CBD oil is an increasingly popular hemp extract that many people use for its potential wellness benefits. But some people prefer CBD flower for its desirable effects like relaxation and pain relief. Here you can learn all about hemp flower and where to buy the best CBD strains.
What is CBD Flower?
CBD flower is taken directly from industrial hemp plants without the need for extensive extraction processes. These flower buds contain the same beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes found within CBD oil, but tend to elicit a stronger entourage effect.
Hemp flower is different than many other CBD products since it is trimmed from the stalks of hemp without any additional manufacturing or purification needed, which keeps all of the naturally occurring cannabinoids in tact.
What is the Best Hemp Bud to Buy Online?
Compared to CBD oil, there are many more challenges facing the selling and distribution of hemp flower across the United States. For this reason, there's a more narrow market for people that prefer to smoke hemp flower. This also means there are less suppliers to meet demand.
With that being said, we've found the best company that sells hemp flower.
Botany Farms CBD Flower
Botany Farms is our choice for the best hemp flower company because they pride themselves on offering organic, hand-crafted CBD and CBG flower products. They work with select farmers in the U.S. who raise certified-organic hemp that is free from heavy metals, pesticides, and fungicides. Each of their cannabis flower strains is made in small batches that are hang dried and hand trimmed. Botany Farms also uses independent third-party lab testing to ensure each batch's quality and contents.
Our Favorite Botany Farms CBD Flower Products
The products featured here have been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the link included, we may earn commission.
- Best for Sleep - Bubba Kush
- Best for Focus - Hawaiian Haze
- Best for Calm - Sour Space Candy
- Best for Energy - Sour Lifter
- Best for Relaxation - Cherry Blossom
This indica strain contains dark chocolate and coffee notes with an earthy taste. It provides calm for both the body and mind and is best for relaxing at the end of the day or in the evening.
Percentage Levels: CBD ~ 15.1%
Hawaiian Haze is a sativa that provides stress relief while leaving you clear and focused. It offers a strong floral scent with notes of pineapple and berries, and is great for daytime use.
Percentage Levels: CBD ~ 13.3%
A CBD-heavy hybrid strain, Sour Space Candy contains a fruity and sour flavor profile, with dense orange, purple, and green hues. It can produce a relaxing calm, great for stress-relief or unwinding after work.
Percentage Levels: CBD ~ 16.4%
With notes of grapes and lemons, this sativa offers a large dose of CBD and provides energy and focus. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee in the morning to start the day.
Percentage Levels: CBD ~ 17.3%
An indica with notes of dark cherries, florals, citrus, and pine, Cherry Blossom has a rich taste that can help you calm your mind and relax before bed in the evenings.
Percentage Levels: CBD ~ 11%
Hemp Flower for Sale Online: What to Look For
The CBD market can be a confusing and vastly unregulated place. When shopping online, look for lab tested CBD flower. Accredited lab tests help ensure a high quality cannabis flower by verifying the CBD vs THC content, terpene profile, and testing for the presence of any pesticides, heavy metals, and other environmental contaminants.
Will it get you high?
Industrial hemp strains have naturally low THC levels. This means that their flowers also contain minimal amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants). These plants produce CBD rich buds that will not create any mind altering effects like those commonly associated with a THC high.
Is CBD flower legal?
Hemp derived CBD flower is legal in the U.S. as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent of THC by dry weight. The 2018 Farm Bill recently legalized hemp federally as an agricultural crop, therefor making hemp flowers legal as well. Other cannabis plants may produce buds with high CBD and low THC concentrations, but these are not considered federally legal since they originate from marijuana cannabis strains.
How do you smoke CBD flower?
Smoking hemp is the preferred method of use for CBD flowers, especially for the converted user looking to gain relaxation without the high. Many people opt for pre-rolled joints or CBD cigarettes made from hemp flower, but others prefer to buy the buds and smoke them on their own terms.
While this isn't necessarily the healthiest habit, it may be a better option for individuals who are looking for an alternative to nicotine cigarettes or psychoactive marijuana. Additionally, CBD flower has not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. It's not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
CBD Hemp Flower Benefits
Much like CBD oil, hemp flower is believed to have many beneficial effects that can be used to alleviate issues like chronic pain, anxiety, sleep troubles, and more. While most of this is based off of anecdotal evidence, some scientific studies have shown the benefits of CBD, including:
- Anti-inflammatory properties that work to mitigate pain
- Anxiolytic effects help reduce anxiety and stress
- Potential neuroprotective properties
These wellness advantages appeal to many people, but it's important to note that smoking CBD flower is not the healthiest way to benefit from CBD. Inhaling anything other than oxygen into your lungs can be harmful. So for people that choose to smoke hemp, there is typically a trade off between the relieving effects they may experience versus the internal effects they do not see.
Although hemp and marijuana vary in their cannabinoid composition, their flowers are weighed in the same manner. Using the metric system, CBD hemp flowers are weighed from grams to ounces, and are often broken up even further into eighths, quarters, and half ounces.
There are 28 grams in one ounce, and 1 gram will likely be able to make two or three joints filled with hemp bud.
CBD flowers taken from industrial hemp plants are legal to sell in most states, and these products must comply with the laws set forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on marketing and advertising. A supplier must deliver their products as described, including the weight of an item, when you are buying from them. If this isn't done, the FTC will likely take action against the company supplying the product. So you should receive the amount of hemp flower you purchase, but it never hurts to check.
Smoking Hemp Flower vs. Taking CBD Oil
When you inhale smoke from hemp flowers, the CBD will take effect almost immediately as your lungs absorb the cannabinoids and transfer them into the bloodstream. This effect likely won't last as long as ingesting CBD oil, which prolongs the on-set and steady absorption of CBD.
Smoking hemp flower looks and may even smell similar to marijuana, so be wary of this fact if you live in a state where recreational marijuana use is illegal. Hemp flower is legal, but it may cause confusion and unwanted attention, which should be taken into consideration.
Additionally, smoking is not good for your health — even if CBD flower may alleviate other issues like anxiety or pain. For this reason, we recommend exercising caution if you do decide to smoke hemp flower. Weigh the pros and cons, and consider other application methods when it comes to CBD.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Melena Gurganus is passionate about health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.
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By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
'Strategic Autonomy' in Space
"I believe we need a more offensive and aggressive strategy," said the European Commissioner Thierry Breton as he laid out the main priorities for the EU space program over the next seven years. Breton said that the European Union must move quickly to reduce its dependence on third countries.
"Enhancing Europe's strategic autonomy in space is not an option" @ThierryBreton #BBESpaceConf https://t.co/Qm9gOeUh4v— Business Bridge Europe (@Business Bridge Europe) 1610441257.0
"Strategic autonomy" is Brussels's latest catchphrase that echoed throughout Breton's and other EU officials' speeches during the 13th European Space Conference earlier this week. As Europe plans to address economic needs within its borders, its aerospace program is set to focus inwards as well.
Breton mentioned having independent EU-wide internet coverage as another important target. Noting that "attacks on the internet are not fiction anymore," Breton explained that the EU must construct a secure broadband network.
He also emphasized that the European Commission needs to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in space, while continuing to expand its existing projects. Otherwise, he said, Galileo and Copernicus – Europe's major satellite projects – will soon become obsolete.
After these plans receive approval from European governments and the European Parliament, €15 billion ($18.2 billion) will fund space sector projects during the 2021-2027 period, in addition to current funding from national governments and private investments.
Meeting the Competition and Climate Goals
During the past decade, the number of satellite launches and space missions has surged internationally. China's lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon. Private companies in the U.S. have made rapid advancements too. SpaceX successfully returned two of its reusable rocket cores to Earth.
As vital infrastructure like transportation and communications rely more and more on space technology, there's a greater sense of urgency for the EU to realize its own space ambitions.
The continent's other pressing objective is to become carbon neutral by 2050. Expansion of EU aerospace activities – now heavily dependent on the production of metal and fuel – must comply with the European Green Deal.
Alignment of these two goals might not be straightforward, but in the view of EU officials, the space program has a role to play in fighting climate change, fostering green technologies like clean fuels and optimized farming. Additionally, data and services from space are used to constantly monitor the Earth and measure things like CO2 levels.
EU officials and entrepreneurs mentioned clean fuel production and satellite monitoring missions as two promising areas to help achieve Europe's Green Deal and other environmental targets.
Clean Energy in Space and on Earth
One of the areas in which European space companies have a leg up is the production of liquid hydrogen as fuel. When liquid hydrogen burns, it produces enough propelling force to launch a rocket, but emits only water vapor and warm air. However, it's highly energy-intensive to produce, creating a large carbon footprint. The focus of European firms working on this energy option is to mitigate the impact of liquid hydrogen production on the environment.
"Hydrogen (as fuel) is expensive today but tomorrow it will be cheap and green," said Xavier Vigor, vice president of Air Liquide, a supplier of industrial gases.
