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The Best Performing Solar Panels in 2022

most efficient solar panels for home

If you are considering going solar, you may have noticed that there are different types of solar panels, different power outputs they can produce, as well as different efficiency levels. In considering the system you need and which type of solar panels to install, efficiency is the key. Efficient solar panels may cost more but will produce more electricity as well. So, let’s dive in and see which type is the most efficient solar panel. 

What is Solar Panel Efficiency?

A solar panel efficiency means the percentage of sunlight power that the panel can convert into electricity. The solar system works to convert photons (the light) into electricity, and all of them combined can produce much. But just how much depends on how efficient the solar system is. 

A 20% efficiency means that you will get around 200W of power for every 1000W that falls onto your solar panel. It also means that you will get 400W out of every 2000W that falls onto the panel. The best solar panels available on the market today have around 22% efficiency. 

When you are designing a solar panel system, understand that this efficiency is already included in the specs of your solar panel models. That means that a 15% and a 20% efficient 10kWh solar array will both produce the 10kWh of power that they are certified to. The catch is that the less efficient solar array will take more space on your roof. 

Furthermore, more efficient solar panels will cost more money. If you want to install solar panels and the space is not a problem, then going with a slightly less efficient system will save you a lot of money and make your solar investment pay off more quickly. At the same time, if you are pressed for space, but money is not a problem, going with the most efficient solar panel is the best thing to do. 

While some people may enjoy having fewer solar panels in the sunniest part of their roof, others may enjoy solar power coming from a multitude of panels. If you are a large real estate owner in Texas, you may go for less efficient panels, but if you have a small house in Connecticut, you may want to save space and get ready to invest a little more. 

How do you Calculate Solar Panel Efficiency?

To calculate solar panel efficiency, take a look at their specifications. Every solar panel will have a detailed specs page or a label where you can find a solar panel efficiency rating. In general, solar panels can be anywhere from 9-23% efficient, depending on the type of the panel and the materials they are made of. 

Monocrystalline panels in general are the most efficient solar panels. Monocrystalline panel’s efficiency can go anywhere from 15-23%. These are panels made of single crystal solar cells. The single crystal offers the electrons more space to move and reduces the resistance. The solar efficiency of these panels is currently the top among commercial solar panels. They have a lifespan of around 25-30 years. They are perfect for limited roof space, as you need fewer panels. 

Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient panels. They are made of many small crystals of silicon that are melted to make wafers. They achieve efficiency of around 12-18% and have a lifespan of 23-27. The benefit of polycrystalline compared to monocrystalline silicon panels is the price: they are much cheaper to produce. 

Finally, there are Thin-Film solar panels, which reach efficiencies of around 9-14%. Their life span is around 20 years. This is a very thin silicon layer that is applied to plastics so that they are flexible. They can be used on uneven surfaces and can even be wrapped around poles and boats, taking over a part of energy production from generators. 

Alternatively, maybe you would like to manually calculate your solar cell efficiency. To do this, you need to: 

  1. Find out about solar irradiance in your area (AKA: incident radiation flux), 
  2. Multiply this number by the area of your solar panel (in square meters), 
  3. Divide the maximum wattage of your solar panel or solar cell by this number and 
  4. Multiply the result by 100%. 

The number you get is how much energy, in %, your silicon solar cells can produce. A higher number indicates that you can install fewer panels, while a lower number means more panels to get the same amount of usable electricity. 

Solar Panel Efficiency in 2021

Solar Panel Efficiency in 2021 is approaching 20%. Most solar panels reach a 15%-20% efficiency, while the high-efficiency solar panels go above 20%. Some experimental solar panels go as far as 47% efficiency but it may be another decade or two before solar panel manufacturers roll them out to the market. 

Solar Cell Technology

Not all solar cells are created the same. Depending on the type of the solar cell, the material it is made of, as well as how it converts solar energy into usable electricity, there are several kinds of solar cells and solar panels. 

PERC Solar Cells

PERC solar cells are solar cells developed with the aim of improving the efficiency ratings of solar technology. Although it may not seem like much, this new technology can improve the efficiency of solar panels by around 1%. Bear in mind that it took nearly 150 years to reach 20% efficiency, so adding one more percent to this number is a big achievement since they can reach around a 5% higher power output. 

