8 Most Efficient Solar Panels (2024)

By Tamara Jude Updated February 5, 2024

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The type of solar panels you select has a big impact on your system’s power output and long-term energy savings. Though more expensive up-front, investing in the most efficient solar panels will increase your monthly savings and give you the biggest return on investment (ROI). We’ll take a closer look at the various factors that impact solar panel efficiency and highlight solar panels with the highest efficiency rates.


Important Note: Sunpower only installs panels from Maxeon, its former subsidiary. Get a quote from one of the certified installers below if you’re interested in a different solar panel brand.


The 8 Most Efficient Solar Panels

We identified the eight most efficient solar panel brands for home installations:


Comparing the Most Efficient Solar Panels

We’ve provided a breakdown of the top brands with the most efficient solar panels:

BrandType of PanelBest Efficiency RatingOur Rating (Out of 5 Stars)

















Q Cells








Canadian Solar




Trina Solar






Understanding Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency represents how well a solar panel, or photovoltaic (PV) panel, converts sunlight into energy. This percentage measures the panel’s power production. The higher the efficiency rate, the more energy is converted into electricity for your home. Solar panels with an 18% efficiency rating will convert 18% of the sun’s energy into electricity. 

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), panel efficiency rates have improved over the last 10 years. In 2002, panels averaged 13.6% efficiency. That range increased to 19% to 21% by 2021, with most homes installing panels with a median rate of 20.1%. Today’s solar panels average 16% to 20% efficiency. Anything above 20% is considered a high-efficiency panel. Top solar panel manufacturers, such as Maxeon, LG, and Silfab, offer high-efficiency options.



Most Efficient Types of Solar Panels

There are three common types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each type offers different efficiencies, benefits, and production levels. Here’s an overview of each panel type. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline (mono) panels offer the highest efficiency rates and power output. Although they have the highest price tag, their long-term benefits are worth the investment. Mono panels are more compact, making them ideal for homes with limited roof space. They come in sleek mostly black or all-black designs to blend effortlessly with rooftops. Mono panels also offer the longest life span.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Monocrystalline Panels

Consider these factors when deciding on mono panels:

Upsides Downsides

Can last up to 25 years, 40 with proper maintenance

Requires a higher investment than other types

Provides efficiency rates of 15% to 20%

Performance can decrease in colder climates

Offer a sleek design that blend in with your home’s roof

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline (poly) panels are more affordable but provide lower efficiency and power output. You’ll need more poly panels than mono ones to support your home’s energy needs. These panels are larger and require substantial roof space. In addition, poly panels have a blue hue that may clash with your home’s aesthetics. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Monocrystalline Panels

We’ve summarized the positives and negatives of poly panels:

Upsides Downsides

Last between 25 and 35 years

More noticeable on rooftop installations

More affordable than mono panels

Require more panels due to lower efficiency rating

Performs well in cooler climates

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film panels offer the least efficiency and power production of all residential options. They don’t work well for homes with high energy needs and are better suited for small-scale installations such as a shed or stand-alone garage. An advantage of thin-film panels is that they perform regardless of shading or high temperatures. In addition, they’re black and blend in well with your home.

Pros and Cons of Thin-Film Panels

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of thin-film panels:

Upsides Downsides

Blends with rooftops due to their dark appearance

Last about 10 to 20 years

Provides the most cost-effective price point

Offers the lowest efficiency ratings and power production

Works well for small-scale installations



Structural Factors That Reduce Solar Panel Efficiency

Two factors impact solar panels’ overall efficiency: solar cells and panel construction. 

Solar Cell Efficiency

Solar modules are tiny solar cells that convert sunlight into usable electricity. This process, known as the photovoltaic effect, generates an electric current in each solar cell when exposed to sunlight. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels use crystalline solar cell technology, providing the highest efficiency ratings possible.

