The design life of a solar system is about 30 to 40 years. That means your solar panel system can outlive most of the appliances in your home. Therefore, selecting which solar panel (also known as a module) to install is a major decision.
At Smart Solar Energy, we install three solar panels in Oregon and Washington: the Silfab Elite, Q Cell QPeak Duo, and the Panasonic Evervolt. These are some of the best solar panels on the market and come with exceptional warranties.
Let’s explore how to pick the best solar panels so you can make an informed purchasing decision.
What are the key features of a solar panel?
Selecting the ideal solar panel for your home depends on weighing various factors, such as appearance, manufacturing location, cost, and warranties.
Solar Panel Model
Panel Output (in Watts)
Product Warranty (in Years)
Length of Output Warranty
Output at End of 25-year Warranty
Temperature Co-efficient (Hot Weather Performance, low number preferable)
2021 PVEL Top Performer
No (qualfied in 2020)
Solar Panel Efficiency
The efficiency of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel indicates how much electricity it can produce per square foot. It is a measurement of the percentage of sunlight converted to electricity. Typically, solar panel efficiency ranges between 15% and 22%, but it varies by manufacturer and model.
In the last couple of decades, solar panel efficiency has increased dramatically. However, high-efficiency solar panels also usually have a higher cost.
If sunny roof space is limited, solar panel efficiency is a more important consideration. Also, you might want to think about future energy use before sizing your solar panel system. For example, do you plan to get an electric vehicle or switch from a gas to an electric water heater? If so, it’s good to allow more space for solar panels.
At Smart Solar Energy, we only install high-efficiency solar panels. Silfab Elite panels are 21.4% efficient, and the Panasonic Evervolt is 21.2% efficient. The QCells QPeak Duo is 20.1%, which is still pretty impressive. Our team can design a solar system that produces the most electricity possible to meet your renewable energy needs.
New consumer goods, like cars, appliances, and electronics, commonly include product warranties, and solar panels are the same. However, some manufacturers set themselves apart by offering longer warranties. Because our team is dedicated to installing solar systems with a long lifespan and low maintenance costs, all of the panels we install feature 25-year product warranties. By contrast, some other manufacturers only offer product warranties for 10 or 12 years.
At Smart Solar Energy, all of our systems include a 25-year warranty on solar equipment and labor, regardless of the solar panels. That means you will be protected from product defects, offering greater peace of mind.
Reliability Test Results
PV Evolution Labs (PVEL) is a testing lab with over ten years of solar industry experience. The PVEL PV Module Reliability Scorecard provides independent data on reliability and performance. The 2021 top performers include Jinko, Trina Solar, JA Solar, QCells, SunPower, Silfab, First Solar, LG Electronics, and Panasonic (in 2020).
PVEL also highlights opportunities for solar panels to improve, helping manufacturers increase the quality of their products over time by examining the common ways that solar panels fail. This information is also valuable to solar companies so they can choose the best products for their customers using highly relevant data.
Solar Output Warranty
PV module manufacturers provide a power production guarantee or energy output warranty. This ensures that the panels will produce a certain percentage of their original output for a designated period. Therefore, the longer the output warranty and the higher the percentage, the better. The output warranty is another way that solar manufacturers can set themselves apart.
For example, Silfab is unique in providing a 30-year output warranty, while 25-years is the standard in the industry. However, Panasonic guarantees 92% output after 25-years, which is very impressive.
If you want a solar system that is producing a lot of power a couple decades from now, the Panasonic Evervolt is an excellent choice, but remember that you’re going to pay a premium for that.
Most solar panels are manufactured in Asia, North America, and Europe. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine where a module is manufactured because a company operates plants in multiple countries. Also, just because a company is headquartered overseas doesn’t mean that all its manufacturing is abroad.
For some Smart Solar Energy customers, the manufacturing location is a critical consideration. If you want a solar panel that is made in North America, Silfab is a great choice because all of its manufacturing is in Toronto, Canada, and Washington. However, QCells may also be a good choice because it produces many solar panels in Georgia. Panasonic outsources its manufacturing to a third party, and it isn’t easy to know where they are manufactured.
Warm Weather Performance (Temperature Coefficient)
It may be surprising news, but solar panel efficiency declines when temperatures reach 25° Celcius (77° Fahrenheit) and above. So unfortunately, your solar panel system will produce less energy each hour during hot days than on cooler ones when all other factors are equal.
In Oregon and Washington, average daily summer temperatures often exceed 77° Fahrenheit. In Portland, Oregon, daytime high temperatures are above 77° Fahrenheit in June, July, August, September, and October. The warmer the climate, the more important it is to have a solar panel that performs well at higher temperatures.
The temperature coefficient shows how much the energy output decreases as temperatures exceed 25° Celcius. The typical range is between -0.2%/ °C to -0.5%/ °C, with the former preferable to the latter. Panasonic solar panels have some of the lowest temperature coefficients in the industry, at -.26%/ °C.
If high summer solar energy production is critical to you, the Panasonic Evervolt is a great choice.
