2018 Most Efficient Solar Panels on the Market: Reviews, Ratings and Comparison

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As time progresses, our use of energy only increases. This increase in the amount of energy we use not only results in higher power bills, but also in negative consequences for the planet we call home. There are more environmentally-friendly ways to generate the power we need to get through our day to day modern lives, and one of the main methods is solar energy.

Perhaps you thought that solar energy could only be used on an industrial scale, but the reality is it’s a type of energy you can harness right from your own home. That’s where solar panels come in.

What are Solar Panels?

best solar panels reviews

First of all, it’s essential that you understand the most basic component of solar power, which is that the energy source is the sun. Solar panels are used to convert the photons in the light from the sun into electricity.

Solar panels serve an important purpose, which is to generate heat and electricity from a natural source. They are used in a wide variety of situations including on city buildings, residencies, wide open spaces like deserts, and even on a smaller scale like for solar street lamps.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Before you learn about solar panels work, it’s important to know what they’re made from. The primary component of solar panels is the solar cells, otherwise known as photovoltaic cells. This is the element of solar panels which facilitates the transformation of the sun’s rays into heat and electricity.

Solar panels work by collecting and storing energy during the daylight hours to be used at night. When photons from the sun hit a solar cell, electrons are knocked loose from atoms, leading to the formation of an electrical circuit. This is a process known as the Photovoltaic Effect (1).

type of solar panels

When electrons flow through this created circuit, they are able to generate electricity. The electricity conducted using solar panels is called direct current electricity (DC), meaning that the energy flows in one direction around the circuit.

In the United States, the electrical power grid uses alternating current electricity (AC) because it is less expensive to transmit the electricity even across long distances. There’s no need to worry about the effectiveness of solar panels in the US, however, as it’s easy to use an inverter to turn solar panel DC electricity into the AC version.

Types of Solar Panels

If you’re new to using solar panels, you will want to learn a bit about the different types you will come across during your search. The solar cells of solar panels are most commonly made using silicon. The silicon used to make the solar cells is found in three main forms (2):

Monocrystalline Silicon: made from a single crystal and trimmed into a square. This type of solar cell works best when positioned at 0 degrees. This type of cell absorbs the most light into the solar panel.

Polycrystalline/Multicrystalline silicon: this is a powerful type of solar cell which works well in weaker light and has the highest wattage of power production.

Amorphous Silicon: this is the type of technology that you will find in smaller solar panels, like in garden lamps, however, they are beginning to gain traction in larger applications, as well. Amorphous silicon cells have a much shorter lifespan than other types and have a lower power density. This means that you will need to use a higher number of panels to achieve the amount of power you desire.

They type of solar panel you find will depend on the type of silicon used to make the solar cells. As you search for the right panels for your needs, you will come across First-generation and Second-generation panels.

Here’s the difference:

  • First-Generation Solar Panels: made from monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon.
  • Second-Generation Solar Panels: made from amorphous silicon and other materials including CIS (copper-indium-selenium), CIS (copper-indium-gallium-selenium), and CdTe (cadmium telluride). Second-generation panels use thinner films, which makes them less expensive, but results in a lower electricity output.

Calculating Your Solar Panel Power Needs

solar panels calculation

As you begin to look at different solar panel models, you will realize that there are a number of power details you’ll need to know to make the best choice for your purpose. If you’ve never thought about calculating the electricity you use, this may feel intimidating. Don’t panic, there are a few easy questions to ask yourself to reach a conclusion about what you need.

Consider these factors (3):

  • Battery Energy Storage: the capacity of your battery will originally be measured in Amp Hours (AH), but you will need to convert that figure to Watt Hours (WH). You will do this by multiplying the battery’s AH by its voltage.
    • For example, a battery with 20AH with 12V, you will end up with 240WH. This means your battery could store 240W for 1 hour or 120W for two hours.
  • Appliance Power Consumption: you need to think about how much energy you will be using over time. You can do this by multiplying the appliance’s power consumption in Watts with the intended hours of use.
    • For example, a 20W television that you use for 2 hours a day will use 40W each day. You can lower your overall power usage by switching to LED lights.
  • Solar Panel Energy Generation: to figure out just how much electricity your solar panels can generate over time, you will multiply the power rating (in Watts) by the hours of sun exposure.
    • For example, if you have a 10W solar panel that is exposed to 6 hours of sunlight, you will get 60W of energy for your battery.
  • Bringing it Together: to determine the solar panel size that will work best for you, determine your power requirement in Watts and divide it by the number of sunshine hours your panel will get at that time of year. This equation will provide you with the necessary panel size.
    • For example, if you need 196W and your panel will get 6 hours of sunlight, then you need a 32.6W panel. So, you would choose a 30W or 40W panel.

