The 7 Best Cheap Solar Panels for Your Home
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Converting your home to solar energy can be a worthwhile investment. Solar panels lower your monthly electricity bills, add value to your home, and reduce your carbon footprint. However, some homeowners may be intimidated by the expense of going solar.
Though looking for the best solar companies should be your top priority, it’s also important to consider what options are available for the solar panels themselves. To aid in your search, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the best cheap solar panels and compiled a list of brands that balance high efficiency and low cost.
Important Note: Sunpower only installs panels from its manufacturing partner, Maxeon. Get a quote from one of the certified installers below to install any other solar panel brand.
Our Top Picks for Inexpensive Solar Panels
Check out our list of high-quality, affordable solar panels below to determine which brand is right for your home:
- Q Cells: Best Value
- Silfab Solar: Best Warranty
- SunPower: Most Energy-Efficient
- REC: Best Durability
- Canadian Solar: DIY Friendly
- LONGi Solar: Best Mid-Tier Option
- Trina Solar: Best Basic Option
Q Cells: Best Value
Score: 85 out of 100
Q Cells tops our list for having the best solar panels for homeowners looking for a good value. Though the efficiency rating of its panels is lower than premium companies, such as SunPower, homeowners can trust that Q Cells panels will be reliable and cost-efficient.
Pros and Cons
✔ Produces high-quality panels for major companies, such as Tesla
✔ Makes high-efficiency panels suitable for smaller budgets
✔ Provides a 25-year product and performance guarantee
✘ Has lower efficiency compared to premium brands, such as SunPower
✘ Can take up a lot of roof space, depending on model
Homeowners can choose from three versions of half-cut, monocrystalline Q.Peak Duo panels. Monocrystalline is the most efficient type of solar panel available, and half-cut solar cells help reduce energy loss and create more durable panels. Below are Q Cells’ available panel choices:
- Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G10+: These panels offer the lowest output at 350 W but can go as high as 370 W with efficiency ranges between 19.5% and 20.6%.
- Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G10+/AC: This series of panels has mid-range power capabilities between 360 and 365 W with an efficiency rate of up to 20.9%.
- Q.PEAK DUO BLK ML-G10+: This model offers an efficiency of up to 20.9% with output options between 385 W and 405 W. These are also the first residential panels available in the 400 W range.
Q Cells uses passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) technology. PERC cells are more conductive, giving them higher energy absorption rates. The Q.Peak Duo line ranges from 19.5–20.9% efficiency with power ranges between 350 W and 405 W.
Q Cells backs its panels with a 25-year product and performance guarantee. This states the panels will produce no less than 98% of their given output during that time frame and will reduce output by no more than 0.5% each year after installation. Q Cells promises 93% nominal power after 10 years and at least 86% by the end of 25 years.
Silfab Solar: Best Warranty
Score: 85 out of 100
Silfab Solar creates solar panels that are not only affordable and dependable but also backed by one of the best warranties in the industry. Promising 30 years of performance, Silfab aims to create reliable panels that last well into the future.
Pros and Cons
✔ Backs panels with a 30-year performance guarantee
✔ Offers a wide selection of PERC panels
✔ Offers high-efficiency panels with rates between 19.4% and 21.1%
✘ Requires installation by a registered Silfab installer for the 25-year extended warranty
✘ Are more expensive than others on this list
Silfab currently offers the following selection of monocrystalline panels:
- SIL-330 NL: Smaller than Silfab’s other PERC models, these panels produce 330 W at 19.4% efficiency.
- SIL-330 HL: These all-black, half-cut panels generate 330 W at 19.4% efficiency.
- SIL-360 NX: This 360 W PERC model offers an efficiency of 19.7%.
- Silfab Elite series: The most efficent line of panels available from Silfab, these panels range between 20.8% and 21.1% efficiency and are available in 370 W, 375 W, and 380 W options.
- Silfab Prime series: This series has a 370 W solar panel at a high efficiency of 20.2%.
Silfab provides a variety of panel options that operate at a significantly higher efficiency rate than the industry standard of 17%. However, their price range runs closer to SunPower, the most expensive panels on our list.
The company backs its panels with a 12-year workmanship warranty with the option for extensions. If you want to upgrade to the full 25-year option, you must have your panels installed by a registered Silfab installer.
You’ll also receive a 30-year performance guarantee, five years longer than the next longest warranties on our list. Silfab customers are promised an output of 83% for up to 30 years. Silfab will replace the panels and cover any maintenance or service fees if the panels fall below that number before that deadline.
SunPower: Most Energy-Efficient
Score: 80 out of 100
Maxeon, a panel supplier for SunPower, produces one of the highest efficiency panels we reviewed. Though the cost of the panels is higher than average, investing in high-quality panels will pay off in the long run.
