What makes a solar panel brand “good” or “worth it” is determined by several factors, and one of the most important is its efficiency. A solar panel efficiency rating measures how well the panel converts sunlight into energy. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the panel. Most solar panels on the market today run at about 18-20% efficiency. Some panels are a bit less or a bit more efficient, and generally, the price of the solar panel will be cheaper or more expensive, respectively, in relation to the efficiency rating.
Why is efficiency important?
Efficiency is important for a couple of reasons. First, if you invest in solar panels for your home, you want to get the most bang for your buck. And one of the ways to do that, besides cashing in on the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), is by purchasing the most efficient solar panels available to you.
Here are some more benefits of an efficient solar panel:
- You get more usable energy from the sunlight that reaches your panels.
- Efficient solar panels are a better value because they create more electricity (compared to a less efficient panel).
- You are able to install fewer panels to meet your energy needs.
Overall most efficient home solar panels
Solar panels will come with an efficiency rating that you can typically find in the “key features” or “product specs” area of the panel description. That said, the efficiency percentage is not the only data point you should pay attention to when trying to find the most efficient solar panels for your house.
Whether you are financing or leasing your solar panels or using a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), the efficiency of your panels is a key factor in the amount of electricity you will be able to generate with your home solar system. And keep in mind that if you are looking for solar panels for your RV, the panel specs will be significantly different from residential solar panels.
To help you cut through the extensive amount of data, we’ve narrowed down the top five most efficient solar panels. To determine the most efficient solar panels, we looked at how each top manufacturer performed in the following categories and compiled this information below:
- Panel dimensions
Most efficient solar panels at a glance
Using the information outlined above, we found the most efficient solar panels to be:
- SunPower® A-Series
- Jinko Solar Tiger Pro
- LG NeON® 2 Series
- Panasonic EverVolt
- Hanwha Q CELLS
Want to dive deeper? Take a look at the chart below to see how the individual specs broke down for the best solar panels for your home.
Top 5 high-efficiency solar panels
|Rank||Manufacturers||Efficiency||Materials||Wattage Range||Panel Dimensions (L x W x H)|
|1||SunPower® A-Series||20.9—22.8%||Monocrystalline||410—425||72.2 x 40 x 1.6 inches|
|2||Jinko Solar Tiger Pro||21.2—21.4%||Monocrystalline||535—585||89.5 x 44.7 x 1.4 inches|
|3||LG NeON® 2 Series||19.6—21%||Monocrystalline||340—440||68.5 x 41 x 1.6 inches|
|4||Panasonic EverVolt||20—21.7%||Monocrystalline||360—370||67.8 x 40 x 1.2 inches|
|5||Hanwha Q CELLS||19.5—20.6%||Monocrystalline||335—360||66.3 x 39.3 x 1.3 inches|
What makes a solar panel efficient?
Every solar panel manufacturer includes the efficiency percentage for each of its solar panel models in the product specifications. Most solar panels on the market today have an efficiency of around 20 percent. A 20 percent efficiency rating means roughly one-fifth of the sunlight that reaches those solar panels is being converted into energy.
Other factors to consider when evaluating the efficiency of solar panels
However, wattage, panel dimensions, structure, and materials can also influence the total solar output of a panel. These factors contribute to the amount of solar energy created by the panels. But, these factors do not always correlate in the way you would expect. For example, just having a high wattage does not necessarily mean a panel is more efficient. Therefore, it is a good idea to look at all the specifications of a solar panel rather than focusing on just one aspect.
Features that contribute to a solar panel’s efficiency:
- Wattage: A solar panel’s power is measured in watts. Watts are the result of voltage multiplied by current.
- Panel size: The dimensions of a solar panel may influence efficiency because a larger panel can typically produce more wattage.
- Structure: A solar panel’s composition includes busbars that conduct electricity within the panel. The placement and amount of busbars can affect efficiency.
- Material: Solar panels are made of silicon in multiple forms. Solar panels can be monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous, with monocrystalline typically rated as the most efficient.
- Reflection: You want your solar panels to absorb sunlight, not reflect it. Reflection percentage is low across all solar panel brands due to anti-reflective coatings.
How can I make my solar panels more efficient?
The easiest way to make your solar panels more efficient is to add a good solar battery to your home solar system. A solar battery can hold the energy your solar panels create during peak daytime hours so that you can use that energy during off-peak hours.
What can I do to make my solar panels more efficient in cold weather?
Cold weather will not necessarily negatively affect solar panel efficiency if there is still sunlight. However, if your panels are covered by snow for multiple days, it will cause a temporary reduction in efficiency. Having your solar panels installed at a slightly steeper angle can help melting snow fall off quicker.
What can I do to make my solar panels more efficient in hot weather?
Contrary to what you might expect, extreme heat can lower the efficiency of solar panels. While there’s nothing you can do to make a hot day cooler, you can select panels with a low temperature coefficient. A temperature coefficient is a measure of the electrical resistance in relation to temperature. You can find a panel’s temperature coefficient in the product specifications.
That said, panels with low temperature coefficients tend to also fall lower on the overall efficiency rating, so it’s a bit of a trade-off. If you live in an exceptionally hot climate, discuss with your solar installer whether a low-temp coefficient panel would be a good choice for you.
What can I do to make my solar panels more efficient when it’s raining?
The good news is that rain helps the efficiency of your solar panels in the long run because it rinses away dirt and debris that are blocking your panels from absorbing sunlight.
Most efficient solar panels FAQs
Is a more efficient solar panel more expensive?
Not always. The LG NeON® 2 Series, Panasonic EverVolt, and Hanwha Q CELLS are all averaged-price solar panels with high efficiency ratings.
What is the most efficient solar panel you can buy?
Currently, the most efficient solar panel on the market is the SunPower A-Series model, which comes in at 22.8% efficiency. However, solar panel innovations are happening very quickly, so there could be an even more efficient solar panel in the near future.
How does the efficiency of solar panels compare to fossil fuels?
Based on how much energy is created from the product, fossil fuels are more efficient than the solar panels currently on the market. Coal and natural gas hover between 30-40 percent efficiency. That said, emissions are a negative byproduct of fossil fuels that outweighs their advantage in efficiency.
Why aren’t solar panels more efficient?
More efficient solar panels are available for commercial and government entities, such as NASA. However, the materials needed to make residential solar panels more efficient would make them much more expensive.
Is it worth it to get a high-efficiency solar panel?
Yes. A high-efficiency solar panel will have a higher output of energy, making your solar panels a better value. Find out more about incentives and rebates you can earn for getting solar panels installed in your state:
- California solar panels
- Florida solar panels
- Texas solar panels
- North Carolina solar panels
- South Carolina solar panels
- Virginia solar panels
- Nevada solar panels
- New Jersey solar panels
- Arizona solar panels
- Colorado solar panels
- Wisconsin solar panels
- Massachusetts solar panels
- Pennsylvania solar panels
- Maryland solar panels
- Ohio solar panels