Are you on a quest to power your home or business in a greener way? If so, you might be facing an overwhelming range of solar panels to choose from. To the untrained eye, they can all seem alike, and making a choice can feel almost impossible. How can you know which solar panels (also known as photovoltaic panels) are the most energy-efficient? How exactly do they work? We are going to give you a basic overview of different types of solar panels and their efficiency levels.
What is solar panel efficiency?
The main measure of the efficiency of a solar panel comes with quite a straightforward name: ‘solar panel efficiency’. Different manufacturers produce solar panels with different levels of solar panel efficiency, so it is important to understand this metric.
In a sentence, solar panel efficiency describes the relative amount of power the solar panel can create in comparison to similar solutions.
A Solar panel converts sunlight into consumable electricity for a home, business, or other building. Therefore, solar panel efficiency tells us how much sunlight they are able to convert into electricity.
A more efficient solar panel will convert a higher amount of sunlight into electricity than a less efficient solar panel.
So that you can be sure of a fair comparison between solar panels, they will all be exposed to the same temperature (usually 25 degrees celsius), strength (usually 1,000 watts per square meter), and time in the sunlight during tests. This allows you to directly compare the solar panel efficiency of multiple solar panels.
What affects solar power efficiency?
A Solar panel is created with small ‘solar cells’ which are responsible for the conversion of sunlight to electricity.
Solar power efficiency is largely affected by the properties of these solar cells, including the following three.
- Chemical composition
- Electrical configuration
- Complementary components
Exploring this in a little more detail, there are a few main materials that a solar panel can be made from. These include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, and cadmium telluride. Of course, each material will come with its own cost and its own ability to convert light into energy.
The inner wiring of a solar panel also needs to be configured in such a way that makes electricity transfer as quick and efficient as possible.
A solar panel will become less efficient if the reflective glass layer is not up to scratch. Every bit of sunlight is vital to increasing efficiency, so the penetrable glass surface should be as large as possible.
Which solar panels are the most efficient?
In a world full of options, it is useful to be able to use solar panel efficiency to know which manufacturers make the most efficient solar panels.
In terms of raw efficiency, the average to aim for is 15%. However, some market leaders are able to produce solar panels that reach 22-23% efficiency.
Here are the manufacturers of the top 5 solar panels in terms of efficiency for 2021:
- SunPower (22.8% with a 425W output)
- LG Solar (22.3% with a 405W output)
- REC Group (21.9% with a 405W output)
- Panasonic (21.7% with a 380W output)
- Upsolar (21.6% with a 560W output)
If you are happy to look beyond just the most efficient solar panels, Solar Reviews asked some experts to rank manufacturers in terms of suitability for everyday homes. Here are the top 3 and why they picked them:
- Panasonic (a premium option with the best heat performance on the market)
- LG (a widespread reputation for high-quality, efficient solar panels)
- Canadian Solar (a value brand that still produces panels around 18% efficient)
When buying your own solar panel, its efficiency is definitely one of the main factors to keep in mind. However, feel free to look out for good value represented by manufacturers that produce solar panels with upwards of 15% efficiency at a reasonable cost.
Jack Vale is a writer with Happy Writers, Co.