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The Best Solar Panels:
Top 10 Panels Reviewed

Top 10 best solar panelsWhen you are considering installing solar panels on your home, there are few big questions you’ll need to answer.

Which are the best solar panels for your needs, how much will they cost, what features should you look for and what’s the payback?

This free guide aims to help you answer those crucial questions, so you can start enjoying free energy for your home. Plus, use this guide to earn the best return possible from the government tariff.

When it comes time to choose the correct panels for your home, you should look at your options closely. By focusing on key factors, you can make a well-informed decision.

  • You can earn £2,000 – £10,000 by installing solar panels. 
  • Solar panel prices have dropped around 61% since 1980, in line with Swanson’s law 
  • Some solar panels offer more return than others due to better efficiency and price.

Are Some Brands Better than Others?
What is the Difference in Quality?
What Features Should I Look For?
Is Efficiency All That Matters?
What Else is Important to Keep in Mind?
Efficiency Standards for Solar Panels
The FiTs Program


How we decided on the best solar panels

It’s important to consider that there are panels with better efficiency, better warranties, and sometimes even better longevity.

You can also purchase panels that are as little as half the price of some of the top 10 options listed here. However, we chose the top 10 solar panels in the UK based on a combination of factors designed to deliver value.

For example, we chose low to mid-range panels that offer the most value for the money. Better brands like SunPower offer as much as 5% more efficiency, but the cost is high enough that the extra efficiency won’t make up for the higher investment.

Quality – We are concerned with quality and longevity, so all the panels on this list feature high salt and ammonia corrosion resistance certified by TUV NORD or an equivalent body, a minimum wind load of 2400 Pascal and snow load 5400 Pascal, and a minimum product warranty of 10 years.

Warranty – You want to know that the efficiency of your panels is guaranteed, which is why we set a minimum of a 25-year warranty. These panels are guaranteed at 90% efficiency for a minimum of 10 years and at 80% for a minimum of 25 years.

User Review – User reviews are important for determining the long-term quality of a panel. We only chose panels with reviews that average at 4.5 or higher.

Brand – All our top 10 panels are from Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers. Tier 1 manufacturers have investments with at least 5 major banks, are international players, and are therefore better able to back up their warranties.

Value – Our primary concern was choosing panels that offer a high value in exchange for the money. We looked for models that balance efficiency with cost, so that you can get the most return for your investment. This means that over 25 years, these panels are more likely to provide a better return than either lower-priced models which might not last as long and over high-end models, which have to produce more power just to recoup the cost of purchase.

The Best 10 Solar Panels for 2017


1 Jinko Solar Eagle PERC 60 JKM300M-60 – Jinko Solar’s Eagle PERC 60 JKM300M-60 is one of the top selling solar panels in the world. The panel offers the highest low-light performance for a panel in its price range, the highest efficiency for a panel in its price range at 18.33%, and high resistance to corrosion and weather, making it an ideal choice for homeowners and commercial projects alike.

Jinko Solar became the world’s leading solar panel manufacturer in February of 2017. The company was founded in 2006, and now has one of the lowest cost per watt production (37 cents USD) in the world.


2. Suntech STP275S-20/Web – These 275 watts 60 cell monocrystalline panel offers 16.9% efficiency but stands out for its combination of aesthetic and high solar production. The panels feature solid back cells designed to blend into most rooftops, making them ideal for areas where aesthetic is important. The panels also feature a high-power tolerance and one of the highest wind/snow load tolerances for panels in their price range.
Suntech was founded in 2001 and has won multiple awards for their solar panels in categories for ease of use, design, and solar development.


3. Trina Solar TSM-260PD05 – Trina Solar’s TSM-260PD05 feature 60 polycrystalline cells, a 15.88% peak efficiency, and a 260-watt output. While one of the least performing models in the top 10 list, but are also one of the most cost-effective and best user rated panels on the market.
Trina Solar was founded in 1997 and is currently the second largest solar panel manufacturer in the world. The China-based company has seen an average of a 5.74 GW growth per year since 2015, because they offer panels to large commercial as well as small residential products. Trina stands out with direct from manufacturer installations, allowing you to save money, by cutting out middlemen and additional costs.


4. Canadian Solar MaxPower CS6X-305P – With 72 solar cells and 16.94% efficiency, the Canadian Solar MaxPower CS6X-305P is the largest panel on this list. Canadian Solar’s MaxPower stands out for its durability, low energy emissions, and anti-reflective coating, making them ideal for low light energy collection. Canadian Solar is the third largest solar panel producer in the world, with a 2016 production of 5.4 GW of power. The company was founded in 2001, and was one of the first to include onsite testing for quality standards.


