The 7 best residential solar panels money can buy – CNN Underscored

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Solar panels can save you money while simultaneously positively impacting the environment. But not all solar panels are created equal, and if you want to reap these rewards, you need a quality panel that can do the job.

This rise in popularity has led to an influx of solar panel brands, which makes it hard to find the right panel for your home. We’ve carefully vetted each major solar panel company and discovered who truly has the best solar panels.

Our picks

Panasonic Solar: Best solar panel brand

Mission Solar: Best for American-made products

Jinko Solar: Best for sustainable manufacturing

Canadian Solar: Best for high-power output

ZNShine Solar: Best for solar panel variety

LONGi Solar: Best for global installation

REC Solar: Best for harsh environments

Panasonic Solar: Best solar panel brand

Star rating: 5 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 22.2%

Warranty length: 25 years

Why we picked Panasonic Solar

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a company with a better reputation or more industry experience than Panasonic. The company may have begun working in the solar industry in the 1970s, but it has been around for more than 100 years. Now, with more than 40 years of solar panel research and development, Panasonic has developed several top-tier lines of solar panels that not only boast high efficiency ratings of 22.2% but are built to last with a low annual degradation rate of 0.25%.

Panasonic stopped manufacturing its own panels in 2022 and uses third-party installers for its installation, but its comprehensive 25-year warranty makes up for its use of outside manufacturing and installation.

Who should use Panasonic Solar

Panasonic’s high-efficiency modules are ideal for homes with smaller roofs, as they’re designed for maximum power production. These panels are also great for homeowners who live in regions with high temperatures. The panels will even produce power when installed in shaded areas.


  • High-efficiency models
  • Reputable company with 100+ years in business
  • Comprehensive performance, product, parts and labor warranty
  • Built to operate in high temperatures and shaded areas


  • Third-party manufacturing
  • Third-party installation

Mission Solar: Best for American-made products

mission solar card.jpg

Star rating: 4.5 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 19.9%

Warranty length: 25-year production warranty

Why we picked Mission Solar

With a maximum efficiency of up to 19.9% from one of its top solar panels, Mission Solar can’t quite compete with its competitors’ efficiency. However, this lower efficiency comes at a competitive price that is often lower than the average cost of $2.82 per watt. So if you’re looking for a quality solar panel for a good price, then Mission is a top contender.

What sets Mission Solar apart from other solar panel companies is its manufacturing. While many solar companies rely on third-party suppliers and manufacture outside the United States, Mission Solar makes its products in San Antonio, Texas. Although this means Mission Solar may have difficulty competing with the production of larger companies, the lure of a product made entirely in America is appealing to many homeowners.

Who should use Mission Solar

If supporting American-made products is important to you, Mission Solar is your best bet. Because Mission Solar’s panels operate at a lower maximum efficiency, they are best for homeowners in regions that experience year-round direct sunlight.


  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Third-party testing has proven durability
  • Guarantees up to 84.08% capacity at 25 years


  • Lower efficiency than other companies

Jinko Solar: Best for sustainable manufacturing

jinko solar card.jpg

Star rating: 4.2 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 22.84%

Warranty length: 25-year product and 30-year linear power

Why we picked Jinko Solar

Jinko Solar is fully committed to sustainable manufacturing. Not only does it use practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, electricity and water usage and wastewater discharge, but it also offers solar panel recycling resources for its customers. It was awarded a Zero Carbon Factory certification by TÜV Rheinland, an independent manufacturer inspection organization.

Jinko Solar offers high-efficiency solar modules with a 30-year linear power warranty that guarantees up to 87.4% power production after 30 years of use. This is higher than the 85% most solar companies guarantee after 25 years.

Who should use Jinko Solar

Jinko Solar panels are highly efficient, so they are perfect for homeowners in regions with less yearly sunshine or more shade on their property. If you’re looking for solar panels and a solar battery, Jinko manufactures both, which can be installed together.


  • Solar panel and solar storage combo installation
  • High-efficiency modules
  • Commitment to responsible and sustainable manufacturing


  • Manufactures some products outside the United States

Canadian Solar: Best for high-power output

canadian solar car.jpg

Star rating: 3.8 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline, polycrystalline 

Maximum efficiency: 23%

Warranty length: 12-year product warranty, 30-year linear power output warranty

Why we picked Canadian Solar

Canadian Solar is a popular choice for solar panels because of its variety of options, low temperature coefficient and high efficiency rating of up to 23%. But Canadian Solar is unique among its competitors because of its solar panel power output. Whereas most industry-standard panels produce between 300W and 400W, Canadian Solar makes panels that can generate up to 700W or more.

