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DroneQuote | Everything You Wanted to Know About THE BEST SOLAR PANEL

By DroneQuote | Posted October 21, 2019

Best Solar Panels, Best Solar Panels 2020, the best solar panel

Everything You Wanted to Know About THE BEST SOLAR PANEL.

Reading Time: 13 Minutes

I’m Considering Solar, What Are The Best Solar Panels?

If you are considering solar panels for your home, you may be wondering to yourself which is the best solar panel for you. First of all, my hat off to you for doing research in the purchase of solar panels for your home, sometimes people do not invest the time in little-bit of light homework for buying solar. The people that get multiple quotes, ask the right questions, and invest some level of time in researching putting on solar panels on their home are always the most satisfied of customers and are also those that feel they got the best return on their investment when they purchased solar panels.

So again, congratulations on doing your research, but also a heads up to you because solar panels are a lot like other big-ticket purchases in that there’s the shallow end of the information pool and then there’s the deep end. By that, we mean that buying solar can be as easy as looking at the financial numbers and installation company that does the work to find the most bang for your buck, or you can get into more detailed things like panel efficiencies, wattages, percentages, and other mystifying combinations of numbers.

There are more options for solar panels on the market than you have time to or interest to read, trust us the information is plentiful. Ultimately, there is no one answer for which solar panel system is the absolute best simply because there are multiple ways by which “the best solar panels” can be defined, and in the end, the only lens that matters is the one you’re looking through. Our purpose is to help you find the best solar panel system for YOU.

How To Compare Solar Panels

To determine which is the best solar panel system for your home, first you must ask yourself how you weigh the following things:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Warranty
  3. Price
  4. Performance
  5. Look

Depending on how you rank these things will depend on how you rank the best solar panels for you.

All of this is influenced by the type of home you have, what kind of budget you’re open to, the number of trees near your roof and/or your willingness to trim or cut them, and even things like the kind of car that you drive. Read more to learn how to take a good no BS perspective to find the best solar panel for your home, as defined by what is important to you.

Best Solar Panels by Efficiency

We all know technology happens quickly if we judge the speed of things by the release cycle of the Iphones, and solar panels are no different. Like the iPhone, solar panel improvements are also marginal from one model to the next. None the less, there are top-efficiency panels on the market that would take the claim of the ” best solar panel” when filtered by most efficient. The following panels are manufactured by SunPower – a solar panel manufacturing pioneer and often the leader of the pack in terms of efficiency, LG Electronics– a South Korean multinational electronics manufacturer, (like your fridge, your phone, your TV, your Bluetooth device – and several other electronics and home appliances), REC Group– leading European brand of solar panels, and Panasonic – a Japanese multinational electronics manufacturer.

Notice the top four solar panel manufacturers are split between two large panel manufacturers and two large general electronics manufacturers so it only makes sense that these companies top the list of best panels in terms of efficiency.

  1. SunPower 22.8% efficiency. 
    1. https://newsroom.sunpower.com/2016-02-22-With-a-New-World-Record-SunPower-Launches-Its-Most-Powerful-Solar-Panel-Available-to-Homeowners
  2. LG 21.7% efficiency.
    1. https://www.lg.com/us/business/solar-panels/lg-lg375a1c-v5
  3. REC Group 21.7% efficiency.
    1. https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/05/16/the-heterojunction-alpha-solar-module-at-21-7-efficiency/
  4. Panasonic 20.3% efficiency.
    1. https://na.panasonic.com/us/energy-solutions/solar/hit-series/n340-hitr-series

The reason why you may want the most efficient panels is if you happen to have a limited amount of space on which to install solar panels. Higher efficiency solar panels tend to be the highest in wattage and also convert the most sunlight into electricity. What this means to someone with limited roof space, is that they would need fewer solar panels to produce a higher amount of electricity, thereby needing less roof space. The downside to the most efficient solar panels is that they are also the most expensive solar panels on the market. All that cutting edge technology will make for the highest solar panel efficiency but it usually comes at a noticeable cost, which may take a bite out of the return on investment.