PV Panel Cost
One of the largest costs of a solar energy system is the modules. So, one way to decrease the upfront cost of going solar is to use value panels. For example, Jinko Solar and Ja Solar produce lower-cost solar panels, but they also have a shorter product warranty of just 10 and 12 years.
Because Smart Solar Energy is dedicated to installing some of the best solar equipment on the market with 25-year warranties, we don’t install any of the lowest-cost solar panels. This is because we offer a complete 25-year Labor and Service warranty on top of all the manufacturer’s warranties. However, Silfab, QCells, and Panasonic solar panels are known for producing very high-quality products at a reasonable price.
The Silfab Elite and QCells QPeak Duo modules have a lower cost than the Panasonic Evervolt by approximately 30%. However, if you want some of the best solar panels available, the Panasonic Evervolt modules are a great choice, especially for long-term solar power production.
Solar Panel Appearance
Although traditional solar panels have white backsheets and silver frames, there are all black PV modules available with black backsheets and frames. Unfortunately, all-black modules tend to be a bit warmer because of their dark color. Therefore, this reduces the efficiency slightly, especially in hot climates.
Another consideration regarding the appearance of your solar system is how the modules are mounted on the roof. When the solar panels are nearly flush against the roofing material, they have a lower profile.
At Smart Solar Energy, our installers take care in installing systems that blend well with the roof. In some cases, this is less important, especially if the panels aren’t visible from the front of the home. In other cases, the appearance of the solar system is especially important to our customers.
If you want a sleek, all-black solar panel, the Silfab Elite is an excellent choice.
What is the best solar panel for Oregon or Washington?
All three of the solar panels we install will perform well throughout the year. As a solar company that serves the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, Battleground, and Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Salem, and Eugene, Oregon, our climate is relatively mild. However, if you want the best summer solar energy production during the dog days of summer, the Panasonic Evervolt is a great choice.
Are Silfab solar panels good?
This company is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and has manufacturing plants in Canada and Washington. In fact, it has facilities in Bellingham and Burlington, Washington. One thing that we really like about Silfab solar panels is that they are all manufactured in North America.
Silfab also has one of the longest output warranties available in the industry at 30 years. This means that Silfab is also focusing on solar system durability, which helps extend the lifespan of a solar system. In addition, Silfab is known for excellent customer service and sleek solar panels. If you want an all-black solar panel for a reasonable price, the Silfab Elite is an excellent option.
Does Panasonic make high-quality solar panels?
This Japanese company was founded in 1918 and has an excellent reputation for producing high-quality consumer products. And it’s solar energy panels and solar equipment are no exception.
Whereas some solar panel manufacturers offer a product warranty of just 10 or 12 years, Panasonic offers 25-year warranties for greater peace of mind. Also, Panasonic panels have an impressive temperature coefficient, ensuring excellent solar electricity generation in hot weather. If you want one of the best solar modules on the market, the Panasonic Evervolt is an excellent choice.
Are QCells QPeak Duos good solar panels?
Yes, this solar panel has an excellent reputation for being very reliable and reasonably priced. For example, it guarantees the solar panels will produce as least 86% of the original capacity after 25 years, which is pretty impressive. They also have a lower cost than the Panasonic Evervolt, enabling you to go solar for a lower upfront cost.
Hanhwa QCells is based in Seoul, South Korea, but was founded in Germany in 1999. It operates the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere in Dalton, Georgia. This 300,000 square foot plant employs hundreds of people, which benefits the US economy.
Which solar manufacturers have the best reputations?
Thankfully, there are many high-quality solar PV panels on the market in the United States that solar companies install. For example, Trina, SunPower, and First Solar also make excellent modules. After considering many factors, including price, warranties, appearance, and energy performance, Smart Solar Energy decided to install QCells, Panasonic, and Silfab solar panels.
Can I add battery storage to my solar energy system?
Yes, the Smart Solar Energy team installs solar systems with batteries, and they work well with all three solar panel options. If you want backup power during grid outages or to save money by using stored energy when electricity rates are highest (in areas with time-of-use rates), battery storage is an excellent choice.
We install the Tesla Powerwall 2, the Generac PWRcell, and Enphase Encharge batteries throughout Oregon and Washington. These advanced lithium-ion batteries are reliable and come with excellent warranties.
Which solar panels are the best for my home?
As you prepare to go solar, it is important to pick PV modules that fit your budget, project goals, and aesthetic preferences. Sometimes, it’s worth paying a bit more for solar panels that will produce more power in ten or twenty years but have a higher upfront cost.
Perhaps you want an all-black module that’s manufactured in North America. If so, the Silfab Elite is a nice option. If you want a solar panel with a slightly higher output warranty than the Silfab Elite, then the QCells QPeak Duo is a smart option. Weighing the pros and cons of each panel is critical for picking the best solar panel for your home.
The Smart Solar Energy team is happy to explore the various solar panel options with you and make recommendations based on your goals and preferences.
Want to learn more about a solar power system for your home?
Contact Smart Solar Energy today for a free solar audit!