Pros and Cons
✔ Uses some of the highest-efficiency panels on the market
✔ Offers a performance guarantee of 92% over 25 years
✔ Includes a 25-year product and performance warranty
✘ Is one of the most expensive panel options in this review
✘ Can only be purchased through SunPower-certified companies
SunPower offers four monocrystalline panel options for homeowners:
- A Series: These panels offer SunPower’s highest efficiency of 22.7% and provide 400 W of power.
- X Series: Made for smaller roofs, these panels generate 370 W at an efficiency of 22.7%.
- M Series: These are the most powerful residential panels available, providing 420 W or 435 W at 21.7% efficiency.
- E Series: With a lower efficiency of 20%, these panels vary at 320 W, 327 W, and 435 W.
SunPower panels cost more than other brands, but spending more money shouldn’t deter you. Investing in panels with higher efficiency means you won’t need as many of them to power your home, reducing your overall installation cost.
SunPower panels include a 25-year product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty. SunPower guarantees its panels will produce at 92% output throughout the warranty. If your panels fall below that threshold at any time, the company will upgrade your panels at no extra cost.
REC: Best Durability
Score: 80 out of 100
REC prides itself on producing some of the most durable solar panels available. Its durability testing is three times more rigorous than other brands’, ensuring its panels are made to handle extreme conditions, whether freezing temperatures or sweltering heat.
Pros and Cons
✔ Rigorously tests its panels to withstand harsh weather conditions
✔ Includes a 25-year product warranty
✔ Uses heterojunction (HJT) cell technology
✘ Requires installation by a REC installer for some panels with longer warranties
✘ Offers high-end REC panels that can be very expensive
Known for pioneering the half-cell design, REC offers three panel series with monocrystalline and polycrystalline models. Polycrystalline panels are cheaper than monocrystalline, but their efficiency tends to be lower. Below are REC’s panel options:
- REC Alpha Series: This is one of the newest monocrystalline lines available, producing 380 W.
- REC N-Peak Series: This series features N-type monocrystalline solar panels ranging from 310 W to 330 W.
- REC TwinPeak 2 Series: The TwinPeak 2 Mono model is made from monocrystalline and the TwinPeak 2 is the polycrystalline version.
REC’s most energy-efficient series, the REC Alpha series, uses heterojunction (HJT) cell technology. HJT combines crystalline silicon with silicon thin-film to create a hybrid panel that can exceed the power of the popular PERC technology, improving the efficiency of regular monocrystalline silicon cells. Overall, REC panels range between 17% and 20% efficiency.
REC’s warranty offerings vary based on the panel model. The premium REC Alpha Series comes with a 25-year product warranty guarantee of 92% power output. The REC N-Peak Series includes a 20-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty. The output warranty accounts for a 0.5% annual degradation, meaning you can expect 86% of the original power by the 25th year.
Both REC TwinPeak 2 Series models have a 20-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty. You can get an additional five years on the product warranty if you use a REC-certified solar installer.
Canadian Solar: DIY Friendly
Score: 80 out of 100
Canadian Solar offers panels with a wide range of efficiencies at value pricing. Its products are covered by industry-standard warranties, providing peace of mind to its customers. The company also sells DIY solar panel kits complete with all the components needed for smaller, off-the-grid projects.
Pros and Cons
✔ Offers monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels
✔ Uses advanced cell technology to improve panel performance
✔ Sells DIY solar panel kits for smaller solar projects
✘ Has panel efficiency that tends to drop in warm weather environments
✘ Offers panels that may be too big for homes with limited roof capacity
Canadian offers three different product lines for homeowners: HiKu, HiDM, and HiHero.
- HiKu line: The three models in the HiKu line use both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels between 320 W and 420 W and have high-efficiency ratings from 17.8–20.9%.
- HiDM line: These models use monocrystalline technology providing up to 20.46% efficiency in 360 W to 385 W options, offering more affordable options than the HiKu line.
- HiHero line: This is the newest addition to the Canadian Solar lineup, offering industry-leading efficiency of 22% with HJT technology.
Canadian Solar’s panels range from 15.88–22% efficiency, giving homeowners a wide range of solar options for different budgets. The shingled, mono PERC solar design used in the company’s HiDM models places more solar cells in a smaller space, making it ideal for houses with limited roof space. These panels are also more affordable than the HiKu line. However, the trade-off of these cheaper panels is a drop in efficiency and durability.
The HiKu line has a higher efficiency rating, allowing homeowners to invest in high-quality panels. Though they cost more, you’ll inevitably use fewer panels on your roof.
