10 Best Solar Panels for Homes (Updated 2023 Solar Guide)

In this EcoWatch guide on the best solar panels for homes, you’ll learn:

  • Which solar panels provide the most value and which are the most affordable
  • What homeowners should consider when buying solar panels
  • How mono and polycrystalline solar panels differ from one another
  • Which factors have the biggest impact on solar panel performance
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What Are the Best Solar Panels in 2023?

If you wish to take advantage of solar power for home use, the first step is assembling your home solar systems. This system will generally include a battery storage device, an inverter/microinverter, and of course an array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

Based on factors such as efficiency, durability, product warranty, price point and temperature coefficient, we determined the following as the top solar panels for home use:

  • SunPower (Maxeon): Most Efficient
  • Silfab: Best All-Around
  • Panasonic: Best Temperature Coefficient
  • Canadian Solar: Most Affordable
  • Trina Solar: Best Value
  • Qcells: Consumer Favorite
  • Mission Solar: Best American-Made
  • 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.

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Sunpower

Most Efficient

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Most efficient panels available for homes
  • Cradle to Cradle certified sustainable
  • Industry-leading warranty coverage

Cons

  • Expensive
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Panasonic

Best Temperature Coefficient

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Great for extreme temperatures
  • Top-tier electronics company
  • Competitively priced
  • Durable panels

Cons

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Silfab

Best All-Around

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Best-in-class warranty coverage
  • Long-lasting panels

Cons

  • Slightly less efficient than top competitors
  • Less availability
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Canadian Solar

Most Affordable

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • High-performing panels
  • Competitively priced
  • Many panel types available

Cons

  • Not the best choice for small roofs
  • Don't perform the best in high temperatures
  • Slightly short warranty coverage
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Trina Solar

Best Value

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Great value for the cost
  • Best-in-class warranty coverage
  • Durable panels

Cons

  • Only two residential solar panel options
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Q Cells

Consumer Favorite

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Competitively priced
  • Highly efficient
  • Work well in high temperatures

Cons

  • Slightly short warranty coverage
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Mission Solar

Best Small Manufacturer

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Made in the U.S.
  • Competitively priced
  • Durable panels

Cons

  • Slightly less efficient than top competitors
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REC Solar

Most Reliable

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Highly efficient
  • Durable panels
  • Rigorous testing standards
  • Work well in high temperatures

Cons

  • Can be slightly expensive
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Windy Nation

Best for Backup Power

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Perfect for backup power
  • Great for RV or light off-grid applications
  • Highly efficient

Cons

  • Likely not powerful enough to run a whole home

SunPower (Maxeon)

  • Efficiency rating: 22.8%
  • Wattage: Up to 440W
  • Warranty: 25-year product, workmanship and performance warranty

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 solar panels, made by Maxeon, have the highest efficiency we’ve seen: 22.8%. On top of that, we’ll note that SunPower’s products come with a fantastic warranty of 25 years (covering product, performance and workmanship), far more comprehensive than most of its peers.

The downsides of SunPower panels are their high upfront price, and that they are only offered through select installers, via SunPower’s network of certified dealers. As a result, you won’t have as many choices for which company performs the installation.

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.

Pros and Cons of SunPower

Pros:

  • 25-year warranty
  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • In-house solar financing
  • Superior sustainability

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Customer service is controlled by local dealer

SunPower (Maxeon) Products

SunPower has a few options when it comes to solar panels:

  • Maxeon 6 AC: 22.8% efficiency rating with wattage up to 440 W
  • Maxeon 3 DC: 22.7% efficiency rating with wattage up to 430 W
  • A Series: 22.7% efficiency rating with panels with wattage up to 400 W
  • X Series: 22.7% efficiency rating and up to 370 W

Expert Installers

Sunpower makes it easy to find a local dealer by simply entering your zip code, but some examples of authorized dealers include:

  • SunPower
  • Blue Raven
  • Vision Solar
  • IntelliSun

Silfab

  • Efficiency rating: 20.2% to 21.4%
  • Wattage: Up to 410 W
  • Warranty: 25-year product and 30-year performance warranties

We could have named Silfab’s solar panels the best panel for warranty coverage, best North American manufacturer, most durable solar panels or best value. As such, we decided to give Silfab the honor of the best all-around solar panel.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded option that is manufactured in North America, will withstand the elements and offers rock-solid reliability without breaking the bank, Silfab is the way to go.