Best Solar Panels Ranked by Warranty

If you rank the best solar panels by warranty, you are going to notice that the same companies making the best solar panels in terms of efficiencies are also offering the best warranties. This is important because if you buy one of these solar panel makes for your home, you are aligning yourself with large companies that are very likely to be around the entire term of your warranty given that they have been around more than 25 years already.

LG – This is one of the most bulletproof warranties in our opinion because it is backed by a very large company that specializes in making electronic devices. The warranties in their most recent lineup of panels include labor for the full 25 years, include a very strong line of defense against degradation (the loss of output over time), and a product warranty that runs the full 25 years – unlike the standard product warranty in the solar industry of 10 years. Back to the company, LG, the reason why in our opinion this solar panel’s warranty is so magnificent is that LG is a multiple-trillion-dollars per year company. This should matter to you because you can make a sizeable bet that LG will be around another 25 years to own the warranty with you.

Panasonic – Like the LG warranty, Panasonic’s warranty is strong because it is backed by a very large electronics manufacturer that has also been around longer than 25 years. While Panasonic is not as large as LG, this Japanese manufacturer makes a stellar product in a segment of manufacturing that is their strong competitive advantage; electronics manufacturing. Panasonic has been offering a warranty in excess of 90% production at year 25 before most other manufacturers. This speaks to the company’s confidence in its product and subject matter expertise. Panasonic will warrant the performance & product of their panels for 25 years, and if you buy their panels through the right installer, it will also offer 25 years on the labor if you ever have to replace a panel.

SunPower – We really like the Sunpower warranty because it is the granddaddy of solar panel warranties in that they have been offering an all-inclusive product, performance, and labor warranty the longest time of all the solar panel manufacturers still in existence. This really exemplifies how the company sees itself as a leader in solar, their standing as the most efficient solar panel manufacturer, and their history over the last 29 years of sticking it out as a solar panel manufacturer in a long history of seeing other companies come and go. The only knock I can think of when it comes to the SunPower warranty is that the company has seen better days financially speaking, and although they are backed by a multi-billion dollar energy conglomerate called Total, if we had to bet who would be the first company to go out of business between LG, Panasonic, and SunPower, my money goes against SunPower.

Best Solar Panels by Price

Like anything else for purchase, solar panels come in a wide array of pricing levels. For example, the latest and greatest from LG and Panasonic are going to cost you a noticeable amount more than a more average panel from a different company, and SunPower solar panels are going to cost you even more than LG and Panasonic. On the contrary, there are companies like Canadian Solar, Mission Solar, and Hanwha Qcell which are offered at lower prices when compared to the higher end solar panels from LG, Panasonic, or SunPower.

To put things into perspective, let us consider a solar panel system for a home that needs 12kW to offset their usage. First, it is important to note that 12kW equals 12,000 watts, so that is going to mean a different quantity of solar panels depending on the capacity, or wattage of a particular solar panel. So for example, if we start with a 370W solar panel from LG or Sunpower, we’ll need 32 solar panels to produce 11.84kW. Now if you have the roof space and you wanted to consider a lower-cost panel, then you might opt for Canadian Solar or Hanwha Qcell 325W models, which means you would need 37 panels – five more solar panels than with LG or SunPower – but the price difference would be anywhere between .60-.70 cents per watt. That math equals a price difference of at least $7,200 dollars. How that math works out is 12,000W multiplied by ~.60 equals $7,200.

With a price difference like that, you may really give consideration to the lower wattage panel that is less efficient but requires more roof space, especially if you have the space available or you are buying the system cash. If you are financing the system, then the monthly payment would increase only a marginal amount relative to the total monthly payment – but you’re also paying just a little bit more in interest.

DroneQuote can offer you pretty much any make and model of solar panel so long as our installing partners carry it in their lineup, and for the lower cost panels we often see a reoccurring selection of the following makes:

  1. Hanwha Qcell
  2. Canadian Solar
  3. Mission Solar

These three panels usually come in wattages ranging from 310 watts per solar panel to 325 watts per solar panel – and if you have space available to install even more panels, you could opt for lower wattage panels that cost even less, but again, you have to ask yourself if your budget is the primary filter through which you are ranking panels.

