What Are the Best Solar Products?
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As a solar company, trying to earn your business, we have many promotional product pages, but this is not one of them. The objective of this post is to give you the information you need about solar products that best suits the needs of your solar journey.
Everyone wants to get the best quality for their dollar when it comes to researching and finding the best solar products for their specific needs. The problem is sifting through all the many options for solar equipment to find the one that works best for you. To help you with this task, we have compiled a list of the top three best solar products, from panels to inverters and more. We hope that this guide will help you in your quest to take your power into your own hands.
What Are the Best Solar Panels?
The most important part of any solar installation is the panels. It seems obvious to say, but with all the equipment that a solar power system for your home will need, sometimes the panels themselves can be lost in the shuffle of the complex solar installation process.
There are several factors that go into evaluating solar panels. A panel that never degrades but only has a five percent efficiency is going to be useless. With that in mind, we’ll cover multiple factors in our list. Finally, we must remember that context is important. Premium solar panels may seem too expensive to afford, but a panel that is comparatively less efficient but much cheaper usually doesn’t give homeowners the best ROI for their solar investment.
NASA Solar Panels
While NASA solar panels are not available on the commercial market, it’s worth noting their unmatched photovoltaic efficiency between 30% and 40%, according to NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
SunPower Solar Panels Are Best for Raw PV Efficiency
When it comes to premium solar panels available to the general public — those solar panels that have higher prices, but which come with very high efficiency — SunPower comes out on top. SunPower’s panels, utilizing IBC N-type cells, are the most efficient on the market. The average solar panel efficiency is 14 percent to 18 percent, which is blown out of the water by SunPower’s top efficiency of 22.8 percent. If you just want raw power, then there is no better choice than SunPower. Additionally, SunPower panels come with an industry-best 25-year product warranty and a 25-year efficiency warranty of 94 percent. With SunPower panels, your quality and service are guaranteed. The downside to SunPower panels is their cost. To go along with their high-efficiency ratings is their high price. SunPower panels are some of the most expensive on the market and can be out of reach for many homeowners.
LG Solar Panels
With panels that boast a 22 percent efficiency rating and wattages up to 380 W, LG panels are among the most well-crafted on the market. To go with their high-efficiency ratings, LG panels also come with an excellent 25-year product warranty and a 90 percent efficiency warranty. With most solar manufacturers offering 80 percent efficiency warranties, LG is a clear winner. Finally, LG panels are produced by a large, multinational company, meaning that you won’t have to worry about the warranty going anywhere. The downside to LG panels, much like SunPower, is their price. They’re on the high end of solar panel prices, which can price them out for some homeowners. They are, however, generally more affordable than SunPower. Go Solar Group offers these modules as part of its product suite.
Axitec Solar Panels
Many Americans don’t want to purchase imported solar panels — particularly those from China, where quality controls may be lacking and tariffs are driving up the prices. For those who want to purchase American-made panels, Axitec is an excellent choice. With panels engineered in Germany — the leader in solar panel technology — and assembled in America, Axitec panels are both affordable and high-quality. With an efficiency rating of around 19 percent, these panels are slightly less efficient than SunPower or LG modules but are much more affordable. While most solar experts consider LG panels to be on the high end of pricing and SunPower panels on the very high level, Axitec panels are usually considered solidly in the middle. You get good quality for a good price. Additionally, Go Solar Group offers a 15-year product warranty and a 25-year, 85 percent efficiency warranty. These are both above-average warranties, which just add to the good efficiency ratings you’re getting for the price. Finally, Axitec panels have very high ratings, with 83 five-star ratings to a single one-star rating. If you’re looking for affordable, American-made solar panels, look no further than Axitec.
What Are the Best Solar Inverters?
You can have the most efficient, longest-lasting panels on the market, but if you have a bad inverter then your panels will always underproduce. Inverters take the DC power generated by your panels and convert it into AC power, which is what our electronics use. Without an inverter, your panels are useless. What inverter you need will depend on your personal situation, particularly with roof shading, but there are still some inverters that stand out from the rest. There are three main types of inverters: string inverters, hybrid string inverters and microinverters. We’ll look at one of each type.
Fronius is one of the big names in inverters — for good reason. They specialize in string inverters, which are inverters that are strung from panel to panel. These inverters are cheap and reliable for solar installations that don’t get much shade. However, for installations that do get shade, string inverters are often a bad choice, as shade on a single panel can affect the output of every panel in the system. The Fronius Primo inverter is perhaps their most well-known. It’s easy to use for the average homeowner and very informative. Their monitoring app, in particular, is noted for being user-friendly. Their inverters can easily handle the power load of a residential solar installation, making them an excellent choice for non-shaded roofs. If you have a roof without any shading, a Fronius inverter is an excellent choice for your panels.
SolarEdge vies with Fronius for the top spot. While SolarEdge products tend to be a bit more expensive than Fronius inverters, this is because of their high quality. SolarEdge utilizes optimizers, which are small devices attached to each panel that can help control the flow of power. This means that, for an optimized hybrid string inverter, a shaded panel won’t impact overall system production because the optimizers will boost the production in the non-shaded panels. SolarEdge’s hybrid string inverters are both affordable and reliable and come with a 12-year warranty baked in, with a 25-year warranty available for purchase. They’re excellent when it comes to complicated roofs — which are often a challenge for string inverters. SolarEdge inverters, however, are customizable and can fit almost any roof.