When it comes to solar brands, the typical panel warranty may be anywhere from 10 years to 25 years. Silfab goes above and beyond the expected warranty options and offers an excellent 25-year solar panel repair warranty and a 30-year linear power performance guarantee. Sure, SunPower also offers 25 years of warranty coverage, but Silfab offers 30 while at a far lower price point.

Not only do these solar panels come supported by a robust workmanship warranty, but they routinely win accolades for longevity and for overall customer satisfaction. With industry-standard efficiency ratings and above average temperature coefficients of between -.36%/°C and -.38%/°C, Silfab has quickly become a competitive solar manufacturer.

Silfab Solar is a less prominent name in the solar renewable energy space, but it deserves your attention because it can offer everything the leader solar brands can at an often better price. It has great products that offer tremendous value and is one of our top picks for best solar panels for home use. It’s no surprise that it’s a growing favorite of a number of American solar installation companies.

Pros and Cons of Silfab

Pros:

  • Competitive prices
  • Above-average ability to withstand heavy snow and winds (5,400 Pa)
  • Great warranty coverage

Cons:

  • Less efficient than leading brands
  • Inexperienced manufacturer

Silfab Products

Silfab offers several products for homeowners interested in going solar:

  • Silfab Prime Series: 370-400W at 20.2% efficiency
  • Silfab Elite Series: 380-410W at 20.8% to 21.4% efficiency

Expert Installers

Panasonic

  • Efficiency rating: 21.6% to 22.2%
  • Wattage: 430W
  • Warranty: 25-year product and power warranty

At -0.26 %/°C, Panasonic solar panels have the best temperature coefficient. Basically, that means they will continue to perform at a peak power output even when the external temperature rises. Most other panels on this list have temperature coefficients in the -0.3 %/°C to -0.4 %/°C range (the closer to zero the better).

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.

Panasonic solar panels vary in its efficiency, and many of its panels have a rating of between 14% and 18%. This company continues to invest in solar technology, so its newer panel models can reach as much as 22.2% efficiency. This high efficiency rating places Panasonic in the top tier of panel efficiency.

Panasonic is set even further above other competing solar companies because of its stellar customer support. As one of the leading electronics manufacturers, Panasonic has the resources to provide the individuzlied customer care that smaller companies cannot. Beyond that, this is another example of a well-made product by a top-tier solar company, and we think homeowners will love these panels for its durability and high quality.

Pros and Cons of Panasonic

Pros:

  • Developed by trusted technology company
  • Great for extreme temperatures
  • Known for their Tier-1 panels

Cons:

  • Outsources its panel manufacturing
  • Expensive for homeowners

Panasonic Products

Panasonic’s solar panels offer a range of wattage with efficiency ranges between 21.6% and 22.2%:

  • Pansonic EverVolt Series: available in 360W, 370W, 380W, 400W and 410W
  • Pansonic EverVolt Black Series: available in 350W, 360W, 370W, 410W and 430W

Expert Installers

  • Green Home Systems
  • Elevation Solar
  • Solanta Solar

Canadian Solar

  • Efficiency rating: up to 22%
  • Wattage: 460W
  • Warranty: 12-, 15-, or 25-year product warranty that depends on model

If you’re looking to secure some quality panels at a lower price point, Canadian Solar may be your best option. This company makes high-quality Tier 1 solar panels that are not too far off from the industry leaders with regard to efficiency, temperature coefficient and other technical considerations. However, similar to Silfab, Canadian Solar makes its panels available at a much cheaper price.

Candian Solar offers modern black solar panels that add modern flair to any home. These sleek monocrystalline panels may be more desirable, but homeowners should be aware of the slightly decreased efficiency. Canadian’s black panel models are reportedly not as efficient as its traditional blue panels because the black backsheet is not reflective and retains more heat. If you have plenty of roof space, however, this won’t be an issue.

The most common warranty for Canadian Solar panels is 12 years, which is reasonable, but it is certainly a far cry from the industry-leading 25 years. Some panel options do com with 15 or 25-year product warranties, but this is sadly not the case for every panel the company makes. With that one quibble, though, we believe Canadian Solar represents one of the best overall values for home solar panels.

Pros and Cons of Canadian Solar

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Offers both polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels
  • Good for colder climates

Cons:

  • Warranty varies depending on product

Canadian Solar Products

The efficiency of Canadian solar panels will depend on the model, but Canadian offers three panel lines for homeowners on a budget:

  • HiKu series: 330 watts to 460 watts
  • HiHero series: modules efficiency up to 22%
  • HiKu Black series: 345 watts to 405 watts

Expert Installers

  • Momentum Solar
  • Blue Raven

Trina Solar

  • Efficiency rating: 20.6% to 21.1%
  • Wattage: 400W
  • Warranty: 12-year product warranty and 25-30 year performance

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, and 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.

