The 7 Best Solar Panels in 2021
Basking in the sun soothes one’s body and mind. Did you know that sunlight can also be utilized in other, more productive ways? Using solar panels to generate power is probably the best way in which one could use the surplus amount of sunlight.
However, finding the best solar panels for your house can be quite tricky. With more than a hundred different brands on the market, you’d have to spend days researching and comparing the products. Furthermore, the solar industry in on a constant change – getting the latest updates in efficiency values is all but easy.
By combining feedback from dozens of solar professionals and years of experience in the industry, we’ve rounded up and reviewed the market’s 7 most popular solar panels. We also provided some handy tips so that you can get the best possible product for your money. Read on!
|#1|| SunPower 100 Watt - Best Overall|
| SunPower 100 Watt - Best Overall|
|#2|| RAVPower 24W Solar Charger - Best Portable|
| RAVPower 24W Solar Charger - Best Portable|
|#3|| Renogy 160 Watt - Best Flexible|
| Renogy 160 Watt - Best Flexible|
|#4|| Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline - Best RV Panel|
| Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline - Best RV Panel|
|#5|| ACOPOWER 120W Portable - Best for Camping |
| ACOPOWER 120W Portable - Best for Camping |
|#6|| Renogy 10 Pieces 300 Watt 24 Volt - Best Panels for Home Use|
| Renogy 10 Pieces 300 Watt 24 Volt - Best Panels for Home Use|
|#7|| ECO-WORTHY Backup Alligator Adapter - Best for Marine/Boat|
| ECO-WORTHY Backup Alligator Adapter - Best for Marine/Boat|
Top Rated Solar Panels from Each Category
SunPower 100 Watt - Best Overall
- Very efficient
- Renowned US-based manufacturer
- Solid performance in high temperatures
- ISO9001 certification
- Decent warranty deal
Founded in 1985, SunPower is one of America’s most renowned manufacturers of solar panels. Many consider it to be an industry leader – they have a rich history and always deliver high performance and excellent design. Is their 100 Watt solar panel worth the money?
Many experts recommend SunPower’s series of flexible solar panels to those who need the best performance from their photovoltaic systems. These panels are manufactured with Maxeon silicon – it’s the same type used in the company’s standard panels. Its mono-crystalline cells are up to 25% efficiency, which is quite impressive and among the best in the industry.
Moreover, SunPower 100 Watt has an outstanding power temperature coefficient. Standing at -0.30 to -0.35% per 1°C, this model performs better than its rivals in hot temperatures. This can be of great assistance if you decide to mount Sun Power 100 Watt on your RV and drive in the desert heat.
Built on a solid copper foundation; the cells inside this model are resistant to power loss caused by corrosion and cracking. Unlike conventional cells, they won’t lose power when bent or exposed to moisture.
Besides using the compatible quick connectors that are included in the package, you can also install these solar panels with stainless-steel grommets or adhesives. The model comes accompanied by a 2-year warranty for materials and a 5-year warranty for power.
Very efficient and performing well in high temperatures, SunPower 100 Watt deserves the title of our best overall solar panel.
RAVPower 24W Solar Charger - Best Portable
- Light and portable
- Excellent build qualit
- Four solar panels for high output
- Three accessible USB ports
- Smart IC frequency technology
Do you need a good portable solar charger? If you do, RAVPower’s newest 24W model may be one of your best options. Rugged, waterproof, and equipped with three USB ports, it’s a perfect solution for those on the go.
As it uses waterproof nylon fabric, this panel easily withstands daily wear and tear. The lanyard holes, which allow easy carrying, are made out of stainless steel. Therefore, they won’t get rusty even during your rainiest hikes.
When unfolded, RAVPower 24W is 11.8″ wide and 33″ long. When you’re stationary, you can simply lay it flat on the ground. If you’re on the go, on the other hand, you can hook it on your backpack. Pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say? Of course, the model can be folded down when not in use.
With four individual solar panels, this model provides constant charging power. The user is able to charge three devices at once, thanks to the model’s three USB charging ports. The maximum charging speed of all three outputs is 5V/1.6A. This is, in our opinion, very impressive, especially once we consider that this is a solar charger.
