SunPower Solar Panels Review (Are They Worth It in 2023?)
By Karsten Neumeister /
In this EcoWatch guide on the best solar panels for homes, you’ll learn:
Each product and or company featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Most solar panel manufacturers produce photovoltaic (PV) panels for residential use, but the options aren’t all created equal. Each brand has a different efficiency level, rate of degradation, durability and more, so choosing the best option for your solar project can be quite confusing. To make matters worse, opting for the wrong brand could cut into your energy savings over time.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the top five best solar panels for homes, and we’ll explain why each is a great option for your rooftop solar system. We’ll also explain what to look for in a high-performance panel to help you pick the best one for your needs. You can also refer to our review of the top solar panel installers if you’re searching for the best provider for your home.
The five solar panel companies below are the manufacturers we’ve identified as the best in the industry for home PV panels:
We’ll explain why we feel these panels are the best in the solar industry for home renewable energy systems below. Each panel includes a drop-down menu with additional information.
The panels from SunPower and its sister company, Maxeon, are considered some of the best in the entire industry by customers and solar professionals alike. SunPower has set the record for the highest panel efficiency available, which translates to greater savings in the long run, and the performance specifications and warranty coverage also outclasses just about every competitor. These panels are expensive, but we feel they’re worth it.
Ultimately, we recommend SunPower panels for anyone who wants the highest level of performance and doesn’t mind paying a bit more for it.
First and foremost, SunPower panels reach real-world efficiency ratings of up to 22.8%, which is the highest in the industry. Greater efficiency means improved savings on your utility bills, a faster panel payback period and more value overall from your clean energy system.
SunPower panels also come backed by an industry-leading 40-year warranty, which is around 60% higher than the standard 25 years of coverage. The production warranty guarantees a below-average efficiency loss of 2% in the first year and about half of the loss per year after that. Ultimately, these panels provide more peace of mind that your electric bills will remain low or even non-existent.
SunPower panels mostly come in entirely black models and never have visible grid lines, so they’re a sleek option that most solar customers don’t mind mounting to their roofs.
The only real downside when it comes to SunPower panels is the cost. These panels average around $3.30 per watt, which means a typical 9 kW system will cost around $5,800 more than if you bought panels priced at the average cost of $2.66.
Still, we think the higher price is worth it for the durability and greater performance, which could actually end up saving you money on energy costs over time.
Read our full review of SunPower for more information.
SunPower has two product lines available: the Maxeon lineup and the Performance lineup. We’ll include a breakdown of all of the panel options within these product lines below.
As mentioned above, SunPower provides the top solar panel warranty in the entire industry for residential panels. The Maxeon lineup comes with an incredible 40-year warranty for the equipment and panel efficiency. The Performance models include a 25-year warranty for power production and manufacturer defects.
All SunPower panels include a 25-year workmanship warranty, which is more than double the industry standard. You also get 10 years of roof leak coverage, which most providers don’t offer at all.
Most SunPower panels are expected to last for 40 years or more.
SunPower used to manufacture its own panels and outsource installations to third parties. The company went through a restructuring recently, and now its sister company Maxeon handles manufacturing. SunPower still outsources most of its installations, but it has started to complete some with an in-house team.
The company has no specific relationships with installers, so any company that can pass certification tests from SunPower can install its products.
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Q Cells, which is a brand manufactured by Hanwha, is the best solar company for value, in our opinion. Despite being more affordable than most other tier-one solar panel brands at $2.75 per watt, its panels still have above-average efficiency ratings and performance specs. They’re not quite as impressive in their durability as some other options, but they’re still an outstanding choice for many solar customers.
We recommend Q Cells for solar customers who want the best performance per dollar.
Q Cells panels get a lot of things right, including an average efficiency that’s around the industry average. It matches SunPower in terms of first-year solar panel degradation as well, so the efficiency over time is going to be better than you’ll see from many competitors.
