We often get the question from customers, “What are the best solar panels for my home?”
It depends on what you mean by best. In our experience at altE, for some customers “best” means highest efficiency per square foot, but the cost per watt is higher; sometimes a lot higher for solar panels that only get you a 1-5 point increase in efficiency. The solar panel’s efficiency is really important when you want to squeeze as much solar energy out of your roof area as possible, and perhaps, your best south-facing roof area is limited.
Best solar panels, based on the quality of the product and likelihood to produce the amount of power it was rated for, has been harder than it should be to find out publicly. Consumer Reports hasn’t yet taken on testing and ranking solar panels. However recently (2014), GTM Research did a comparison of several brands of panels (check out ‘Kyocera solar panels receive highest ranking’). They didn’t publicly release how the various manufacturers scored but the one that was ranked the highest, Kyocera Solar, released the data on their ranking.
Other folks consider “best” to be the lowest cost per watt panel. However, with lowest price you will likely get reduced efficiency. Sometimes they are a here-today-gone-tomorrow, no-name brand that you might need to question whether or not they’ll be around to service any warranty issues in the future.
For many “best” also means made in the USA. There aren’t many manufacturers left making solar panels in the US. A lot of them were put out of business with Chinese manufacturers dropping the floor out on pricing a few years ago – ruining a lot of US solar panel manufacturers’ business plans for future, profitable growth. SolarWorld and Suniva are both two brands that have survived the culling.
Last but not least, for others, “best” means the ability to buy from a manufacturer who is likely to be around in the next 25 years, which is the typical power output warranty of most panels. Some argue that brands which have a diversified portfolio of products in different industries, like Kyocera Solar and LG, are more likely to honor the warranty than others. However, we’ve seen in just the last couple of years, big companies like Samsung and Sharp, exit the solar business partially or entirely, making you wonder how hard it would be to get help on a warranty when you call them up.
altE has been helping folks from all over the globe to design and size solar power systems since 1999. We like to think we have some of the best solar panels available to consumers at competitive prices. If you’re just getting started, it’s worth visiting altE to come up to speed using our free educational videos and webinars on how solar power systems work and how to design your own solar electric system.