5. JA Solar JAM6(L) -60PR Mono 60 Cell Panel – The JA Solar JAM6(L) 60 PR Mono 60 Cell Panel features 60 percium cells, aluminium backing, and anti-reflective coating designed to capture more power at lower light levels. The panels also feature one of the highest hail ratings (class 4), making them ideal for areas with lower sunlight. JA Solar was founded in 2005 and in 2016, became the 4th largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world. The Chinese company is one of the largest suppliers of panels to solar farms, but provides a wide range of speciality models and panels for business and residential use as well.


6. Hanwha Q Cells Q. PEAK-G4.1 – Hanwha’s Q Cells offer a combination of affordability and high-efficiency, and at 18.6% they are one of the highest efficiency panels in their price range. The Peak G4.1 features a 3.2cm frame, anti-reflective glass, and 60 monosilicon solar cells designed to maximise solar collection for a 300-305-watt output. Hanwha holds the Top Brand PV Seal 2017 from EuPD Research, which lists them as the best solar panel brand for 2017. The Korean company was founded in 1952, but have only been manufacturing solar through Q Cells since 2012. In 2016, Hanwha was the 5th largest solar manufacturer in the world.


7. Sharp 235 Watt Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 – While not the most cost-effective option on this list, Sharp’s 235 Watt Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 is one of the most sold panels in the world, and one of the favorite high-end options for homeowners. Sharp’s panels offer standard performance with 14.4% efficiency and 235-watt production for 60 polycrystalline cells, but stands out with Zep compatible frames for rail-free mounting (so the panels have a lower profile), sleek appearance, and backskin to ensure that the panels blend in with roofs. This makes Sharp’s Sunsnap an ideal solution for homeowners in search of quality solar panels with a low profile that won’t greatly affect the appearance of the home. Sharp was founded in 1912 and manufactures a range of electronics including solar panels. In 2012, the company held the record for the world’s most efficient panel, although that record has since been taken by SunPower.


8. Yingli YGE 60 Series YL275P-29b – The YGE 60 Cell series is a semi-compact solar panel balancing efficiency and cost. The panel produces up to 275 watts with 60 polycrystalline cells operating at an average of 16% efficiency. The panel is one of the most frequently purchased for large-scale projects and solar farms, but is equally suited to rooftops for small 1-10 kW installations. The panels feature low iron tempered glass with an anti-reflective coating, designed to capture more sunlight.Yingli Green is one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers and was the 7th largest producer of PV panels in 2016. The company was founded in 1998 and has since deployed over 15 GW of solar power worldwide.


9. SolarWorld SunModule Plus SW 290/300 – SolarWorld’s SunModule Plus is one of the best-selling solar panels in the world, with an average efficiency rate of 17% with a 290/300-watt output. The panels feature a 60-cell monocrystalline design, anti-reflective coating, and integrated drainage for self-cleaning. At just 3.3 cm high, these low-profile panels also blend in well with roofs, making them perfect for most types of residential and commercial installations. And, with a 20-year product warranty, SolarWorld offers the longest warranty on the market. SolarWorld was founded in 1988 and has been a dedicated manufacturer and innovator in the solar space since then. The company is the largest solar manufacturer in Germany, and their panels reached grid parity with electric costs 2011.


10. Kyocera KD265GX-LFB2 – The Kyocera KD265GX-LFB2 is the top selling model in Kyocera’s solar panel lineup. Each panel features 60 polycrystalline solar cells with a maximum efficiency of 16%, for a total output of 245 watts. The panels feature Kyocera’s d.Blue coating, which boosts solar absorption, while blending in with most rooftops and skylines. Kyocera holds world performance records, and in 2014, manufactured the world’s most efficient panel and holds a GTM Research Reliability Award. The company has also been in business since 1959, and is a tier 1 solar panel manufacturer.


Quick round up

This handy table will help you compare the fact and figures at-a-glance.


Brand Model Average Cost Type Efficiency Size Efficiency


Product Warranty
Kyocera KD265GX-LFB2 £399-£485 Poly 16% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
SolarWorld SunModule Plus SW 290/300 £261-334 Mono 17.3% 60 Cell 25 Year 20 Year
Yingli YGE 60 Series YL275P-29b £221-£421.75 Poly 16% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Sharp 235 Watt Sunsnap ND-F2Q235 £308-£338 Poly 14.4% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Hanwha Q Cells Q.PEAK-G4.1 £200-£270 Mono 18.6% 60 Cell 25 Year 12 Year
JA Solar JAM6(L) -60PR £145-£238 Mono 17.74% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Canadian Solar MaxPower CS6X-305P £234-£324 Poly 16.94% 72 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Trina Solar TSM-260PD05 £170-£390 Poly 15.9% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Suntech STP275S-20/Web £210 Poly 16.9% 60 Cell 25 Year 10 Year
Jinko Solar Eagle PERC 60 JKM300M-60 £250-385 Mono 18.33% 60 Cell 25 Year 10  Year


Are Some Brands Better than Others?


