The best solar panels to buy for your home in 2021

Updated

best solar panels for your home in 2021
The definitive list of the best solar panels for your home.

This article ranks the best residential solar panels on the market in 2021.

Editorial note: All rankings in this article were compiled based on expert opinions, consumer reviews, and solar installation data. SolarReviews was not paid for any of the reviews or rankings.

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    Find out how many solar panels you need to eliminate your electric bill

    There's a huge variety of solar panels on the market right now - in fact, there are almost 300 solar panel manufacturers with profiles on reviews on this website, SolarReviews.

    Competition in any sector is great, but it can also be too much of a good thing. WIth so many options to choose from, how is a homeowner to decide which solar panel is best for their home?

    This article is the answer to that question. It’s a definitive guide to the best solar panels in the market in 2021, designed to help consumers - homeowners like you - find the best solar panels for their needs. 

    To produce this lineup, I’ve drawn on a number of different resources. I’ve consulted a panel of solar industry experts, drawn on official government data sources, and collated thousands of consumer review scores across our website. Most importantly, I researched what you, the consumer, want from your solar panels. 

    The result: this article has not one, but seven solar panel ‘best-of’ lists

    If it’s just a quick recommendation you’re after, check out the very first ranking: our experts’ picks for the 5 best solar panels on the market. 

    But if you’re down for a deeper dive, check out all of the other rankings on this page. They’ll tell you, among other things, which panels are most efficient, which are best for those shopping on a budget, and which brands are manufactured here in the U.S. 

    Happy solar panel hunting! 

    Experts’ choice: The 5 best solar panels overall

    I asked an in-house group of solar industry experts to weigh the pros and cons of different solar panel brands, and choose which ones they would install on their own homes.

    After comparing all of the major brands on the market, here are the top 5 solar brands the experts recommend in 2021. 

    Table 1. The 5 best solar panel brands in 2021 according to experts
    # Solar panel brand Panel category What the experts like
    1 Panasonic Premium Outstanding specs, including the best temperature coefficient (heat performance)
    2 LG Premium Strong reputation for high-quality solar panels
    3 Canadian Solar Value Lower cost means great value for the money
    4 Trina Solar Value Solid all-around performance at a cheaper price point
    5 SunPower Premium The most efficient solar panels on the market

    The experts focused on three key criteria when making their judgement:

    • The manufacturer's financial position
    • Brand reputation
    • Value for money

    They explained that since solar panels last so long, it is crucial that the brand will be around to honor any warranty claims over the 25-year lifespan of the panel.

    Their choices are divided into two categories of solar panels: three are premium solar panels, and the other two are value solar panel brands.

    The experts’ top premium panels: Panasonic, LG and SunPower 

    premium solar panels, panasonic, lg, and sunpower

    Premium solar panels are panels that are high quality and boast top-of-the-line specifications - along with a higher price tag. Our experts’ top choices in the premium solar panel category are Panasonic, LG, and SunPower.

    All three companies manufacture high-performance modules with superior workmanship, higher efficiency ratings, better temperature coefficients, lower degradation rates, and market-leading 25-year product warranties. 

    Panasonic and LG solar panels are our experts’ top picks. Besides being excellent panels, they win points for being produced by massive conglomerates. Both companies are known for their high manufacturing standards, and are almost certain to be around to honor any warranty claims down the line. This means they are Tier 1 solar panel brands.

    Learn more about the differences between Tier 1 and Tier 2 solar panel manufacturers here.

    Comparing the two, the experts says that the Panasonic solar panels have a slight edge in terms of specs, while LG panels have a small cost advantage. 

    Meanwhile, SunPower’s panels are actually the very best in the market in terms of efficiency and performance - even better than Panasonic’s and LG’s - yet the brand only ranked #5.

    Why? Well according to the experts, SunPower's ranking suffers due to its troubled financial position, coupled with its very high price point. We'll be keeping an eye out to see how things change as SunPower spins off its manufacturing business into a new entity called Maxeon Solar

    The experts’ top value panels: Canadian Solar and Trina Solar

    best value panels, canadian solar and trina solar

    The other type of company that made this list are Chinese* panels that offer great value: Canadian Solar and Trina Solar

    Both companies offer high-quality panels with specifications not far off from the best premium solar panels. The big difference comes in terms of price; they are substantially cheaper than the premium solar panels, often saving homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars in upfront costs. 

    The one big drawback to Canadian Solar and Trina Solar are their warranties. They both offer product warranties of 12 years; while this is better than the industry standard of 10 years, it's still substantially less than the 25-year warranty offered by premium panels. 