European rockets have used liquid hydrogen as their fuel for decades. ArianeGroupe, the continent's largest launcher company, aims to launch its carbon-neutral rockets running on hydrogen produced from biomass by 2030. The company also plans to bring the clean fuel to the transport industry. If they succeed, ships and airplanes will be able to travel around the globe, producing no carbon emissions.
"I am really thankful for the decisionmakers in Europe who made the decision to use hydrogen for European launchers. This was a brilliant bet," said Jean-Christophe Henoux, ArianeGroup's vice president of Future Programmes.
Satellites Monitoring Climate Change
EU officials are confident their satellite program will also help in the fight against climate change. The EU space program will continue to design missions focused on CO2 monitoring and a polar observation by its satellites.
"Satellite programs such as Galileo and Agnus have already had an important contribution to minimizing our environmental footprint," said Rodrigo da Costa, the head of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), in a press briefing.
Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation system, has monitored climate change since 2017, providing historical data and climate models for the future.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.
"We believe we can create synergies between navigation and Earth observation," said da Costa. Better navigation helps shorten transportation routes, which cuts fuel consumption. This is how EU satellite programs can contribute to the implementation of the Green Deal, according to da Costa.
Full details of the European space plan have yet to be worked out. The European Commission will meet to decide on them in the coming weeks. After that, a consortium of aerospace and telecom companies will start working to operationalize the plan.
Reposted with permission from DW.
Switching to period panties doesn't have to be messy.
When your time of the month comes unexpectedly and you have to rush to the store, tampons, pads and panty liners are the majority of what you traditionally find when looking in the menstrual hygiene aisle. Recently, period underwear has risen in popularity to prevent the unnecessary waste that comes from using these products.
Period panties are a newer form of menstrual care that can both replace the need for disposable hygiene products and be a solution for preventing messy leaks. They're an ecologically smart alternative to single-use period products and a great long-term investment for those who want a more comfortable and easier menstrual solution.
Every person and menstrual cycle is unique. In this article, we'll explain the benefits of period underwear and help you find what type of underwear is perfect for you.
Best Period Panties: Our Recommendations
- Best Overall: Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear
- Best Leak Protection: Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear
- Best 100% Cotton: Cora Period Underwear
- Best High-Absorbency Underwear: 4period High Absorbency Period Panties
- Best for Teens: Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear
- Best Budget Option: Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Why Switch to Period Underwear?
Designed to feel and look like regular underwear, period panties are a reusable menstrual product made to be worn longer than single-use period products. These undies can hold the equivalent of anything from one to five full-sized regular tampons.
Traditional tampons and pads are recommended by the FDA to only be worn for four to eight hours because of the risk of toxic shock syndrome or a yeast infection. When used correctly, period panties can be worn for up to 24 hours without leaks, odors or discomfort.
Not only do they have to be changed less often, but they also come in handy when you're expecting your cycle to start and you want to be prepared. Instead of a late-night run to the drugstore, you can count on having your washable, re-wearable panties ready to go when you need them most.
Besides the physical comfort and ease of period panties, this underwear is a great solution to the high number of menstrual products ending up in landfills. The average person who menstruates uses around 11,000 disposable period products in their lifetime. And it's not just the products themselves — there's usually an extra layer or two of plastic wrapped around the items for sanitation that gets discarded.
Although menstrual hygiene products are all but necessary, the waste that comes with them doesn't have to be. Period panties can be reused for up to 2 years, making them a viable solution compared to traditional hygiene products.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
When choosing our top recommended period underwear, we looked at factors including:
- Materials: Safe and quality fabrics ensure breathability and effectiveness for your panties. Each product below contains nontoxic materials and uses fabrics to make customers as comfortable as possible.
- Absorbency: Ranging from very light days to a heavier flow, we have you covered for every type of absorbency level. You can rest assured you'll be able to change your menstruation products less often and without hassle.
- Leak protection: Say goodbye to misaligned pads and accidental tampon leaks. Period panties move with you and provide leak protection with multiple absorbent layers and inner-thigh seals.
- Inclusive marketing: We want to celebrate companies that celebrate you. Each brand below promotes an inclusive and diverse market to ensure a comfortable menstruation cycle for everyone.
- Customer reviews: With each menstrual product recommendation, we take into consideration what previous customers have to say to ensure your future satisfaction.
Best Overall: Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear
Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear is our top pick for the best period underwear because of its popularity, absorbency, comfort and stylish features. Thinx is one of the most well-known and respected period underwear companies on the market, and its products feel identical to regular underwear.
The Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear binds to the body comfortably and securely with its built-in leak protection. As your flow is contained, it also provides a leak-resistant moisture barrier to keep you feeling dry even during the most active part of your cycle. These panties can hold up to 5.5 teaspoons, which is equivalent to three tampons. Once full, simply machine wash with cold water, then hang them to dry before reusing.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "Absolutely amazing. I bought a few pairs and I wore these and these alone (no pads or tampons) for my entire period. I was super comfy and never had a leak. Pay attention to the absorbency level and make sure you are getting the super absorbent for heavy flow days." — Mom Skills Blog via Amazon
Why Buy: These period panties feature a patented absorbency design and come in a variety of colors. The Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear is Thinx's best-selling pair of panties and are certified according to Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX®️.
Best Leak Protection: Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear
Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear is the ultimate choice for preventing leakage on heavy days. These period panties have multiple layers and incorporate the company's proprietary Leak-Loc technology that draws moisture away from the body. They're also designed to provide extended coverage, so you can sleep without the worry of waking up in the middle of the night to change.
Made of cotton, polyester and nylon, this sleek-feeling underwear comes in black and sand colors and can hold up to five tampons' worth of fluid. Proof also sells underwear designed to handle other types of leaks, including bladder leaks, sweat and postpartum leaks.
Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars with about 25 ratings on Proof's website
Standout Review: "One thing I was worried about was feeling hot, but they are so breathable and comfortable I forgot I was even on my period. I was also worried it would be gross, but rinsing them out, I was more just impressed with how much they held. There's no odor and, amazingly, I felt dry all day. Absolutely the best way to period." — Artamisha Y. via Proof's websiteWhy Buy: Proof is HSA/FSA approved and has a large range of options for every size and absorbency level. The Proof website even contains a quiz to properly find your perfect underwear match.
Best 100% Cotton: Cora Period Underwear
Cora was started with the intent to help people with menstrual cycles around the world and relieve them of the stigmatized shame they may feel when it comes to periods. The 100% cotton Cora Period Underwear includes transparently sourced materials that make it perfect for period protection, especially for those who are UTI-prone or have sensitive skin.
This breathable underwear can absorb the equivalent of three tampons or 95 milliliters and features an ultra-soft waistband. The bikini-style panties provide full coverage and a moisture-wicking core to keep you dry and comfortable throughout the day. They're preferable for light to medium flows and can be used alongside other period products like a menstrual cup for extra protection.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 90 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "I ordered these again after receiving my first pair. They're comfortable, not really thick and not unpleasant to have on thought the whole day. [I] used these on my heavy days no problem. I like using a cup but sometimes can't be bothered with it early in the morning; that's where these undies step in. I say get them." — A via AmazonWhy Buy: This bikini underwear contains only nontoxic, OEKO-TEX certified cotton to provide comfortable menstrual support for the most sensitive skin. A portion of every purchase helps Cora provide period hygiene products and health education to children and teens around the world.
Best High-Absorbency Underwear: 4period High Absorbency Period Panties
Made with bamboo-derived fabric and spandex, the 4period High Absorbency Period Panties are able to hold 50 milliliters of fluid (the equivalent of four super plus tampons). These super-absorbent undies are designed to protect in all the right places; they're lined with front and high-back absorbent layers, which make them suitable for tossing and turning at night.
With sizes ranging from small to 3XL, these full-coverage undies offer breathable and moisture-wicking leak protection for all shapes and sizes. The viscose bamboo fabric and high-absorbency liners can easily be machine washed. You can purchase a single pair of underwear or a five-pack for use every weekday.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "I've used these for a few months now and they are great. There are no leaks or smells. They are easy to clean. I will definitely be ordering more." — S Henneke via AmazonWhy Buy: This underwear includes nontoxic materials and is free of PFAs, which can be irritating to sensitive skin. 4period is diverse in its products, with period underwear available in every style of cut as well as a wide range of sizing options.
Best for Teens: Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear
Starting your cycle can be daunting at first, but with the help of Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear, teens can feel comfortable and secure. These period undies are specifically designed for developing bodies, so they come in smaller proportions for a perfect fit and to prevent leakage.
The teen period underwear comes in a range of colors and styles, including bikini, briefs and boyshorts. Each pair is made with organic cotton and can hold the equivalent of four to five tampons. Machine washable, tagless and odor-controlled, these period undies will provide reliable yet comfortable protection to make sure your teen is always prepared.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 800 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "My daughter is 12 and started her period a few months ago. She is also a competitive cheerleader, and wearing a thick pad wasn't really an option. She wasn't comfortable wearing a tampon… I bought these, and my daughter … said they fit so nice, are comfortable and it doesn't feel like she is wearing a 'diaper.'" — N. Coombs via AmazonWhy Buy: Certified to OEKO-TEX Standard 100, you don't have to worry about harmful substances or unsustainable production when purchasing this product. Plus, if Thinx period underwear isn't for you after two months of wearing, you can get a full refund.