Although both panels use the same technology, their production processes affect their efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels use solar cells produced from a single silicon crystal. This ensures the solar cell’s surface is flawless and creates higher efficiency. However, the process is more expensive, resulting in a higher panel price.

Polycrystalline panels use multiple silicon crystallines. This creates a more fractured surface but a more cost-effective production process. They’re less expensive than mono panels but have lower efficiency.

Solar Panel Structure

Certain components of solar panels, such as the wiring, play an integral role in functionality. Poor wiring could lead to lower output and power production. Faulty wiring could also impact the inverter’s ability to convert energy within the system. The inverter converts the direct current (DC) energy from the sun into the alternative current (AC) energy that your home uses. Poor wiring during installations could reduce the inverter’s production, lowering your system’s ability to produce enough power. 

Solar panel backing also affects your panel’s energy production. If the panel is too reflective, it won’t properly absorb sunlight, leading to lower production. Many manufacturers include anti-reflective backing on their products to improve sunlight absorption.



Environmental Factors That Impact Efficiency

Additional environmental conditions can also affect your panel’s performance. Below are some of the most common factors. 

Debris Build-Up

The accumulation of pollen, dust, snow, and other substances prevents the sun’s energy from reaching the solar panels, diminishing their full capabilities. Although panels are cleansed naturally by rainfall, you may need to schedule a cleaning if heavier debris doesn’t wash off on its own. 

Panel Orientation

South-facing roofs offer the best orientation for solar panel efficiency. American homes face the equator in this direction, providing optimal sunlight. Homes facing east or west get adequate sunlight but not the best efficiency. North-facing homes aren’t suited for solar panels due to their limited sunlight. 

You should also consider your roof’s angle when designing a solar system. Ideally, panels should be positioned between 30 and 45 degrees. Many solar companies determine your panel angle based on the latitude of your home address or zip code. Additional adjustments are made based on your home’s location, weather conditions, and surrounding area. 


Panels need direct access to sunlight to perform optimally. Nearby shading from trees and tall buildings will reduce your panel’s efficiency, resulting in lower power production. Check your surrounding area for tall obstructions that could hinder your pane’s performance. 


Most solar manufacturers use a standard test condition of 77 degrees Fahrenheit to measure panel performance. Most solar panels run effectively in temperatures between 59 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. These companies also include the temperature coefficient of their panels. This measurement indicates by what percentage your panel’s efficiency will drop in conditions over 77 degrees Fahrenheit (or 25 degrees Celsius). 

Weather Conditions

Peak panel performance occurs on cloudless, sunny days. If you live in an area with year-round cloudy or low-sun conditions, your panels will still work but at a lower efficiency. Homeowners in snowy areas could experience buildup on their panels, reducing performance. Although panels are built to withstand hail, the panel surface could still be damaged by heavy storms.



Why Solar Panel Efficiency Matters

The benefits of high-efficiency panels extend beyond power production levels. Here are some other ways high-efficiency panels can improve your home. 

Faster Payback Period

Solar panels typically pay for themselves within six to 10 years. The more clean energy you generate, the more money you save, leading to a higher return on investment. Investing in a high-efficiency system, like the ones offered by SunPower, will translate to a lower electricity bill and a slightly faster payback period. 

Smaller Solar Project

Efficient solar panels allow you to reduce the size of your rooftop installation. Monocrystalline panels provide excellent efficiency and output compared to other options. You’ll need a larger number of polycrystalline panels to match the amount of electricity needed for your home. These panels are best for homes with lower power needs and ample roof space.



Investing in Efficient Solar Panels

Installing solar panels requires a large investment, so homeowners should make certain that a system will benefit their home. Although federal and state solar incentives can help lower costs, you don’t want to invest in solar power if it won’t reduce your energy consumption long-term. Consider the following factors before making the switch to solar.

