Best Solar Panels for Your Home in 2024


The companies providing quotes may differ from those described in our independent reviews.

At CNET, we’ve reviewed many of the best solar panels on the market. The brands Maxeon and REC currently top our list of the best ones. Both brands offer highly efficient solar panels and come with strong production guarantees over 25 years. Maxeon panels are available from SunPower and its subsidiaries, and REC panels are available from multiple major solar installation companies.

If you’re interested in going solar to reduce your energy bill, green up your electricity consumption or even go off-grid, you may not need the best solar panels. I’ve spent hours reading solar panel spec sheets and devising a scoring methodology that measures what matters most to solar customers (more on that below). 

While there are differences among solar panels, experts have told me that finding the best installer is likely more important than getting the very best equipment. The best solar panels for you are the ones that fit your energy goals and budget.

Why go solar now?

Given recent price volatility and inflation, some people are adopting solar panels to secure predictable energy prices for the next two decades and more. While solar panels cost a lot upfront, they can lock in energy savings for years.

Despite signs of a slowdown in some areas, namely California, solar panel installation is booming nationwide. A record number of solar panel systems were installed in the third quarter of 2023. Solar panel growth is expected to remain strong, thanks to 30% tax incentives for solar and other renewable energy technologies. On the other hand, with interest rates high, financing a solar installation is more expensive. Higher interest rates make leasing solar panels more attractive, though buying outright is likely to save you more money over time.

These trends and changes are occurring within the context of a warming planet, driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Climate scientists say we need to reduce warming emissions rapidly to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and sustainability is another common motivator for some homeowners to install solar.

Best solar panels of 2024

Maxeon

Tied for best overall

Maxeon panels have one of the longest track records in the residential solar market and some of the highest performance as well. While you likely don’t need the best solar panels to meet your energy goals, if you get Maxeon panels, you’re getting panels that lead or match the leader in most categories we evaluate.

REC

Tied for best overall

REC panels are neck and neck with our other leading solar panel. While REC’s most efficient panel doesn’t quite match Maxeon’s, it falls short by just .5%.

REC’s lowest temperature coefficient beats Maxeon’s, but by just .05%. Quibbling over these differences isn’t worth it in most cases, and the best panel for you might be the one that’s available, affordable and able to meet your needs.

Panasonic

Top production warranty

Panasonic panels fall short of the two leaders in only the size category of our scoring methodology. It’s one of the categories we weight the lowest, since it seems less likely to materially impact their performance. They go toe-to-toe in performance categories like efficiency and temperature coefficient and have really strong warranties. Besides the obligatory disclaimer that you (likely) don’t need the best performing panels available, Panasonic models are at the top of the field.

Canadian Solar

Most efficient

Canadian Solar makes one of the most efficient solar panels on the market. While its suite of panels doesn’t quite match the leaders here in terms of performance and warranty, they’re not much behind. If your installer offers Canadian Solar panels, you’re getting quality panels.

ZNShine Solar

Longest production warranty

ZNShine looks like it might be the leading edge of longer solar warranties. While some manufacturers guarantee higher production from their panels at 25 years, most of those companies don’t stretch the additional 5 years. If its the start of a trend, its one we welcome.

Qcells

Most popular solar panels

Qcells panels dominate the residential solar market in the United States and offer strong performance at a decent price, as evidenced by SunPower turning to Qcells when it wanted to start offering more affordable installations. While Qcells panels perform well, their popularity is proof of the fact that you don’t need the absolute highest performance from your panels to make solar work for you.

Other solar panel brands we evaluated

JA Solar: Solar panels from JA Solar max out at 21.5% efficiency and have warranties guaranteeing nearly 90% of their rated production after 25 years. (JA Solar’s warranties are actually 30 years long, guaranteeing 87% at that time.) They also have a temperature coefficient of -0.35%

Jinko Solar: Jinko’s solar panels have high efficiency ratings, with at least three in the group topping out over 22%. Their 25-year production warranty lags behind many of the others on this list; it’s set at 83.1%. Jinko does make all-black solar panels. Jinko has an American factory in Jacksonville, Florida, which was raided by federal authorities in an apparent probe, about which few details are known.

Trina Solar: Trina’s solar panels line are comparable to the other panels on this list, landing near the Qcells’ specs. Trina efficiencies peak a bit higher, near 22%, and the panels come in slightly larger sizes. Trina panels come with a 25-year guarantee of nearly 85%. Some models are all black.

Longi Solar: Longi’s solar panels have great efficiency ratings of 21.3% and 25-year production guarantee set at nearly 85%, right in line with industry standards. Their temperature coefficients are also in the normal range at -0.34%.