Benefits of Using Solar Panels

Choosing the Right Solar Panels

If you feel like the process of figuring out what solar panels you need is super complicated, the thing to remember is that using solar panels offers significant benefits. This is what you have to gain:

  • Potential to live off the grid.
  • Clean and renewable source of energy.
  • Extremely durable and require little maintenance.
  • Initial installation costs are your only financial commitment. Your electricity will be free!
  • Possibility of earning income by selling excess power to electric utility companies.

Criteria: Choosing the Right Solar Panels

When the time comes for you to start exploring your options for solar panels, you want to be prepared and know just what you’re looking for. These are the factors that will help you determine which solar panels are right for you:

  • Type of Solar Panel: remember to evaluate the main purpose for your solar panels and think about which type of panel will work best for what you need.
  • Size: consider both the physical size and wattage size of your solar panels. You want to power everything you need in a convenient and practical manner.
  • Durability: solar panels are an investment, so make sure to choose a model which provides a warranty and is made to last.
  • Energy Efficiency: the more energy efficient your solar panels are, the more electricity they will generate, although the will be more expensive up front.
  • Quality: do your research on any potential brands and be sure that their panels are made from quality materials that will not be damaged or worn down easily.
  • Cost: solar panels are a large investment. The trick is to determine exactly what you need and to avoid spending more on panels that go above your requirements.

Solar Panels: Product Reviews

Now that you’ve learned more about solar panels, how they work, and which ones will work best for you, take a look at some of your options:

The Best 12V Solar Panel

Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The Renogy 12V solar panel is a durable model which is made to withstand high wind and snow loads, and will last for decades with proper care. This solar panel can be used a single piece or multiple panels can be arranged into a grid system. This panel gathers energy even in the shade due to its monocrystalline construction.

HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel

The HQST solar panel is built to withstand all conditions including high wind and snow load in addition to being protected against environmental particles and water jets and having impact resistance. This panel comes with a 5-year material and workmanship warranty along with a 25-year power output warranty.

ECO-WORTHY Polycrystalline Solar Panels 5 Watt 12 Volt

This compact solar panel is extremely affordable and practical for boating, camping, and hunting expeditions. The solar panel is waterproof and designed with an aluminum frame that remain durable for up to 20 years. This 12V solar panel is ideal for everyday use with small appliances.

The Best 250 Watt Solar Panel

TR Solar 250W Monocrystal Solar Panel

The TR Monocrystal Solar Panel is a good option if you’re looking for a panel that works at 250W. This panel has a maximum power voltage of 31.2V. This solar panel is quite large, weighing 52.9 pounds.

ALEKO 2PP250W12V ETL Polycrystalline Modules Solar Panel

The ALEKO polycrystalline solar panel is a durable option that even meets industrial standards for use in commercial needs. This pack contains two panels, each of which is quite large for strong energy conduction. These panels are sure to serve you will for many years to come as they are built with enhanced stiffness and impact resistance.

Trina Solar 250W Poly BLK/WHT 35mm Solar Panel

The pack of 4 Trina Solar panels are another reliable option if you need to conduct energy for a large area or many appliances. These panels are made with polycrystalline solar cells, which means that they produce the highest wattage energy.

The Best 500 Watt Solar Panel

ECO-WORTHY 500 Watts Complete Solar Kit

If you’re trying to set yourself up off the grid, then look into investing in the ECO-WORTHY Complete Solar Kit. This kit comes with 5 100W solar panels which you can arrange to power your target space. Even if you’re a beginner with solar panel systems, you will be able to install this system and you can even use a universal connector.

Renogy 500 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit

Another option to get started with your solar panel power is the Renogy Premium Kit. You receive 5 100W solar panels and all the materials needed to set up your new electricity system. These solar panels are made with monocrystalline solar cells providing 18.4% efficiency. This kit will allow you to be completely powered off the grid within a few days.

Renogy 500 Watt 12 Volt Solar Complete Kit

This Renogy Kit is much like the previous version, however this set provides you with absolutely everything you will need to build your new system. This kit is designed with various protections including overcharging, overload, short-circuit, and reversed polarity for optimal protection.

The Best 300w Solar Panel

Renogy RNG-300D Solar Panel

If you’re preparing to convert your house to a place that uses only solar energy, a good place to start is the Renogy RNG-300D panel. This panel is made with monocrystalline solar cells to provide the best efficiency per space while simultaneously protecting against extreme weather and elements. This panel is large and will work very well on your roof.

