Review of SunPower solar panels: Are they really the best and worth?
SunPower is one of the hottest names in solar. The California-based company, founded in 1985, was originally intended to develop concentrated solar systems but has since become one of the most well-known residential solar panel manufacturers.
In 2019, SunPower announced that it would no longer manufacture solar panels. Instead, newly formed company Maxeon Solar would focus on manufacturing SunPower’s high-efficiency solar panels while SunPower continues to focus on designing and monitoring solar systems.
Solar Era recently named Maxeon as the best solar panel manufacturer of 2023, largely because of the high quality of their panels. We know that Maxeon makes great panels, and we know SunPower has a stellar warranty, but it all comes at a high price. Is going solar with SunPower worth the extra cost? Let’s break it down.
SunPower is a premium solar panels company with its own line of high-end residential and commercial solar panels manufactured by Maxeon Solar.
There are main residential solar panel lines offered by SunPower: the Max3 made by Maxeon.
SunPower’s Maxeon-made panels have some of the highest efficiency and power ratings on the market.
You can expect to pay a minimum of S$3.30 per watt for a SunPower solar system, which comes out to about S$19,800 before GST for the average 6 kW system.
SunPower comes at a premium price but offers excellent module quality and performance, as well as a top-notch warranty, and a reliable dealer network.
What products does SunPower offer?
SunPower mainly offer Max3 for residential solar panels. However, SunPower sells commercial versions of their Performance Series panels designed for large-scale commercial installations.
Each of these product lines varies in terms of its performance and appearance, making them better suited for certain applications.
Power output rating
The power output rating (also called the wattage) of a solar panel is a measure of how much electricity the solar panel can produce.
SunPower’s Max3 430 W panel has the highest power output rating of any residential solar panel on the market today. With such a high power rating, you can install fewer solar panels to cover your electric bill. No matter which option you choose from SunPower, they’ll be able to produce enough power to meet your needs.
The efficiency rating of a solar panel represents what percentage of sunlight hitting the panel actually gets turned into electricity. Just like with power ratings, SunPower has some of the highest efficiency ratings on the market.
SunPower is best known for its record-breaking efficiency numbers and holds the crown for most efficient residential solar panel thanks to the Max3 22.7% efficiency rating. Efficiency rating matters most to homeowners with limited roofing space, but in general, it’s not the most important specification to look at.
The panels you get installed by a reputable installer will have a solid efficiency rating of at least 19% which is more than enough for most households. Most companies advertise high-efficiency ratings as a way to appear to get a leg up on the competition.
Premium efficiency ratings tend to lead to higher price tags. So, you have to decide if having the most efficient solar panels on the market is worth the extra money.
Power tolerance is another key specification to look at when buying solar panels, but it’s often overlooked. See, solar panels have their rated power output, but how much electricity they produce can actually fluctuate - even if the conditions don’t change.
That’s where power tolerance comes in. The power tolerance tells you how much the power output of a panel can actually change, even when the conditions remain the same.
Most solar panels have a power tolerance rating between -0/+3% and -0/+5%. What exactly does that mean? The -0 means that the panel will always operate at least at its rated capacity under Standard Test Conditions (STC). The +5% means that it could produce up to 5% more power under STC.
SunPower’s panels all have a power tolerance rating of -0/+5%, which is right in line with industry standards.
SunPower’s solar panels all use monocrystalline solar cells. Historically, the company has been using high-quality solar cells manufactured by Maxeon, which has given SunPower solar panels their premium performance specifications. You can still find Maxeon solar cells in the Max3 panels.
Although it isn’t explicitly listed on SunPower’s website, it seems as though the Performance Series panels do not use Maxeon solar cell technology. However, they are still monocrystalline solar cells that likely don’t perform as well as the Maxeon solar cells, but are still good quality.
Is SunPower’s warranty all it’s cracked up to be?
SunPower really does offer excellent product and performance warranties that can serve to give homeowners peace of mind.
Let’s start with the product warranty. SunPower solar panels have a 25-year product warranty, meaning that their panels will be free from material and workmanship defects, so long as they are operated as intended and installed correctly.
Most solar panel manufacturers only offer a 12-year product warranty, or they make you complete an extra registration step to unlock the 25-year warranty.
Then there’s the performance warranty. Solar panels degrade as they get older, so the performance warranty gives you an idea of how your solar panels will operate as they age.
In the first year, SunPower’s solar panels will operate at no less than 98% of their original rated capacity. For the next 24 years, the panels will degrade no more than 0.25% each year.
This annual degradation rate is half of the 0.5% degradation rates most solar panels in the industry offer (the lower, the better). So, SunPower panels produce more power over time than other solar panels because they degrade more slowly. This is one of the best warranties we’ve seen.
Should you get SunPower solar panels for your home?
There's a reason SunPower panels have an Elite ranking in our official solar panel review - you can't go wrong with getting SunPower solar panels on your roof. SunPower has an excellent network of over 500 reputable solar installers, many of which are among the best installation companies in the global. This means you're getting high-quality panels with an excellent warranty and a high-quality installation.
But, all those great things come at a premium price. If budget is a concern, you may want to consider some of our other top-ranked solar panel brands like REC or Jinko Solar, which give you great quality at a slightly lower price point.
Whether it's SunPower panels or panels from another manufacturer, most homeowners will save money on their electricity bills when they install solar. You may contact our solar consultant get an idea of the savings you can get when you switch to solar and see if solar panels are the right investment for you.