Best Budget Option: Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear
If you're looking to try period underwear but aren't ready to invest money into a pair you don't know if you'll like, Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear will give you the best bang for your buck. This underwear offers high absorbency, leak protection and comes at an affordable price.
The full-coverage briefs can hold three to four tampons' worth and are made with 95% bamboo viscose. They're soft, smooth and have a high-waisted design that offers full coverage from front to rear in order to ease your mind while you sleep at night. Replace the need for single-use products and try these affordable period panties to see if period underwear is right for you.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "Upped my underwear game in the past year, since it protects a pretty delicate area of the body. Adding a few absorbent styles was one of the best decisions I've ever made, and this pair is in my top two! Fits me exactly as expected (I struggle with waistbands staying up since my middle is bigger than my bottom) and is really comfortable." — Amber M via Amazon
Why Buy: Goat Union's fabric has been tested for harmful substances and has been certified safe and sustainable by OEKO-TEX. The padded underwear can be used alone or as backup protection with other menstrual products. It can also be used for postpartum leaks and incontinence issues.
Caring for Your Period Panties
Once you're done with your period underwear for the day, rinse them with cold water. If the period underwear is machine-washable (some are not, so be sure to check your pair), place them in a washable mesh bag and throw them on a delicate or gentle cycle with cold water. Try to use a mild laundry detergent and never use softener or bleach, since these can deteriorate the absorbency layers.
If you want to help your period underwear last even longer, try to hand-wash them to help the fabric's integrity. Once your underwear is washed, make sure to always hang them to dry (putting them in the dryer can shrink and distort the materials).
Period panties are usually designed to be stain-resistant and odor-free, but if you're looking for extra care, you can always use natural remedies such as applying white vinegar or lemon juice directly to the desired area before washing.
Frequently Asked Questions: Period Underwear
Does period underwear really work?
Yes, period underwear really works. These products are made with multiple protective layers to replace traditional single-use menstrual products like tampons, liners and pads and to make you more comfortable during your menstrual cycle. They can be worn during the day, overnight or as backup protection.
Can you wear period underwear all day?
Much like tampons and pads, how long you can wear menstrual underwear depends on the product's absorbency level and your flow. For lighter days, you can typically wear a single pair for a full day. When it comes to heavier days, make sure to use high-absorbency panties to get the most out of each pair and prevent the need to change mid-day.
Can you leak with period underwear?
Like all menstrual products, period panties have a max absorbency amount but usually can withstand much more than the average tampon or pad. Most period panties hold at least two times more than tampons. Some period underwear, such as Proof's Leakproof Hipster Underwear, contains barriers to prevent leaking even if the absorbent layer is completely full.
Can you wear period underwear without a pad?
Period underwear can easily be worn alone. Just ensure you purchase the correct absorbency level according to your flow. Made with moisture-wicking barriers, absorbency layers and leak-proof seals, you can count on period panties to keep you comfortable and protected without the bulky feeling of a pad. However, you can also use them alongside your usual menstrual products if desired.
A solar system can provide electricity for over two decades, saving homeowners thousands of dollars in power bills over time. Getting familiarized with the main types of solar panels is a useful first step when deciding on a solar panel system. This way, you can pick the best option for your home or business.
No matter which type of solar panel you choose for your project, make sure it's a high-quality product with a solid manufacturer warranty. Getting a professional installation is also critical, since even the best solar panels can malfunction when wired incorrectly. Poor workmanship can also create a fire risk, and the warranty will be voided if solar panels are not used as indicated by the manufacturer.
If you're ready to get a quote for a home solar installation, you can use this tool or fill out the free form below to get connected to a certified professional in your area.
3 Main Types of Solar Panels
You will find that solar panels come in many sizes, ranging from large commercial modules that are nearly 7 feet tall to compact and portable panels that fit in your pocket. However, the vast majority can be classified into three main types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each uses materials that produce electric power when they receive sunlight, but the specific materials used in the panels are different.
Like in any design decision, each type of solar panel has pros and cons, which are summarized below:
Type of Solar Panel
+ Highest efficiency, which means more kilowatt-hours per square foot covered
+ Long lifespan (25 years or more)
- Most expensive type of solar panel
+ Balanced cost and efficiency: intermediate between monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels
+ Long lifespan (25 years or more)
- Lower efficiency than mono panels
- High temperatures can lower their productivity and durability
+ High temperatures only have a small impact on their productivity
+ Lower weight than mono and poly solar panels
+ Lowest cost per panel
+ There are flexible and adhesive thin-film panels available
- Lowest efficiency, which means fewer kilowatt-hours per square foot covered
- Generally less durable than mono and poly solar panels
Polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels both use solar cells made of silicon crystals, but with a different physical structure. On the other hand, thin-film solar panels use non-crystalline silicon or other photovoltaic materials.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency ratings in the industry. These solar panels can normally convert over 20% of sunlight into electricity, and the most efficient panels now exceed 22% efficiency. Mono panels are an excellent choice when you have limited roof space, since they will generate more electricity per square foot.
Mono solar panels are also characterized by their black photovoltaic cells, and many homeowners prefer this appearance over the lighter blue tone of poly solar panels. The main downside of these panels is their high cost, but in return, they give you more electricity per panel you purchase.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels have a lower efficiency than monocrystalline silicon panels — typically below 17% — but they are also more affordable. High efficiency really only becomes critical when your roof has limited space for solar panels and you need to make the most of the available area. When space is not a limitation, you can simply install a few additional polycrystalline panels to compensate for their lower efficiency.
Contrary to popular belief, lower efficiency does not mean lower quality when comparing solar panels. In the case of polycrystalline panels, this is just a consequence of their material property: They have multiple silicon crystals per cell, as opposed to a single crystal that carries electrons more efficiently. You can find high-quality solar panels of both types, mono and poly, with solid warranties from their manufacturers.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are not divided into cells like polycrystalline and monocrystalline modules. Instead, their entire surface has layers of photovoltaic material. Since these panels use material layers instead of rigid cells, they can be manufactured to be flexible and lightweight. There are also adhesive thin-film panels, which can be used on windows and other vertical surfaces. These panels are also popular for RV solar energy systems.
However, thin-film panels generally have a lower efficiency than the other two types, which means you need to cover a larger area to produce as much power as mono and poly panels. For this reason, thin-film panels are more suitable for large commercial and industrial rooftops, or ground-mounted solar farms. They are not normally recommended for homes, since they need too much space to be productive.
Key Differences: Design, Cost & Efficiency
When comparing solar panels, the purchase decision is often based on appearance, cost and efficiency. While all types of solar panels perform the same function, there are important differences between them in these three areas:
How Different Types of Solar Panels Look
The appearance of solar panels can be described based on their color and number of cells.
- Monocrystalline solar panels have black cells with cropped corners, and most panels have 60 or 72 silicon solar cells. The latest designs use 120 or 144 half-cells that boost efficiency, but panel dimensions are roughly the same.
- Polycrystalline solar panels have blue cells with sharp corners. Like mono panels, they are normally available with 60 or 72 cells (or 120 or 144 half-cells in newer models).
- Thin-film solar panels have a uniform surface with layers of photovoltaic material, instead of separate solar cells. Their color depends on the material composition, and you can find black, blue or even gray thin-film panels.
Cost of Each Solar Panel Type
The specific price of a home solar system will depend on the panel brand and model, as well as local labor costs. Also keep in mind that your total installed cost of solar will include components like the inverter, racking, wiring and circuit breakers. However, the cost of solar panels themselves can be ranked as follows:
- Monocrystalline: Highest price
- Polycrystalline: Intermediate price
- Thin-film: Lowest price
This is the general pricing trend you can expect, but there may be exceptions.
Efficiency and Power Ratings
The efficiency and power output of solar panels is closely related, since a higher efficiency means more watts with the available sunshine. However, you also need to consider the dimensions of solar panels, since a larger product has more area to collect sunlight.
Assuming you compare solar panels of similar sizes, you can expect the following ranking when it comes to efficiency and wattage:
- Monocrystalline: Top efficiency, typically over 19%
- Polycrystalline: Medium efficiency, typically 15-17%
- Thin-film: Lowest efficiency, typically below 15%
Solar manufacturers are constantly investing in research, and all three types of solar panels have been improving over time thanks to new technology. There are now thin-film panels that can match the efficiency of mono and poly panels in laboratory conditions. However, they are not widely available as commercial products yet.
What Are The Different Types of Solar Panels Made Of?
The appearance and efficiency rating of solar panels depends on their material composition. While having high efficiency is favorable, this metric is overestimated in some cases. There are high-quality solar panels of all three types, and you can get excellent results with polycrystalline and thin-film panels when space is abundant.
