For a summary table of our panel review and our Solar Specialist's ratings click here.
It is more difficult to distinguish between high quality panels than it is inverters, because panels are a much simpler technology, and they look very similar. However, our Solar Specialists have had a lot of experience with many different panels, and do have their favourites. Our three main considerations for deciding on the best panels are quality, service and value, check out my article on our criteria when rating solar products for more on that.
There are a few solar manufacturers that do stand out in terms of quality and performance. Sunpower (USA), which offers a much higher than standard 25 year product warranty and BenQ Solar (Taiwan) both offer modules that have over 20% efficiency, compared to a standard 250W module that is around 15.4%. But high efficiency is expensive and I don’t think worth paying for unless you lack roof space. Another two premium panels are QCells (now owned by Hanwha) and REC (a Norwegian company that manufactures in Singapore). QCells is well regarded as high quality but also has a high price tag. REC offer very good panels that many solar professionals in the blogosphere love, they are in the medium to high price bracket.
Our Solar Specialists like a range of panels. Brett Hekman of Rockys Electrical thinks Phono is the best panel available and also offers the best value. John O’Brien of Eko Connect really likes the build quality of the LG including details like the junction box. He says it’s “ahead of it’s time”. Trina Solar (who make the Trina Honey) stand out to me in terms of great performance for a good price. It’s the favourite of two other Specialists as well, and gets 9/10 for quality. O’Brien says it’s high performing, is a proven manufacturer and offers great value for money.
Other panel manufacturers that some of our Specialists think are decent quality and value are ET Solar, Jinko, TDG and ReneSola. Also a special mention to Yingli, which is the largest panel manufacturer in the world and Suntech, which used to be the biggest but has fallen from grace since having some financial problems though is still well regarded.
Don’t be put off by a panel just because I haven’t mentioned it here, there are a lot of good quality panels out there. Having said that do your due diligence especially when buying a panel that hasn’t been recommended. There are poor quality panels out there made with substandard materials. The last thing you want is water getting into your panels or some other fault occurring that just shouldn’t happen in a well made panel.
Don't forget to check out our solar panel review summary page for more information including local service centres, efficiencies and whether the manufacturers are public companies listed on a stock exchange.
Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite panels are.