Best Solar Panels by Degradation

The diamond industry has told us that diamonds are forever, but when it comes to solar panels, that statement does not apply, unfortunately. Solar panels do not last forever and as time passes, the solar panel’s ability to convert light into electricity degrades over time. This is known as degradation, and it happens at varying speeds – depending on the warranty. Like the labor inclusion of a solar warranty, you may want to consider the degradation number to a high degree depending on what your plans are for the future. The reason why solar panel degradation may matter to some people is that as the panels produce less power, you are buying more power back from the utility. If you have a utility that charges lower rates, it may not matter as much, but if you live in an area like San Diego where San Diego Gas & Electric has some of the highest rates in the country, you may want to prevent buying any amount of power from the grid you can avoid.

Ranking panels by degradation looks like this:

  1. Sunpower – At the end of 25 years, SunPower warrants that their latest X, E, A – Series panels will be able to produce 92% of their day one production. Source:https://us.sunpower.com/solar-resources/sunpower-x-series-and-e-series-residential-ac-pv-module-limited-warranty
  2. Panasonic – At the end of 25 years, Panasonic warrants that their VBHNxxxKA03 & VBHNxxxSA17 series panels will meet 90.76% of production at day one. Source:file:///Users/rebekahmontoya/Downloads/hit-limitedwarranty_usa_sa17ka03-0818_warranty%20(1).pdf
  3. LG – LG warrants that at the end of 25 years, their NEON R panels will exceed 88% of production at day one, with a lot of their panels, and their latest and greatest panels are warranted to produce 90.8% at the end of year 25. Source:https://www.lg.com/us/solar/blog/understanding-solar-warranties-will-my-solar-panels-really-last-25-years

A conventional panel will have a warranty that lands at a minimum of 80% of day one output from solar panels like Canadian Solar, Mission Solar, and others. Hanwha Qcell comes in a little bit better at 85% of day one output at the end of 25 years. If you compare these numbers to premium panels, you will see that the output difference at 25 years can be quite significant from the top of the line solar panels to the average solar panels.

While output 25 years from now matters, of course, bear in mind that if you want to align yourself with the best solar panel warranties as seen through their performance warranty, you’ll also have to be ok with spending more money today to prevent buying more power tomorrow. To paint a picture for that cost difference, reference the math we showed you in the previous price example we did above.

Best Solar Panels by Look

Ranking solar panels by their look may seem rather trivial since one might think panels all look the same, but in reality, there can be very obvious or subtle differences in how the solar panels look. Sometimes the same exact model is framed with silver aluminum frames rather than black frames depending on its intended use. Commercial panels are typically framed in silver whereas residential solar panels are typically framed in black.

If you are going to install panels on a part of your home that is not easily seen, you may not care too much about their look, but if they’re going on the front of the home you may care a little bit more. Also, some panels have thin wires on the surface that are visible if you look closely, where others don’t. The “better looking” also tend to have a premium on the price for that look, so keep that in mind if you are ranking the best solar panel for you by price over looks.

Canadian Solar Panel Look

Canadian Solar Panel

LG Solar Panel Look

LG Solar Panel

Panasonic Solar Panel Look

Hanwha Qcell Solar

Sunpower Solar Panel Look

Sunpower Solar Panel

Hanwha Qcell Solar Panel Look

Hanwha Qcell Solar Panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Recommend Depends On YOU

We are able to recommend what the best solar panel is for a particular client, based on the conversations we have with them, but ultimately the client will tell us what they think the best solar panel is for them based on variables for them.