    *Canadian Solar is actually considered a Chinese company due to its strong links with China, despite being headquartered in, and named after, Canada.

    Try our solar panel cost calculator to see what an installation would cost you

    The most efficient solar panels on the market

    Solar panel efficiency tells you how much of the sunlight hitting a solar panel is converted by its constituent solar cells into electricity.

    Many consumers want to know what solar panels have the highest efficiency ratings. 

    Based on a review of all commercially-available solar panel models in the U.S. here is a list of the five highest-efficient solar panels. 

    Table 2. The 5 most efficient models of solar panels by manufacturer
    # Manufacturer Model*

    Power
    output**

    Efficiency
    1 SunPower A-Series 425 W 22.80%
    2 LG NeON R Ace 405 W 22.30%
    3 REC Group Alpha Pure 405 W 21.90%
    4 Panasonic Evervolt 370 W 21.20%
    5 JA Solar  JAM60S20 390 W 21.00%

    *For this ranking we've only considered panels sized for residential use, i.e. up to 66-cell (or 132 half-cell)
    **Also known as solar panel wattage

    I present this ranking with a note of caution: the importance of having high-efficiency panels is generally overhyped. The reality is that you only need care about solar panel efficiency if you have limited roof space. That’s because all solar panel efficiency indicates is the space required by the panel to produce the energy. The more efficient the solar panel, the less space it will take up on your roof. 

    We explore the issue of solar panel efficiency in-depth in this blog.

    Consumers’ choice: The best solar panels by review scores

    For this ranking, we decided to draw on the experience of homeowners themselves. 

    SolarReviews has thousands of solar panel reviews by consumers who have systems installed on their roofs. We used these to calculate a review score for each solar panel brand. 

    The 10 solar panel brands with the best review scores on our site are presented below. 

    Table 3. Consumers' choice: The solar panels with the best reviews from consumers
    # Manufacturer Review score (out of 5.00)*
    1 Silfab Solar 4.84 (486 reviews)
    2 Panasonic 4.84 (319 reviews)
    3 Q Cells 4.81 (526 reviews)
    4 LG Solar 4.77 (912 reviews)
    5 Axitec Solar USA 4.77 (88 reviews)
    6 Solaria 4.75 (81 reviews)
    7 Seraphim 4.72 (28 reviews)
    8 Mission Solar Energy 4.70 (223 reviews)
    9 Canadian Solar 4.68 (165 reviews)
    10 Trina Solar 4.61 (152 reviews)

    All review scores current as of 6/1/21.

    Four of the solar panels here are also among our experts’ choices for the best solar panels. Panasonic, which along with Silfab Solar is the solar panel that consumers are happiest with, was also the #1 solar panel according to our experts. LG Solar, Canadian Solar, and Trina Solar panel are also panels that our experts loved. 

    Only one of the experts’ five choices didn’t make it to the list of consumers’ favorites: SunPower. The company currently has a review score of 4.54 (based on 895 reviews); it’s a decent score, but not good enough to make the consumers’ choice list. While SunPower’s panels are undoubtedly top-of-the-line, the company’s reviews reveal that it loses points with consumers due to its poor customer service.

    The 10 best-selling solar panel models for home

    There’s no doubt you are curious about what solar panel models are most popular among homeowners. To find out, SolarReviews compiled data from recent residential solar installations in California, which is the largest solar market in the U.S. by a large margin.

    These are the top 10 solar panel manufacturers based on their use in California home solar installations, along with the top-selling model for each brand. 

    Table 4. The best-selling solar panel models in California
    # Panel manufacturer Most popular model Power Efficiency
    1 SunPower SPR-X22-360 360 W 22.2%
    2 Panasonic VBHN330SA17 330 W 19.7%
    3 Q CELLS   Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G5 315 315 W 18.7%
    4 REC Group REC290TP2 BLK 290 W 17.4%
    5 LG LG335N1C-A5 335 W 19.6%
    6 Silfab Solar SLA-M 300 300 W 18.4%
    7 LONGi Solar LR6-60PB-300M 300 W 18.3%
    8 Mission Solar MSE310SQ8T 310 W 18.7%
    9 Solaria PowerXT-360R-PD 360 W 19.9%
    10 Hyundai HiS-S300RG 300 W 18.3%

    SunPower snags the #1 spot for the top-selling solar panel model. While our experts loved the best-in-class specs of the SunPower X-series, they were concerned about their higher cost and the company’s viability. However, it seems that Californian consumers are happy to pay a hefty premium to get the very best solar panels available.