Another feature we liked is the Smart IC frequency technology. The purpose of it is to distribute the energy evenly – all three of your devices will be charged equally.
It’s pretty easy to see why we consider this model as the best portable solar panel. Although budget-friendly, it’s a feature-packed model you won’t regret purchasing.
Renogy 160 Watt - Best Flexible
- Extremely flexible – up to 248 degrees
- Can be used on most uneven surfaces
- Ultra-thin & lightweight
- Convenient MC4 connectors
- Durable – withstands severe weather conditions
New to the scene and quite costly to manufacture, the flexible solar panels make most companies stay away from them. Fortunately, Renogy is not among those companies. Their 160W flexible panel is something special – let’s check it out:
The most eye-catching feature of this solar panel is undoubtedly its flexibility. Flexible to a good extent (248 degrees), it is both ultra-thin and lightweight. Thanks to its shape, it can be easily installed on all kinds of uneven surfaces. These include airstream, RV roofs, and all curved platforms.
Coming with a 12V rating, Renogy 160 Watt is compatible with most 12V devices on the market. The model’s cables end with MC4 (press-fitting) connectors, allowing one to use it with various inverters and charge controllers. Besides the MC4 connectors, another thing that makes using this panel is its low weight of 6lbs.
As a flexible solar panel, Renogy 160 Watt seems to be a great choice for hikers. However, there’s one more thing that turns it into a good option for outdoor adventurers. The model is quite sturdy – it’s capable of withstanding severe weather conditions, such as heavy snowing up to 5400Pa.
All in all, this model successfully combines Renogy’s innovative approach to its products with cutting-edge precision. Easy to install and transport, Renogy 160 Watt can be affixed to most uneven surfaces. Moreover, its ultra-thin design allows quick and easy storage. It is, in our opinion, a great option for boats, airstreams, and campers.
Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline - Best RV Panel
- Basic but functional design
- Great for RVs
- High-efficiency monocrystalline cells
- Pre-drilled mounting holes
- Plenty of goods in the kit
The next solar panel in our roundup is also made by Renogy. This time, they have a perfect product for the travel enthusiasts – the 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline starter kit. Here are its most outstanding features:
Coming with 36 cells connected in a series, this panel can be used with almost any device with a 12V rating. It can be used with DC appliances, batteries, and all other products that support panel connections. In peak conditions, the device can output 105 watts or more.
The design, although somewhat basic, is practical and convenient. Once we take its build quality into account, there’s no space for complaining about the looks. There’s a TPT sheet on the rear, an anti-reflective glass on the front, as well a grey frame that surrounds the panel.
As it weighs less than 20 pounds, Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline is easy to handle. Like most modern solar panels, this model comes equipped with MC4 connectors. Therefore, connecting the panels to other panels is effortless. Just as we expected, the unit also has an abundance of pre-drilled holes – grounding and mounting are as easy as they get.
However, the most important feature of this model is its mono-crystalline cell matrix. Not only it reduces size and weight, but it also has a capacity higher than the described 100 watts. On sunny days, you’ll be able to achieve even 110 watts – pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
ACOPOWER 120W Portable - Best for Camping
- The clean, basic design
- Portable – ideal for camping
- Reliable performance for small-scale needs
- Simple, easy-to-use connections
- All necessary accessories included in the package
Are you an avid camper? If you are, you’ve probably always wanted to have a portable, easy-to-use solar panel. ACOPOWER’s 120W model is, in our opinion, a must-have tool for backpackers. Small and simple to use, it will provide you with reliable performance on your camping trips.
This laptop-like solar panel is lightweight, at only 7.9 pounds. Once we combine this with its water-proof properties, we get an ideal product for camping. Setting it up is incredibly easy – with pre-installed stands and wires, you’ll be good to go in under two minutes.
The model folds into a convenient suitcase design. As you can already guess, this means that packing it up and transporting it is effortless. There’s a 10A charge controller in the pocket of the suitcase, as well as two MC4 connectors and alligator clamps. With these, you’ll be able to charge smaller appliances in a quick and easy manner.
However, there are certain limitations to what ACOPOWER 120W Portable can do. Still, although unsuitable for large-scale applications, it’s a perfect product for basic needs. It can be of great help when you’re out in the country.
