways, this panel is a good budget option where roof space is not really limited.
Hanhwa Group is a South Korean company that uses Germany engineering and has grown to be one of the biggest solar panel manufacturers globally. Hanhwa Group is responsible for the largest module manufacturing plant in the western hemisphere, located in Georgia, where Q Cells are produced. It also manufactures products in South Korea, Malaysia, and China, and panels are known to be a good value considering their high quality.
The 400-watt Q CELLS. Peak Duo BLK panels are 20.4% efficient and have a temperature coefficient of -0.34. They include a 25-year materials warranty and an 86% output warranty after 25 years. With an all-black appearance, these modules have a clean, uniform appearance.
The Bottom Line: Finding The Best Solar Panel Requires Evaluation And Research
As you prepare to install solar panels on your home, it important to pick ones that fit your goals, budget, and aesthetic preferences. In some cases, it’s worthwhile to pay more for a high-efficiency panel known for its durability and performance in hot weather. In some situations, all-black panels or country of origin are more critical considerations. Weighing the pros and cons of each panel is critical for picking the best solar panels for your home.