As mentioned above, polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels are both made of crystalline silicon wafers. However, the microscopic structure of those crystals is different in each type of panel:
- Monocrystalline solar cells are made from PV cells that are cut from a single crystal of pure silicon (hence the prefix "mono"). This is an advanced manufacturing process, which is a key reason why mono solar panels have higher prices.
- Polycrystalline solar cells are made from multiple crystalline silicon fragments that are melted together during the manufacturing process, and they are also called multicrystalline for this reason. Their manufacturing process is simpler, since there is no need to carefully grow a single crystal of silicon. This leads to a lower cost, but also a lower efficiency.
- Thin-film solar panels don't use silicon crystal cells. Instead, they use thin layers of photovoltaic material. The most common chemical compositions are copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and amorphous silicon (a-Si).
Choosing the Right Panel for Your Solar Installation
Monocrystalline solar panels are often considered the "best" due to their superior efficiency, but any of the three types of solar panels can achieve great performance when used in the right applications. Efficiency is only one of several performance metrics, and there are cases where polycrystalline panels offer a better return per dollar invested. Thin-film panels may not have the best efficiency, but their low weight and reduced thickness make them viable in applications where the other types are impractical.
If you're a homeowner who wants to maximize electricity production with limited roof space, monocrystalline panels are the recommended option. The same applies if you have plenty of space but want your solar panel system to be as compact as possible. Finally, mono panels are recommended if you prefer the black color of their solar cells.
When space is not a limitation for your home solar system, you can also consider polycrystalline solar panels. They are also recommended when you want to keep the budget as low as possible: Assuming equally sized systems with the same number of panels, the total cost will be less with polycrystalline options.
Thin-film solar panels are not generally recommended for residential roofs. Since their efficiency is low, you need to cover a much larger area with more panels to achieve a significant output. However, thin-film panels are excellent for recreational vehicles and camping, as they are lighter and more portable. You can also find thin-film solar panels with flexible or adhesive designs, which can be used in surfaces that are not suitable for the other two types.
So, which type of solar panel is best for your home? To find out for sure, you'll need to talk to a solar installer near you. Most of the best solar companies offer free consultations that can tell homeowners what type of panels they should buy and how much they will cost.
To get started, you can use this tool or fill out the form below and get connected to a pre-screened solar installer in your area.Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015.
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Are SunPower's popular solar panels the best on the market?
SunPower and its solar panels consistently rank among the most popular in the nation for their exceptional efficiency, performance and warranty. In this SunPower solar panels review, we'll discuss how the industry leader's best solar panels line up against competitors' top products.
With roots in solar technology and manufacturing, SunPower's solar modules actually predated the company's success in the installation market. To expand its installation services, SunPower announced in late 2021 that it would spin off its manufacturing arm into a new company, Maxeon Solar. SunPower's solar panels are still branded after their original namesake.
SunPower Solar Panel
Homeowners who want the best product available
Space-constrained projects, like homes with small roofs
320 W, 327 W or 435 W
Residential projects and smaller commercial operations
380 to 400 W
Commercial installations or projects without space constraints
SunPower Solar Panel Efficiency
The first solar panel ever invented only had about a 6% efficiency rate — meaning only 6% of the energy striking the panel is converted into usable alternating current (AC) electricity. Even today, the most efficient solar panels in development only convert about 40% at the very most.
SunPower's ratings of 19-22% (varying with the different models available) are significantly higher than most conventional panels on the market today, providing a variety of benefits. These include:
- Requiring a lower overall cost: Since high-efficiency solar panels have a better power output, the number of panels you need on your home is reduced, which can lead to lower total costs.
- Providing more power for the usable space: Along the same lines, high-efficiency panels provide more energy potential with less space. This means homeowners with less available roof space can still be good candidates for SunPower solar panels.
- Being more sustainable overall: Not only do high-efficiency panels provide more bang for your buck, but they also help to lower your impact. Fewer panels require fewer materials, therefore reducing the energy and waste that goes into your SunPower system.
Temperature coefficient is another way to describe solar panels' performance in varying conditions. Solar panels operate at an ideal temperature of around 75 degrees F, and their performance can degrade with temperatures significantly above or below that figure. The smaller the temperature coefficient, the less performance suffers when temperatures change.
SunPower solar panels currently hold a temperature coefficient between -.35 and -.29, some of the best on the market today. If you live in a climate that stays mild year-round, temperature coefficient will be less of a factor in your solar panel choice.
SunPower Solar Panel Warranty
Solar panels are known for their durability, but a warranty is still a hugely important consideration in your purchase. Luckily, product warranties come attached to the purchase of most systems. These are good for at least 10 years, and the best cover performance up to 25 years.
Most solar panel product warranties cover the following:
- Defective products
- Failed parts
Most solar panel product warranties do not cover the following:
- Underperforming systems resulting from poor installation or products
- Workmanship errors like roof leaks
- Accidents like tree branches falling on your panels or squirrels chewing through wires
SunPower's 25-year complete confidence warranty offers the following to address a number of the common pitfalls of solar warranties:
- All-in-one product warranty: Systems built with products from different manufacturers can result in a customer getting passed back and forth between companies as they shift blame for a failed part or system. SunPower's warranty, however, covers the complete system to ensure your problem is resolved in one place.
- Removal and shipping costs of defective parts: Conventional warranties usually don't cover the costs of removing and shipping defective or damaged parts. SunPower's warranty ensures no extra costs in replacing panels or other parts.
- Power production guarantee: Power production guarantees are performance warranties that ensure your solar system will operate at at least 90% of its original power production for 25 years. Conventional solar warranties may not cover replacement parts if your solar system's degradation rate is higher than expected.
Overall, companies like SunPower and Sunpro are making all-in-one system warranties more commonplace. The results are paying dividends.
Cost of SunPower Solar Panels
The cost of solar is difficult to predict by provider, since project prices vary so much with your location, electricity bills and energy needs. When you get a quote from SunPower, the price tag may seem a little higher than average, since its business focuses on efficiency. But remember, purchasing more efficient panels will save you more in the long run.
The best way to get a firm understanding of how much SunPower solar would cost you is to reach out and get a free quote. Even better would be to get quotes from SunPower and a few other local companies to compare prices. Keep in mind the quality of panels you're considering, as the cheapest solar panels don't always provide the best value.
How to Pay For SunPower Solar Panels
SunPower offers three general solar financing plans, all of which come with SunPower's 25-year warranty:
- Cash purchase: Purchasing a solar power system upfront from SunPower will provide the best solar payback period and the highest return on your investment. If you're able to get the money together, this method is the most cost-effective.
- Purchase with a solar loan: SunPower can help you take out a loan with one of its partners. With this loan, you can purchase the system and pay back the loan. Most loans are repaid within five to 12 years. If you choose to purchase a system with a solar loan, you'll still be eligible for the solar tax credit, and your solar panels will increase the value of your property. However, because of the interest you'll be paying on your loan, this option ends up costing a little more than a cash purchase.
- Solar lease: SunPower provides solar leases, through which you rent solar panels from SunPower. SunPower retains ownership of the panels so you lose the benefits of net metering, the solar tax credit and adding to your property value. Solar leases offer a low-upfront cost option with less return on the backend. Though less advantageous than purchasing a system, leases extend the benefits of solar to homeowners who may have low credit or don't want to deal with the hassle of purchasing and maintaining panels.
Here's a recap of each financing option available for SunPower solar panels:
Solar Loan Purchase
Solar panel ownership
You own the system
You own the system
SunPower owns the system
Eligible for tax credit?
Adds to your property value?
Money required upfront?
Overall SunPower Solar Panels Review
SunPower sets the industry standard for solar panel efficiency, performance and warranty. Customers with SunPower solar panels review them well, leaving great reviews such as the following:
"Five stars for the [most] efficient modules with the best warranty." — David S. via the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
"We chose SunPower because … their panels produce more than any other company. Our roof is not consumed with panels. We literally have half the amount of our neighbors." — Theresa D. via BBB
The company's all-in-one system approach simplifies the solar process without sacrificing quality. It's hard to go wrong with SunPower's solar panels, but we especially recommend them to homeowners with limited roof space.
If you're interested in seeing how much a solar panel system would cost for your home, you can get a free, no-obligation quote using this tool or by filling out the form below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What solar panels does SunPower use?
SunPower uses its own solar panels that are manufactured through Maxeon, the company's manufacturing arm. SunPower currently offers four types of panels: A Series, X Series, E Series and P Series. These panels are designed to cater to different energy needs.
Is SunPower Solar legit?
SunPower is a legitimate solar company performing both residential and commercial installations throughout the nation. SunPower consistently ranks among the best solar companies in the U.S. and offers high-quality, high-efficiency solar panels.
Does NASA use SunPower panels?
NASA initially chose SunPower solar panels to fuel its unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs) while they were in flight. Since 1997, NASA has continued to work with SunPower on rover projects and more. SunPower actually got its start as an engineering firm and solar panel manufacturer after its founders were inspired by the use of solar on space crafts.Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
Brazil's Amazon has lost an area about 17 times the size of New York City this year.