These panels have a competitive efficiency rating at up to 21.1%, but may not be as efficient as other leading brands. Trina’s panels may actually be just a tad more durable than other comparable solar panels, however, which is why we rank them as a slightly better value overall.

As compared to other brands, such as Panasonic, Trina does have a poorer temperature coefficient of -0.41 to -0.36. This means that if you live in a region that experiences an excess of warm days, your Trina panels’ solar cells may not perform as well as comparable brands. But, these panels are still excellent overall and you should keep this brand in mind as you seek the best use of your solar dollar.

Pros and Cons of Trina Solar

Pros:

  • Sleek designs
  • Competitive efficiency rating
  • Budget-friendly

Cons:

  • Limited warranty program
  • Manufactured overseas

Trina Solar Products

Trina offers a few different models for residential solar systems:

  • Residential 335W: 310W to 335W
  • Residential 365W: 355W to 380W at 20.6% efficiency
  • Vertex S 395W: 380W to 400W at 20.8% efficiency
  • Vertex S 400W: 380W to 400W at 21.1% efficiency

Expert Installers

Qcells

  • Efficiency rating: 19.6% to 21.2%
  • Wattage: 415W
  • Warranty: 25-year product warranty and 25-year performance guarantee

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 Qcells consistently rose to the top.

Established in 1999, Qcells has risen to the top as a world-renowned solar manufacturer and has facilities all over the world. Qcell’s panels may offer high efficiency, but they are not the most efficient panels on the market (reaching 20.6% — most other manufacturers offer higher efficiency). While these panels may be slightly behind the curve in efficiency, Qcells does offer a robust 25-year product and performance warranty that easily competes with that of SunPower and Panasonic.

Customers repeatedly rave about the sleek look of Qcells panels, and consistency of their solar system’s operation and overall performance. In terms of sheer customer satisfaction, this may be the company to beat… and of course, Qcells also offers high efficiency, value, durability and more. Qcells has invested heavily in manufacturing its panels in the U.S. and has even released its own solar battery to pair with your solar panel system.

Pros and Cons of Qcells

Pros:

  • Excellent price for value
  • Offers modern black panels
  • Competitive efficiency rating

Cons:

  • Only one type of technology offered

Qcells Products

Qcells offers three brands of solar panel for residential use:

  • Q.Peak Duo BLK ML-G10+: 19.6% to 20.6% efficiency and 385W to 405W
  • Q.Peak Duo ML-G10+: 20.1% to 21.1% efficiency and 395W to 415W
  • Q.Peak Duo G10: 20.1% to 21.2% efficiency and 360W to 380W

Expert Installers

  • Momemtum Solar
  • Palmetto Solar
  • Trinity Solar

Mission Solar

  • Efficiency rating: 18.2% to 19.3%
  • Wattage: 350W
  • Warranty: 25-year product warranty and 25-year output guarantee

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 — especially one that makes products here in the U.S. If that’s the boat you’re in, then we’re happy to recommend Mission Solar.

Where Mission Solar panels lack in efficiency and wattage, the company gains in panel cost and in its robust warranty. The price of a Mission solar system comes in at below the industry average at between $18,000 and $20,000 after the federal solar tax credit, which makes this company an ideal option for homeowners on a budget.

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 panels on your radar as you seek the best option for home use.

Pros and Cons of Mission Solar

Pros:

  • Made in the US
  • Competitive price point and potential for rebates
  • Durable and reliable

Cons:

  • Less efficiency than top competitors

Mission Solar Products

Mission has several competitive residential solar panels available, including:

  • Mission Solar Energy PERC 60 BLK: 300W to 345W at 18.5% to 19.0% efficiency
  • Mission Solar Energy PERC 66: 395W-400W at 19.4% to 19.9% efficiency

Expert Installers

  • Capital Solar and Roofing
  • American Sentry Solar
  • TriSMART Solar

REC Solar

  • Efficiency rating: 19.1% to 22.2%
  • Wattage: 410W
  • Warranty: 20 to 25 years

Buying solar panels requires 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, and Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) just might be the best option for you.

REC Solar panels are well-regarded for its trustworthiness and durability. So that REC can offer the toughest panels in the industry, the company tests its panels with standards that are three times as stringent as the industry average. These rigorous tests ensure that REC’s panels perform strongly in even the most extreme conditions.