Q Cells offers robust warranty coverage for performance and manufacturer defects that’s in line with the industry average of 25 years each. Its panels also come rated to withstand 4,000 pascal units on the rear of the panel, which means it’s better than most for areas that see strong winds and will help prevent mishaps and costly replacements.
Finally, and most importantly, Q Cells panels average around $2.75 per watt, as compared to comparable brands that average around $3.00 per watt.
While Q Cells matches SunPower in terms of first-year efficiency degradation, the efficiency loss per year after that is a bit higher. Additionally, the maximum efficiency currently available from the company is 20.9%. While this is above the industry standard, we’d love to see an efficiency rating topping 21%, like most of Q Cells’s competitors.
Q Cells also only has two solar panels for homes in production at this time. We’d ideally like to see more variety to give solar customers the opportunity to bring down solar panel installation costs or push up performance.
As mentioned above, Q Cells has two solar panel options for home solar energy systems. We’ll list these below and include a brief description of each to help you decide which might be right for your home.
Q Cells provides a 25-year warranty for all of its products, which covers manufacturer defects. This is in line with what most competitors provide. However, Q Cells has a special solar cell testing process that eliminates most issues related to potential-induced degradation (PID). Since PID can cause dips in panel efficiency over time, this helps Q Cells panels maintain their peak power generation capabilities.
Q Cells also covers efficiency for 25 years. This is also typical, but the degradation rate is below average. The first-year dip is set at a maximum of 2%, as opposed to the industry average of 2.5%, and the subsequent-year dip is 0.45%, which is just below the average of 0.5%. Overall, the slower degradation rate means your panels will continue producing more power than most other brands over the warranty term.
Q Cells doesn’t have a certification program for installers like SunPower does, so any solar provider that has a relationship with the company can purchase and install its panels. You should have no issues finding an installer near you that carries Q Cells equipment.
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In our opinion, Trina Solar is right up there with Q Cells when it comes to high-quality equipment for the money. Trina panels are a bit more expensive at an average of $2.85 per watt, and they deliver similar efficiency ratings, temperature coefficients and other performance specs. It outclasses Q Cells when it comes to durability, with an industry-leading 1% efficiency loss in the first year and a superior 0.4% annual degradation after that.
We recommend these panels to solar customers who want outstanding value for their money and don’t have access to Q Cells panels or want to ensure their energy savings last as long as possible.
All panels lose efficiency over time, but Trina provides some of the lowest degradation rates for the money. The panels are just slightly above-average in terms of cost per watt, but they outperform just about every other panel in its price range when it comes to durability.
Trina panels start out with above-average efficiency ratings as well, topping out at 20.4 and averaging around 20%, which is far better than the average of 15%.
Trina has great warranty coverage for its solar equipment, but one of the most appealing aspects about the protection is that, unlike companies like SunPower, there’s no specific training required to maintain the warranty coverage. That means Trina remains widely available to customers across the country via a huge network of providers.
Trina’s average efficiency might be above the industry average, but it is lower than several other top-tier panels. We still feel the value provided is excellent, but there are more efficient solar options that can provide greater energy savings over time if you’re willing to invest a little more. Opting for a higher-efficiency panel could yield more savings in the long run.
Trina panels also come with a lower maximum wind load than many competitors, at just 2,400 pascal units. That means they might not be ideal for homes in areas that could experience high winds from extreme weather like hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
Trina Solar has two product lines available for residential customers: the aptly named Residential line and the Vertex line. There are five products total between the two product lines.
Trina’s warranty coverage is similar to what you’ll find from most other companies on this list. The coverage for the equipment and the labor is 25 years. The degradation in the first year and the following 24 years of the warranty term are both below average, and the company has the lowest first-year efficiency loss we’ve seen.
Trina’s warranty doesn’t require any paperwork or installer training, so you don’t have to worry about not being covered because a non-certified company installed your panels. The warranty can be transferred as well, although you will need to file transfer documents if you sell your home.