The new data, WWF Brazil head Mauricio Voivodic told Reuters, shows "the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with imaginary discourses and greenwashing efforts abroad. What the reality shows is that the Bolsonaro government has accelerated the course of the Amazon's destruction."
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro came to power in 2018 with a pledge to open more of the Amazon rainforest to development. Since then, deforestation has increased as forest has been cleared for agriculture and mining, BBC News reported.
The latest satellite data from INPE shows that 5,110 square miles of forest were lost between August 2020 and July 2021, up 22 percent from the year before and the highest since 2006, Reuters reported. The area lost is almost 17 times the size of New York City.
The news came the day after another study from independent research group the Institute for Man and the Environment of the Amazon (Imazon) found that deforestation had increased 33 percent during the first 10 months of 2021, compared with the first 10 months of 2020, as CNN reported.
The release of the space agency data after COP26 casts additional doubts on how Brazil presented itself at the conference. The new data was actually dated to October 27, indicating it was held until after the conference concluded November 12, BBC News reported. However, during the summit Brazil's government shared data indicating a slight decline in deforestation.
"The government went to COP26 knowing the deforestation data and hid it," Brazilian advocacy group Climate Observatory told Reuters.
Environment Minister Joaquim Leite told BBC News that the data did not entirely reflect the situation over the last few months, but that the numbers were a "challenge."
Forests like the Amazon are an important sink for carbon dioxide, CNN noted. However, when they are cut down or degraded, that carbon is released. Because of pressure put on the forest by human activity, some parts of the Amazon have begun to emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb. Overall, deforestation is responsible for around 10 percent of global emissions.
The Bolsonaro regime has been trying to defend itself against criticisms of its handling of the Amazon since devastating wildfires caught international attention in 2019. This week, Bolsonaro told investors in Dubai that depictions of his policies were "unfair" and that 90 percent of the forest was still preserved, as Katy Watson reported for BBC News.
The new data casts further doubt on his credibility.
"[W]ith numbers like these, who can believe Jair Bolsonaro now?" Watson said.
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So, you've read up on the best solar panels available and have decided to prioritize efficiency. Smart move. Buying the most efficient solar panels provides you with the most bang for your buck when working with limited roof space and is often (but not always) the best choice for homeowners.
In its simplest terms, solar panel efficiency refers to the amount of sunlight that falls on the panels that is converted into energy, or solar power. In this article, we'll break down what makes solar efficiency important and help you pinpoint the most efficient solar panels for your home.
If you're ready to seek out a certified solar installer in your area, you can use this tool or fill out the form below to get connected and receive a free quote.
Understanding the Efficiency of Solar Panels
Efficiency measures the amount of electricity a solar panel produces relative to the amount of sunlight (or irradiation) that strikes its surface. The most efficient solar panels on the market today only reach about 22.8% (shoutout to SunPower) — meaning that the panel converts about 22.8% of the sun's irradiance into usable AC electricity.
This may sound like a small amount, but the rapid progress of solar technology has surpassed most expectations. Only about 10 years ago, solar panels averaged around 15% efficiency. The first solar panels from the mid-1950s only reached an efficiency of 2%. There are currently panels in development reaching efficiency levels nearing 50% that we may see hit the market sometime in the future.
Tracking Solar Panel EfficiencyData Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
What Are the Most Efficient Solar Panels Available Today?
With so many recent advancements in solar technology, let's take a look at the most efficient solar panels available in 2022. Based on our research, these are the best solar panels for efficiency at the time of publication:
Most Efficient Solar Panels
SunPower Maxeon M-Series
LG NeON R
Jinko Solar Tiger Neo
REC Solar Alpha
Trina Solar Vertex S
FuturaSun FU M Zebra
LONGi Solar Hi-MO 5
Q Cells Q.Peak DUO G9+
Power refers to the wattage output capacity of the panel. The more powerful the panel, the more electricity it is able to produce. Note that power works in conjunction with efficiency, rather than determining it.
What Determines Solar Panel Efficiency?
Two main factors determine solar panel efficiency: the makeup of the photovoltaic (PV) cell, and the structure of the panel. You might wonder what differentiates the two.
Solar Cell Efficiency
A solar cell is the smallest unit within a solar panel, usually composed of silicon atoms. The photovoltaic effect — which is the process by which sunlight is turned into electricity — happens in the solar cells themselves, and solar panels join together multiple cells to produce higher amounts of power and allow that power to flow through a home.
Solar cells on a solar panelvisdia / Getty Images
The most efficient types of solar panels are usually monocrystalline (rather than polycrystalline or thin-film). In this type of panel, the solar cell is cut from one solid silicon crystal. This leads to fewer imperfections in the cell, making them more capable of absorbing sunlight and, thus, more efficient.
It's possible you've heard about N-type or P-type solar cells in your research as well. This won't matter very much to the average customer, but if you're curious, these solar cell types differ in their chemistry due to the number of electrons they carry. N-type cells are negatively charged (via phosphorus), while P-type cells are positively charged (via boron). Multi-junction solar cells exist, too, made with both P- and N-type materials.
Solar Panel Efficiency
Overall solar panel efficiency has more to do with the structure of the panel itself. Even if you have the most efficient solar cells available, the next step is to gather those electrons and direct a current in a specific direction. A solar panel has to be as smoothly interconnected as possible, so as not to lose any energy in this part of the process. Temperature, cell type and design will have a large effect on overall efficiency in this context.
Why Is Solar Panel Efficiency Important?
It would be unfair to equate the most efficient solar panels with the best solar panels, as a number of other factors — namely durability, cost, warranty and power — can have a large impact on overall quality.
However, in residential solar, efficiency is typically one of the more important considerations. Here's why.
Quicker Payback Period
The more efficient your solar power system, the higher your power output will be, and the more quickly you'll recoup your initial investment. The cost of solar panels can be intimidating, but efficient panels will help slash a larger portion of your electricity bills, accelerating your solar payback period.
Something else to keep in mind is that the more efficient your solar panels are, the lower number of solar panels and inverters you'll need to achieve your home energy goals.
Better for Limited Space
Many residential solar energy projects are confined in terms of space available for solar panels. Some might see their roofs and think there's plenty of space, but zoning laws and regulations often require spaces between panels and gaps between the arrays and the sides of the roof. For homes with less roof space, high-efficiency panels allow you to do more with less.
In commercial solar installations where you have more space to work with, efficiency won't be as big a factor.
Doing More With Less
In addition to working with limited space, requiring fewer solar panels lowers the impact of your solar project itself. As Dr. Yifeng Chen, head of efficiency research and development at Trina Solar, says, "improving module efficiency is a key to helping customers save land, labor, cables, etc."
The highest-efficiency solar panels require fewer materials, shipping costs and waste. It may not seem like much to shave off one or two panels from your solar array, but seeing as the U.S. averages some 3 million solar installations per quarter, the impact can add up.
Other Factors Impacting Efficiency
At the risk of getting too technical, here are a number of other aspects of solar panels that factor into efficiency.
The spectrum of light that a solar cell is able to absorb can vary. Most modern solar cell technology is only capable of capturing visible light, excluding other wavelengths like infrared and UV rays. In general, the wider the spectrum of light that can be captured, the more efficient the cell will be. Some researchers are currently focusing on solar cells capable of capturing infrared rays, which would dramatically increase efficiency.
High temperatures and extreme weather conditions can put a lot of stress on a solar panel. In fact, solar panels are actually more effective in colder conditions when they can work without overheating. Panels that are durable, and that can withstand high temperatures, will have greater overall efficiency and lifespan.
Solar panels need a protective coating on them to ensure their longevity. What's challenging, however, is that this protective coating shouldn't reflect any of the potential energy the solar cells are trying to capture. Higher-efficiency panels will have high-quality protective coatings that reflect the least light possible, increasing overall energy production.
Environmental Factors Affecting Efficiency
While solar panel efficiency is determined in large part by solar cell technology and the construction of the panels themselves, there are also a number of other real-world contributors to the overall amount of power your system will be able to generate.
Climate and Latitude
Climate and latitude have a large impact on the overall efficiency of your solar energy system. The closer you live to the equator, the more direct sunlight you'll receive on an annual basis. Climate factors in as well. If you live somewhere rainy or often covered by clouds, you won't get as much production out of your system.
Solar Panel Orientation
Similar to the role of latitude, your panel orientation will affect efficiency. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the best direction for your solar panels to face is south (and north if you're in the southern hemisphere), as this is how they will get the most direct sunlight. If your roof isn't at a great angle for solar, your system will be less efficient.
Dirt, Dust or Grime Buildup
This factor is particularly unappreciated — you might be surprised how much production you lose when you don't clean your panels. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to give your panels the routine maintenance they deserve to keep your home powered on clean energy.
How to Find the Most Efficient Solar Panels
Solar panel manufacturers continue to make large strides in solar panel efficiency as the industry continues to recognize its value. Highly efficient, monocrystalline panels are ideal for residential solar systems, as those projects typically have the least amount of space to work with. For this reason, most top solar companies should be certified to sell and install the most efficient solar panels listed above.