    SunPower solar panels are the top-sellers in California, the most popular state for solar power. Image source: SunPower

    Panasonic - our experts’ favorite brand - used have the #1 best-selling model spot. Sales of Panasonic solar modules, however, seem to have taken a hit due to the decline of their partner, Tesla/SolarCity.

    See how much you can save by installing solar panels

    The best solar panels made in the USA

    Here is a ranking of the best solar panels manufactured here in the U.S. 

    For this ranking, we decided to consider all solar panel brands that actually manufacture solar panels - and create manufacturing jobs - in this country. To that end, we considered all companies that have large-scale manufacturing in the U.S, regardless or where they are headquartered.

    Table 5. The best American-made solar panels 
    # Company U.S. manufacturing location Global HQ
    1 LG Solar 500 MW plant in Huntsville, Alabama South Korea
    2 Silfab Solar 400 MW plant in Bellingham, Washington Canada
    3 Q Cells 1700 MW plant in Dalton, Georgia South Korea
    4 Jinko Solar 400 MW plant in Jacksonville, Florida China
    5 Mission Solar Energy 200 MW plant in San Antonio, Texas U.S.

    Of our experts’ choice solar panels, currently only LG Solar manufactures in the U.S. Their choices for premium brands, Panasonic and SunPower, have recently ended all manufacturing in the U.S. Canadian Solar and Trina Solar, on the other hand, have always done most of their manufacturing in China. 

    All of the foreign manufacturers on this list opened their U.S. factories following the Trump Administration’s imposition of solar tariffs in 2018. 

    The 5 best solar panels in terms of value for money

    Asia-based manufacturers dominate our list of the best value solar panel brands. Each of these companies is large and has established a reputation for excellent manufacturing quality:

    Two of these companies - Q CELLS, Jinko Solar - have opened manufacturing plants in the USA within the last few years. This has helped them counteract the impact of solar import tariffs imposed at the start of 2018, while also creating American jobs in the process. 

    All five of these brands are currently available for much cheaper than many of the best premium solar brands. These brands should be top of your list if you’re on a budget but still want a quality solar panel system on your roof. 

    What solar panel cell technology is best?

    In 2021, monocrystalline solar panels are best for home solar systems. 

    There are actually three types of technology utilized in the solar panels available on the market today. They are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film amorphous solar cells.

    types of solar cells

    Monocrystalline solar panels are touted for their uniform, sleek look, whereas polycrystalline panels have a fragmented appearance and a blue hue. Thin film is the least efficient, but the least expensive. 

    Historically, the vast majority of solar panels on the market were either monocrystalline or polycrystalline, or 'mono' and 'poly' for short. Monocrystalline solar panels have always been preferred for their better performance and aesthetics, while polycrystalline solar panels attracted budget-conscious consumers due to their lower cost. 

    That has now changed. With recent improvements in technology, the price difference between them is now as little as $0.10 per watt, or less. As such, there is no longer a significant cost incentive to opt for poly panels. For that reason - barring the odd exception - the best solar panels currently on the market are all monocrystalline panels

    Without getting into too much detail, here's what you need to know about these two types of solar panels:

    Monocrystalline panels

    • Uniform look
    • More efficient
    • More expensive

    Polycrystalline panels

    • More blueish, 'broken' look
    • Less efficient 
    • Cheaper

    Learn more: Pros and cons of different types of solar cells

    Get the best panels installed by the best solar companies

    Every solar panel on this page - whatever its ranking - is a high-quality, Tier 1 solar panel brand. Installing a solar power system with any of these solar panels should result in an efficient, high-performance setup that can power your home for 25 years, or longer. 

    Picking the best solar equipment is only part of the equation though. Equally, if not more important, is picking the right solar company to install the solar equipment. 

    The solar installation company is responsible for designing a system that meets your needs, and they will be your point of contact for any performance or warranty issues you encounter. Make sure the company you choose is one of the best solar installers near you

    See what local installers are charging for solar installations

    Key takeaways

    • The 5 best solar panel brands (experts’ choice) are Panasonic, LG, Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, and SunPower.
    • The most efficient solar panel currently available in the U.S. is the SunPower A-series, which has 22.80% efficiency.
    • Panasonic and Silfab Solar earn the best consumer reviews; they both have review scores of 4.84 out of 5.00.
    • The best American-made solar panels are from LG Solar, Silfab Solar, and Q Cells.
    • The best value for money is offered by brands with Chinese/Asian manufacturing, such as Canadian Solar.
    • Across brands, the best solar panels are currently being made with monocrystalline solar cell technology.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Zeeshan Hyder

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Zeeshan is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong focus on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.

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