While this article is a little out-dated it is still a great read and highlights the huge changes in the solar industry over the last 5 years, as several manufacturers have almost disappeared while others have surged in popularity. It is not surprising that Sunpower, LG, REC and Q cells are still considered some of the leading manufacturers.
For a summary table of our panel review and our Solar Specialist's ratings click here.
It is much more difficult to distinguish between quality solar panels than it is inverters because panels are a much simpler technology and generally all appear very similar. However, our Solar Specialists have had a lot of experience with many different panels over the years and do have a few favourites which generally offer higher quality and performance. Our three main considerations for deciding on the best panels are quality, service and value, check out our article on our criteria when rating solar products for more details.
Best solar panel manufacturers
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 LG both offer modules which have close to 20% efficiency, compared to a standard 250W module that is around 15%. But high efficiency is expensive and it is generally not worth paying for unless you lack adequate roof space.
Another two premium panels are Q cells (now owned by Hanwha) and REC (a Norwegian company that manufactures in Singapore). Q cells is well regarded as high quality but also has a high price tag. REC offer very good panels that seem to be a favorite of many solar professionals although they are in the medium to high price bracket.
What panels do the specialists prefer
Our Solar Specialists recommend a wide range of panels. Brett Hekman of Rockys Electrical is adamant Phono Solar make the best panels available as well as being good value for money. John O’Brien of Eko Connect prefer the high build quality of LG panels including details like the junction box. He states LG is “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. Trina is also a favourite of two other Specialists and gets 9/10 for quality. O’Brien ensures they are high performing panels from a proven manufacturer and offer 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 Solar, 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, athough is still very well regarded.
Don’t be put off by a panel just because we 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.
For the most up-to-date review see our best solar panels article - including the latest solar cell technology and innovations