If you're looking to invest in high-efficiency panels, we recommend getting in touch with solar installers near you to inquire about their product portfolios. Now that you know so much about solar efficiency and why it matters, you'll be well prepared to find the proposal with the best value for your money.
To start getting in touch with certified local installers, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.
FAQ: Most Efficient Solar Panels
What is the most efficient solar panel?
As of publication, SunPower's M-Series panels hold the throne for the most efficient solar panels on the market, at 22.8% efficiency. Though there are more efficient solar panels in development, it will be some time before they're available commercially.
Can solar panels be 100% efficient?
"In science, nothing is ever 100%." — Michio Kaku
For a common solar panel to be 100% efficient, it would have to convert all potential energy that strikes its surface area into AC electricity. This means a solar panel would need to absorb no heat, cover every spectrum of light, not reflect any light, and not lose a single electron over decades of complex chemical processes.
However, there is research being done on what's called "multiple exciton generation" (MEG). Researchers claim solar cells have surpassed 100% efficiency using MEG, a process by which "a single high energy photon can produce more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon. The extra efficiency comes from quantum dots 'harvesting' energy that would otherwise be lost as heat." So, 100% efficiency may be attainable if we think outside the box.
Which solar panels produce the most electricity?
Another way to phrase this might be, "which solar panels are the most powerful?" This is measured by wattage. This past year was a landmark year for the power of solar panels, as some commercial and industrial panels from brands like Jinko and Trina are nearing 700 W.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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The best solar string lights add a classy, welcoming flair to any outdoor space. From bespoke rooftop parties to boho backyard hangouts, solar string lights allow you to achieve an ideal ambiance powered by 100% renewable solar energy.
But with so many options on the market, how do you know which outdoor solar string lights to buy? In this article, we'll recommend a few top products as well as explain factors to consider when purchasing solar-powered lighting.
Best Solar String Lights
Switching to solar-powered outdoor patio lights can give you an eco-friendly light source that doesn't raise your electricity bill. To choose the best solar string lights, we looked at durability, ease of use, charge time and run time, lumens, cost, customer reviews and more. Based on these factors, here are our top picks for solar-powered string lights:
|Best Solar String Lights||Our Award||Buy Now|
|Brightech Ambience Pro Solar |
Powered Outdoor String Lights
|Best Overall||Check Price|
|Sunlitec Solar String Lights||Best Backyard Lights||Check Price|
|YIQU Ultra-Long LED |
Solar String Lights
|Best Solar Fairy Lights||Check Price|
|Brightown Outdoor |
Solar String Lights
|Best Color-Changing String Lights||Check Price|
|Toodour Solar String Lights||Best Solar String Lights Under $15||Check Price|
These Italian cafe-style LED string lights feature 3,000K vintage Edison bulbs, making them perfect for a patio, porch, gazebo, pergola, bistro or any other space needing some warm vintage vibes. They're bright enough to light a space for eating without being overpowering.
The Brightech Ambience Pro solar string lights have a five- to six-hour runtime on a full charge. They take six hours to charge in direct sunlight with the included solar panel. Weatherproof, shatter-resistant and durable, these high-quality solar string lights will hold up through inclement weather. They're available in 27-foot and 48-foot sections that can be strung together to light any space.
- Bright enough to be practical
- Weatherproof, shock-resistant and shatterproof plastic bulbs
- Replaceable bulbs and batteries
- Excellent two-year warranty
- Multi-strand stringing
- Auto on/off plus manual shut off switch
- Only one lighting mode
- No remote control
- May not be bright enough for every application
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 16,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Brightech Ambience Pro solar string lights give a dreamy vintage feel to any outdoor space. The features and durability of these lights, plus their versatility, make them the perfect energy-efficient light for nearly any commercial or residential outdoor area.
Best Backyard Lights: Sunlitec Solar String Lights
Indoor/outdoor lights made to perform and please, Sunlitec's solar string lights are adorned with 25 durable LEDs along a 27-foot stringer. Four brightness modes provide warm 3,000K light to set the mood for any occasion. Solar charge time is eight hours with the included solar panel, or four hours with USB charging, providing uninterrupted lighting for eight hours per charge.
- Weatherproof and shatter-resistant
- Replaceable glass bulbs
- Four brightness modes
- Dual charging options
- Short length from first bulb to solar panel (1.5-2 feet)
- Non-replaceable battery
- Off switch located on solar panel, no remote control
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: We love the Sunlitec Solar String Lights' multiple light modes and bulb density (one lightbulb about every 10 inches). Partnered with dual charging options, this lighting set may be a great fit for your year-round backyard solar lighting needs.
Best Solar Fairy Lights: YIQU Ultra-Long LED Solar String Lights
For those looking for twinkling fairy lights, look no further than the YIQU Ulta-Long LED Solar String Lights. Featuring 200 LED bulbs with nine lighting modes strung across 72 feet of copper wire, you'll have plenty of string length to light large areas. Waterproof and durable, these fairy lights will stand up to the elements, making them perfect for adding magical charm to both indoor and outdoor spaces. The lights last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge, with an eight-hour charging time via solar power. Auto on/off and memory mode settings secured a spot on our list of best solar string lights.
- 72 feet long
- Two strings included (72 feet each)
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Multiple lighting modes, including twinkling and static
- Could be higher quality
- Some reviews cite poor weather sealing of solar panels
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 4,600 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Fairy lights are designed for wonder and charm, and this offering from YIQU fits the bill. You'll get impressive features and capabilities not found in similarly priced items. While quality control could be an issue, these lights beat the competition as an overall good performer for solar fairy lights.
Best Multicolor String Lights: Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights
Single-color solar lights won't always cut it. When you need to ring in the holidays, bring home Brightown's Outdoor Solar String Lights. Two 33-foot strings festooned with 100 LED lights feature nine color modes — including wave, sequence, glow, flash, fade, twinkle and static — to fit a variety of decorative needs. The lights illuminate 360 degrees, so you won't have any dark spots. They run eight to 10 hours on a single charge, with lights turning on automatically after dark.
- Multiple modes
- Auto on/off
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Shapeable wire
- Good customer support
- Non-replaceable parts
- Reported quality control issues
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 13,300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Multicolored solar lights are a great alternative to traditional holiday decorative lighting, and Brightown's solar string lights offer exceptional value for the money compared to other lighting types and solar competitors. With their nine lighting modes, incredible modularity, durability and festive pazazz, Brightown's multicolored solar lights are the perfect solar-powered touch to bring home this holiday season.
Best Solar String Lights Under $15: Toodour Solar String Lights
Being on a budget doesn't mean solar string lights are out of reach. We recommend the Toodour solar string lights as the best budget pick, as they have many features that punch above their weight class. Sixty one-inch LED bulbs across 35.6 feet of cording provide warm white light, and they're waterproof for all-year outdoor use. Toodour's string lights feature eight lighting modes for a variety of needs, with lights switching on and off automatically. Bulbs run eight to 12 hours on a single charge, with a six- to eight-hour charging time via the included solar panel.
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Eight lighting modes and memory mode
- Auto on/off
- Generous lead cable for attaching to panel (6.56 feet)
- Quality control can be an issue
- Not exceptionally durable
- Not exceptionally bright
Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 2,300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: While the overall quality of these lights is on par with other budget options, the features are not. Packed with perks not found in similarly priced items, Toodour solar string lights are the best value for budget-minded solar lighting needs.
How Much Do Solar String Lights Cost?
Solar string lights vary in cost depending on multiple factors, including efficiency, durability, materials, brightness, battery life, features and more. Solar string lights usually cost $15 to $100, with more expensive options scoring higher marks for features and quality.
How to Choose the Best Solar String Lights
Solar string lights are most often used for mood lighting, so chances are you're looking for something to add ambience and flair to a patio, porch or indoor space. When shopping for solar string lights, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of lighting do I want out of my string lights?
- Where will they be located?
- Do I need static or multiple lighting modes?
To choose the best solar string light for your space, identify how much lighting you'll actually need: Solar string lights vary significantly in brightness, with some providing serious illumination. Others provide little more light than a candle.
You'll also want to consider ease of use: Do you need plug-and-play ability right out of the box? Auto on/off features? Easy-to-change lighting and memory modes? Other features, like dual charging, battery capacity and charging time, replaceable parts, durability, and cost should be key factors when considering which solar string lights to buy.
FAQ: Best Solar String Lights
What is the best brand of solar string lights?
We chose Brightec's Ambience Pro as the best solar string lights for their awesome features and durability. All of Brightec's products have similar features and quality, so we recommend them as the best brand of solar string lights.
Who makes the best solar fairy lights?
We recommend YIQU Ulta-Long LED Solar String Lights if you're looking for the best solar fairy lights. Each 72-foot string has 200 LED bulbs with nine lighting modes.
What are the brightest and best solar lights?
How well do solar string lights work?
If a unit is properly installed, most solar string lights work very well right out of the box. However, a string light made for ambience lighting might not work for lighting an entire patio. Quality also plays a pivotal role in the long-term functionality of a solar string light.