Additional Solar Add-Ons

Efficient solar power systems may generate more energy than your home needs. Some states offer net-metering programs that allow homeowners to sell this excess energy back to the grid in exchange for credits. You can apply these credits to future energy bills or opt for an annual payout in some cases. Consider installing a solar battery if your state or local utility company doesn’t offer net-metering.

Solar batteries allow you to store extra energy for use on cloudy days, during a blackout, or a night. Solar batteries can also offer energy savings during times of high electricity rates, improving your long-term savings. 

Additional upgrades—such as electric vehicle (EV) charges or solar generators—will also expand your savings capabilities.

Home and Surrounding Area

Solar panels work best in areas with ample sunlight and unobstructed surroundings. Consider your area’s weather before investing in solar panels. If you frequently experience cloudy or inclement weather, you’ll have less potential savings. You may need to invest in tree removal services to prepare for a solar panel installation. In addition, consider your home’s direction and available roof space. 

Energy Use

Converting to solar energy helps reduce your electric bills, since clean energy costs less than fossil fuels. But if your current electricity rates are reasonable, the savings won’t be as impressive. We recommend reviewing your monthly electric bills and calculating your average annual spending. If your current spending is low, solar panels might not be the right choice. Most top solar companies begin their quote process by reviewing your monthly energy spending and determining if solar panels will generate adequate savings. 

Solar Incentives and Credits

Homeowners should consider solar incentives to help lower their solar investment costs. These credits and rebates exist at the state and federal levels. The federal government offers a federal tax credit equating to 30% of your installation costs, and some states offer state tax credits for installations, both of which apply to your tax liability. Additional savings include local property and sales tax credits, city-based incentives, and local municipality or utility company rebates. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for details about the available incentives in your area. 

Solar Panel Type

Choosing efficient solar panels, such as monocrystalline, offer the best benefits. You’ll see an increase in power production and a reduction in energy costs. If you have ample roof space or lower energy needs, you can opt for a more affordable solution such as polycrystalline panels. Thin-film panels should be reserved for smaller home projects that require little power.



Our Recommendation

Advancements in solar technology have provided homeowners with better solar panel options. By choosing more efficient solar panels, you can generate more energy for your home and maximize your savings. 

Though they require a significant up-front investment, monocrystalline silicon panels provide the best return on investment and the highest energy production. Homeowners with lower energy needs or smaller solar budgets should consider polycrystalline panels. Several factors could influence your total potential savings, so it’s best to consult a professional solar installer to determine your long-term benefits.

Homeowners Save $20,000 to $97,000 with Solar Panels on Average Over Typical System Life Span
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Solar Companies FAQ

What is the most efficient type of solar panel?

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient type of panel compared to polycrystalline and thin-film options. Monocrystalline solar panels deliver between 15% to 22% efficiency. 

How do you benefit from using the most efficient solar panels?

The more efficient the solar panel, the more energy your system will produce to power your home. Improved production means you’ll need fewer panels to meet your energy needs. Efficient panels also provide better energy savings and return on investment. 

What are the most efficient solar panels made of?

The most efficient solar panels are made of silicon, one of the most abundant elements on earth. Crystalline silicon panels offer the best efficiency ratings and energy production. Monocrystalline panels use a single silicon crystal, while polycrystalline panels use multiple crystals. 



How We Chose the Top Solar Companies

We researched and analyzed dozens of solar panels and solar installation companies. We then formulated a rating system based on each solar installer or manufacturer’s services and products. We weighed several significant factors, including the quality and type of solar panels offered, the customer support network, warranty lengths and limitations, and additional benefits such as mobile apps for monitoring and customer service. 

Speaking directly to representatives, we determined how each solar company personalizes its solar panel installation for each home. We also analyzed each company’s warranty options to ensure their product and performance guarantees match or exceed industry standards. 

We evaluated each provider based on their rating and history with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to determine reputation. In addition, we analyzed the 100 most recent Google Reviews for each provider across various locations and branches.

Read more: Our Methodology