As we mentioned above, Trina lets any solar contractor install its panels without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty or the performance warranty. That not only means that any panels installed by a professional will be covered but also that this panel brand is accessible to most U.S. residents.
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REC panels are some of the most popular in America, in large part because they provide efficiency ratings that are well above average—topping out at 22.3%—but also have lower prices than options from other high-efficiency solar companies like SunPower and Panasonic. We’d recommend these panels to homeowners who don’t necessarily need the most impressive efficiency ratings possible but who still want above-average power output at a slightly lower cost.
REC panels get a lot of things right, including efficiency. The average panel efficiency from the company is around 20.7% for residential models, which is well above average, and the max efficiency is 22.2%, making them one of the highest-rated panels available. Only a few other companies offer panels above the 22% mark.
REC panels are known to be highly durable and adaptable to a wide range of climates and weather conditions. It has a below-average temperature coefficient, making it a great option for hot climates. It also has above-average wind and snow loads, so it’s a durable panel brand no matter where you live.
REC panels come at prices that are quite a bit above average, at $3.00 per watt compared to the average of $2.66. You do get better efficiency ratings for the price, so we still think it’s worth it, but the brand will push up your installation costs. The panel degradation is in line with the average for the top-tier brands, but at this price point, we’d love to see lower efficiency loss rates.
Additionally, some of the REC panel models come with below-average equipment coverage, like the REC Twinpeak 4, which has just 20 years of protection.
Read our full review of REC for more information.
REC has three product lines for homes, which include five total panel options:
REC is one of the few solar manufacturers that bases its warranty coverage on the panel model you have installed. Most of the panels come with a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty for the equipment and a 25-year performance guarantee, but some only include 20-year equipment coverage.
Additionally, some of the REC panels guarantee 92% efficiency after 25 years, which is some of the lowest efficiency losses in the industry, while others have a more aggressive decline in efficiency.
Overall, we’d expect REC panels to last for between 25 and 30 years, on average.
REC has a certification program for installers across the country. If you get your panels installed by a certified contractor following the designation installation process, you’ll usually get a superior warranty package. However, just about any solar panel installer can carry and offer REC panels, which means the brand remains widely available throughout the country.
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Panasonic panels are well-known for their outstanding efficiency rating, topping out at 22.2%. However, they’re also some of the best for solar customers in extreme climates, as they have the lowest temperature coefficient of any panel option we’ve reviewed. The high efficiency and low temperature coefficient mean they’re one of the best solar panels for providing maximum power in hot climates.
Panasonic panels are on the expensive side, but we feel they’re worth it due to their outstanding performance.
Panasonic has a maximum efficiency rating of 22.2%, which is well above the industry average and higher than most of the company’s direct competition. The panels also have below-average degradation rates, so those above-average efficiency ratings will continue to save you more money on your energy bills for longer.
Panasonic has great snow load capabilities and an industry-leading temperature coefficient of just 0.25%, so they’re an outstanding option in areas that experience extreme cold and extreme heat. The low efficiency loss in high temperatures means these panels will keep your electricity costs as low as possible, regardless of the climate.
Panasonic panels are above-average in price, coming in at around $3.10 per watt. It’s one of the most expensive options, although we feel the value you get is worth the investment. Panasonic is also the only option on our list that has a potentially negative power rating, so the performance can vary more than most of the competition at this tier.
Panasonic has two lines of solar panels available for residential customers:
Panasonic’s warranty coverage is slightly better than the industry average but is in line with the direct competition. It includes a 25-year product warranty and 25 years of coverage for the efficiency rating. The equipment warranty includes the cost of labor to replace any panels that experience failure.
The efficiency warranty is one of the best in the industry, guaranteeing only a 2% loss in year one and a degradation of 0.26% annually thereafter. That means your panels will retain 91.76% of their efficiency after 25 years.