Increased efficiency comes from a special passivation layer. This layer is supposed to slow down electrons as they travel to the panel and allow for a more efficient capture. Currently, leading manufacturers are switching to this type of panel. No need to worry – they still come in standard forms and your solar installer will have no problems installing them on your roof. 

HIT Solar Cells

HIT solar cells are a modification of monocrystalline solar panels, in which the crystalline layer is surrounded by an ultra-thin ‘a-Si’ silicon layer. These experimental solar panels are the next big breakthrough in power generation, as they can reach an efficiency of up to 28%. This technology also has a lower temperature coefficient and the production process is somewhat cheaper. The lower temperature coefficient also means higher overall efficiency, as more energy can be produced per square meter. 

Multi-busbar Technology

The MBB or MultiBusBar technology wants to reduce resistive losses by shortening the distance that electrons have to travel before entering the busbar. Bus bars are the thin silver or grey lines on the surface of your solar panels. This tech can affect efficiency by increasing the power output in direct sunlight. There are no new materials used in MBB high-efficiency solar panels. 

Split Cell Technology

Split Cell Technology increases the efficiency of solar panels by addressing several factors: 

  1. It halves the cell size, which converts to a higher efficiency, 
  2. It lowers the cell temperature, making it more efficient, 
  3. Lowers manufacturing costs and makes the panels more stable, 
  4. Promotes a higher absorption of electrons, even in real world performance. 

Since efficiency matters, each of these technologies has the potential to lower the upfront cost for both manufacturers and customers. They can also improve the power rating of each individual panel and help them reach efficiency levels. Furthermore, they could reduce the panel size and have a significant impact on how much more electricity your solar system can produce. 

Solar PV Cell Efficiency

Solar system efficiency is a priority factor to consider when installing solar panels. Efficient solar panel costs more but will cover a smaller area of your roof, produce more electricity and offset a higher percentage of your electric bill. A good efficiency rating also means a shorter payoff period. 

Solar PV Cells have different efficiency ratings, which can range from 6-44.4% for some non-commercial technology. While you may not need ISS-range of efficiency, the higher efficiency solar that you can install, the better. Most home solar has an efficiency of 15-20%. 

Importance of Solar Panel Efficiency

Faster Payback

The payback period of going solar in the USA is around 8 years. This means that a $25,000 solar system will be able to save you around $3,100 per year. With Federal Tax Credit and your local state incentives, you can reduce the solar payback period. 

Another way to a faster payback when going solar is choosing efficient panels. Panels with good efficiency ratings will cost more money, but will also produce more power. Over their lifetime, the best solar panels will save you more money (and maybe even make you some, depending on your utility) than most solar panels on the market today. 

Higher Wattage per Square Foot

Efficiency also matters because you will be able to get a higher wattage per square foot. This is the reason why increased efficiency is one of the key features of any good solar panel. If you are pressed for space but want to go green, having efficient solar panels can help you produce more solar energy than with a regular system. 

Solar panel manufacturers keep trying to make the solar panel casing thinner and decrease their size, but size reduction can only go so far. The only way to make sure that even a system covering a small area of your rooftop can produce enough solar energy for you is to go with high-efficiency solar panels. 

Factors Causing Variations in Panel Efficiency

There are several factors to consider in panel efficiency. No solar panel can produce a constant amount of electric energy for the duration of a day. The amount of power (kWh) produced depends on the amount of sunlight receiver, cell temperature reached, the power rating, as well as the orientation and how clean the panel is. 

Irradiance

Irradiance or solar irradiance is the amount of solar radiation that falls on a certain area at a certain time. The higher the irradiance in your area, the more sunlight there is. If you live in a high-radiance area, such as Texas or Florida, you may even consider going for less efficient solar panels, since the long sunny hours guarantee more power produced even with lower efficiencies. 

Shading

Any shade will limit or completely shut down one or more solar panels on your roof. What happens is that, because of the internal wiring, the solar panels cannot take any shade. Even the shade of a nearby tree trunk can completely shut off your solar panel and make your solar system less efficient. 

Panel Orientation

Solar panel orientation is one of the key factors to consider when installing solar. Ensuring the best orientation to the cardinal points of the world and proper solar panel tilt will enable you to maximize the power output as they will be exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight. 