Forbes recently ranked the top ten solar panel companies, based on the number of panels shipped. Most of the brands come as no surprise, as they are established household names in the solar panel community. The top ten companies of 2014 were:

1) Trina Solar
2) Yingli Green Energy
3) Canadian Solar
4) Jinko Solar
5) JA Solar
6) Sharp Solar
7) Renesola
8) First Solar
9) HanWha SolarOne
10) SunPower and Kyocera
11) Romag solar

Two of the cheapest manufacturers of solar panels on the market today are Talesun and Canadian Solar. However, every home has unique requirements and a different panel manufacturer may be cheaper for your unique situation.

The truth is that most of the top brands are very similar. At the residential level, no company has a major technological advantage. That means that it’s better to focus on other questions, versus looking at the brand of the company making the panel.


What is the Difference in Quality?


You might not be surprised to learn that most solar panel companies are based in China. In fact, six of the ten manufacturers from Forbes’ top ten list are Chinese. Even Canadian Solar produces all its panels in China.

In Western countries, there tends to be a stigma regarding goods produced in China. However, this stigma holds no weight when it comes to solar panels. Chinese companies have been producing solar panels for decades and their manufacturing process is state of the art.


What Features Should I Look For?


Looking at the length of a solar panel warranty is more useful than looking for a particular solar panel manufacturer. The longer the warranty, the more faith a company has in its product.

For example, Jinko Solar guarantees that after 12 years the system will still be operating at 90% efficiency. At the 25-year mark, they guarantee that it will still be operating at 80% efficiency. They also guarantee the panels and inverter will be free from defects for 10 years.

Most companies will have a two-part warranty like this one, and you should be able to easily find details about it using a Google search.


Is Efficiency All That Matters?


You may be tempted to buy the most efficient panels on the market. However, if you have enough roof space, that’s not always the best choice. Using less efficient panels is actually a common practice. Most homeowners only install the more efficient panels when they have a limited amount of space on their roof. That’s because the financial payoff from high efficiency panels does not justify the cost.

For example, Sharp manufactures triple junction panels with an incredible 44.4% efficiency. While these panels are three to five times more efficient than others, they are also prohibitively expensive. The cost is not justified except in the most extreme situations because they cannot pay themselves off.


What Else is Important to Keep in Mind?


The person who installs your system is just as important as the panels you choose. A solar panel system comes with a large upfront cost and you don’t want to trust that project to the wrong hands.

For example, did you know that if a small part of your solar panel is in the shade, the entire panel can stop working? This is similar to how a single broken bulb can ruin a whole strand of Christmas lights.

A good installer will do a thorough shade analysis of your roof. This will be a comprehensive look at the shade zones on your roof and it will take year-round sun exposure into account. By doing this analysis, your installer ensures that your panels will always receive enough sunlight to work properly.


Efficiency Standards for Solar Panels


There are three common types of solar panels. Although all three are made from silicon, they have a different production process which results in varying degrees of efficiency.


Monocrystalline Panels


These are the classic looking black panels. Because of the manufacturing process, and the natural properties of the silicon, the corners are often rounded or cut off. The panels are a uniform colour, which is a consideration for some homeowners.

Monocrystalline panels are made of high quality silicon and have the highest efficiency levels. They are also designed to have a longer lifespan than any other type of panel. In addition, monocrystalline panels are good at generating energy in low light situations.

The downside is that these panels are the most expensive. And, if part of the panel is covered in shade, dirt or snow, the entire circuit can stop producing electricity.


Polycrystalline Panels


Introduced in 1981, polycrystalline panels have been on the market for more than 30 years. Polycrystalline panels use less silicone during the manufacturing process than monocrystalline panels, which makes them more affordable.

These panels have a slightly increased risk of overheating, but this is rare and should only be a concern for people who live in extremely high heat areas. The lower purity silicon used in these panels also means that they aren’t as efficient as their monocrystalline counterparts. Some people may find these panels less aesthetically pleasing because of their mottled blue colour.


Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)


TFSC panels are made from a substrate with several layers of thin photovoltaic material. These solar panels are becoming more popular because they are easy to mass-produce and have a lower price point.

