When it comes to solar panels, there are a lot of options. There are different brands, different models, and even different types. We want to give you a basic understanding of solar technology, brands, and general industry standards so you can have a better idea of which residential solar panels will best suit your needs. We will also share our decades of experience and expertise to reveal the secrets we’ve learned over the years to discover the best residential solar panels.
As a homeowner, it can be difficult to determine which panels are best for your unique home. To make matters more frustrating, most companies only offer one brand and usually market their panels as the best residential panels available on the market, which can be very deceptive, even if they are great panels. Every property and living style is different, which means it is vital to take every aspect of solar systems into account in order to make the best call.
However, choosing the best solar panels for you is one of the great benefits of buying versus leasing solar—you get to determine what will work best for your property. And we are here to help!
At Blue Raven Solar, we know there’s a lot more to a panel than its brand name, which is why we’re going to break down all the qualities that distinguish an average solar panel from the best solar panel on the market so you can make sure you get the best that solar technology has to offer.
The Best Type of Solar Panel
In order to make an informed decision regarding the best solar panel, it is imperative to gain a general understanding of current solar tech. There are 3 main types of solar panels available in the industry:
- Thin film
Each panel type has its advantages and disadvantages, and some are naturally better suited for residential properties, so let’s take a closer look.
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from crystalline silicon. They are the most space efficient, which means these are generally the most expensive. Because they can do more in a smaller space, they are the most common and often the most effective panel in the residential solar industry.
Polycrystalline panels work in the same way that monocrystalline panels do, but they are bigger and less expensive. They are typically used for larger projects like commercial solar or solar farms because they take a lot more space than monocrystalline panels.
Thin film panels use a completely different technology than crystalline silicon panels, and, to be totally up front, the technology for this newer type of panel is still developing. Currently thin film solar panels are the least energy efficient, but they are expected to greatly improve in coming years as science improves and the industry learns more.
Based on the different characteristics, monocrystalline panels are the best type of panel for residential solar systems. Rarely do homeowners have large enough roofs for polycrystalline panels to be effective, and thin film panels have yet to reach their full potential.
However, no matter the size or shape of their roof, any homeowner can reduce their power bill significantly by purchasing monocrystalline panels and, as the solar industry continues to gain momentum, monocrystalline panels will soon cost less and produce even more power. At Blue Raven Solar, we are proud to provide effective monocrystalline panels to all of our customers!
The Best Solar Panel Brand
If you’ve taken a look at residential solar panels, you’ll know that there are hundreds of brands, both stateside and internationally. With that being said, does brand really matter? We’ve determined that major brands like Jinkosolar, LG, Solaria, JA Solar, Panasonic, Trina, Yingli, and Canadian Solar all make fantastic products, and each of these companies has invested millions of dollars and has spent years (even decades) improving their premium monocrystalline panels. Each company is driven by intense competition between one another, as well as consumer feedback, and they are motivated to make cheaper, more durable, more efficient, and longer lasting panels.
Thus, brand does not determine which solar panel is the best and shouldn’t be the biggest deciding factor for homeowners looking to go solar. However, when getting a quote from a solar installer, all potential solar buyers should verify that their installer provides panels from a reputable solar panel company. Researching brands can be an easy starting point for determining which types of panels will or will not work for you.
If you’d like to get more details on the best brands in the solar manufacturing industry, take a look at Solar Reviews’ comprehensive Top 20 List. This list gives in-depth analysis on the pros and cons of 20 of the best brands in the industry, as well as detailed customer reviews.
The Best Solar Panel Size
While all major brands offer monocrystalline panels, there are a wide variety of sizes—and size can have a big impact on panel performance and energy output. To be clear, we’re not talking about the physical dimensions of the panels (most monocrystalline panels are about 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet and weigh 50 pounds). We’re actually referring to the large wattage number that comes after the brand name.
This number represents the wattage of that specific panel. If the panel name is followed by the number 250, that means this panel will produce 250 watts of electricity per hour in the perfect solar conditions.
Generally speaking, monocrystalline panels will have a wattage range from about 170 to 365. Anything below these 170 panels will require a much larger number of panels and thus a larger roof, and anything above 365 is generally more expensive and not cost-effective for residential homeowners.
