Solar panels on black tiled roof of white stucco home against backdrop of blue sky.

The Most Efficient – And Best – Solar Panels For Homes

7-Minute Read
Published on November 7, 2022
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If you are making the investment in solar panels, you’ll want to make sure you are getting the best ones. After all, you want to get the most rewards from the costs of going solar.

The reality is that not all solar panels are created equally. We will explore solar panel efficiency, plus some of the most efficient solar panel options for your residence.

What Is Solar Panel Efficiency?

Solar panel efficiency measures a solar panel’s ability to turn sunlight into usable electric energy.

It’s relatively easy to evaluate the level of solar panel efficiency by looking for the associated efficiency rating. For example, if the sun is shining directly on a solar panel with a 20% efficiency rating, then 20% of the sun’s energy will be converted into usable electricity.

At the moment, most solar panels have an efficiency rating between 15% – 20%. However, the most efficient solar panels currently on the market have a rating of 22.8%. As the technology continues to improve, residential solar panels will likely become more efficient over time.

Of course, homeowners will likely want to opt for the most efficient panels on the market. Solar panels that have a higher efficiency rating can lead to more long-term cost savings for homeowners. After all, these panels can make the most of the sun’s energy, which means more useable electricity is available to the homeowner.

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What Factors Affect Solar Panel Efficiency?

When selecting the right solar panels for your home, efficiency is a top concern. Here’s a look at the factors that have the most impact on solar panel efficiency.

Weather Conditions

The weather can have a big impact on whether sunlight reaches the solar panels.

For example, a clear day with completely clear skies gives solar panels a better chance of collecting the sunlight required to create electricity. But on a day that sees a snowstorm, hailstorm, or rainstorm, the energy production of the solar panels will likely drop.

Wind is one weather condition that can improve your solar panels’ efficiency. If the sun is still shining, wind can keep the panels cooler for higher energy production.

Temperature

When you think of the sun, you likely think of heat. In following that line of thought, you might naturally think that high temperatures will boost energy production. However, that’s not the case.

Instead, high temperatures negatively impact energy production from solar panels. With extreme heat causing a decrease in solar panel efficiency, some companies have designed solar panels specifically for hot areas.

Location And Orientation

The physical location of your home has a big impact on solar panel efficiency. For those living in sunny climates, you’ll likely reap more rewards from your solar panels. Those living in places that receive less sunlight will likely see a lower level of solar panel efficiency.

Not only will the location of your home matter, the position of the solar panels also matters. Typically, positioning your solar panels facing south with a tilt between 30 – 45 degrees will lead to the best outcome.

Shade

If you have any kind of shade blocking the sunlight from hitting your solar panels, that can significantly impact the efficiency of the system. Although solar panels will still work in the shade, the output is lower.

The most common items shading out solar panels include trees, your roof, and other solar panels. With the help of a professional, you can try to avoid unnecessary shading while installing the system.

Dirt Accumulation

It’s natural for dirt, dust and grime to slowly accumulate on your solar panels. Although this process occurs naturally, it can slowly diminish the efficiency of your solar panels.

If you’ve noticed a drop in electricity production, it might be time to clean your panels.

The Best Solar Panels For Homes

As a homeowner, you have several types of solar panels available to you. Although each aims to convert solar energy into usable electricity in the most efficient way possible, some are more efficient than others.

Beyond efficiency, it’s important to consider other factors like cost and durability when settling on an option. Here’s a closer look at the best solar panels for homes.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Typically, monocrystalline solar panels, built with monocrystalline solar cells, are considered to be the most efficient option for residential properties. Monocrystalline solar panels currently on the market often come with an efficiency rating of 15% – 20%. But some experimental models have an efficiency rating closer to 50%.

Since these panels are considered efficient, the price point is a bit higher than the other options. Another drawback is that the panels are easily damaged by snow. With that, this type of panel might not be a good option for colder climates.

But on the positive side, these panels can last up to 25 years and won’t require as much space as the alternatives.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are built of multiple silicon crystals that have been melded together. Although there are more crystals, polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient than the monocrystalline competition. Currently, these panels tend to have 13% – 17% solar efficiency ratings.

Since the panels are less efficient, they will take up more space to provide for your energy needs. However, there is less waste during the production process, which is a benefit to the environment. Another major benefit for homeowners is that polycrystalline solar panels are often much more affordable.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Although thin-film solar panels are more portable than their silicon-based counterparts, these panels are the least efficient option. Typically, these types of panels have an efficiency rating of 7% – 13%.