The last major name in inverters is Enphase. Enphase specializes in microinverters. These are small inverters that are attached to each individual solar panel. These convert the energy on the spot instead of sending it to a central inverter as string inverters do. Because of this, a system utilizing microinverters is going to be a bit more efficient than those using string inverters. However, there is a major downside with microinverters: cost. Much like the SunPower solar panels, Enphase micro inverters are expensive, both for purchasing and for maintenance. This may put them out of range for the average homeowner. However, if you make enough money, then Enphase inverters are certain to deliver, quality-wise.
What Are the Best Stationary (Built-in) Solar Battery Banks?
For homes that want to be as energy-independent as possible, few things are more important than a battery backup system for your solar panels. Unfortunately, lunar power technology has yet to be developed, so solar panels don’t produce any energy at night. This makes batteries imperative for powering your home once the sun has set. Because of the superiority of lithium-ion batteries over lead-acid batteries, we’ll be covering lithium-ion batteries in this section, along with the next one. Let’s go over some of the more common stationary solar batteries.
Tesla Powerwall 2
The Tesla Powerwall might be the best-known name in solar batteries. It took the market by storm in 2015, followed by a series of major technological breakthroughs in 2016. Since then, it has cemented itself as one of the cheapest and most reliable forms of whole house battery backup for solar. The Tesla Powerwall has several features that set it apart from other batteries. It has an internal cooling system, which keeps the battery from overheating and thus prolonging its usage. It also has inverters built-in, which means that the power stored in the battery can be directly converted and used by your home’s appliances. Finally, the Powerwall has a max continuous use of 5 kW, which combines well with the 10-year limited warranty that each one comes with. This means that the average home will need around two Powerwalls to power their whole home continuously. However, with the price of Powerwalls compared to other solar batteries, this is easier to obtain with Powerwalls than other stationary solar batteries.
LG has once again snuck onto our list, this time as a battery backup option. The LG Chem battery has a unique design, which LG says increases the efficiency of the battery. Like the Tesla Powerwall, the LG Chem is a lithium-ion battery that has a max continuous use rate of 5 kW. While 5 kW isn’t enough to power a whole home itself, unless you cut down on your energy usage, the LG Chem can be linked together with string inverters to provide backup for all your needs. The LG Chem comes with a 10-year, 60 percent efficiency warranty, but also clocks in at a higher price than the Powerwall.
Previously, sonnen’s eco and ecoLinx batteries were their main offerings. In 2020, however, Sonnen introduced the sonnenCore, their new residential battery backup option. The sonnenCore has a continuous energy rating of 4.8 kW, so slightly lower than both the LG Chem and the Tesla Powerwall. Additionally, their round-trip efficiency rating is 85 percent, where the Powerwall has 90 percent and the LG Chem has 94.5 percent. However, it’s the depth of discharge (how much of the power you can use before recharging) is a whopping 100 percent, tied with the Powerwall, whereas the LG Chem only comes in at 90 percent. This gives the sonnenCore an advantage over the Chem. Additionally, it comes with a 10-year, 70 percent warranty, tied with the Powerwall. In contrast with the Chem’s 10-year, 60 percent warranty, and we see that the sonnenCore has better longevity than the LG Chem. The problem comes in at cost. The sonnenCore is more expensive than the Powerwall, despite being similar technically, and is much more expensive than the LG Chem. Both the sonnenCore and the Powerwall have better specifications, but the LG Chem is a respectable choice when it comes to budget. All three of these options can work for different situations.
What Are the Best Portable Solar Battery Packs?
When going out on the road, perhaps camping or working at a construction site, having power can be essential. Portable, solar-charged lithium-ion batteries are an excellent way to take your clean energy on the road. Let’s go over the most efficient and portable batteries so you can be powered by the sun everywhere you go.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000
If you’re looking for something portable and highly functional that can give you more energy than either of the below options, Goal Zero has your back. Sometimes you need more power — perhaps you’re a contractor. In this scenario, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is a clear choice. The Yeti 3000 has a 3,075 kWh capacity, equivalent to about 281 Ah, which is nearly three times the capacity of the Renogy battery. It can power work lights, industrial fans, vacuums, and more. While the charge time might be a bit longer, it also has a solar panel kit that can cut down on the wall charge times. Finally, the Yeti 3000 has optional Tank addons, which are additional lead-acid batteries designed to be wired into the Yeti 3000. While this increases the weight, the battery also comes with a cart that can help you take it to your camping, or work, sites. Go Solar Group offers the Yeti 3000 as our Level 2 battery backup option. With the portable solar panel kit and the possibility for wall charging, we believe the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is an excellent choice for homeowners and professionals alike.