Christian Yonkers is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.
U..S space agency NASA has released a video and the first ever audio clip from Mars, a faint wind sound captured by the Perseverance rover.
Several images of the landing were released earlier, but it took days for the video signal to be relayed to Earth.
The 3 minute 25 second video clip released on Monday shows the last few kilometers of Perseverance's trip.
After the parachute opens during the descent, the spacecraft touches down on the dusty red surface of the planet.
"These are really amazing videos," Michael Watkins, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a briefing for reporters. "This is the first time we've ever been able to capture an event like the landing on Mars. We all watched them over the weekend many, many times."
NASA also released several new higher resolution panoramic images during the press conference.
Scan this image for the various pieces of my landing system, which did their jobs perfectly before coming to rest o… https://t.co/Izucl5yA5f— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover) 1614027143.0
What Does Mars Sound Like?
Though the two onboard microphones weren't turned on during the descent, the rover was able to capture audio once it landed.
The short audio clip may not be spectacular, but it is the first sound recording from another planet.
NASA is building a "Martian playlist," collected on the website, Sounds of Mars.
"Stay tuned," said NASA. "We may soon hear the sounds of another world."
Now that you’ve seen Mars, hear it. Grab some headphones and listen to the first sounds captured by one of my micro… https://t.co/nEnrUY7Js9— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover) 1614023008.0
The newly launched rover is operating as expected, said Jessica Samuels, Perseverance's surface mission manager.
"I am happy to report that Perseverance is healthy," she said.
In another mission update, the small helicopter Ingenuity, which was delivered by the rover, sent its first status report to the control center in Pasadena, California. According to NASA, it too appears to be "functioning perfectly."
Still attached to the underside of Perseverance, the helicopter will begin exploring Mars in 30 to 60 days, offering viewers a bird's-eye view of the surface.
It would be the first flight of an air vehicle over another planet.
Perseverance's main mission is to search for traces of past microbial life on Mars and study the planet's climate and geology.
The rover itself weighs about 2,200 pounds and is the size of a small car.
On Thursday it set off on another mission, a risky maneuver to a dried-up lake called Jezero Crater. With a diameter of about 28 miles, Perseverance will explore the crater over the next two years.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
The plans for a sanctuary came after Canada passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, which prevents whales and dolphins from being held in captivity, particularly for entertainment.
The sanctuary is planned for Port Hilford Bay in Nova Scotia and will include 110 acres of habitat for the whales. This amount of space will be ideal for about eight whales. The organization wanted to find a spot that would offer plenty of interesting and enriching surroundings for the whales and other wildlife.
An outline of the whale sanctuary planned for Port Hilford Bay in Nova Scotia. Whale Sanctuary Project / YouTube
"The 110 acres that will be the whales' home need to be in an environment that's interesting, varied and enriching, safe and healthy both for them and for all the other living creatures who inhabit the bay," The Whale Sanctuary Project said in an earlier press release. "For example, it should be deep in some places and shallow in others; with a sandy sea floor in some parts and a variable sea floor in others – rich in plant and animal life and basically a place the whales can truly call home."
The planned sanctuary will be positioned about a 20-minute drive from the newly opened Operations Centre, which also doubles as an educational visitors center.
"Visitors will be able to watch interactive video displays to learn about the sanctuary," the nonprofit said. "They can learn about whales in general, and about whales in captivity and how their lives will be changed when they are retired to the natural environment of a sanctuary."
The Whale Sanctuary Project has been working closely with locals, including the Mi'kmaq Nation, those who live in the nearby communities, local fishermen, and the government to create this conservation space for whales.
The plans for a sanctuary came after Canada passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, which prevents whales and dolphins from being held in captivity, particularly for entertainment. Currently, there are over 220 beluga whales and 53 orca whales held in captivity worldwide. These animals are highly intelligent, social creatures who do not do well in the small, confined spaces they are assigned to at aquariums and marine parks. Whales in captivity may become more aggressive or fall more susceptible to illness and higher risk of early death.
The sanctuary will provide a safe, spacious habitat for whales who are rescued from captivity. The organization is looking to raise $20 million for the sanctuary, which it hopes to open in 2023.
Whales Without Walls -- Re-release of the original, including views of the actual sanctuary site. youtu.be
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Whether you're installing a DIY solar panel system or having a top solar company handle the details, you'll want to choose the best solar panels for your home. But with so many options, it can be hard to know which panels you need.
In this article, we'll narrow down the 10 best residential solar panels based on materials, price, efficiency and more. All homes are different, so there's no one best solar panel for every system. It's important for homeowners to assess their specific needs and to select the right solar panels to accommodate their household energy requirements.
Our Top Solar Panels for 2022
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 Temperature Coefficient
- Silfab: Best Warranty
- Canadian Solar: Most Affordable
- Trina Solar: Best Value
- Q Cells: Consumer Favorite
- Mission Solar: Best Small Manufacturer
- REC Solar: Most Reliable
- Windy Nation: 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. To get connected with a solar panel installer in your area, use this tool or fill out the free, no-obligation form below.
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. As a rule of thumb, the less space you have for solar panels, the more efficiency you'll require to get the most from your system.
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, lengthy performance warranty can give you peace of mind after you purchase residential solar panels. In the solar industry, a decent warranty may last anywhere from 10 to 25 years.
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 keep in mind things like durability, efficiency 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 2022.
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 21.7% efficient; the only brand we've found that can surpass that is SunPower.) A competitive price point and robust 25-year warranty just sweeten the deal and make LG the most recommendable of home solar panels.
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's panels have the highest efficiency we've seen: 22.7%. 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. Read our full SunPower review for more information.
Best Temperature Coefficient: Panasonic
Panasonic solar panels have the best temperature coefficient. Basically, that means they 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 — when it gets hot outside and the sun is beating down, your panels will still perform at a high output level.
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.
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 do these solar panels come supported by a robust warranty, but they routinely win 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 has great products that offer tremendous value and is one of our top picks for best solar panels for home use.
Most Affordable: Canadian Solar
If you're looking to secure some decent solar panels at 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 it is 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.
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. The company's 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.
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.
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.
Most Reliable: REC 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.
REC Solar panels are well-regarded for their trustworthiness and durability. REC tests its panels with standards three times as stringent as the industry average to ensure they will perform strongly in even the most extreme conditions.
As you seek solar panels that have a long lifespan and will work well no matter the weather, REC Solar is a company to keep in mind.
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 cabin or RV with solar 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 save 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 17 to 20%, so anything in that range is going to be pretty decent. We'll note that SunPower's panels, with 22.7% 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 panel 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 camping 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 fairly minimal. Besides routine cleaning, you shouldn't have any issues that require maintenance 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 or during a season like spring or fall when there is pollen or falling leaves that can block your panels. 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 energy, 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 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. Fill out the form below or use this tool to get connected with a solar installer in your area.
FAQ: Best Solar Panels of 2022
What are the best solar panels for home use?
The best solar panels for your home will depend on your needs. If you have limited space on your roof, you should probably opt for the most efficient solar panels. If you live in a hot climate, temperature coefficient may be of more importance. Think about what you'd value most in your panels in order to decide which are best.
How many solar panels are needed to run a house?
As with so many answers in solar, the number of panels needed to run a house depends on the situation — primarily the amount of energy that your home and habits require. Contact a local installer to get a free, no-obligation estimate for your home's system.
Which solar panel has the highest efficiency?
As of 2022, SunPower's M and A-Series panels take the top spot for most efficient solar panels on the residential market. Both panels have efficiency ratings of at least 22.7%, the highest we've found.
What are the two main disadvantages of solar energy?
The two biggest disadvantages of solar energy are the upfront expense and the fact that solar is so location dependent. Both public and private sectors are continuing to address these challenges, however, as more companies are adopting flexible payment methods and governments are pushing for more solar-friendly policies.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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In May of 2020, one-third of employed people were conducting their jobs remotely as a result of the coronavirus, up from a mere 6%. While taking our work (and many other aspects of our lives) online seems more sustainable – as our need to travel diminishes and hard copies become all but obsolete – it intensifies our digital carbon footprint, and carries a huge environmental cost.
The daily use of our devices requires a substantial amount of electricity, much of which is generated by fossil fuels. During the first months of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in January-March 2020, internet use grew by 40%, ultimately demanding 42.6 million megawatt-hours of additional electricity, according to a 2021 Yale-led study. The process of manufacturing our computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices also has significant environmental consequences – including the mining and transportation of minerals needed to create their various chips and batteries – as does their disposal. The rapid turnover of electronics that has become commonplace generates massive amounts of e-waste, which ends up in landfills or is transported overseas where hazardous substances leak and pose threats to human health.
Yet, the impact of our digital lives goes beyond these more visible consequences. That email, digital photo album, online workout class, or shared work document saved to the cloud doesn't only exist in some nebulous, carbon-free space. The internet and our stored data are supported by data centers: enormous spaces housing energy-intensive servers that store massive amounts of data, also called server farms. These centers require a lot of electricity to run, including all of the equipment needed to cool the machines and maintain temperature-controlled environments.