One thing we particularly liked is the abundance of goods in the package. Besides the solar panel itself, you’ll also be getting the already-mentioned alligator clamp cables, the MC4 connector cables, an LCD charge controller, and the user manual. The panel comes at a relatively affordable price, and there’s also a 100% money-back guarantee.
Renogy 10 Pieces 300 Watt 24 Volt - Best Panels for Home Use
- Ideal for residential rooftop systems
- PERC solar cells for small size & low weight
- Durable – withstands severe weather
- Ground mount compatible
- 25-year output warranty
The first step in converting a particular structure from it being energy-dependent to energy-producing is in buying a good solar panel. The easiest way to do this is to buy a solar panel kit – Renogy’s 10-piece offering seems to be a good choice.
One of the best things about this kit is undoubtedly its durability. Made to last, Renogy 10 Pieces 300 Watt easily withstands severe weather. The manufacturer says that it’s highly resistant to snow loads (up to 5400 Pa) and high winds (up to 2400 Pa).
This is thanks to the model’s corrosion-resistant aluminum frame and low iron tempered glass. Moreover, the unit’s junction box is IP67-rated and is therefore resistant to low-pressure water jets and environmental particles. As you can already guess, this brings the necessary peace of mind – you won’t have to worry about durability.
The model’s PERC solar cells provide outstanding performance. Moreover, their small size also makes the entire product much lighter and smaller. Compared to your regular 300-watt panels, this one is 20% lighter and shorter. The maximum power at STC stands at 300 watts, while the maximum system voltage is 1000VDC.
Renogy 10 Pieces 300 Watt can be used for a variety of different applications. It’s best-suited for home use, particularly for garages and work sheds. It is accompanied by an impressive 25-year output warranty and can also be purchased in a 270W version.
ECO-WORTHY Backup Alligator Adapter - Best for Marine/Boat
- Very affordable
- Perfect for boats, automobiles, motorcycles and other vehicles
- Lightweight & easy to install
- Dust-proof, shock-proof, & rust-proof
- Blocking diode prevents reverse discharge
Ever since foundation in 2002, ECO-WORTHY has been one of the industry leaders. The company manufactures and sells products like solar panels, solar cells, grid-tied systems, and off-grid systems. We’ve decided to analyze their Backup Alligator Adapter, which seems to be one of the best options for marine/boat use.
First things first – the best thing about this product is its price. It’s a genuinely affordable solar panel and a great budget-friendly choice. If you’re looking for a portable solar panel for your boat but want to save some money, it’s one of your best options.
Since it’s so affordable, ECO-WORTHY Backup Alligator Adapter has a very basic design. There’s nothing remarkable about the panel’s design – it is simple but practical and functional. Besides the panel itself, you’ll also be getting four suction cups, a pair of battery clips, and one cigarette lighter adapter.
Although budget-friendly, this model still sports some interesting features. You can place it literally anywhere, as it includes easy-to-mount suctions and dual bands for hanging. It has a built-in blocking diode that prevents reverse discharge, while its unique clip design prevents short circuits. For efficient conversion, the manufacturer recommends placing the panel at a 20-35° angle to the sunlight.
For the price it comes at, ECO-WORTHY Backup Alligator Adapter is a great product. It is suitable for a number of applications, allowing one to make good use of unlimited sunshine whenever needed.