The HiHero line’s HJT technology makes them the most efficient option in the Canadian Solar lineup at 22%. With an output range between 405 W and 430 W, these panels provide the most power for your home.
DIY enthusiasts will appreciate Canadian Solar’s solar panel kits, which include panel modules, a mounting system, an inverter, and a distribution box. The panels provide between 290 W and 360 W with system capacities as high as 25 kW. DIY systems also come with online and mobile app monitoring. These systems can be used for off-grid projects or smaller buildings, such as sheds or garages.
LONGi: Best Mid-Tier Option
Score: 75 out of 100
LONGi is the best mid-tier option, providing panels with mid-range efficiencies that cost less than the premium brands. Though its product protections aren’t as strong as high-value brands, the company promises a reliable 83% production guarantee after 25 years.
Pros and Cons
✔ Offers panels that exceed basic panel production without premium pricing
✔ Requires less of an initial investment thanks to mid-tier pricing
✔ Uses panels versatile for rooftop installations or ground pole mounts
✘ Provides limited panel options for residential customers
✘ Limits product warranty to 12 years
LONGi has three models in its Hi-MO 4m series that work best for residential systems. Each model includes both half-cut and PERC cells in the following sizes:
- LR4-60HPH series: This selection of panels ranges from 355 W to 370 W with varying efficiencies between 18.7% and 19.8%.
- LR4-66HPH: These panels have an increased output range of 405 W to 425 W while maintaining a solid efficiency rate of 20.8%.
- LR4-72HPH: The largest option for homeowners, these panels balance an output of 430 W to 460 W while maintaining a high efficiency range of 20.2–21.2%.
Overall, LONGi panels fall between 18.7% and 21.2% efficiency. This is above the industry standard of 17%, but below that of premium brands that can reach up to 22%. However, homeowners shouldn’t be discouraged by these efficiencies. Considering the panels cost much less than high-tier offerings, you can get above-average performance for reasonable pricing.
LONGi guarantees that the output of your panels won’t fall below 84.8% within its 25-year performance warranty. Its panels also include a 12-year product warranty. However, this doesn’t cover the normal wear and tear that panels experience over time.
Trina Solar: Best Basic Option
Score: 75 out of 100
Trina Solar creates panels with your wallet in mind. The company provides panels with adequate efficiencies at baseline prices, making it ideal for customers looking to convert to solar energy on a smaller budget.
Pros and Cons
✔ Provides economical panel options suited for smaller budgets
✔ Offers a 25-year product and performance warranty
✔ Produces efficiency ratings slightly higher than the average of 17%
✘ Has faced quality issues with its panels in previous years*
✘ Sells a limited selection of panels for homeowners
*Between 2011 and 2014, Trina Solar had water degradation issues with its panels. Liquid was seeping in through the back of the panels, an area known as the backsheet. In response, the company took extra steps to improve its panel technology, upgrading its backsheet material to make it more water-resistant. Since then, the company has continued to provide high-quality panels with excellent efficiency and improved longevity.
Trina offers two types of half-cut, monocrystalline panels for residential systems:
- TSM DE06X.05(II): The more powerful line, these panels provide 355–380 W at 20.6% efficiency.
- TSM DD06M.05(II): This model generates a slightly lower efficiency of 19.9% and lower power generation between 310–335 W.
The latest lineup of Trina Solar panels are covered by a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty and 25-year performance guarantee available only in the United States. This is a significant improvement from the company’s previous panel warranties, which were limited to a 12-year product warranty. These warranties are also not dependent on whether you use a Trina installer, and they go into effect on the date of purchase.
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How To Choose the Best Cheap Solar Panels
In your search for the best cheap solar panels, there are several factors you should keep in mind:
- Type of panel
Solar Panel Types
The three most common types of solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film.
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most popular. They’re made from a single silicon crystal and generate the highest efficiency rates. Homeowners also prefer this type of solar panel because of its sleek, black color. Keep in mind that these panels cost more than the other options.
Polycrystalline panels are recognizable for their blue color. These panels use multiple silicone fragments melded together. Since polycrystalline panels use older technology, their efficiency rates are lower than monocrystalline. However, they’re more affordable because they’re simpler to make.
Thin-film panels are made from one or more layers of photovoltaic material. They’re the easiest and fastest type of solar panel to manufacture, but their efficiency is much lower than the other kinds. To make up for their lower efficiency, you have to install more thin-film panels than you would other types, which will increase your installation costs. These panels are also more susceptible to wear and tear, leading to a shorter lifespan.
When shopping for solar panels, it’s important to consider the efficiency of each module. Efficiency is measured by the amount of sunlight that reaches a panel and is converted into energy. The higher the percentage, the greater the amount of electricity supplied to your home.