  1. Expectations – It all starts with your expectations of installing solar. Some folks want to avoid the cost of electricity, others see installing solar panels as a way to get a good return on investment, others want to run the AC to chill their beers, and believe it or not, there are still those that want to do something green for the environment – while also doing something for the green IN their wallet.
  2. Future plans – Perhaps the homeowner knows that something will change in their usage as time passes. Sometimes a homeowner will tell us they plan on buying an electric vehicle which can add significant usage to a home’s power consumption. Other times a homeowner will notify us that their family size is going to shrink as kids go off to college. Or perhaps they are going to be adding an AC unit into the mix. It is very important to consider what might change so that you can future-fit a solar panel system to your home.
    1. Usage increases from electric vehicles, new AC, pool solar, growing family. 
    2. Plans to move can have an impact on which panels you buy today if you are not going to be in the home for the longterm or if you do plan to be in the home well into the future. 
  3. The current cost of power – If a home is situated in a part of the country where electricity costs are relatively low, then perhaps it may sway a person to buying the least expensive solar panels in order to make the cost of electricity from solar less than the cost of electricity from the utility. 
  4. The current use of power – Often times people use far less power than they would really like to given that the cost of electricity is high in a particular utility. This usually means that their historic electricity use would, in fact, be higher if the cost of electricity were lower.
  5. Peace of mind mentality – Some people will always value the peace of mind offered by larger, more established companies, so this type of client may be ok spending an additional cost on solar panels that have better warranties that are backed by more established companies. 
  6. Likelihood of investing your money elsewhere – There have been times when a customer sees the difference between the cost of lower wattage panels and higher cost/more efficient solar panels, and their response has been to share with us that they feel they’d be able to get a better return by investing the difference in cost somewhere else.

Arguments To Buy One Solar Panel Over Another

What kind of guide would this be if we did not make an argument in one direction or the other? We like to think we are unbiased in panel manufacturers. So we would like to make what we feel are strong arguments in either direction and hopefully, we have been able to provide other information of value to you that can help you decide which solar panel is the best fit for your home.

Arguments For Top of The Line Solar Panels

  1. Cost of electricity in the future – Top of the line solar panels will produce more power today and more power in the future. If you invest in the best solar panels today, you will buy less power from the utility tomorrow as their prices go up. If you live in a utility like SDGE, where rates are higher than they are almost anywhere in America, you may see a higher return on your initial investment as the most efficient solar panels will outproduce their rivals as they run the course of their 25-year warranty. 
  2. Degradation – Tying into the previous point regarding the cost of electricity in the future, a higher cost SunPanel will produce 12% more power than a lower-cost Canadian Solar panel at the end of 25 years, and also during the period of 25 years, so you can expect a real avoided cost that would have otherwise been paid to the utility. 
  3. Look – Higher-end panels will typically look better as a result of how they are manufactured, which also ties into why these panels are more efficient. 
  4. Warranties – A top tier solar panel will include a warranted output that is greater over the course of 25 years and will also typically include labor for the full 25 year period. Though we will mention that surprisingly, Canadian Solar does include labor in their panel replacement warranty, so there’s that.
  5. Peace of mind – When you buy the best you can usually expect to have the highest level of protection and performance. To a lot of people, the peace of mind that is delivered from buying the best is well worth every penny.

Arguments For The Cost-Effective Solar Panels

  1. Better price today – As we demonstrated earlier, the price difference between the “best” solar panels and your average solar panels can be very noticeable. Some people may have a hard time justifying the difference in price between the two options and the savings for the lower-cost solar panel may be significant enough that they rather keep the money in their pocket than invest in the latest and greatest solar panels.
  2. Greater offset – A homeowner that was previously using electricity to a more frugal level may be more inclined to buy a lower cost solar panel option because it would mean a higher offset of power today, without spending a great deal more on the cost of the system. For example, producing 30% more power than is being used currently will cost much less with average panels than it would with higher-end panels.
  3. Investment of difference – If you have the roof space available, we would argue against top tier panels because the difference in price may be invested elsewhere in the market and yield a greater return than you would otherwise get from the savings in electricity. This last point may not apply to some people if they don’t actively manage their investment portfolios, but it may speak volumes to those who do. Especially if there was a $7,000 price difference on the line which could be invested elsewhere.

The Best Solar Panels For You

Ultimately, you will want to ask yourself what matters most to you as you are looking to invest in solar panels for your home. Our job at DroneQuote is to make sure that we offer you exactly what it is you want to see, not what we think you want. So to that end, we’ll ask to learn more about what your expectations and goal of installing solar panels, and we suggest you read through the Frequently Asked Questions we have seen come from different clients. The more you know – or knowing is half the battle.

And as always, if you have further questions regarding anything we covered here today, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]or if you would like to get started with getting the most competitive quotes for solar without the hassle of in-home sales, please go to www.dronequote-get-started/

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