Category to choose from
As their name suggests, these solar panels are easy to carry with you. Due to their ultra-thin design and low weight, the owner can easily transport them from one place to another. To campers, hikers, and all other outdoor enthusiasts, these types of solar panels are invaluable.view more
Going camping always brings the risk of ending up with a dead battery on your laptop, tablet, or cell phone. However, with a good solar panel, you won't have to worry about your appliances dying because there's no electricity around. These panels are portable, easy to set up, and can be real life-savers sometimes.view more
As they're quite costly to make, most manufacturers stay away from these kinds of solar panels - but not all. Renogy's 160 Watt model, for example, flexes to an impressive extent - up to 248 degrees. Flexible models can come in very handy to people who need to install solar panels on uneven surfaces.view more
Outfitting your home with solar panels is one of the best things you, as a homeowner, can do. It's a worthwhile decision - you'll come to the same conclusion by estimating solar power's costs and savings. Although they can be pricey, residential solar panels are often high in quality and efficiency.view more
Traveling with an RV is great - wherever you go, you're always home. Outfitting your RV with an RV-special solar panel will allow you to enjoy the benefits of limitless, free source of power. These panels are widely accessible, have a long lifespan, and are almost entirely maintenance-free.view more
Boat solar panels are an excellent eco-friendly alternative to recharging one's marine battery with the engine. A quality model can easily transform one's sailboat into a true off-grid vessel. It easily integrates into the boat's electrical system and turns it into a home away from home.view more
Finding the Best Solar Panels
- Buying Guide
With so many different types and brands on the market, choosing your first solar panel can be daunting. Let us help you out! Here are the main factors you need to keep in mind when shopping for a solar panel:
Different Types of Solar Panels
As you probably already know, “mono” stands for “single.” This indicates that the solar cells found in monocrystalline solar panels are manufactured from single crystals of silicon. During their manufacture, these crystals are slowly grown into ingots of considerable size, after which they’re cut into individual solar cells. Once this process is over, the cells are assembled into panels.
Due to the uniform structure of these panels, they boast the highest efficiency among all the types. They are also well-known for their deep blue or black color. Although very efficient, monocrystalline panels are also quite expensive. Experts often recommend them for smaller spaces, as their efficiency can easily maximize the amount of obtained electricity.
Besides space-efficiency, these panels also live the longest. When shopping for one, you’ll notice that most models sold by renowned manufacturers come with a 25-year warranty. This brings the necessary peace of mind and removes the need to worry about durability or reliability.
Unfortunately, the fact that they’re expensive is not their only downside. When partially covered by snow, dirt, or shade, their entire circuits can break down. Moreover, they’re most efficient in warm weather – extreme temperatures can have a negative effect on their performance. However, this is not a major concern for most homeowners.
These are the most common types of panels and are also known as multi-crystalline solar panels. As their name tells, polycrystalline cells are comprised of several tiny silicon crystals, arranged in a somewhat irregular order. When monocrystalline cells are cut, the fragments left behind can be used in the manufacture of polycrystalline cells.
The manufacturing process consists of melting several silicon fragments, which are then poured into a mold. Although this process tends to be less expensive, it also leads to lower efficiency (up to 20%). Because of this, polycrystalline cells need to cover a larger area. This is the only way for them to convert sunlight into pure electricity efficiently. Still, they command the most substantial chunk of market share due to their lower price per watt of capacity.
In terms of efficiency and cost, these types of panels are often recommended as an intermediate option. They don’t cost as much as their monocrystalline counterparts, but they still provide better performance than the thin film. Offering decent efficiency for a lower price, they’re recommended for most projects.
Just like the monocrystalline panels, they also perform slightly worse in high temperatures. Extreme heat shortens their lifespan and affects their performance.
Amorphous silicon solar panels use thin-film technology. In this process, several layers of photovoltaic material are deposited onto a special substrate. Currently, the only thin-film technologies available on the market are copper indium gallium selenide, cadmium telluride, and amorphous silicon.
Due to their low electrical output, solar cells that are based on amorphous silicon have been typically used in pocket calculators and other small-scale applications. That is not true anymore, though. Recent developments in their efficiency and performance have made them usable for several large-scale applications as well.
A couple of layers of amorphous silicon solar cells can be combined with the manufacturing process called “stacking.” As you can already guess, this introduces higher efficiency rates – up to 8%. Of all the silicon used in crystalline silicon solar cells, only 1% of it is required in their amorphous counterparts. Even though this makes them less expensive, “stacking” is still a relatively costly process.
Once expected to become a major factor in the photovoltaic market, amorphous silicon lost its importance due to the competition mentioned above. However, amorphous silicon solar panels are lightweight and flexible, allowing the owner to be much more creative when it comes to applications
How to Choose
the Best Product?
In the case of solar panels, the term “efficiency” refers to a particular model’s ability to make usable electricity out of sunlight. As you can already guess, higher efficiency is better. A model with higher efficiency is capable of converting more sunlight into electricity.
