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Solar Panels Efficiency Explained


For those looking for the most efficient solar panels for their solar energy system, the first thing you need to know is how to compare efficiency metrics for different manufacturer brands. Solar panel efficiency is one useful metric used to determine how much power a solar panel produces compared to other products.


Solar Panel Efficiency: What You Need To Know


Simply put, solar panel efficiency (expressed as a percentage) quantifies a solar panel’s ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Given the same amount of sunlight shining for the same duration of time on two solar panels with different efficiency ratings, the more efficient panel will produce more electricity than the less efficient panel.


In practical terms, for two solar panels of the same physical size, if one has a 21% efficiency rating and the other has a 14% efficiency rating, the 21% efficient panel will produce 50% more kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity under the same conditions as the 14% efficient panel. Thus, maximizing energy use and bill savings is heavily reliant on having top-tier solar panel efficiency.


Many consumers and people in the solar industry consider solar panel efficiency to be the most important criterion when assessing a solar panel’s quality. While it is an important criterion, it’s not the only one to consider while you evaluate whether to install a particular solar panel. Solar panel efficiency relates to the ability of the panel to convert energy at a low cost and high supply rate.


How Efficient Are Solar Panels?


Most solar panels are between 15% and 20% efficient, with outliers on either side. High quality solar panels can exceed 22% efficiency in some cases (and almost reach 23%!), but the majority of photovoltaic panels available are not above 20% efficiency.


The Most Efficient Solar Panels: The Top 5


Here are the top five best solar panel manufacturers in 2019 ranked based on the highest efficiency solar panel they have to offer:

  1. SunPower (22.8%)

  2. LG (21.7%)

  3. REC Solar (21.7%)

  4. Panasonic (20.3%)

  5. Silfab (20.0%)

The most efficient solar panels on the market today have efficiency ratings as high as 22.8%, whereas the majority of panels range from 15% to 17% efficiency rating. SunPower panels are known for being the most efficient solar panel brand available on the market. Though they will come with a higher price tag, SunPower will often be the consumer favorite for anyone concerned with efficiency as a primal metric of interest.


Looking for the most efficient solar panels on the market? Get free solar quotes from Solar Era for top quality solar equipment.


Maximum Production or Maximum Offset: If your goal is to maximize the amount of electricity your system produces or want to ensure you buy the least amount of electricity from the utility, but the amount of roof space you have available to install solar panels is limited in size, you may choose to install higher efficiency solar panels. This will ensure you get the maximum production from your solar panel system.


Cost vs. Value:  More efficient solar panels tend to cost more than their less efficient counterparts. You may want to analyze whether that upfront cost difference is justified by the increased saving achieved by generating more electricity over the lifespan of your solar energy system. Increased electricity production means you have to buy less power from your utility. The Solar Era makes it easy for you to easily compare your savings from solar panels that vary in their efficiency ratings and if their premium price is justified.


How Efficient Are Solar Panels?


Most panel manufacturers produce several solar panel models which range in efficiency ratings. The leading brands in this category will be those that utilize high-efficiency solar cells such as LG and SunPower (who have battled back and forth for the world solar efficiency record) who are widely considered to be the top panel brand on the market for solar efficiency. However, it’s important to understand the difference between setting a maximum efficiency record and maintaining strong and consistent average solar energy efficiency ratings.


To learn more about solar panel efficiency as well as other criteria to evaluate solar panels, see the Solar Era research titled, “How to Evaluate Solar Panels“. If you still have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Solar Era.