REC panels boast efficiency ratings that compete with the industry’s most efficient panels and have a temperature coefficient of-0.26 %/C that rivals Panasonic. As you seek solar panels that have a long lifespan and will perform well regardless climate and weather, REC Solar is a company to consider.

Pros and Cons of REC Solar

Pros:

  • High efficiency rating
  • Works well in high temperature climates
  • Rigorous testing standards
  • Above-average wind ratings

Cons:

  • High price point

REC Solar Products

REC Solar has a few products for prospective customers to choose from:

  • REC Alpha Pure: 380W to 410W at 21.3% to 22.2% efficiency
  • REC N-Peak 2: 365W to 375W at 19.1% to 20.3% efficiency
  • REC Twinpeak 4: 360W to 375W at 19.1% to 20.3% efficiency

Expert Installers

  • Momentum Solar
  • Astrawatt

Windy Nation

  • Efficiency rating: <20%
  • Wattage: 100W
  • Warranty: 25 years

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.

These smaller solar panels are perfect for the DIY homeowner that wants to utilize renewable solar energy for outdoor projects and off-grid applications. Happy customers report that Windy Nation’s panels are durable and do well in extreme weather conditions. Many also discuss how easy it is to set up Windy Nation solar systems and add additional panels.

We’ll also note that, for their size, Windy Nation panels pack an efficient punch. And, they come backed by a 25-year warranty, which should instill some confidence as you buy.

Pros and Cons of Windy Nation

Pros:

  • Efficient panels for small size
  • Good for smaller projects
  • Great backup power options

Cons:

  • Smaller panel size
  • Not for primary power source
  • Performance depends on available sunlight
  • May not qualify for rebates and incentives programs

Windy Nation Products

Windy Nation products are best used for small solar projects. Their solar panels often come in sets of 100W solar panels, including:

  • Off-Grid RV Boat Panel: includes 3 or 4 100W solar panels

Expert Installers

Windy Nation solar panels are often installed by customers themselves. They come with easy installation guides for setting up your RV, boat, cabin or off-grid project.

Methodology: How Did We Evaluate Each Solar Panel For Home Use?

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:

Efficiency (20%)

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 you’ll want to look for high-efficiency panels to get the most from your solar energy system.

Durability (20%)

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.

Warranty (20%)

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.

Price Point (20%)

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.

Temperature Coefficient (10%)

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 energy production.

Sustainability (5%)

Yes, solar panels all contribute to generating clean energy, but not all are created equal when it comes to sustainability. For example, SunPower panels (made by Maxeon) are one of the only brands on this list designed with circular economics in mind, thereby conserving rare minerals and reducing e-waste. We take sustainability into account when making our rankings.

Aesthetics (5%)

We certainly don’t think so, but a lot of homeowners out there think solar panels are ugly, and are therefore hesitant to install them on their home. These homeowners are likely thinking of solar panels that are decades old and still have silver frames and blue faces. However, we still take into account the sleekness of a solar panel in giving our ratings.

Watch Below: If you are just beginning to explore the solar industry, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself on how solar cells even work. In the below video, the TED team eloquently describes just that.

What Should You Look for When Shopping for Residential Solar Panels?

When looking for the best solar panels, here are a few tips to ensure you’re picking the right products.

1. Consider Solar Panel Efficiency

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.

2. Compare Solar Panel Cost

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 installation and additional parts such as inverters and battery banks when setting your solar budget.

3. 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 can find something with a 25-year product warranty, that’s ideal.

4. Think About Your Home Energy Needs

In assessing your solar needs, think about things like your roof’s exposure to the sun, the available roof space, 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.

See Also: EcoWatch Solar Calculator – Calculate Your Home Solar Energy Savings

What Kind of Solar Panel is Right For Your Home?

When shopping for solar panels, it’s also helpful to know the panel types that are available. The three basic solar panel categories are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of solar panel comes with its own list of pros and cons:

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

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 Solar Panels

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 Solar Panels

Finally, thin-film solar panels can be made from a variety of ultra-thin materials. They 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.

best solar panel options for homes

Do the Best 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 panel system requires in-depth knowledge of electronics as well as solar power, and in most cases, the installation process 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 solar system performs, including:

  • Orientation: When your home 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.

best solar panels for homes quick tip

Watch Below: If you are just beginning to explore the solar industry, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself on how solar cells even work. In the below video, the TED team describes just that.