In recent years, larger companies are trending toward larger wattage panels because it means that homeowners will need a smaller number of panels to offset their entire energy bill. After years of researching, testing, and crunching the numbers at Blue Raven Solar, we choose to use 315, 320, 325, 330, and 335-watt panels because we believe that these 5 sizes provide homeowners with the most energy at the lowest cost available on the market, meaning you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Best Solar Panel Efficiency
The best solar panels have high efficiencies, meaning a high amount of sunlight is able to be converted into electricity. With that being said, the majority of 2021 solar panels will produce electricity at 16-20% efficiency. But what does that mean?
Well, each solar panel is filled with dozens of solar cells. Solar cells are the small, silicon squares that absorb sunlight and transform that light into electricity for your home. Generally, each panel will contain a total of 48, 60, or 72 solar cells. Because solar is a relatively new technology, scientists have not discovered how to get solar cells to perform at 100% efficiency. Thus, a solar panel that is 20% efficient means that that solar panel is capable of converting 20% of the light that comes from the sun at that given moment into electricity.
This number might seem quite low, but these efficiency levels are still generally high enough to reduce or eliminate power bills and, as solar becomes more and more popular, the technology is bound to continue making improvements to overall efficiency in the coming years. Additionally, solar is already cheap enough that it gives owners a return on investment in less than a decade of owning a system.
Usually, solar installers claim that the best panels have the highest efficiencies. However, the higher the panel efficiency, the more expensive the panel will be. For example, one of the most efficient solar panels is Sunpower’s 400W Maxeon 3 panel, which is rated to convert 22.6% of the sunlight that it absorbs into electricity. A homeowner or solar installation company can buy one of these panels for $590 on Rainbow Power Company (an online panel distributing company), but, if a homeowner were to purchase a panel only a couple of percentage points lower, like Canadian Solar’s 325W panel, they’d only have to pay $186. That is a massive difference and means thousands of savings when a homeowner is purchasing a system that offsets 100% of their power bill.
Higher efficiency panels can be great for small homes, but, in most cases, choosing a panel that is slightly less efficient can be a huge money saver. At Blue Raven Solar, we provide our customers with high-quality panels that have plenty of efficiency (18-20%) and wattage (315-335W), so that we can help our customers save as much money as possible.
The Best Panels Come with a Warranty
If you are buying your solar panels outright, you will want to make sure that they come with a warranty. A product without a warranty puts you at risk for unforeseen expenses, and it may also indicate that you’re working with a company that isn’t all too worried about the customer experience.
All panels are susceptible to wear and tear, physical defects, and installation errors. If your panels are not covered by warranty, you very well may have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the case your solar panels need to be fixed. And when you purchased a solar system to save you money, paying thousands of dollars out of pocket to get panels fixed doesn’t really fit in with that money-saving plan. Luckily, the brands we mentioned earlier in this post offer great panel warranties, and most large solar companies provide workmanship warranties.
Because we care deeply about customer satisfaction, we give all our customers panel, workmanship, and production warranties:
- 25-year product warranty: All of our solar panels come with a 25-year product warranty, which means our solar systems provide our customers with hundreds in savings every month for decades to come.
- 10-year workmanship warranty: Each homeowner who chooses Blue Raven Solar will have a 10-year workmanship warranty. This allows our customers to get free repairs to any install or workmanship errors for their first decade with their solar system.
- Total customer satisfaction: Lastly, for customers whose solar systems are underperforming expected rates, we make sure to cover the costs to get the system performing as it should.
In reality, our solar panels are only as good as their owner’s satisfaction, which is why we do our best to separate ourselves from our competition and provide the best customer service in the industry!
So, What is Our Pick for Best Solar Panel?
We have dedicated countless hours of time, a great deal of money, and in-depth industry research to choosing what we believe to be the best residential solar panel available. Taking into account its size, efficiency, warranty, and price, we have found the best options for our customers.
We currently use panels that have 5 different wattage sizes (315, 320, 325, 330, and 335) and perform at 18-20% efficiency. We truly believe that these are some of the best panels available on the market, and we know that they will be able to save you thousands of dollars in the coming years! Plus, our black-on-black panels won’t ruin the outside appearance of your house—they look great on any roof.
If you have more questions about residential solar panels in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We believe in a no-pressure experience, and we’re here to help you get the best solar panels for you. You can start by filling out our form to get a free quote.
After filling out that form, we’ll be able to give you a free, no-commitment quote based on the information you provide. Once you decide to take the next step, we will schedule a contractor visit to your property to create the most efficient and effective solar system design for your unique situation. We are more than happy to answer your questions and help you determine if solar is right for you!
If you’re interested in seeing how much a solar system with these panels would cost on your roof, feel free to give us a call or fill out a Get a Quote form on our website.