Most Efficient Solar Panels

by Shawn | 111 Comments

If you have limited space and need to get the most energy for your area, then you need the most efficient solar panels for your project. People always ask me, “which panels have the highest efficiency?” or, “which solar PV panels are the best?” The truth is that solar panel efficiency isn’t as important as you might think. For most homeowners, the better question to ask is, “which panels will give me the most electricity for the best price?” You can find out how much solar might cost for your home by using our free solar calculator. But you’re here to find out the most efficient solar panels, so let’s get on with it.

The most efficient solar panel in 2016 is the SunPower SPR-X22-360 with a 22.07% panel efficiency.

Below is a solar panel comparison chart comparing the solar panel efficiency of all other modules rated at 360 watts like the SPR-X22-360. The 360 watt rating means that in strict laboratory conditions, these solar panels produce the same output. However, because solar panels vary in size, some end up being more efficient compared to others – meaning they can produce the 360 watts using less space (area).

(Updated Sept. 26, 2016)

Manufacturer ID Rating Efficiency Tier
SunPower SPR-X22-360 360 22.07% 1
LG Electronics LG360N2C-B3 360 18.94% 1
Sunpreme SNPM-GxB-360 360 18.55% 1
SunEdison SE-H360-4 360 18.40% 1
First Solar TS-360-R11-02 360 18.33% 1
Sunpreme SNPM-GxB-360 SM 360 18.28% 1
REC Solar REC360PEM 72 360 17.94% 1
Topsun TS-S360TA1 360 14.04% 4
Schuco USA MPE 360 AL 01 360 6.29% 5

Of all solar panel manufacturers, SunPower panels have the highest efficiency per surface area in real world conditions. Given a limited roof area with which to install solar panels, these are the best choice to produce the most electric output per square foot. However, this doesn’t mean that these panels will always be the best choice. Due to having record efficiencies, these panels will cost much more than other panels with slightly lower efficiencies. You should only consider paying the premium for high efficiency solar panels if limited space is a concern. If you want to see the efficiency of your solar panels, or compare almost 18,000 different modules, check out my solar panel comparison table and search or sort to see how your panel stacks up to the rest.

Panel Efficiency is Not So Important

All solar panels produce the same quality of electricity. What comes out the panels and ends up powering your lights, TV, and refrigerator is electricity. Your TV won’t be brighter and more glorious simply because you paid more for the solar panels. You paid more for the solar panels because you wanted to get the most electricity out of the limited space you have. This often ends up being most important for engineers building solar cars, or solar planes. Or RV owners and truck drivers who want a couple solar panels and want to get as much electricity from them as possible. Homeowners often don’t need the most efficient solar panels.

So, if solar panel efficiency isn’t important, what is? How much it costs, of course! That’s honestly the only real question when it comes to installing solar. How much will it cost and can I afford it? So, instead of researching the most efficient solar panels, you should contact a couple local solar installers and find out how much it will cost for them to install solar on your home. As long as the panels and installation come with a warranty, it doesn’t matter which brand or type is installed. And if you install with SolarCity for $0 upfront, they will own the panels, maintain them, and make sure they’re working perfectly.

Some solar installers will try to sell you on the fact that their panels are ‘more efficient’ than others. Don’t worry too much about efficiency. There’s a better way to compare which complete solar system is best for you. Choose the system with the best value. You can read about solar value here.

Lastly, the easiest way to find out if solar is right for you is to contact a couple local installers and ask them for a free estimate specific for your house and needs. I recommend checking out SolarCity, the #1 solar provider in the US. You can get a free quote from SolarCity here. And another easy way to get a free quote online is from Sungevity who will send you estimates online usually within 24 hours. After that, Google local solar installers in your area and see how they compare to the big national installers. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message. I’m here to help.

Chart Key:

  • Manufacturer = Solar Company; Brand
  • ID = Specific solar module identification code; module name
  • Rating = Standard Testing Conditions Rating; nameplate rating under laboratory conditions
  • Efficiency (%) = Output per input light irradiance using STC; energy conversion efficiency; module efficiency
  • Tier = Solar Panel Efficiency Tier. 1 is highest, 5 is lowest