When it comes to solar panel manufacturers, there is no shortage of options for homeowners in 2019. Solar panel technology is improving every year, and many solar panel companies offer products that boast both high conversion efficiency numbers as well as impressive long-term warranties. SunPower is the leader with regard to efficiency across the board while LG solar panels are known for top tier design and aesthetic, but companies like Canadian Solar offer much more appealing prices for their solar panels. How do the top PV manufacturers stack up? We’ll help you compare and contrast your options among the industry leaders – SunPower, Panasonic, Canadian Solar, and LG.
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SunPower vs LG and other Solar Panel Manufacturers Solar Panel BrandAverage Efficiency (%)Average cost ($/watt)Product Warranty (years) SunPower20.6%$3.2525 LG20.1%$3.0725 Panasonic19.6%$2.9925 Canadian Solar16.9%$2.9510
SunPower: the leader of the pack
Widely considered to be the world’s best solar panel manufacturer, SunPower is responsible for some of the highest performing panel technology on the market in 2019. Compared to some of the more cost-competitive brands like Canadian Solar, SunPower offers the most expensive solar panels you can buy.
What makes the price worth it: panel efficiency that tops all competitors by a significant margin. SunPower offers a world record high for panel efficiency of almost 23% with an average efficiency rating of 19.7%. Fellow premium panel maker Panasonic is not far behind SunPower, offering average panel efficiency of 20.6%. SunPower’s impressive 25-year warranty, and the lowest equipment degradation rate on the market, sets the company apart as well. As a brand in PV manufacturing, SunPower has a lot of selling points. Overall, it’s safe to call this company a top panel firm in 2019.
LG: a premium/luxury solar product with lower prices than SunPower solar panels
Though LG is already a well-known household name for electronics, the company is one of the newest panel makers out there. There are few companies who can compete with SunPower or Panasonic on an efficiency basis, but LG solar panels are still considered some of the best high-efficiency products available. The most efficient LG panels are rated at 21.7% efficiency, and on average the company’s panels are 20.1% efficient. LG’s product specifications are even more attractive when paired with the company’s average cost per watt ($3.07), which is a full $0.18/watt cheaper than SunPower solar panels.
LG also offers sleek black panel design comparable to SunPower – a customer favorite in the U.S. solar market in terms of aesthetic. The company also recently announced that all of their solar panels come with a 25-year warranty like SunPower’s. Overall, LG matches the national average for cost per watt while being considered a premium panel brand: a pretty impressive feat in the cutthroat PV industry.
Panasonic: lower price than SunPower with comparable efficiency
The Japanese electronics giant has become one of the most popular panel brands in the U.S., hitting the “sweet spot” between efficiency and affordability for many homeowners. Panasonic is only a small margin behind SunPower in terms of efficiency while maintaining a significant edge in terms of cost per watt and mirroring the 25-year product warranty that had helped SunPower stand out for many years.
Panasonic is known for its dynamic HIT™ technology that gives its products high solar panel efficiency and low temperature coefficient, both of which result in higher electricity production. While most solar panels use a single layer of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon, HIT™ panels use a combination of monocrystalline and ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers to maximize efficiency and limit heat energy loss. The surface of Panasonic’s panels also has a pyramid structure that can reduce reflection and direct more sunlight into the solar cells, maximizing electricity output.
Canadian Solar: low prices, but also lower on efficiency
Another competitor to SunPower in terms of efficiency is Canadian Solar, the manufacturing giant out of Canada that ranks 4th in terms of global market share for solar manufacturing. Canadian Solar is the largest provider on this list – it alone is responsible for over 150 MW of Germany’s installed solar to date.
Headquartered in Guelph, Canada, Canadian Solar offers economy solar panels manufactured in China. In our top solar brands comparison, Canadian Solar came in near the top in terms of affordability with an average cost per watt of $2.95. In terms of quality and efficiency, Canadian Solar is more of a mid-tier brand. For a larger system that doesn’t require maximum efficiency output, going with a brand like Canadian Solar will be a great choice that will certainly cost less upfront.
Making a decision, finding the best solar panel system
Though it may sound cliche, there’s really no bad choice among the leaders in solar manufacturing –the choice you make for your home is dependent on your priorities. Though SunPower may seem to be the undisputed complete package, their product may not prove reasonable in terms of affordability for the average homeowner.
Whether you value price, efficiency, warranty or aesthetic, there will be a clear best option for you when choosing your solar equipment. Ultimately, the point is to make sure you fully understand and can effectively compare your options. Try this guidance that we offer to any homeowner considering solar:
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
1. Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
2. The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
3. Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.
NOTE: the data in this piece was last updated July 2019