Bottom Line: What is the Best Solar Panel 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 providers. 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. 

Expert Advice on Solar Panel Efficiency

The EcoWatch team polled a number of experts on what homeowners need to know when it comes to getting the most out of their panel. Below are their answers.

Dr. Greg Poelzer, University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Greg Poelzer is a Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) at the University of Saskatchewan. He was the Co-Lead of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative III program. He is the Co-Director of a multi-million dollar SSHRC Partnership Grant (2019-2026), Community Appropriate Sustainable Energy Security (CASES), which spans 17 Indigenous and Northern communities across Canada, Alaska, Norway, and Sweden. He also is the Lead of the Renewable Energy in Remote and Indigenous Communities Flagship Initiative at the University of Saskatchewan and Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Renewable Energy.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy for homes?

As of 2022, monocrystalline solar panels remain the most efficient option for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems when compared to polycrystalline and thin-film technologies. However, the majority market share of polycrystalline panels indicates that many consumers are willing to accept a slightly lower efficiency for a lower cost.

Technological advancements in thin-film PV research are also rapidly pushing this lighter, more flexible and less temperature-sensitive option to achieve efficiency levels that rival the mono- and polycrystalline systems. But prices will likely have to come down significantly to make this an attractive option to consumers for residential systems.

Does solar power work in cloudy weather?

Since clouds are not entirely opaque, sunlight still passes through them and reaches solar panels. The electricity generated may be lower than on days without clouds, but there is a significant difference between the sunlight that is diffused through cloud cover versus sunlight that is blocked by solid objects like tall buildings.

Do shade and temperature affect solar panel efficiency? How do I know if my roof is good for solar?

To determine whether solar panels are a good fit for your home it is important to have an assessment of the solar irradiance (i.e. the amount of sunlight) of your roof. Solar irradiance can be affected by environmental and physical factors. These may include hours of sunlight based on weather conditions and latitude, whether your roof faces south in the northern hemisphere or north in the southern hemisphere, and obstructions such as tall trees and buildings that shade your roof.

Dr. Sharon Klein commenting on solar panel efficiency
Dr. Sharon Klein, University of Maine
Dr. Sharon Klein is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Coordinator in the School of Economics at the University of Maine. She has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy for homes?

In general, crystalline solar panels are more efficient than thin film. However, there are a variety of specific technologies that fall under the umbrella terms “crystalline” and “thin film.” Also, researchers are pushing the limits of solar efficiency every day. For example, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently created a solar cell with a record 39.5% efficiency. That type of efficiency is not yet being seen in residential solar. Most residential solar panels are mono- or poly-crystalline, with efficiencies that range from 15-23%.

Does solar power work in cloudy weather?

Yes. Although solar panels work best in direct sunlight, they can also work when light is reflected or diffused through clouds. However, when it is cloudy, solar panels will not be operating at their maximum efficiency. They may only be operating at 10-25% efficiency, depending on how dense the clouds are.

Do shade and temperature affect solar panel efficiency? How do I know if my roof is good for solar?

Yes. Shade will act like a cloud, diminishing the efficiency of the solar panel. Solar operates best in cooler temperatures. High temperatures reduce the efficiency. The best way to know if your roof is good for solar is to ask for free quotes from multiple local solar installers. They will be able to tell you exactly how many panels, of what type, your roof can support, whether any tree removal is necessary, and how much it will cost and you will save.

Hao Zeng commenting on solar panel efficiency
Hao Zeng, University at Buffalo
Hao Zeng is a professor of physics at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. His main research area is in condensed matter and materials physics. He has a strong interest in developing novel magnetic and semiconducting materials for renewable energy applications. He has published about 150 scientific papers with a total citation of 20,000 times according to Google Scholar.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy for homes?

For residential solar panels, the most efficient ones are monocrystalline Si, with an efficiency of 20%~ 22%. As of July 2022, the SunPower Maxeon 6 boasts a panel efficiency of 22.8%. This is followed by polycrystalline Si with a panel efficiency close to 20%. Panels made from thin films such as CdTe from First Solar are generally less efficient ~ 18%. They are used primarily for commercial and industrial applications due to the low fabrication cost. There are other types of thin film solar technology such as those based on CuInGaSe2 and perovskite materials. They have not yet seen large-scale commercial deployment.

Does solar power work in cloudy weather?

Solar panels do work in cloudy weather. However, they are less efficient in such conditions. The output power drops roughly linearly with light intensity. Depending on the cloud cover and the types of solar panels, efficiency can drop by 10 to 25 percent of the specified values.

