Mathew Vaughn
Mathew Vaughn Expert View Bio

Inevitably, everyone looking to go solar asks the same question: What’s the best solar panel? And equally as inevitable, the answer is always: it depends. This is true to the point that if a contractor tells you he only sells one type of solar panel because it’s “the best,” you might want to consider finding a new contractor.

Every rooftop, every family’s energy use, and every aesthetic sensibility is different – so the best solar panels for your neighbor’s home may not be the best for yours.

50 Best Solar Panels Ranked

While it’s impossible to label one solar panel “the best” for every situation, we’ve evaluated panels from a variety of manufacturers to pick our favorites at various power levels. The chart is interactive, so you can sort by the factors that are most important to you.

Our Rank Manufacturer Headquarters Panel Name Panel Type Energy Output (W) Efficiency (%) Materials Warranty Output Warranty
1 SunPower United States SPR-X21-345 Monocrystalline 345 21.5 10 25
2 SunEdison United States F280 KzD Monocrystalline 280 17.1 25 25
3 SunPower United States SPR-E20-327 Monocrystalline 327 20.4 10 25
4 SunEdison United States F275 CzC Monocrystalline 275 16.8 25 25
5 LG South Korea LG335S2W-G4 Monocrystalline 335 17.1 12 25
6 Suniva United States OPT340- 72-4-100 Monocrystalline 340 17.43 10 25
7 Solar World United States Sunmodule Plus SW 300 Mono Monocrystalline 300 17.89 10 25
8 Suniva United States OPT290- 60-4-100 Monocrystalline 290 17.65 10 25
9 Lumos United States GSX27060M-C Monocrystalline 270 15.9 12 25
10 Suntech China STP325S-24/Vem Monocrystalline 325 16.7 12 25
11 Risen Energy China RSM72-6-320P Polycrystalline 320 16.49 12 25
12 Grape Solar United States GS-P60-265-Fab2 Polycrystalline 265 16.21 10 25
13 Canadian Solar Canada Max Power CS6X-320P Polycrystalline 320 16.68 10 25
14 Hanwha Solar South Korea HSL72S-315W Polycrystalline 315 16.1 12 25
15 ReneSola China JC320M-24/Abs Polycrystalline 320 16.5 10 25
16 Jinko Solar China JKM320P-72 Polycrystalline 320 16.49 10 25
17 Lumos United States LSX26060M-B/C Monocrystalline 260 15 12 25
18 LG South Korea LG285S1C-G4 Monocrystalline 285 17.4 12 25
19 Solar World United States Sunmodule Pro-Series SW260 Poly Polycrystalline 260 15.51 10 25
20 Trina China TSM-PD14 Polycrystalline 315 16.2 10 25
21 Kyocera Japan KD330GX-LFB Polycrystalline 330 15.04 10 25
22 Suntech China STP275S-20/Wem Monocrystalline 275 16.9 12 25
23 Trina China TSM-PEG5 Polycrystalline 265 16.1 10 30
24 Canadian Solar Canada Quintech CS6K-280M Monocrystalline 280 17.11 10 25
25 Yingli Solar China Panda Series YL280C-30b Monocrystalline 280 17.1 10 25
26 REC Norway REC280TP BLK Polycrystalline 280 17 10 25
27 JA Solar China Jam 6(L) 60-295/PR Monocrystalline 295 16.04 10 25
28 Risen Energy China RSM60-6-270M Monocrystalline 270 16.5 12 25
29 Jinko Solar China JKM275M-60 Monocrystalline 275 16.8 10 25
30 Hanwha Solar South Korea HSL 60S-270W Polycrystalline 270 16.2 12 25
31 Yingli Solar China YGE Series YL270P-29b Polycrystalline 270 16.6 10 25
32 JA Solar China Jam 6 60-270/SI Monocrystalline 270 16.51 10 25
33 Canadian Solar Canada Dymond CS6K-270P-FG Polycrystalline 270 16.5 10 25
34 Hanwha Q-Cells Germany Q.PRO-G4 265 Polycrystalline 265 15.9 12 25
35 Kyocera Japan KU265-6MCA Polycrystalline 265 16.11 10 25
36 Vikram Solar India Eldora VSP.72.AAA.03 Polycrystalline 315 16.23 10 27
37 ReneSola China JC260M-24/Bb Polycrystalline 260 16 10 25
38 CSUN China QSAR 320-72M Monocrystalline 320 16.53 10 25
39 REC Norway REC260PE BLK2 Polycrystalline 260 15.8 10 25
40 JA Solar China JAP6-48-225/4BB Polycrystalline 225 17.37 10 25
41 CSUN China CSUN 310-72P Polycrystalline 310 16.01 10 25
42 Sharp Japan ND-250QCS Polycrystalline 250 15.3 10 25
43 Grape Solar United States GS-S-160-Fab8 Monocrystalline 160 16.4 10 25
44 Jinko Solar China JKM215M-72 Monocrystalline 215 16.84 10 25
45 Vikram Solar India Eldora VSP.60.AAA.03 Polycrystalline 265 16.46 10 27
46 Samsung South Korea LPC250SM Monocrystalline 250 15.62 5 25
47 Sharp Japan ND-F2Q235 Polycrystalline 235 14.4 10 25
48 Samsung South Korea LPC235SM Monocrystalline 235 14.68 5 25
49 First Solar United States FS-4112-2 Polycrystalline 112 15.56 10 25
50 First Solar United States FS-4105A Polycrystalline 105 14.58 10 25