Temperature

Temperatures that are too high or too low can decrease the power output of even the most efficient solar panels. Solar panels in general do not function so well in extreme cold and extreme heat, so making sure that there is some air movement both above and under your solar array will ensure they stay as close to their optimum temperature as possible. These issues can be avoided with panels with a lower temperature coefficient. 

Dust and Dirt

Dust and dirt cover the surface of your solar panels and reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the panel and gets converted to electricity. Being mindful and occasionally removing any dust or debris from your solar panels can significantly increase their efficiency. In areas with regular rainfall, you do not need to do this. 

Location

Location is another important factor to understand the system size and efficiency. In northern locations, you may want to go with more efficient solar panels to ensure your energy needs are met since northern locations receive less sunlight with lower intensity. Your latitude or the distance from the equator also determines the best tilt of your solar panels. High-efficiency solar cells can produce the most power when tilted properly. The higher your latitude, the higher the tilt. 

Time of the Year

Solar panels cannot produce the same amount of energy throughout the year, regardless of their efficiency rating and the system size. In designing your solar system, you should always make sure that it can cover your average annual electricity needs in areas with net metering. In areas with no net metering, you should choose the most efficient solar panels for winter production, but only if you would produce all of your energy needs. 

Is the Efficiency Worth the Cost?

Efficiency costs a lot of money, so the most efficient solar panels cost the most money. In trying to better understand how much money you should spend on a solar system, take into consideration factors such as your energy needs, the area you can put solar panels on, as well as the amount of sunlight your area receives per year. 

In sunny states, efficiency does not matter as much, since even a smaller system can produce enough solar energy for your household, thank more sunlight received throughout the year. However, having a smaller rooftop area (such as in multistory houses) in the north of the USA should mean that efficiency is more important. In this case, investing more means that you get the most efficient solar panels and the higher power output. 

Most Efficient Solar Panels in 2021

Each of the following solar panels is a high-efficiency solar panel produced in 2021. Some of the producers, such as Sun Power and Trina Solar (and others), experiment with new technologies to be able to provide the market with the best of the best. This is the list of the top 10 most efficient solar panels in 2021: 

RankManufacturer/BrandModel NamePowerEfficiency
1SunPowerMaxeon 3400W22.8%
2LGNeon R380W22.0%
3RECAlpha Pure 405W21.9%
4PanasonicEverVolt380W21.7%
5LONGiHi-Mo 5m LR-72HPH550W21.5%
6Jinko SolarTiger N-type 66TR410W21.4%
7FuturaSunFU M Zebra360W21.3%
8HyundaiHiE-S400UF400W21.3%
9Risen EnergyTitan S RSM 40-8-4-410M410W21.3%
10JetionJenius III JT545SGh545W21.1%

FAQs

What is the most efficient energy source?

Among all renewable sources, solar has been proven to be the most efficient and the most effective energy source. Although it is not present at all times, solar systems are easily combined with a solar battery to increase your energy independence. In areas where net-metering is available, it is best to use this option to your advantage, as you save on the cost of the battery. 

How can we increase the efficiency of solar panels?

Even the most efficient solar panels need a little bit of maintenance to help them achieve the highest effective efficiency rating. Keeping them properly tilted and oriented (towards the south in the northern hemisphere) as well as clean from any dust and debris will ensure high efficiency for years to come. Keeping them elevated a few inches above your roof will decrease overheating, as excessive heat is a problem even in panels with low-temperature coefficients. 

How hot is too hot for solar panels?

Any high-efficiency solar panel is rated to perform the best in temperatures between 59°F and 95°F. In real-world conditions, solar panels can get way hotter than this, as they are placed on roofs and exposed to direct sunlight. In this case, your solar panel will reach a somewhat lower power output. 

Are solar panels worth the investment?

Yes, solar panels are worth the investment. Depending on your electricity usage and system size, a solar system can offset up to 100% of your energy bill. In some areas, you may even be able to sell excess electricity to your utility company, making even more money. 

Conclusion

There are many types of solar panels in the market. There are also different materials used, different layering methods and other factors that can all influence how much power your solar array can produce. Sunpower produces nearly 2.3% of total electricity in the USA. With new breakthroughs and advances made in the field, solar panels are set to become more affordable and efficient with each passing decade. 

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