These data centers and data transmission networks account for a whopping 2% of global electricity demand, says the International Energy Agency, which is comparable to the entire aviation industry. While some strides are being made towards more energy-efficient data centers, by 2040, the storage of digital data is expected to produce 14% of the world's total emissions, which is roughly what is emitted by the entire U.S. now.
All told, our devices, the internet, and all the systems that support them account for 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is expected to double by 2025.
As we accommodate our new digital reality, take a few steps to lower the impact of your devices and digital presence.
Reduce Your E-Waste
Fifty million tons of electronic waste are generated every year – which is equal to 1,000 laptops thrown away every second – only 12.5% of which is recycled, according to the EPA.
Resist the urge to upgrade whenever a new smartphone or computer model is released, and take care of what you have so it lasts as long as possible. Many products are deliberately manufactured to work for only a certain amount of time – a phenomenon called "planned obsolescence" – and to be difficult to fix on your own. Companies like iFixit provide free repair manuals for all kinds of devices – including iPhones and computers – and sell kits with all the tools you need to conduct the repair yourself. Apple also recently announced a new initiative called Self Service Repair, which will make parts and tools available to customers to fix some of their Apple products.
Before tossing products that still work, consider selling them or donating to local organizations – but, when it does come time to dispose of electronics, be sure to do so correctly. Research places nearby where you can bring e-waste to be recycled. Many municipalities have e-waste collection or drop-off centers, including for larger items that might not be accepted elsewhere. Local nonprofits and environmental organizations often collect e-waste, as do some manufacturers and retailers that have electronics recycling programs for consumers, including Best Buy, HP, Samsung, and Staples.
Save on electricity by powering down devices when not in use. The U.S Department of Energy recommends turning off your computer if you anticipate being away for two hours or more (which is also good for computer health). Turning down the brightness on your device also cuts down on electricity use; dimming the display to 70% can save nearly 20% of the energy used by a monitor.
Make a habit of unplugging chargers, televisions, and desktop computers when not in use – especially if you're leaving home for an extended period of time. A quarter of all energy consumed in the home comes from "phantom power," as many devices still suck up energy when plugged in, even if they're powered down. Plug devices into a power strip or surge protector that can be switched on and off to easily cut energy flow to multiple devices.
Clean Out Cloud Space
One-hundred zettabytes of data – one of which is equal to a trillion gigabytes – will be stored in the cloud by 2025 (imagine a 1 followed by twenty-three zeros) and housed in already-sprawling server farms.
Go through whatever clouds service you use – Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. – periodically and delete files you no longer need. Conduct the same process at work, and have your team approve a clean-out of mutual folders that contain unnecessary or outdated files. Store data locally on your device, or move files you don't access often to an external hard drive.
The "Big Three" cloud-computing giants – Google, Microsoft, and Amazon – have all made pushes to "green" their cloud services; Google comes out on top as the greenest cloud provider with their commitment to carbon neutrality. But environmental groups have expressed skepticism about the validity of these claims by the three companies, due in part to their reliance on emissions-offset projects, which are controversial and often used as a scapegoat for their continued use of fossil fuels.
Before choosing a cloud service for yourself or your business, look into all options available, and take environmental impact and emissions into consideration.
Limit Unnecessary Streaming
Sixty percent of internet traffic comes from videos streamed on platforms like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, to name a few. According to The Shift Project – a French think tank – 300 million tons of carbon dioxide are generated from watching videos every year, which equates to about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
While we can't fault ourselves for kicking back and watching a good show, try to limit unnecessary streaming whenever possible. Don't keep videos playing when you leave the room or after you fall asleep, and turn off auto-play on YouTube. Close tabs on your browser that might play video ads without your knowledge.
Email More Mindfully
Sending an email is, in the end, more environmentally sustainable than delivering a physical letter, and uses only 1.7% of the energy. It does, however, still come at a cost.
Every email (taking into account all the processes behind hitting send) equates to carbon emissions: 0.3 grams of CO2 for a spam email, 4g for a regular email, and 50g for an email with a photo attached. Putting this into perspective, driving a car a little over half a mile produces roughly equivalent emissions to sending 65 emails. One estimate found that, if every adult in the United Kingdom sent one fewer email per day (such as a simple "thank you," or other unnecessary responses), 16,433 tons of carbon could be saved every year: the equivalent of taking 3,334 cars off the road.
Avoid unnecessary emailing by skipping the pleasantries and finding coworkers at the office to talk in person when possible. Delete old emails cluttering your inbox, and unsubscribe from mailing lists you don't need.
Power With Renewables
While individual consumers can't decide how data farms or big tech companies use energy, we can know that our personal devices are powered with energy that doesn't create harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to renewable energy sources – like a small solar electric system – is becoming increasingly possible for individuals, but does still come at an expense. Research which systems are possible for your home based on your budget, energy use, and state/local regulations. Some utility companies offer consumers the option to power their home with renewables, including rental properties. Look into what your energy provider offers and consider making the switch to clean energy.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Along with her most recent position at Hunger Free America, she has interned with the Sierra Club in Washington, DC., Saratoga Living Magazine, and Philadelphia's NPR Member Station, WHYY.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
The next few weeks in February will bring nail-biting moments of truth for three countries — indeed, the world — as three separate Mars missions approach the Red Planet. The United Arab Emirates, China and the United States each launched separate missions to Mars in July 2020, and they are all about to arrive. The first two, within days of each other.
Of the three missions, America's Mars 2020 mission comes with the most experience and confidence. It is also the most innovative. Its cargo includes Earth's first-ever Martian helicopter, Ingenuity.
It will be the first to test flight on another planet, in an atmosphere that's thinner than the Earth's, and may help our understanding of future human spaceflight beyond the moon.
That said, the US mission is the last of the three scheduled to arrive, so, for now at least, the Americans can sit back, relax, and watch how the others fair.
First Up: The Emirates Mars Mission
The Emirates Mars Mission launched a probe called Hope on July 20, 2020, from Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan.
Hope is the first Arab interplanetary mission. It aims to provide scientists with a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. And they promise to share the data.
On February 9, 2021, Hope will begin what's called a Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI).
The so-called "burn" will commence at 7.30 p.m. Gulf Standard Time (4.30 p.m. CET, 10.30 a.m. EST), and will last "a rather nerve-wracking 27 minutes," in the words of one EMM spokesperson.
The operation will be fully autonomous because the probe will be 11 minutes' radio-time away from Earth, "so there's nothing much we can do about things once we start," continued the email to DW.
Hope has six thrusters that will provide 650 Newtons of power. Firing the thrusters for that long can expose the spacecraft to a lot of stress, from vibrations through to heat. It is "easily the most dangerous operation of the mission," said the spokesperson.
If all goes well, it will be the proper start of a two Earth-year mission (or one Martian year).
Next up, it's China with the country's first independent Mars mission. It was launched on July 23, 2020, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province.
Tianwen-1 is also expected to enter a Martian orbit during the second week of February. In fact, it's hoped the Chinese robotic probe will make it the day after the EMM — and two days before the Chinese New Year.
The spacecraft will conduct a "braking" operation to decelerate its speed to a point at which it can be captured by Mars' gravity. As with the EMM, the Tianwen-1 probe will survey the Martian atmosphere.
But that's not all. The main part of the mission is scheduled for May when China aims to soft-land a rover in the southern part of Mars' Utopia Planitia.
China sees Tianwen-1 as a step towards future missions that would bring back rock and soil samples from Mars to Earth.
Third: Perseverance and Ingenuity
The USA's latest Mars mission involves a new rover called Perseverance and a helicopter called Ingenuity. Ingenuity is strapped to the belly of the rover.
The rover is due to land on February 18 at about 3.55 p.m. EST at a place called Jezero Crater.
It will descend through the Martian atmosphere at a speed of about 20,000 kilometers per hour/kph (12,000 miles per hour). It will be slowed with a parachute and a powered descent to about 3.2 kph.
NASA's Mars 2020 may pave the way for human missions to Mars.
Then, a large sky crane will lower the rover on three bridle cords until it lands softly on six wheels.
That's the plan, anyway. NASA has landed a number of rovers on Mars over the years, but as it says itself: "Landing on Mars is hard."
Race to the Red Planet
NASA describes Perseverance as a "robotic astrobiologist." It is the largest and "most sophisticated" rover ever sent to the Red Planet's surface.
Perseverance will look for signs of ancient Martian life. It will also demonstrate technologies for making oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. It is hoped the mission will prepare the ground for future human missions to Mars and our moon.
So, this really is only the very beginning. The fact that we have two large, experienced nations with interplanetary ambitions, in the US and China, plus a relative newcomer — and further US-European and a Japanese Mars mission waiting in the wings — there is a definite sense of a new race beyond what humans have done before in space.
These three missions were timed to launch when the distance between the Earth and Mars was relatively short. It usually takes about nine months to get to Mars, but these missions were able to cut that trip down to seven. And despite the added challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, not one of them missed the opportunity to go.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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