Talesun Solar: Solar panels from Talesun have peak efficiencies at 21% or slightly above. They are also guaranteed to operate at 84.8% of their rated production after 25 years, again a fairly standard number.

Silfab: Panels from Silfab have efficiency ratings between 20% and 21.5%. They’re guaranteed to produce above 85% after 25 years, according to the warranty posted by Silfab. All the panels we looked at from Silfab had an all-black look. Silfab also manufactures panels in the US, with factories in northwest Washington.

Compare the best solar panels of 2024

In evaluating solar panels for this list, we looked at the residential offerings from solar panel manufacturers and judged them as a whole. In general, if one company has a model that stands out in one area, like efficiency, its entire suite of panels will be more efficient. While some Maxeon solar panels will have lower efficiency ratings than offerings from other companies, as a whole they’ll be more efficient than others. The table below shows maximum values for the group of residential solar panels, not necessarily a specific 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
Jinko 22.27% -0.29% 25 years 83.10% Yes
Longi 21.30% -0.34% 25 years 84.80% No
Maxeon 22.80% -0.29% 25 years 92% Yes
Panasonic 22.20% -0.24% 25 years 92% Yes
REC 22.30% 0% 25 years 92% Yes
Silfab 21.40% -0.36% 25 years 85.10% Yes
Talesun Solar 21.30% -0.35% 25 years 84.80% Yes
Trina 21.80% -0.34% 25 years 84.80% Yes
ZNShine Solar 21.55% -0.35% 30 years (82.5%) 85.40% No

Data accurate as of June 16, 2023.

Do you need the best solar panels?

If you’re shopping for solar panels, you should look for the solar panels, batteries and installer that best fit your needs. Those might not be the panels that come out on top of our list or those of any other publications. We left price out of our scoring methodology because it’s hard to find reliable numbers, but it’s likely to be a consideration for you.

Experts have told CNET that you shouldn’t get too starry-eyed about a solar panel’s specifications, like efficiency. You should instead aim for a solar array that meets your energy needs in an affordable and reliable way. 

“The bigger question for the end user is the economics and how it’s paying off,” Daniel Ciolkosz, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Pennsylvania State University, told CNET in April. You’ll want to find a solar installer you can trust, too, just like you would find a contractor for any home improvement project. A poor installation could be a bigger drain on electricity production than a slightly lower efficiency rating or slightly weaker 25-year production guarantee.

How much do solar panels cost?

The cost of installing solar panels at home varies depending on your specific context. While national averages pin the cost somewhere between $3 and $4 per watt, your actual cost can be higher or lower depending on how many solar panels you need installed, local permitting costs, the price of labor in your area and more.

The estimates below don’t arrive at the same answer. In general, smaller systems have a lower overall cost but have a higher cost per watt. Prices rose over the last year, but at a slower rate than inflation, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said. 

Factors that might increase the cost of your specific solar installation include the complexity of your roof and additional equipment you have installed, such as solar batteries or electric vehicle chargers. Factors that lower the cost of solar include the federal solar tax credit and incentives from your state

The best way to get an accurate idea of solar costs in your area is to get multiple quotes from reputable solar companies. Just as important as the cost of going solar is the solar payback period, how long it will take for your solar panels to save as much money as they cost. You can roughly calculate your solar payback period with just your solar costs and estimated monthly savings.

Factors to consider when choosing solar panels

The solar panels installed by solar companies are capable of meeting most energy goals. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty details of solar panels, here are some to start with.

The different types of solar panels

Almost all residential solar panels are monocrystalline models (named for the silicon their solar cells are made from), according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They typically produce more electricity and offer a better return on investment than polycrystalline or thin-film solar panels, their less common counterparts.

Solar panel efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is simply the amount of energy in sunlight that a solar panel turns into electricity. That means a solar panel with a 20% efficiency is leaving 80% of the sun’s energy on the table. But modern solar panels have been getting more so over the years. In 2007, only about 17% of solar panels were 19% or more efficient. In 2022, more than 97% exceeded that mark, according to the Berkeley Lab.

Efficiency also comes into play elsewhere in a solar panel system. Both solar inverters and batteries are rated for their efficiency as well.

Temperature coefficient

Solar panels get less efficient as temperatures rise. Temperature coefficient measures the amount solar panel efficiency changes for every degree Celsius over 25 (77 degrees Fahrenheit). A temperature coefficient of -0.34% means the solar panel will lose that much production each degree Celsius the temp rises.

Wattage rating

A solar panel’s size is measured in watts. That means that, under ideal conditions over the course of an hour, a 400-watt solar panel will produce 400 watt-hours of electricity.