Canadian Solar may make solar panels that produce double the energy of its competitors, but these panels are significantly larger than the industry average. The average solar panel is 65 inches long by 39 inches wide, but Canadian Solar’s high-wattage panels are up to 93.9 inches long and 51.3 inches wide. You should consider the size and shape of your roof before you install these panels.

Who should use Canadian Solar

Canadian Solar makes top solar panels designed to withstand heavy snow loads and high winds, which makes them ideal for colder climates. Because the panels can reach such high efficiency and power output, Canadian Solar is a good candidate for regions with less sunlight.


  • High wattage output of up to 700W or more
  • High-efficiency models
  • Able to withstand heavy snow load
  • Offers both polycrystalline and monocrystalline to accommodate different budgets


  • Short 12-year product warranty

ZNShine Solar: Best for solar panel variety

znshine card.jpg

Star rating: 3.7 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline, polycrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 22.53%

Warranty length: 12-year product warranty, 30-year power output guarantee

Why we picked ZNShine Solar

ZNShine makes both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. With 43 different solar panel models, every homeowner is bound to find one that fits their energy needs and accommodates their budget. Nearly all of ZNShine’s solar panels have high efficiency ratings of 20% or more. Unfortunately, ZNShine Solar’s 12-year product warranty doesn’t stack up to the 25-year comprehensive warranties we see from its competitors.

Who should use ZNShine

ZNShine manufactures a range of solar panels that accommodate all budgets and energy needs.


  • Several power classes available
  • Monocrystalline and polycrystalline options to accommodate a range of budgets
  • Tier 1 solar panels


  • Short 12-year product warranty
  • Manufactured outside the United States

LONGi Solar: Best for affordability

longi solar card.jpg

Star rating: 3.6 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 21.3%

Warranty length: 12-year product warranty, 25- to 30-year power warranty

Why we picked LONGi Solar

LONGi Solar has installed its solar modules on six continents and 85 countries, so you can trust them with your residential solar installation. Its solar panels may not boast the highest efficiency, but 21.3% is plenty for the average homeowner.

LONGi Solar offers only a 12-year product warranty and either a 25- or 30-year power warranty, depending on the solar panel model you choose. The best solar panel companies offer a more comprehensive 25-year warranty.

Who should use LONGi Solar

Unlike some of its competitors, LONGi Solar’s selection is limited. It offers only two solar panel models for residential use, and both are highly efficient PERC monocrystalline panels. So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly polycrystalline solar panel, you may need to look elsewhere.


  • High-efficiency solar panels
  • Durable and reliable
  • Aesthetic design


  • Only two options for residential solar
  • Short 12-year product warranty

REC Solar: Best for harsh environments

REC card.jpg

Star rating: 3.6 out of 5

Panel types offered: Monocrystalline

Maximum efficiency: 22.6%

Warranty length: 25-year performance, product and labor

Why we picked REC Solar

Most solar panels are designed to allow snow loads up to 5400 Pascals (Pa), but REC Solar makes panels that easily exceed that pressure measurement. With solar panels that allow snow loads up to 7,000 Pa, these panels are built with strength and durability in mind.

Plus, REC solar panels operate at high efficiency, have a low 0.25% annual degradation rate and come with an excellent 25-year performance, product and labor warranty. However, not every REC solar panel includes such a comprehensive warranty, so check the model before purchasing.

Who should use REC Solar

REC Solar makes solar panel systems that are built to survive harsh climates. If you live in a region with heavy snowfall, a REC solar panel is right for you.


  • 25-year comprehensive warranty
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Durable and made to last in harsh climates


  • Not all models come with a 25-year warranty
  • No residential solar battery

Our picks at a glance

Recommended model
Output (min. – max. wattage)
Temperature coefficient (% Celsius)
Durability (annual degradation rate)
Panasonic Solar

EVERVOLT® HK2 Black Series Solar Module, 430/420W

403.3W – 413.1W



Mission Solar

430W SX9Z

425W – 435W



Jinko Solar


316W – 435W



Canadian Solar


675W – 846W



ZNShine Solar

210 Double Glass Module ZXM8-TPLD132 or 210 Bifacial Double Glass Module ZXM8-TPLDD132

645W – 670W



LONGi Solar

Hi-MO 7_LR7-72HGD 585-620M V2(30-30&15 Frame)

585W – 605W



REC Solar


450W – 470W



What didn’t make the cut

We carefully research each solar company to decide who deserves to be on our list of the best solar panel companies. Not every solar panel company can stand up against our stringent methodology; see who didn’t make the cut below:

  • Maxeon: Maxeon, a spin-off company from SunPower that’s been in business for three years, makes excellent solar panels. However, these tend to be more expensive than many other solar panels.
  • AXITEC: AXITEC may offer affordable solar panels with good efficiency ratings of 21% or more, but they are not an official Tier 1 solar panel brand.
  • Solaria: Solaria’s solar panels have higher efficiency ratings, but the 20.5% can’t quite compete with the 22% or higher that we see with its competitors. Solaria is also now a Maxeon brand.