Ideally, you want to use the highest efficiency panels you can afford. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), most solar panels have efficiency ratings between 16% and 22%. The top-quality, high-efficiency panels cost the most.
If you need cheap solar panels, look for high-quality panels that fall within the 17% to 19% range. That should give you a good balance between affordability and efficiency.
Solar panels usually have two warranties: one for the product and one for its performance. The product (or manufacturer’s) warranty covers any manufacturing defects, unexpected wear and tear, and environmental issues.
A standard product warranty lasts 10–12 years. However, some companies offer extended warranties as long as 25 or more years.
The performance warranty (or guarantee) covers the expected energy production for your panels. The terms will state a certain percentage of production you can expect after a set number of years.
Standard performance coverage guarantees 90% production for 10 years, dropping to 80% by 25 years. A few solar installers promise 90% or more for 25 years. Companies may also promise to upgrade or replace your equipment if it falls below these promised standards.
You may have additional warranties for the other solar products accompanying your panels, such as a solar battery, inverter, or an electric vehicle (EV) charger. Companies may include their coverage in a comprehensive warranty or as separate guarantees.
The total cost of your panels is affected by all the factors above. For example, a premium set of monocrystalline panels with an efficiency rating of 22% will cost more than a value set of polycrystalline panels with a 16% rating. Pricing will also be determined by how you buy the panels. You may be able to get better deals through your selected solar panel installer than you would buying them yourself.
Here are some other contributing factors to consider when selecting solar panels:
- The wattage needed to run your home (estimated from your electric bill)
- The size of your roof and the number of panels that it can fit
- The tilt and direction of your roof
- Any shading or large objects that will interfere with your panels’ efficiency
Make sure that solar panel prices aren’t the controlling factor in your decision-making process. We recommend working with a professional solar panel installer to find your ideal panels. They can make the best recommendations for residential solar panels based on your energy needs while keeping you within your budget.
Q Cells’ solar panels offer the best value of all the brands we reviewed. The company provides solid performance and long-term guarantees, promising panel protection that far exceeds even the premium brands. However, if you’d rather spend a little more money and invest in top-of-the-line panels that are guaranteed to last, SunPower panels are a better fit.
Cheap solar panels are key for homeowners who want to keep their solar investment costs to a minimum. In your search for solar panels, compare several panel offerings, evaluating their warranty options, efficiency ratings, durability, and overall cost.
Keep in mind that the panels reviewed in this article may not be available in your area. Solar companies have varying coverage throughout the country, and it’s important to verify what options you have nearby.
FAQs About Cheap Solar Panels
Do rebates and tax credits help lower the cost of cheap solar panels?
Yes, solar rebates and tax credits can help to lower the cost of your overall solar systems, rathern than just the panels. Solar incentives are available from local city and state governments, though availability varies from state to state. Customers can also receive rebates from their local utility companies.
The federal government offers a federal solar tax credit to help reduce the cost of your solar power system. The tax credit provides a federal tax reduction equal to 30% of your system’s expenses. This rate will reduce to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. It’s set to end in 2035. The credit will roll over to the next year if the taxes you owe are less than your credit amount.
How do I pay for a solar panel system?
There are multiple options available to pay for a solar panel system. An average system costs between $11,000 and $50,000. If you’re hesitant to spend that much up-front, you can look into one of the below financing options:
- Solar loan: This allows you to make fixed monthly payments toward your panels over several years. At the end of the loan agreement, you will be the official owner of your solar panel system.
- Solar lease: Leases allow homeowners to make monthly payments without committing to owning their system. At the conclusion of your lease, you can choose to either buy your solar system or have it removed.
- Power purchase agreement (PPA): PPAs are similar to an electric bill: You pay a monthly rate only for the power that your solar system generates. This rate is typically lower than the ones offered by utility companies. The solar company is responsible for the maintenance of the system for the length of your agreement. At the end of your term, you can extend the PPA, remove the system, or purchase it.
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels last about 25–30 years in ideal conditions. Well-made, durable, and high-end panels will last longer than cheaper options. If you properly maintain your panels and have them regularly serviced, the best solar panels could last up to 40 years.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. After over a thousand hours of research on solar companies, interviews with experts, and common customer needs, we’ve created a detailed rating system for solar providers based on six factors:
- Solar equipment, installation, and services (25%)
- Warranty and performance guarantees (25%)
- Brand reputation and certifications (15%)
- Financing options (15%)
- Experience (10%)
- Availability (10%)
Total scores are divided by 20 for a final 5-point rating scale.
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at firstname.lastname@example.org.