Originally published by Reviews
Solar panels are the best way to get your power for free. And while they’re built to last for 25 years or more, it’ll take some time to recoup your investment and not every manufacturer or installer will be around as long. An engineer and a solar expert confirmed Reviews‘ findings: The best panels have efficiency ratings that pack a powerful punch and come from manufacturers with a proven track record.
188 Contenders → 5 TOP PICKS
SolarWorld is the largest US manufacturer and a giant in the space. It’s been producing panels for 40 years in both Germany and the United States and has nine panels that hit our benchmarks, including one with the highest efficiency rating out of all the panels we looked at.
Carbon footprints on your mind? An electric bill that just won’t quit? Solar energy is an increasingly popular antidote to both, but decking out a home with a solar array is going to sting a little: Between panels and soft costs like installation labor, mounting hardware, and electronic components, you can expect to shell out between $15,000 and $40,000. Yowch. Even if you receive a financial government incentive, it typically takes 15 to 25 years to break even. We’re officially in long-term investment territory, and that’s why good solar panels are powerful and efficient, and the best solar panels are manufactured by companies like SolarWorld, Canadian Solar, Axitec, Centrosolar, and Kyocera Solar — that is to say, reliable brands that aren’t going anywhere.
But there’s more to setting up solar panels than picking out which are best. Having them installed (and therefore finding a great installer) is another task altogether. Don’t worry — Reviews have tips on how to find the best for that too.
Did You Know?
There are three main types of solar panels. Residential solar panels, though all silicon-based, come in three types:
- Polycrystalline panels
- Black monocrystalline panels
- Thin-film panels
The Bottom Line
Adding solar energy to your home is a great — but massive — investment, so it’s important to pick powerful and efficient panels from a reliable manufacturer.
Do the math. If you’re planning on moving before you recoup your initial investment, solar panels don’t make a lot of financial sense. You can use a solar savings calculator to estimate your return, or crunch the numbers yourself to determine your monthly savings. First, divide the monthly output hours of your system by the kilowatt-hours you use per month to find what percentage of your bill solar would cover. (You can find your kilowatt-hours on your electric bill.) Then, multiply your electric bill by that percentage to see how much you could save a month — although assume it will typically be less since you won’t always have perfect solar conditions.
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Reviews.com seek to uncover the truth about the industries and products they review. They look at every angle, spending months analyzing existing research, including scientific studies, factual data, historical trends, and user experiences. They reach out to top experts to get input from those who have spent countless years immersed in a specific industry. After this, they consolidate their findings in a concise, informative format that tells a story and what we discovered along the way.