Why choose solar panels?

There are many great reasons to go solar. Not only do solar panels produce energy to use in place of expensive electricity, they produce that energy cleanly. Although this addition to your home can be costly, you can reduce that price tag with solar rebates and tax incentives. Other reasons to choose solar panels include:

  • Energy independence: With solar panels, you no longer need to rely on the energy grid to power your home.
  • Monthly energy-cost savings: If your solar panels completely offset your monthly energy costs, you won’t have to pay an electric bill. This can lead to thousands of dollars in savings over a solar system’s lifespan.
  • Increased home value: Solar panels are an asset to your home and can increase its value by up to 4.1%.
  • Tax incentives: By installing solar panels, you’ll be eligible for the Federal Solar Tax credit, which can be deducted from your federal income taxes.
  • Invest in renewable energy: Solar panels produce clean energy, and installing them will help you reduce your carbon footprint.

What to consider when buying solar panels

To choose the right solar panels for your home, you should consider the following factors:


Climate plays a major role in the type of solar panel you buy and whether solar panels are worth it. Hot temperatures can impact energy production, and “extreme weather, hail, and shading can shorten their life,” said Chris Stevenson, a professional roofer with over 15 years of experience.


Cost is a major factor, whether you want it to be or not. The average solar panel system costs between $13,620 and $26,686 before you apply any solar tax incentives or rebates. The average cost is around $2.82 per watt, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $2.34 and $3.30 per watt, depending on where you live.


The purpose of a solar panel is to produce energy, so you’ll want a solar panel system that is rated for enough watts to offset your energy usage.


The more efficient the solar panel, the more energy it will produce. A more efficient solar panel is better if you live in a region with less daily sunlight. But if you get a lot of sunlight, you may be able to save money with a less efficient panel.

Energy needs

You’ll need to figure out how much energy you use each month and buy a system large and efficient enough to offset that power usage. When in doubt, contact a top solar installer in your area to help you choose the right solar system for your home.


With a good solar warranty, you won’t have to worry if your solar panels break or begin to produce less energy unexpectedly. The average solar panel lasts 25 years, and the industry-standard solar panel warranty is 25 years. The best solar panel companies have warranties and power guarantees of up to 30 years.

Types of solar panels

There are four main types of solar panels and solar systems that you should know:

  • Monocrystalline: Monocrystalline solar panels have quickly become the industry standard for their high efficiency and modern design.
  • Polycrystalline: Polycrystalline solar panels are a budget-friendly option because they are less efficient than monocrystalline panels.
  • Solar shingle: Solar shingles are popular because of their modern appearance, but they cost more than the average solar system despite lower efficiency.
  • Thin-film: Thin-film solar panels are the least efficient type, but due to their light weight and mobility, they are often used for off-grid excursions.

How to pay for solar panels

Even though experts like Chris Stevenson remind us that solar panels have become more affordable due to better “technological advancements and government incentives,” they are expensive. But there are many ways to pay and make solar panels more affordable:

  • Cash purchase: With a cash purchase, you own the solar panels outright and can benefit from all the incentives you qualify for.
  • Solar loan: Solar loans are popular because you don’t have to drain your bank account just to get solar panels. Instead, you pay a fixed monthly payment.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): With a PPA, you don’t own the solar panels; instead, you buy the energy they produce.
  • Incentives: Solar incentives are designed to make solar panels more affordable and appealing to the average homeowner. Federal tax incentives, state tax incentives and rebates are available to qualified homeowners.

How to calculate the ROI of solar panels

To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your solar panel installation, you first need to determine your estimated payback period and long-term savings using the following algorithm:

  1. Find the actual cost of your solar system: Upfront cost of your solar system – solar tax incentives.
  2. Calculate annual savings: Cost of kW x annual output of your solar system.
  3. Cost of solar system (1) / annual savings (2) = estimated payback period.
  4. Calculate your long-term savings by multiplying the cost of one kilowatt by the expected annual output of your solar panels.
  5. Multiply the number you got in step 4 x (25 – estimated payback period) = long-term savings.


Each solar panel’s star rating was calculated based on the following criteria:

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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