Aesthetically, TFSC have a uniform colour and they can be manufactured to be flexible. This is creating some exciting new opportunities, as it means panels can be installed in different areas. Additionally, TFSC panels are less affected by shade than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

However, they tend to require more space than is ideal for most residential areas. This space requirement also means that the cost of other materials goes up. You’ll end up paying more for products like supports and cables. TFSC panels also tend to break down faster which means they usually have a shorter warranty.


Efficiency Percentages


The efficiency of a solar panel is determined using a standard mathematical formula. That formula is: the maximum power output, divided by the amount of sunlight, times the size of the solar array. This is a consistent formula that gives an accurate and unbiased rating across all manufacturers of solar panels.

While every brand of solar panel is different, most fall into these ranges:

Monocrystalline panels have 15 to 20% efficiency.

Polycrystalline panels have 13 to 16% efficiency.

Thin-Film Solar Cells have 7 to 13% efficiency.


Inverter Efficiency


An inverter is a crucial piece of equipment for any solar panel system. When sunlight hits a solar panel, electricity is produced in a DC current. An inverter takes that and transforms it into an AC current which can be used by your home’s electrical system.

When you look at a solar panel system, one of the factors you should consider is the converter’s efficiency. Most consume about 4 to 8% of the energy they convert, which makes them 96 to 92% efficient.

One of the best inverters on the market is made by SolarEdge Technologies. This inverter loses only 2% of the energy it converts, which makes it 98% efficient. While this is one of the best inverters money can buy, it’s also quite expensive and impractical for most homeowners.

Most inverters last ten years. However, high ambient temperatures, large electrical loads and lightning strikes can all shorten an inverter’s lifespan. Once an inverter ceases to function you will need to replace it. You can do this without replacing the solar panels on your roof as it’s an independent system.


The FiTs Program


FiTs stands for Feed-in Tariff scheme. It was first introduced in the UK on April 1, 2010. The program is designed to encourage people to invest in renewable energy for their homes. If you install solar panels, you’ll receive a regular stipend from your power company.

Of course, the payment depends on how much energy your solar system produces. However, most homeowners recoup the initial cost of their solar panels after ten years. After that, they begin to make a yearly profit from the FiTs program. For an estimate of how much money you could receive from the FiTs program, go to this page. Keep in mind, these payments will go up over time, keeping in check with inflation.

On average, most residential systems generate 3.1 kilowatts. For a useful comparison look at this table. It’s based on data for a 4-kilowatt system, but it can still give you a general idea of the benefits you can expect if you install a solar panel system.


Eligible Panels


In order for a solar panel system to qualify for the FiTs program it must be MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified. Most panels made by major suppliers fall under this certification. That includes, but is not limited to, panels made by Suntech, Jinko Solar, Kyocera, Sanyo, First Solar, Sanyo and Yingli.

When you’re ready to put some solar panels on your roof, the person who’s installing them will be able to tell if you the panels you’re interested in are MCS certified.


Finding an MCS Certified Installer


Finding an MCS certified workman to install your solar system is equally as important as choosing the correct panels. Even if you purchase MCS certified panels, if you have an unqualified person install them, you may not be eligible for the FiTs program.

Before you hire someone to install your panels, be sure to ask to see their certification. Search here to find a certified solar panel installer in the UK.

Most installations will cost 6,000 to 9,000 Pounds. The exact amount will depend on the panels you install and the complexity of the project.


Questions for Your Installer


To ensure that you get the best possible value, there are several questions you’ll want to ask your MCS certified workman.

For example, imagine you have a problem with your solar panels. Who pays for the removal of the parts, the shipping back to the company, and then the re installation?

This is an area you’ll want to be very clear on. If the solar panel parts are covered under warranty, but removal and reinstallation isn’t, you could easily end up paying more than a thousand pounds to fix a problem. Be sure to choose solar panels with the most comprehensive warranty possible.

You’ll also want to ask whether the installer will do a comprehensive shade analysis. Also, you can ask what angle the panels will be installed on. If the angle is greater than 15 degrees, the panels will be cleaned naturally by rain.


Compare quotes to get the best solar panel prices


A solar panel system is going to be a great addition to your home. While there is an upfront cost, the long-term benefits make it worth it. You’ll be reducing your dependence on traditional power sources while saving money at the same time.

Studies have shown that a solar panel system is a good investment, even if you plan to sell your home soon. Homes with solar panels sold 20% faster than those without.

Don’t forget to keep in mind, the person doing the installation is just as important as the panels you choose. Be sure that your installer is MCS certified and that he does a thorough analysis of your house. Once you both understand the needs of your home, you can pick a company that makes a product that’s right for you.

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