Renogy Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate
Renogy tops the pack when it comes to portable lithium-ion batteries. The Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate battery has a lot of oomph to it, packing in 2,000 cycles and a respectable 12V output. This Renogy battery also comes with a number of well-crafted safety features, making it perfect to charge with your solar panels. It only weighs around 26 lbs, which makes it more portable than many similar options. The main downside with the Renogy battery, like many other things in this article, is the price. The basic model can get close to $1,000 — a steep price to pay.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
Much smaller, and far more portable, than the option above, the Jackery Explorer is excellent for off-roading. It cannot hold as much power as the Renogy battery, but at around 7 lbs, the Jackery Explorer is easy to use in almost any situation. It’s particularly useful for charging things such as laptops, phones, and portable battery packs. While it won’t power large items for very long, it’s an excellent choice for someone who just needs to charge the essentials while off the grid. The Jackery Explorer is usually priced in the $200 to $300 range, which makes it an affordable option for those looking for a bit of extra juice while camping.
What Are the Best Portable Solar Modules?
Portable solar modules are a good choice to go with portable battery backup. The best way to charge your batteries while on the road or in the woods is with solar panels! The sun is as portable of an energy source as you can get, so it makes sense to utilize it while you’re on the road.
Renogy 200-Watt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar
This module from Renogy is often considered to be one of the best portable solar modules on the market today. It’s relatively lightweight at around 27 lbs and comes with a stand that can help you adjust the panels to the sun’s rays. The whole thing, from panels to stand, is waterproof, which makes it perfect for rougher conditions. Finally, it can output around 500 Wh a day, which makes it excellent for portable batteries and RVs.
Nekteck USB Solar Panel Charger
For someone who only needs to keep their phone charged while off-grid, you can’t do better than the Nekteck module. Weighing only slightly more than one pound, this charger can be folded up to fit in any backpack. It comes with two USB ports that have built-in software that can detect what you plug into it. Once it does so, it outputs the level of power that’s most optimal for your devices. If you’re going on a long hiking or kayaking trip (the module is waterproof), and you want to keep your phone charged, you can’t do better than the Nekteck.
Goal Zero Boulder Solar Panels
Lauded as one of the best portable monocrystalline panel modules, the Goal Zero Boulder is perfect for charging an RV, boat or a number of appliances while camping. It weighs around 46 lbs, so it’s not the best for long hiking trips, but it’s good for a campsite. Like the other options, the Boulder is waterproof and the built-in stand is corrosion-resistant, making it an excellent choice for the outdoors. The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 can come bundled with a Boulder 200W module. Go Solar Group carries Boulder 200W panels with our Level 2 battery backup. These two are a perfect combination for an outdoor worksite.
What Are the Best Solar Racking Options?
This is a question that few homeowners will think to ask. Solar racks are literally out of sight, hiding beneath the solar panels, and therefore are out of mind. However, a quality racking system is a must for ensuring that your panels stay undamaged. There are two main types of racking: roof mounts and ground mounts. Because roof mounts are the most common, by far, we will cover those the most.
IronRidge is, perhaps, the biggest name in solar racking. IronRidge’s XR series is durable and flexible. The XR racks can be fit to most roofs (along with providing ground mount options) and will survive in almost all climate conditions. If you’re worried about strong winds or inclement weather, look no further than the IronRidge XR series.
Unirac Racking Systems
The other major name in racking is Unirac. Unirac provides a number of mounting options, both for flat roofs and pitched roofs. Their flat-roof sealants, in particular, have been noted as reducing the amount of hassle needed to install flat-roof solar panel systems. Additionally, Unirac’s ground-mount systems have been lauded for their ease of installation.
What Are the Best Smart Thermostats?
A smart thermostat is an essential part of any power-conserving system. Going solar is all well and good, but controlling your energy usage is an excellent way to ensure that you don’t overstep your installation’s power output. If you don’t have a solar installation, then a smart thermostat is even more useful for keeping your home energy-efficient. With that in mind, let’s cover the top three smart thermostats.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control
The vote is unanimous: the Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control leads the pack. The module has been reworked to have better sensors and a better-looking case. Additionally, the Wi-Fi has been updated to work with dual-band routers, so no more losing connectivity when you run the microwave. Finally, the Ecobee comes with built-in compatibility with Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and other systems. While the Ecobee is more expensive than other options, most agree that the extra features are worth the price.
Google Nest Smart Thermostat
While Ecobee has dethroned the Google Nest as the top dog, Google is still in the running. The Google Nest is much cheaper than the Ecobee, usually priced around $100 to $130. It’s compatible with Google and Alexa, along with other smart home devices. These range from ceiling fans to smart appliances. Your Google Nest smart thermostat can control your entire home’s energy usage, cutting down on both your power bill and your carbon footprint. Go Solar Group currently offers the Google Nest E as part of our product suite.
Honeywell Home T9
The Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat comes with a number of features that the others do not. Most notably, while both the Ecobee and Google Nest come with temperature readings, and the Ecobee comes with proximity detectors, the Honeywell home T9 comes with several additional sensors. These include remote proximity and temperature sensors, but also humidity. The Honeywell Home T9 has a wide range of features that justify its slightly higher price tag, usually around the $200 mark.
For more in-depth solar product comparisons, visit our product comparisons home base page today.