Since these panels are less efficient, you’ll need a significant footprint to create enough energy for your home. With that, thin-film solar panels usually aren’t the right choice for homeowners. But the portable panels make an excellent option for needs in the transportation industry.

If you did decide to go with these panels for a home installation, consider the relatively short lifespan. You’ll find short warranties on these portable but relatively inefficient panels.

What To Consider When Choosing Solar Panels

Going solar is a big move for your household. But it’s important to weigh out all of your options when choosing the right solar panel for your situation. Making the right choice can help you get the most out of your investment.

Here’s what to consider when looking for solar panels for your home.

Durability

The durability of your solar panels will come into play in a big way. Of course, all solar panels will naturally degrade over time. But even with wear and tear, solar panels are often expected to last for at least 25 years.

Across the different types of solar panels, the durability varies. For example, some industry experts point out that monocrystalline solar panel systems are more likely to break down in the snow.

When determining the right solar panels for your household, consider how the climate may impact the lifespan of different types of panels.

Warranties

When shopping for such a large purchase, it’s nice to know that many solar panels come with a warranty.

In general, you’ll find two types of warranties. First, there is a performance guarantee that will often promise around 90% production for up to 10 years and around 80% production for up to 25 years. The second is an equipment guarantee, which often means the company will replace or repair the panel in the event of a manufacturing defect or environmental issue.

Of course, you’ll likely want to opt for the longest warranty possible. But if you don’t plan on living in the home for the duration of the warranty, then it’s likely not worth paying more for an extended warranty.

Price

When considering solar panels, the overall cost of the solar panel system matters. It’s common for the sticker price to be around $15,000 – $25,000 while installing a residential system. However, tax credits and other incentives can push your out-of-pocket costs lower.

Before you shop for a system, consider what you can reasonably afford to spend. Even if you are planning to opt for financing, you’ll need to determine what kind of monthly payment can fit into your budget.

Household Energy Usage

Before you move forward with solar panels, it’s important to assess your household’s energy usage.

If your household uses a robust amount of energy, then installing a large solar panel system may help you offset costs in a big way. But if your household doesn’t use a lot of energy, then it might be more cost-effective to continue paying for a minimal amount of electricity from your utility company.

Take the time to run the numbers to make sure that the costs are worth the rewards.

Location

The location of your home matters in several ways when considering solar panels. For example, those in sunny locations will likely get more benefits from their solar panels than those living in cloudier locales.

Beyond your regional location, the position of your house matters. According to EnergySage, solar panels are generally most efficient when placed on a roof facing south. If your roof isn’t facing the correct direction, discuss your options with a professional in the industry.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider sources of shade around your home. If you have trees providing a significant amount of shade to your roof, that will interfere with solar efficiency. In some cases, you may decide to remove the shade trees before committing to solar. But if you don’t want to change up your shady yard, then installing solar might not be the right option.

Local Regulations

Every local government has unique rules and regulations. At the very least, most jurisdictions will require you to file a permit to install solar panels on your property. Make sure to research the rules ahead of time so that the project isn’t derailed along the way.

Beyond the permitting, you may need to work with your local utility company on installation best practices. Since you’ll likely need someone from the utility company to sign off on your solar panels before you can get connected to the grid, getting in touch with your utility company ahead of time can help you avoid a headache.

Of course, you’ll have to follow the rules set by your local government and utility company. But checking in with these two parties could also help you learn about local incentives. Some local incentives can lower your out-of-pocket costs for the project.

FAQs About The Best Solar Panels

Have questions about the best solar panels? We have answers!

What is the most efficient type of solar panel for home use?

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most effective option for home use. Models currently available on the market often have an efficiency rating of 15% – 22%. The higher efficiency rating means you won’t need as big of a footprint.

What is the biggest factor that affects solar efficiency?

Beyond the type of solar panel, weather conditions have the biggest impact on solar efficiency. If the sun is shaded out by clouds or the temperature is too high, the efficiency of your solar panels will drop.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are built to last more than 25 years. Although there isn’t a specific lifespan, solar panels will slowly lose their efficiency over time. When choosing solar panels, the warranty should give an indication of how long the company expects the equipment to last.

The Bottom Line

Although monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient, they aren’t the right fit for every home or budget. As you shop around, consider all of your options before moving forward with any particular solar panels.

Are you ready to get solar panels for your house? Apply today with Rocket Solar℠ for solar panel financing.

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Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys diving into the details to help readers make savvy financial decisions. She’s covered mortgages, money management, insurance, budgeting, and more. She lives in Florida with her husband and dog. When she's not writing, she's outside exploring the coast. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.