When comparing solar panels for your home, the large number of brands in the market can seem overwhelming. However, since the solar industry is very competitive, manufacturers are constantly investing in research and development to improve their products. There are many high-quality solar panels to choose from, and you can’t go wrong when they are installed by professionals.
via SilFab Solar
When purchasing solar panels from any of the top manufacturers, high quality and warranty coverage are assured. However, knowing the differences from brand to brand can be helpful:
- If you compare several solar panel models of high quality, you will notice that each excels in different areas.
- For example, some brands focus on achieving the highest possible efficiency, while others may offer a longer service life and warranty.
Here we will compare the 10 best solar panels available for homeowners in 2022, pointing out the strongest points of each brand. Just keep in mind that even the best panels can have poor performance if they are not installed properly.
Regardless of the brand you choose, make sure you contact a qualified solar installer. If you live in the US, look for a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional.
General Recommendations When Purchasing Solar Panels
Before comparing specific brands, we will give you some tips that apply for any type of solar panel. As a bare minimum, the solar panels you pick should have the following warranty conditions:
- A 10-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
- A 25-year power production warranty.
- You should also contact a professional solar installer, to make sure that warranties are not voided.
Warranty coverage is very important in case any of the solar panels malfunction down the road. This is very rare when using quality products, but a solid warranty ensures a free replacement if you get defective products. While you may find solar panels with better warranty conditions, the terms above have become standard in the industry.
- Under favorable conditions, solar panels can achieve a payback period of less than 8-10 years, which is much shorter than the typical warranty.
- In other words, the warranty makes sure that you recover the initial investment.
We also recommend picking solar brands with significant local presence, since this makes technical support a lot easier. Local installers often have business partnerships with solar providers, and they will be available in case you need maintenance or help with a warranty claim.
Strong Point: High-temperature performance, hail and fire resistant
Panasonic is a well-known consumer electronics brand, but they also produce high-quality solar panels. Their panels are characterized by the excellent performance when operating at high ambient temperatures.
All solar panels suffer a slight drop in productivity when they heat up under the sun – this is a normal and temporary effect, not permanent damage. However, while some solar panels lose up to 0.50% of their productivity with each Celsius degree (°C) of temperature rise, Panasonic modules have a temperature coefficient of only -0.26% per °C.
- Assuming a temperature coefficient of 0.50%, a 370W panel loses 37 watts of capacity with a temperature rise of 20°C.
- However, a 370W Panasonic EverVolt panel would only be losing 19W of capacity.
Average Cost: $2.80 per watt installed, based on the EnergySage marketplace average
Since solar panels are constantly under the sun, a lower temperature coefficient makes them more productive over time. Panasonic solar panels also have a 21.2% energy conversion efficiency, which is only outclassed by a few brands.
Strong Point: Long warranty, manufactured exclusively in the US (Silfab Elite series), hail and fire resistant
As mentioned before, a 10-year manufacturing warranty and a 25-year power production warranty have become standard in the solar industry. However, Silfab goes above and beyond with a 12-year product workmanship warranty that can be extended to 25 years, and a 30-year power performance warranty.
The brand’s Silfab Elite series SIL-380 BK panel with the advanced back-contact technology, offers the highest efficiency of 21.4% for panels that are manufactured exclusively in the US.
Average Cost: $2.77 per watt installed, based on the EnergySage marketplace average
With Silfab solar panels, you have a guaranteed source of clean electricity for three decades. Assuming a payback period of 5 years, you will still have more than 20 years of guaranteed performance.
Strong Point: High efficiency, high-temperature performance, Lead-free option (REC Alpha Pure series – ROHS-compliant), strong panel frame, hail-resistant
As the efficiency of solar panels improves, they can convert a larger portion of the sunlight reaching them into electricity. When using high-efficiency solar panels, each square foot of roof space becomes more productive.
- REC is among the most efficient solar panel brands, with a 21.9% energy conversion efficiency available in REC Alpha Pure 405 Wp panel.
- When you have limited roof space and want to maximize the kilowatt-hours produced per square foot, REC solar panels are among the best options available.
Average Cost: $2.73 per watt installed, based on the EnergySage marketplace average
REC is also comparable to Panasonic in terms of high-temperature performance, with a productivity drop of only 0.26% per °C. This feature complements their high efficiency.
4. LG Solar
Strong Point: High efficiency, hail and fire resistant
LG is another well-known brand in the consumer electronics segment. However, they also focus on producing high-efficiency solar panels that can convert up to 22.3% of sunlight into electricity in the LG Neon R 405W panel. This is an excellent feature/benefit when you have limited rooftop space since the kilowatt-hour output per square foot is increased.
Average Cost: $2.88 per watt installed, based on the EnergySage marketplace average
In addition to their high efficiency, LG solar panels have a 25-year product warranty (like Silfab) and a 25-year power production warranty (only 5 years less than Silfab). This means you can benefit from the high productivity of LG panels for a long time.
Did you know? LG’s Energy System Solutions division also offers high-quality energy storage batteries for homes.
Strong Point: The highest conversion efficiency in the solar industry, hail and fire resistant
There are many solar panel brands with excellent efficiency, but SunPower is the undisputed leader with an industry record of 22.8% in the SunPower A Series 425 G. This is combined with a temperature coefficient of only -0.29% per °C, slightly behind the -0.26% per °C coefficient achieved by Panasonic and REC.
