Expert review of Qcells solar panels for 2022
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Qcells is a Tier 1 solar panel manufacturer that makes high-performance photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage products for the residential, commercial, and industrial solar energy markets. Its solar panels are near the top of the market for efficiency, performance, and warranty structure, and they are used by installers all over the world.
Qcells is one of the most popular solar brands in the U.S. If you’re shopping for solar and comparing offers from solar installers, you’ve probably seen at least one quote that includes Qcells panels and wondered if they’re any good. That’s why we’ve broken down all the important information you need to know.
Qcells solar panels have a history just about as long as the modern solar industry itself. The company has been sold and rebranded a few times since its inception, and has grown from humble roots into a worldwide manufacturer.
Founded in 1999 in Thalheim, Germany as Q CELLS AG, the company quickly grew to be one of the top solar module manufacturers in the world. Unfortunately, the late-2000s worldwide economic downturn and strong competition from government-subsidized Chinese solar panel companies took their toll, and in 2011, the company filed for insolvency. Its assets were purchased by the Hanwha Group, a South Korean company with its own strong solar business.
In the years since, Hanwha has brought together its German engineering team and world-class manufacturing capabilities to reinvigorate the Q CELLS brand, becoming one of the world’s top 10 solar module manufacturers. In 2018, Hanwha decided to remove its name from the brand, leaving its products to be called simply “Q CELLS”. It further streamlined the brand name in 2022, becoming the less-shouty “Qcells.”
However, you’d be forgiven for using any format of the brand name. The company is still owned by Hanwha, and even the Qcells North America website includes the old all-caps style of the name in various places.
Qcells now has manufacturing facilities all over the world, most notably its huge U.S. facility in Dalton, Georgia, which was the largest solar manufacturing plant in the western hemisphere upon its completion in 2019. The company currently makes more solar panels in North America than any other, and it is set to nearly double its production capacity in Georgia by the end of 2023. Any Qcells panel you buy in America will likely have been made by workers in Georgia.
|Headquarters||Seoul, South Korea|
|Design & engineering||Thalheim, Germany|
|Manufacturing||China, Korea, Malaysia, United States|
Since its inception in 1999, Qcells has been a leading innovator in solar cell technology and has grown its business by wiring those cells into the solar modules covered below. Recently, Qcells has expanded its offerings to include Q.HOME solar batteries and hybrid solar inverters, but their bread-and-butter products are still their solar modules.
The company has dabbled in many different kinds of solar cells, from polycrystalline silicon to CIGS thin-film, but starting in 2012, it focused on a technology called PERC, which stands for “passivated emitter and rear contact.”
PERC solar cells come with an extra layer of conductive material on the backside of the cell, which can be built into a solar panel with a reflective backsheet to capture a tiny bit of extra energy from photons that would otherwise get reflected back into the sky.
Qcells calls its PERC implementation “Q.ANTUM DUO”.
Traditional PERC solar cells are susceptible to two problems called light-induced degradation (LID) and potential induced degradation (PID). Basically, being exposed to light and electricity can cause the cells to degrade more quickly than they should (not great problems to have for electricity-generating things that are constantly exposed to light). Qcells treats its PERC cells using a proprietary process to reduce these problems so that they’re almost non-existent.
The “duo” part of Q.ANTUM DUO refers to the newest advancements in Qcells modules - each solar cell is cut in half and each panel is wired in two halves.
The advantages of half-cut solar cells include:
The advantages of the split-panel design mean lower losses from shading; if only one section of the panel happens to be shaded, the other half will still output its full potential.
How Qcells Q.ANTUM DUO technology works. Image source: Qcells
The company currently offers one series of solar panels, called the Q.PEAK DUO BLK G10+. As the name implies, these are all-black solar panels that look great on a rooftop.
This latest-generation module comes in two sizes, with either 120 or 132 half-cut Q.ANTUM DUO Z solar cells. The “Z” part of “Q.ANTUM DUO Z” refers to the construction of the module, with zero gaps between the cells, meaning more of them can fit in the same amount of space as older modules, and there is less loss due to resistance along the length of wires in the busbars.
How Qcells’ zero-gap technology works. Source: Qcells
Using an updated version of the Q.ANTUM DUO technology described above, the Q10+ line uses 12 busbars and operates at up to 20.6% efficiency. The smaller Q.PEAK DUO BLK G10+ contains 120 half-cut cells, measures 1717mm x 1045mm x 32mm (67.6” x 41.1” x 1.26”), and has a rated output of between 350 and 370 watts depending on the efficiency of the cells inside. The larger Q.PEAK DUO BLK ML-G10+ can output between 385 and 405 watts from its 132 half-cut cells, nestled inside a panel measuring 1879mm x 1045mm x 32mm (74” x 41.1” x 1.26”).