Conditions are rarely ideal in the real world, however. A passing cloud, a thin layer of dust on the panels, wildfire smoke — anything that comes between a solar panel and the sun is going to eat away at its production. But the higher the wattage rating, the more power the panel will produce. 

Even if you find a solar panel that makes your heart sing, it’s probably smarter to focus on finding a reputable solar installer you trust. Solar panels are just one part of the system and, on the chance something goes wrong, you want to know you’ll be getting quality service for many years to come.

What should I consider when choosing a solar installer?

The best thing you can do to set yourself up for solar shopping success is to get multiple quotes from reputable installers. Unless you’re an expert in your local solar market, you won’t be able to judge the quality of a proposal except comparisons against one another. Casting a wide net, along with educating yourself about your local solar policies and incentives, is your best defense against a dishonest salesperson. (This isn’t to suggest that scammy solar sales tactics are widespread.) Even the best solar companies might not always be the best fit. If you have neighbors who have solar panels, ask about their experience with their installer. 

Make sure you understand your energy usage, whether or not you have net metering available to you and the ins and outs of available incentives like the solar tax credit.

The Department of Energy recommends working with a solar installer licensed or certified by a reputable third party. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners runs a database of installers it has certified. Ask installers about their company’s certifications.

How we chose and ranked the best solar panels

The solar panels on this list are some of the most widely installed solar panels in residential solar applications in the United States. If you’re collecting and comparing quotes for a solar installation at home, you’re likely to come across one of these brands. Luckily, we did the legwork for you and compiled specification data from the most popular solar panel brands to compare against each other.

If your preferred panel, or those you’re quoted, aren’t on this list, you can find their specs the same way I did. Most solar panel manufacturers make their products’ specifications and warranties readily available online on their websites. It’s just a matter of finding where on the website it’s listed.

The five best solar panels listed at the top of this article came out on top after all the solar panels we looked at were put through our scoring methodology.

We scored the panels on their efficiency (25% of the final score), maximum wattage available (15%), temperature coefficient (15%), production warranty level (25%) and production warranty length (15%). The final 5% of the score comes from whether or not the company offers an all-black option, which has a more attractive look to some people.

Here’s how the scoring breaks down.

Score component 5/5 4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5
Efficiency >22% 21-21.9% 20-20.9% 19-19.9% <19%
Max. wattage 420W+ 410W 400W 390W 380W
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
All-black model Yes No

Solar panel FAQ

What are the best residential solar panels?

Maxeon and REC solar panels came out on top of our rankings, but the best solar panel is the panel that best fits your needs. The solar panels on our list aren’t interchangeable, but there are likely multiple acceptable options when it comes to meeting your energy needs.

What are the most efficient solar panels?

The most efficient residential solar panels available are made by Maxeon for SunPower and Canadian Solar. Both have models that are 22.8% efficient.

What is the highest-rated solar panel company?

How long do solar panels last?

A typical solar panel warranty guarantees a certain level of production (typically around 85% to 92% of its original production) after 25 years. But solar panels often deteriorate at slower rates and should continue producing after that point. Some manufacturers are starting to extend their standard warranties to 30 years.

What’s the best solar panel warranty?

Solar panel warranties typically guarantee a certain level of production after a number of years. For example, Maxeon solar panels are guaranteed to produce 92% after 25 years. If a Maxeon panel is rated to produce 400 watts under ideal conditions when it leaves the factory, it should produce at least 368 watts (400 watts x .92) under those same conditions after 25 years.

Measured by guaranteed production after 25 years, the best solar panel warranties come from Maxeon (SunPower), Panasonic and REC.

Some solar companies are starting to offer 30-year warranties (though they might have a lower 25-year guarantee than the companies above). Measured by length, the best warranties come from JA Solar and ZNShine Solar 

What type of solar panel is best?

The best solar panel is the one that best fits your needs and budget, but monocrystalline solar panels are the most common type of solar panel on the market. Nearly all residential solar panels were monocrystalline models, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report

The name refers to the way the solar cells that make up the panel are constructed: From a single silicon crystal instead of several. The most efficient solar panels commercially available are monocrystalline solar panels, including every panel on this list.

How many solar panels do I need to power my house?

That depends on your energy usage, your home’s energy efficiency, the amount of sun you get, the direction your roof faces and more. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

With a bit of research and math, you can get an estimate of how many solar panels you need. You can use that rough idea when you’re choosing a quote. A solar installer’s knowledge of your local climate and energy policies may also be able to help you refine your estimate.

What are the pros and cons of going solar?





Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top