Renogy 300 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

This Renogy Solar Starter Kit is a helpful option if you’re looking to set up your solar electricity off the grid. The kit includes three panels and can be expanded to a maximum of 400W if needed. No need to worry about struggling to set up your new system, as all the pieces and hardware necessary for installation are included in the kit.

ECO-WORTHY 300 Watts Solar Panel Kit

The ECO-WORTHY Solar Panel Kit provides you with durable solar panels which can be configured to create a solar energy system that will work well off the grid. This kit provides you with the materials you need to set up your new electricity source including the panels, mounting brackets, charge controller, cable adaptor, and branch connectors.

The Best 50 Watt Solar Panel

ALLPOWERS 50W 18V 12V Solar Panel

The ALLPOWERS 50W solar panel is an extremely convenient and flexible option that will fit a wide variety of off the grid needs. This solar panel is bendable, making it easy to position. The panel is very durable, water-resistant, and easy to store in compact areas. This affordable panel is ideal for travel, as it’s lightweight and easy to transport.

Renogy 50 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The Renogy 50W solar panel is a compact source of energy that packs a serious punch. This panel uses monocrystalline solar cells, making it durable and able to withstand extreme conditions including heavy wind and snow. This panel is easy to travel with, set up, and store when not in use, making it a good go-to for off the grid energy needs.

ACOPOWER All Black 50 Watt 50W Mono Solar Panel

If the main aspect of creating a solar energy system that worries you is the installation, the ACOPOWER monocrystalline solar panel is the choice for you, as it’s equipped with a pre-drilled hole for easy setup. This panel is made from strong aluminum and is designed to withstand high winds and snow loads to last for many years.

2The Best 4V Solar Panel

Sainty Solar 255 Watt 24 Volt Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panel

The Sainty Solar Monocrystalline Solar Panel is a large model that is a smart option for use by anyone who feels that their space can be shady at times. Even in the shade, this panel manages to absorb a lot of light, resulting in a strong output. Keep in mind that these panels are very large, so you will need help to carry and set them up.

ALEKO SP30W24V 30W 24V Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The ALEKO Monocrystalline Solar Panels are a good option for off the grid living that requires a decent amount of power. Though this panel is compact, it manages to produce a good amount of energy that will help you keep things running. You will find that setting up your ALEKO panel is simple and straightforward.

Goliath 30 Watt 30W Solar Panel Module 24V

The Goliath 24V solar panel is an affordable option that you can depend on. The most important thing to be aware of if you decide to invest in a Goliath panel is that it doesn’t come with the connecting cables you will need to set it up. This panel will help you make creating electricity off the grid much easier.

The Best Arlo Solar Panel

Arlo by NETGEAR Solar Panel

Solar panels are not only to keep the electricity in your house going or build an off the grid source. Sometimes you need power for something as simple as charging your camera to take great pictures. This Arlo Solar Panel is designed to do just that and is compatible with the Arlo Pro and Arlo Go. The solar panel is weather-resistant, so charge away.

Wasserstein Solar Panel Compatible With Arlo Pro & Arlo Pro 2

If you have an Arlo Pro or Arlo Go and want to take a solar charging device with you wherever you go, Wasserstein gives you a compatible option. This panel is designed with a 360-degree wall mount to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight at any time of the day. Try this affordable option to keep your camera ready to go.

The Best 100 Watt Solar Panel

Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The Renogy 100W solar panel is an excellent choice if you’re looking to begin the conversion to solar energy one step at a time. You can use one panel to conduct electricity and add panels at your own pace to create a full system. These monocrystalline panels are built with a durable aluminum frame which will last for many years to come. This panel can produce up to 500W of electricity per day, depending on the sun exposure.

ECO-WORTHY 100 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline PV Solar Panel

The ECO-WORTHY 100W solar panel is the best choice to bring on your off the grid adventures. One panel can be used easily for 12V battery charging and a collection of panels can be arranged into a full solar power system. This panel is thinner than some other ones, providing a sleek aesthetic.

HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel

The HQST polycrystalline solar panel is a durable option with high efficiency that is made with enhanced stiffness and impact resistance to keep you with power for years. This panel is very simple to set up and is ideal for use during off the grid explorations. The lightweight solar panel can be used individually, or you can build a system with multiple HQST panels.

Conclusion

There are many purposes for solar panels and the benefits of switching to this energy source are endless. Remember that while the initial investment in your solar panel energy system may be steep, you will save a lot of money in the long-run, all while helping the environment. Evaluate your needs and learn which solar panels will work best for your situation.

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About Author

Robert Adkins is an IT graduate student in his 30’s who lives in Lake Worth, FL. He loves working with digital technology. Here at Gadgets Living, Robert is a Technology writer who also works on developing and improving the website’s interface

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