Expert Interview:
Mathew Vaughn

Most consumers are entering a whole new world when purchasing their first home solar energy system, and there are many concepts to understand and factors to consider. Here are a few questions that should be answered to help assure consumers that they are getting the best quality and value for their solar panel purchase.

Do contractors have “deals” with certain distributors/manufacturers?

The answer is “maybe.” Some contractors have special arrangements with one or more specific equipment (panels, inverters) manufacturers or distributors. These arrangements come in many forms, from one-time product price discounts to exclusive local or regional distribution agreements.

Can this affect the choice of panels a contractor might offer a homeowner?

It absolutely could. If an installer has a special deal with a manufacturer or distributor, that usually means more money in the installer’s pocket if he or she sells a customer on that manufacturer/distributor’s product. Which means, at the very least, an installer may possibly push a particular product brand over another that may be a better choice for the customer.

Learn more about choosing a solar contractor
What questions should you ask your contractor about panels?

Some installers will tell you that the specific brand or “type” of solar panel isn’t really that important, it’s the overall system – its cost, output and value – that matters. And there is some truth to that, but it’s only partly true. There are a few important questions every consumer should ask their contractor about the solar panels he or she proposes to use:

What is the product (materials) warranty on my panels?

The product warranty commonly covers the repair or replacement costs for a failed panel due to manufacturing defect. A typical solar panel warranty is 10 years, although some may last 12 years or longer.

What is the performance warranty on my panels?

The performance warranty concerns a panel’s output level. They commonly say that a panel will still be producing 80 percent of maximum output up to 25 years of service.

Is my warranty insured in case the manufacturer goes out of business?

Most manufacturers today do not provide this type of warranty insurance, but a few do. It’s certainly worth asking about.

Learn more about Solar Panel Warranties What will the total energy output of my system be?

OK, this question is not specific to the solar panel itself, but the bottom line for any solar PV system is total electrical output to your home and its overall value given the system’s cost.

Are there any things that should make a homeowner suspect a contractor’s panel choice?

Yes. If the contractor only offers one specific brand or panel model, that may be an indication that he or she has a special arrangement with the panel’s manufacturer. Or if the manufacturer is hesitant to go into detail about the makes and models of any or all of the components being offered. In either case, the homeowner would be wise to seek out additional offers from other contractors before making his or her purchase.

Improving Upon the Best Solar Panels

It seems like every few months another PV manufacturer is announcing that it has raised the bar in solar panel or solar cell efficiency. In early 2016, SunPower said it has achieved a panel that converts 22.8 percent of the sunshine that reaches it into electricity. Then, just weeks later, Panasonic announced a solar panel efficiency record of 23.8 percent.

While manufacturers work hard for bragging rights to the best solar panel, the government too is working to further a renewable energy future. Learn about how the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is creating new technologies, testing new ideas and helping find the best solar panels to power your home:

Should You Wait to Buy Solar Panels?

With so many industry researchers working hard to create better, more efficient solar panels, you’re probably wondering if it makes sense to invest in current technology or wait for “the big solar tech breakthrough.” Are the best solar panels today still going to be the best tomorrow?

While a lot of attention is given to new efficiency records and reports of solar energy “approaching grid parity,” the truth is that those spotlight-grabbing headlines don’t reveal the less exciting part of the story. The fact is we are still working with the same PV technology that we have been for years.

Whether your solar panels are 22 percent efficient or 22.8 percent efficient, you’re likely still better off going solar now. Why? Every year you don’t use the power of the sun rather than electricity from the grid is a year you’re still paying the utility company for all your energy. While the costs of installing solar panels are dropping on every front, the longer you wait the more utility bill savings you’re missing out on.

Another thing to consider is the 30 percent federal incentive tax credit (ITC). That’s thousands of dollars coming back to you if you go solar now, but only until 2019. The ITC and many other rebates are being cut back or eliminated altogether as the solar industry grows stronger. Will the savings from another 0.02 percent of efficiency in your solar panels add up to getting $4,000 or $5,000 taken off your tax bill? Doubtful.

How Can You Take Advantage of the ITC?