Do shade and temperature affect solar panel efficiency? How do I know if my roof is good for solar?

Shade and temperature do affect solar panel efficiency. Shade means direct sunlight is blocked by e.g. trees, reducing the intensity of the light hitting the surface of the solar panel, thus reducing efficiency. On the other hand, efficiency of the solar panel decreases with increasing temperature. This decrease in performance is called temperature coefficient, which ranges typically from -0.3 to -0.5%/degree C. This means that the efficiency will drop by 0.3-0.5% for every degree Celsius increase in temperature. The amount of electricity generated by rooftop solar panels depends on the orientation and tilting angle of the roof. The best roof angle for solar panels is about 30 degrees. In the northern hemisphere, the best orientation of the roof is south-facing. Needless to say, your roof used for solar panel installation needs to be subjected to minimal shading throughout the day.

Mohammad E. Taslim commenting on solar panel efficiency
Mohammad E. Taslim, Northeastern University
Mohammad is a professor of mechanical engineering at Northeastern University. He is also the program director of the Energy Systems Program. He is an ASME Fellow, AIAA Associate Fellow and a member of the editorial board of the International J. Heat Exchangers.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy for homes?

The most efficient is monocrystalline. From the name, each cell is cut
out of one type of silicon. The other two are less efficient and the thin-film is less expensive.

Does solar power work in cloudy weather?

Yes, solar energy reaches the earth in form of waves at wavelengths from infrared to ultraviolet. Only about 46% of that energy is in the visible range (red to violet). The rest is outside the visible range that can reach earth through the clouds.

Do shade and temperature affect solar panel efficiency? How do I know if my roof is good for solar?

Yes, a target surface directly exposed to the sun is much more efficient. Shadows cast on the target surface from the trees, billboards, adjacent buildings, etc. seriously reduce the absorption of solar energy by the target surface. For any surface on earth, there are software tools to determine how many hours on a given day of the year (in the northern or southern hemisphere) the surface is exposed to the sun (sees the sun) as the sun travels across the sky. And, with the knowledge of adjacent buildings’ elevation and size, we can determine if they cast any shadow on the panels and for what period of time. As for the temperature effects, the higher the solar panel temperature, the lower its power output. An ideal ambient temperature around the solar panels is 77 degrees F.

Nathan Lewis commenting on solar panel efficiency
Nathan S. Lewis, California Institute of Technology
Nathan S. Lewis, Ph.D., is the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry at Caltech. Lewis is best known for developing artificial photosynthesis technology that enables sustainable production of hydrogen fuel using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. Research interests include phototropism in the non-biological inorganic matter and related pattern-free nanoscale 3-D lithography. Lewis is also interested in weather-based data-driven modeling of deeply decarbonized electricity and energy systems based on variable renewable energy and technologies for long-term grid storage.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy for homes?

Generally, monocrystalline cells from SunPower are the most efficient panels due to their unique technology (but they generally cost more as well). They have a lot of value for limited areas because the higher efficiency means that one can make more electricity from a small roof than can be made from lower efficiency panels, to help meet the electricity demand of a household in full.

Does solar power work in cloudy weather?

Yes, solar panels work in cloudy weather, but not as much electricity is produced when clouds reduce the amount of sunlight striking the panels as on a bright sunny summer day.

Do shade and temperature affect solar panel efficiency? How do I know if my roof is good for solar?

The efficiency isn’t affected by shade; the panels still convert the same percentage of sunlight into electricity except that the amount of sunlight available is less so less electricity is produced

Almost all panels exhibit lower efficiency as the temperature increases.

Panels also get warn from absorbing all of that nice sunlight; if one could keep them cool on a bright, warm, sunny day they would work better but that is obviously hard to do without using some of the electricity that they make for “air conditioning” the panels themselves and it isn’t worth it generally to spend more electricity to cool the panel than they produce as a result of running cooler rather than warmer. Using water to cool the panels generally isn’t a good idea because water and all of that electricity “don’t mix” from a safety perspective in most localities.

FAQ: 2022's Top Solar Panels for Homes

Below are a few questions EcoWatch readers regularly send in about the leading solar panels for home use. If you have anymore, do not hesitate to contact us at contact@ecowatch.com!

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Article author
Karsten is an editor and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. His work has been shared by sources including NPR, the World Economic Forum, Marketwatch and the SEIA, and he is certified in ESG with the CFA Institute. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. 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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Expert reviewer
Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.

Comparing authorized solar partners

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