Overall, we expect Panasonic panels to last the average of 25 to 30 years in most cases.
Panasonic partners with a large network of solar installers across the country, so you should have no problem finding a solar contractor that is certified to install its products. Many of those companies are also qualified to install Panasonic’s solar batteries and inverters/microinverters.
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Since there are so many panel options available from a massive selection of manufacturers, it’s important to focus on the aspects of the panels that will affect you the most. Prioritizing the below features, which we believe are most important for panels for your home, will likely provide you with the best experience and energy savings possible. Unfortunately, not choosing the right panels can lead to a solar energy system that doesn’t save you as much over time.
Of all of the panel models from the manufacturers mentioned above, there are two that stand out for providing outstanding performance and overall value. These include the Maxeon 6 panels from SunPower and the Q.PEAK DUO BLK ML-G10+ from Q Cells. These both provide above-average production and savings without compromising on overall quality.
The table below includes a quick look at these two panel options and how they stack up against one another.
|Efficiency Rating||Power Output||Temperature Coefficient (per degree C over 25)||Power Tolerance||First-year Degradation||Subsequent-year Degradation||Efficiency After 25 Years||Total Warranty Term|
|Maxeon 6||22.8%||410W–440W||-0.27%||0/+5%||2%||0.25%||92%||40 years|
|Q Cells BLK ML-G10+||20.9%||385W–410W||-0.34%||0/+5%||2%||0.5%||85.5%||25 years|
|Trina Solar Vertex S||21.1%||405W||-0.34%||0/+5%||2%||0.55%||84.8%||25 years|
|REC Alpha Pure-R||22.3%||430W||-0.24%||-3%/+3%||2%||0.25%||92%||25 years|
|Panasonic EverVolt||22.2%||400W–410W||-0.26%||0/+10%||2%||0.25%||92%||25 years|
For most homeowners, we believe panels from SunPower and Q Cells should meet and exceed expectations. Both solar companies provide panels with excellent performance specifications that can perform well in virtually all climates and weather conditions. We’ll compare the panel options from these companies overall in the table below to help you decide which might be right for your solar project.
|Efficiency Score (Out of 25)||Durability Score (Out of 20)||Warranty Score (Out of 20)||Price Point Score (Out of 20)||Temperature Coefficient (Out of 10)||Sustainability Score (Out of 2.5)||Appearance Score (Out of 2.5)||Our Overall Rating (Out of 100)|
Some other considerations for solar equipment, in addition to the five we’ve reviewed above, include Canadian Solar, Tesla and Silfab.
When shopping for solar panels, it’s also helpful to know the panel types that are available. The three basic solar panel categories are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of solar panel comes with its own list of pros and cons:
Monocrystalline panels are made from a single, pure crystal of silicon. This allows them to have higher efficiency levels, but they also tend to be more expensive due to a more costly manufacturing process. Note: If you have less space on your roof and can only fit a small number of panels, monocrystalline solar panels may be the only viable option.
Polycrystalline solar panels are also made of silicon, but in this case, they are assembled from smaller fragments. This means polycrystalline solar panels are often a little less efficient than monocrystalline, but they are also a more affordable option.
Finally, thin-film solar panels can be made from a variety of ultra-thin materials. They are recommended when you need something that’s lightweight, flexible and portable; they may work better for RVs and camping than for homes. Thin-film panels can be relatively low in efficiency when compared to the other two options.
When weighing the pros and cons of going solar before making an investment, one of the most common questions that homeowners have is whether their solar panels will require maintenance.
For the most part, all the hard work comes on the front end. Installing a home solar panel system requires in-depth knowledge of electronics as well as solar power, and in most cases, the installation process will take a few days. We recommend outsourcing this to trained solar professionals.
Once your system is in place, however, the level of upkeep required is fairly minimal. Besides routine cleaning, you shouldn’t have any issues that require maintenance with your solar panels for 20 to 30 years. And if you do run into an issue, your warranty will hopefully cover it.