In our opinion, an acceptable efficiency range stands at around 14-22%. This relates to the panel’s output, which is typically shown in watts. Another thing to take into account is the temperature coefficient. However, this isn’t a crucial factor unless you live in a very hot climate. If you do, get a monocrystalline model – these perform better in extreme temperatures.
No matter what product you’re shopping for, you should always expect the seller to stand behind the product with a good warranty. The same goes for solar panels. The materials warranty that typically accompanies solar panels protects the owner against failures, whether they’re caused by environmental issues or manufacturing defects.
Most of the renowned manufacturers back their solar panels with a 10-year materials warranty. However, the best of them will offer a 15 or 25-year warranty, covering your product against equipment failures. Most companies guarantee that, at the end of the warranty, their models will work at 80-90% of their original output.
As we said, the output of a solar panel is shown in watts. Typical domestic solar panels usually have a power output of 265 watts. This can, however, range from 100 watts to more than 300 watts. Higher wattage of a particular model means that it can produce more electricity under the same conditions.
Calculating the amount of electricity your solar panel can produce on a daily basis is easy. All that you need to do is to multiply the wattage with sunlight hours. If the panel will only subsidize your house’s energy usage, a model with lower output is a suitable choice.
If you want to have a really efficient solar panel, you’ll have to dig deep into your pockets. However, the “best” models are not always the most suitable choice for one’s house.
In case you have a small roof and there isn’t enough room for the system, you’ll get the performance you need by investing in the highest-performing, most efficient solar panel. If you do have enough space, on the other hand, installing a large but less efficient system will do the job and save you some money.
Solar Panel Installation Guide
Whether you decide to install it on a residential or commercial property, using a solar panel is a fantastic way to harness renewable energy sources. It’s an eco-friendly, cost-effective, and efficient way to produce electricity.
However, installing a solar panel requires caution and care, especially if you want to increase its efficiency. Make sure to pay attention to the following criteria:
Solar panels are based on an ability to absorb the light provided by the sun, with the help of photovoltaic cells they are made of. They are generating that energy and converting it into the electricity we need for powering up our house, for water heating purposes, for making our home appliances work, etc.
Actually, the absorbed energy will first be turned into DC electricity, then that power will be converted into usable AC energy, and in the end, the electricity will flow through your home and be at your disposal. If your solar panel system generates more power than you need, the excess will go to the electricity grid.
Q: How many solar panels do I need?
The answer to this question will depend on a couple of things. First, you need to determine what you need the solar panels for, and second, you have to do the calculation. If you want to cover your home with 100 percent, to make everything work on electricity you generated through the solar system, you will need somewhere between 25 and 35 solar panels.
That’s based on the assumption that you will use 250-watt solar panels and that you are spending close to an average household in the US, which is around 10.500 kWh per year. But that also depends on your location and the size of your roof.
Solar panels don’t really have an expiration date. If they aren’t damaged by wind, storm, or some human factor, they will be capable of absorbing the sun’s energy for decades, so it’s not something you should be worried about. The question is, for how long will they be able to work with high capacity?
When it comes to that, the industry standard is somewhere between 25 and 30 years, which means that after that period of time, their power will decline significantly. On average, the output of the solar panel will each year be lower by 0.8 percent – that is called the solar panel’s degradation rate. But if you maintain them properly, you can prolong their life span a bit.
If you want to know how much ability one solar panel has in order to convert the sunlight into electricity, you need to ask about its efficiency. That specific thing is determined by the capability of one solar cell to produce electricity. Most photovoltaic solar panels are around 20 percent efficient. Only some, extremely high-quality ones can get up to 23 percent tops. But this criterion is not so important in real life, it’s just one metric that will show you how powerful one solar panel is compared to another.
With all of this information, you should be able to make an ideal purchase. All of the solar panels we’ve analyzed offer a good performance – it’s all up to your specific needs. You’ve already made a fantastic choice by deciding to harness renewable energy. However, don’t forget to obtain and install the right type of solar panels for your conditions. Avoid making a hasty purchase – instead, consider your situation and sort through all the options. Our reviews and shopping tips will help you get solar panels that suit your needs and your budget. Good luck and sunny days to you!