Although Qcells is focusing on its G10+ series, installers in the U.S. can still buy older models of Qcells solar panels from wholesale suppliers. These panels are perfectly fine, and you might save a few bucks installing them instead of the latest offerings.
There are 6 series of these solar modules, from Q.PEAK DUO G5 to G9, all of which are based on Q.ANTUM DUO technology. All Q.PEAK DUO series modules are made with half-cut, monocrystalline silicon PERC cells, with modules wired in the split-panel configuration described above.
In fact, all Q.PEAK DUO modules use the exact same kind of cells; the only differences between the series are slight changes in construction, the number of busbars (tiny wires that connect cells together), the number of cells, or the placement of the cells in the module. The reason any given module offers more wattage than another has more to do with cell matching.
Qcells manufactures all of its cells, then cuts them in half and carefully analyzes them for efficiency. The cells are then separated into matching batches and used in the various modules.
For example, if a module needs to have an output of 330 watts, Qcells selects 120 half-cells with evenly-matched power outputs that will equal 330 watts once wired together in a module.
Here is a rundown of the modules within the Q.PEAK DUO lineup:
Each of these older Qcells series includes a standard model with 120 half-cells, a “BLK” model with 120 half-cells on a black backsheet, and an “L” model, which uses 144 half cells inside a larger frame.
How the Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G6 and L-G6 compare to the standard model.
The standard modules are meant for residential rooftops while the 144 half-cell modules are meant for ground-mounted or large-scale commercial installations.
The BLK models are designed for people who like the look of all-black solar panels, but they suffer from a 5% reduction in power output because they don’t reflect photons back to the PERC layer.
To know whether or not a solar panel brand is good, it helps to look at how its offerings compare to other companies in the industry. Here’s a look at how Qcells panels measure up when it comes to efficiency, performance, warranties, and cost.
Most solar panels in the industry are between 15 and 20 percent efficient, but solar panel efficiency in commercially-available products can be as high as 22.8%.
Qcells solar panels start at around 20% efficiency with the Q.PEAK DUO-G5, and top out at 20.9% with the Q.PEAK DUO XL-G9, meaning they are high-efficiency solar panels, but not the very highest.
Solar panels are designed for an operating temperature of 25° C (77° F), but because they are black, the surface of the panels increases in temperature faster than the air around them, especially under the direct sun they need for full output. For each degree Celsius in temperature increase, average solar panel output decreases between 0.3% and 0.5%. This decrease in production is known as the temperature coefficient.
The average Qcells solar panel has a temperature coefficient of 0.35%, putting them at the low end of the average range (lower is better). Because all models of Qcells solar panels use the same cells, they have nearly identical temperature coefficients across the entire product line.
Every standard and “L” model Qcells solar panel comes with a 12-year product warranty and a 25-year linear performance warranty.
Qcells guarantees that their panels will put out no less than 98% of the panel’s rating during the first year, and degrade by a maximum of 0.54% per year thereafter. These warranty periods match the average Tier 1 solar panel warranties within the industry.
For those who want an even better warranty, Qcells extends its product warranty to 25 years on any of its modules with a “plus” at the end of its name. These models use the finest cells produced by Qcells, and the warranties represent the quality of these products.
The full 25-year product and production warranty equals those for the best panels from Panasonic and SunPower.
Recent quotes from solar companies through our solar panel cost calculator show prices of between $2.80 and $2.95 per watt for installations that include Qcells panels. The national average cost of solar panels is $3.00, meaning that solar systems using Qcells solar panels are competitive with the rest of the market.
Homeowners who have gotten quotes from solar installers can rest assured that Qcells solar panels are a high-quality choice backed by a good warranty at a reasonable cost.
While not the absolute best when it comes to performance or warranty, they meet the standard set by other Tier 1 solar manufacturers and come in at about the industry average for cost. For those who seek American-made solar panels, Qcells products are as good or better than options from Silfab and Mission Solar.
The Qcells brand is well-known and Hanwha is a long-lived company that will surely last for many years to come, so you can count on them to stand by that warranty if you ever need service.
If you’re interested in making the switch to solar power, use our calculator to get estimated cost and savings, and compare quotes from different providers. Many installers provide quotes for various brands of solar panels, so make sure to look up information on all solar brands here at SolarReviews!