Watch Below: If you are just beginning to explore the solar industry, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself on how solar cells even work. In the below video, the TED team describes just that.
Solar panels can vary quite a bit in their overall performance and productivity. There are a number of specific factors that can impact how your solar system performs, including:
Our top recommendations for residential solar customers are the panels from SunPower/Maxeon. This manufacturer has a long history in the solar industry and is known for its innovations and solar technologies that push the envelope in terms of efficiency, performance, durability and overall quality. SunPower panels are expensive, but we feel they’re well worth the investment if you can afford them.
Regardless of which panel brand you choose, we recommend getting multiple quotes from a few different solar installation companies in your area. Even if you opt for the same panel brand from multiple installers, your total solar panel system price can be wildly different due to individual pricing for labor and any discounts offered on the equipment. You can use the solar quote tool below to get multiple quotes customized for your home.
In our solar panel review process, we first narrowed our research to the panels that are intended for and available for residential applications. To ensure you understand how we ranked the panels we’ve reviewed above, we’ll include a breakdown of how we scored these panels below.
The EcoWatch team polled a number of experts on what homeowners need to know when it comes to getting the most out of their panel. Below are their answers.
As of 2022, monocrystalline solar panels remain the most efficient option for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems when compared to polycrystalline and thin-film technologies. However, the majority market share of polycrystalline panels indicates that many consumers are willing to accept a slightly lower efficiency for a lower cost.
Technological advancements in thin-film PV research are also rapidly pushing this lighter, more flexible and less temperature-sensitive option to achieve efficiency levels that rival the mono- and polycrystalline systems. But prices will likely have to come down significantly to make this an attractive option to consumers for residential systems.
Since clouds are not entirely opaque, sunlight still passes through them and reaches solar panels. The electricity generated may be lower than on days without clouds, but there is a significant difference between the sunlight that is diffused through cloud cover versus sunlight that is blocked by solid objects like tall buildings.
To determine whether solar panels are a good fit for your home it is important to have an assessment of the solar irradiance (i.e. the amount of sunlight) of your roof. Solar irradiance can be affected by environmental and physical factors. These may include hours of sunlight based on weather conditions and latitude, whether your roof faces south in the northern hemisphere or north in the southern hemisphere, and obstructions such as tall trees and buildings that shade your roof.
In general, crystalline solar panels are more efficient than thin film. However, there are a variety of specific technologies that fall under the umbrella terms “crystalline” and “thin film.” Also, researchers are pushing the limits of solar efficiency every day. For example, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently created a solar cell with a record 39.5% efficiency. That type of efficiency is not yet being seen in residential solar. Most residential solar panels are mono- or poly-crystalline, with efficiencies that range from 15-23%.
Yes. Although solar panels work best in direct sunlight, they can also work when light is reflected or diffused through clouds. However, when it is cloudy, solar panels will not be operating at their maximum efficiency. They may only be operating at 10-25% efficiency, depending on how dense the clouds are.
Yes. Shade will act like a cloud, diminishing the efficiency of the solar panel. Solar operates best in cooler temperatures. High temperatures reduce the efficiency. The best way to know if your roof is good for solar is to ask for free quotes from multiple local solar installers. They will be able to tell you exactly how many panels, of what type, your roof can support, whether any tree removal is necessary, and how much it will cost and you will save.
For residential solar panels, the most efficient ones are monocrystalline Si, with an efficiency of 20%~ 22%. As of July 2022, the SunPower Maxeon 6 boasts a panel efficiency of 22.8%. This is followed by polycrystalline Si with a panel efficiency close to 20%. Panels made from thin films such as CdTe from First Solar are generally less efficient ~ 18%. They are used primarily for commercial and industrial applications due to the low fabrication cost. There are other types of thin film solar technology such as those based on CuInGaSe2 and perovskite materials. They have not yet seen large-scale commercial deployment.