Average Cost: $3.37 per watt installed, based on the EnergySage marketplace average
SunPower’s combination of high efficiency and productivity at high temperature leads to more kilowatt-hours over time. When you have limited space for solar panels, SunPower modules can help you compensate with their superior efficiency
6. Canadian Solar
Strong Point: Product variety
Canadian Solar offers a wide range of residential solar panel designs, without compromising their quality. With so many options available, you can find solar modules for any application: residential, commercial, industrial, or utility scale.
- Monocrystalline and polycrystalline
- Traditional and bifacial panels
- Multiple sizes: 120, 132 and 144 half-cells (equivalent to 60, 66 and 72 cells)
If you want to reduce your upfront costs, Canadian Solar panels are also characterized by being affordable compared with other leading brands.
7. Q Cells
Strong Point: High-tech solar cells, affordability
Q Cells is the leading manufacturer of PERC solar cells worldwide. PERC stands for Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact, a revolutionary cell design in the solar industry, which increases productivity by more than 5%.
- If you look at the technical specifications of the best solar panels, you will notice that PERC cells are used across the industry.
- Q Cells is the top manufacturer of this technology by volume, producing 5,000 MW of PERC solar cells each year.
Q Cells can be considered a well-balanced solar panel brand in terms of performance and cost, with a solid 25-year warranty.
Strong Point: High-wattage solar panels, affordability
JinkoSolar is one of the largest brands by global market share. If you have enough roof space to install larger panels, they offer some of the highest wattages in the industry.
- While most solar panels are typically below 400W, some products from JinkoSolar exceed 500W.
- For example, their Tiger series modules are around 60% larger than the average residential panel, but their wattage ranges from 530W to 550W.
Of course, JinkoSolar does not compromise quality and durability when manufacturing their high-wattage panels. Some of their products like the TigerNeo series are above 22% efficiency, and they come with a 12-year materials warranty and 25-year power production warranty.
9. Trina Solar
Strong Point: Well-balanced products, affordability
Trina Solar is also among the top brands by market share. Most of their solar panels have rated efficiency values close to 19-20%, and they come with a standard 10-year product warranty and 25-year power output. Trina Solar offers a wide product selection, with both monocrystalline and polycrystalline modules available in several sizes.
Trina Solar is also considered affordable among the top brands, just like Canadian Solar.
Strong Point: Portable solar panels
Renogy focuses on making portable solar systems that are capable of powering many types of home appliances. They not only offer solar panels, but also compatible battery systems with connectors for common AC and DC devices.
Thanks to their portable design, Renogy solar panels are a great complement for recreational vehicles, and you can also take them on camping trips. They are also an attractive option if you’re renting a home or apartment: since they don’t need a permanent installation, you can easily pack them and take them along.
Portable solar panels tend to have shorter warranties than fixed systems, but this is not the case for Renogy. Their product selection includes solar panels with a 10-year product warranty and 25-year power warranty, just like the larger rooftop brands.
There are many solar brands that offer top quality, and there are other excellent products not covered in this list. Each of the brands we discussed here has unique selling points, but you can achieve great results with any of them. Like with any purchase, comparing several options is recommended before a final decision.
When dealing with solar panels, getting a professional installation is very important. Even the best products will have performance issues when used incorrectly, and in the case of solar panels you may void their warranty. A professional installation ensures that your solar panels reach the performance intended by their manufacturers.
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4 thoughts on “10 Best Solar Panels for Homes in 2022: Cost per Watt Installed”
Hi Alex, thanks for a great list.
I didn’t see Sunrun as part of this – they are a merger of several companies and large presence in several states. is there any reason that they are not ranked ?
Yes, SunRun is a major player in the solar space. In fact, they are the largest residential solar installer that’s been growing and gaining market share while Tesla Energy (former SolarCity which was the largest installer several years ago) has been shrinking, but unlike SunPower, SunRun doesn’t manufacture their own solar panels. That said, we will be reviewing the top residential solar installers in one of the upcoming articles.
It will come as no surprise that labor costs vary dramatically depending on where in the country you are located. Additionally, many of these panels, as a practical matter, are installed in limited regions (their installation partners).
Therefore, showing average installed costs per watt by brand might be of very little practical value when comparing.
Example, Panasonic panels, due to their hot weather performance, might be commonly installed in the Southwest while rarely seen in the upper Midwest.
Seems like the delivered cost per watt would be more universally usable for financial comparison purposes. And then you either have a local installer for that brand or you do not, potentially forcing (limiting) brand selection. All other things equal, the specific brand shouldn’t impact installation costs in a meaningful manner.
Great comment BlueOak!
Yes, labor costs and hence average costs per installed watt of solar capacity can vary a lot from state to state.
Arizona has lower labor costs and hence lower average cost per installed watt than California. However, California also has higher residential electricity rates (almost double the rate of Florida, Arizona, Nevada), so it still makes sense for homeowners in California to be willing to pay more for the solar panels in their state because the financial impact from energy savings on domestic electricity usage will be greater.
It’s the same story in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, and other states with high residential electricity rates. Massachusetts, New York, and California offer lucrative incentives to help offset the higher upfront cost of solar panels.
We agree that the average cost per watt generated/delivered could also be an interesting additional metric to explore but its usefulness would be limited to a specific state or region.
That said, if there were a specific solar panel that was mostly deployed in the southern or southwestern states like Arizona or California, such a panel would have a disproportionately lower cost per average watt generated/delivered (different from the installed watt provided in this guide) than some other high-end panel that was mostly used in the northern parts of the country (or Canada). Almost any high-end solar panel will generate more solar electricity per watt of capacity in an area with more sunshine.
Regarding Panasonic solar panels, they are widely available and installed not just in the South but also in the Northeast, Northwest, Midwest and other parts of the country.