Solar panels do work in cloudy weather. However, they are less efficient in such conditions. The output power drops roughly linearly with light intensity. Depending on the cloud cover and the types of solar panels, efficiency can drop by 10 to 25 percent of the specified values.
Shade and temperature do affect solar panel efficiency. Shade means direct sunlight is blocked by e.g. trees, reducing the intensity of the light hitting the surface of the solar panel, thus reducing efficiency. On the other hand, efficiency of the solar panel decreases with increasing temperature. This decrease in performance is called temperature coefficient, which ranges typically from -0.3 to -0.5%/degree C. This means that the efficiency will drop by 0.3-0.5% for every degree Celsius increase in temperature. The amount of electricity generated by rooftop solar panels depends on the orientation and tilting angle of the roof. The best roof angle for solar panels is about 30 degrees. In the northern hemisphere, the best orientation of the roof is south-facing. Needless to say, your roof used for solar panel installation needs to be subjected to minimal shading throughout the day.
The most efficient is monocrystalline. From the name, each cell is cut
out of one type of silicon. The other two are less efficient and the thin-film is less expensive.
Yes, solar energy reaches the earth in form of waves at wavelengths from infrared to ultraviolet. Only about 46% of that energy is in the visible range (red to violet). The rest is outside the visible range that can reach earth through the clouds.
Yes, a target surface directly exposed to the sun is much more efficient. Shadows cast on the target surface from the trees, billboards, adjacent buildings, etc. seriously reduce the absorption of solar energy by the target surface. For any surface on earth, there are software tools to determine how many hours on a given day of the year (in the northern or southern hemisphere) the surface is exposed to the sun (sees the sun) as the sun travels across the sky. And, with the knowledge of adjacent buildings’ elevation and size, we can determine if they cast any shadow on the panels and for what period of time. As for the temperature effects, the higher the solar panel temperature, the lower its power output. An ideal ambient temperature around the solar panels is 77 degrees F.
Generally, monocrystalline cells from SunPower are the most efficient panels due to their unique technology (but they generally cost more as well). They have a lot of value for limited areas because the higher efficiency means that one can make more electricity from a small roof than can be made from lower efficiency panels, to help meet the electricity demand of a household in full.
Yes, solar panels work in cloudy weather, but not as much electricity is produced when clouds reduce the amount of sunlight striking the panels as on a bright sunny summer day.
The efficiency isn’t affected by shade; the panels still convert the same percentage of sunlight into electricity except that the amount of sunlight available is less so less electricity is produced
Almost all panels exhibit lower efficiency as the temperature increases.
Panels also get warn from absorbing all of that nice sunlight; if one could keep them cool on a bright, warm, sunny day they would work better but that is obviously hard to do without using some of the electricity that they make for “air conditioning” the panels themselves and it isn’t worth it generally to spend more electricity to cool the panel than they produce as a result of running cooler rather than warmer. Using water to cool the panels generally isn’t a good idea because water and all of that electricity “don’t mix” from a safety perspective in most localities.
Below are a few questions EcoWatch readers regularly send in about the leading solar panels for home use. If you have anymore, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The best solar panels for your home will depend on your needs. If you have limited space on your roof, you should probably opt for the most efficient solar panels. If you live in a hot climate, temperature coefficient may be of more importance. Think about what you’d value most in your panels in order to decide which are best.
As with so many answers in solar, the number of panels needed to run a house depends on the situation — primarily the amount of energy that your home and habits require. Contact a local installer to get a free, no-obligation estimate for your home’s system.
As of 2022, SunPower’s M and A-Series panels take the top spot for most efficient solar panels. Both panels have efficiency ratings of at least 22.7%, the highest we’ve found.
The two biggest disadvantages of solar energy are the upfront cost and the fact that solar is so location dependent. Both public and private sectors are continuing to address these challenges, however, as more companies are adopting flexible payment methods and governments are pushing for more solar-friendly policies.