What are the Best Solar Panels in 2018?

Best Solar Panels

The best solar panels in the UK are produced by LG.

It’s a bold statement, and obviously a debatable one, but we’ve compared 7 of the leading manufacturers on the biggest performance and quality factors and to us the results are clear.

Manufacturer Highest Efficiency Available* Power Outputs Available (W) Product Warranty Power Warranty Types of Panels in Range
LG 21.4% 325 – 395 25 years 25 years Mono, bifacial
Panasonic 19.7% 245 – 325 25 years 25 years Mono
Canadian Solar 19.89% 270 – 410 10 years 25 – 30 years Mono, poly, bifacial
Solarcentury & IKEA 16.82% 275 10 years 25 years Mono
Sharp 20% 256 – 360 10 years 25 years Mono or poly
SolarWorld 17.89% 280 – 300 20 years 25 – 30 years Mono, bifacial
Yingli Solar 19.1% 270 – 370 10 years 25 years Mono, poly, bifacial

*Excluding bifacial solar panels – see later in the article for the most efficient bifacial solar panels.

  • LG offer the longest product warranty at 25 years. This is only equalled by Panasonic with most other manufacturers offering a maximum of 10 years.
  • LG have one of the most powerful panels on the market at 395W. This is only bettered by a Canadian Solar panel which is lower in efficiency.
  • LG also produce the most efficient standard (monofacial) panel at 21.4%; the closest rival is Sharp at 20%. The LG bifacial panel is also the most efficient in our comparison.
  • LG include a 25 year power warranty with their panels. While the other manufacturers also offer a 25-30 year power warranty, LG guarantee the highest performance throughout this period. They state that their panel will be generating at 86 – 88.4% of its maximum capacity in its 25th year while the others average between 82-84%.

We think this makes LG solar panels a winner in terms of efficiency, reliability and power capacity, but the other manufacturers we compared also offer a huge range of benefits and features (at a possibly lower cost) which could make them a great choice for your home.

Read on to find out more about each of the best solar manufacturers and get the best deal on your new solar panels.


 
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Best Solar Panel Manufacturers (UK)

LG solar panels

LG Solar Panels

LG has been leading the technology market for over 50 years. For 25 of these years they have been researching and producing solar PV panels which continue to outshine much of the competition. LG monocrystalline solar panels offer reliability, performance and durability which is second to none.

All of LG’s solar panels are covered by a 25 year power warranty with at least 86-88% performance level guaranteed until that point, but more impressively they are also protected by a 25 year product warranty. This is significantly longer than the product warranty offered by nearly all of the other manufacturers.

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
NeON R 370 W Mono 370 21.4% 25 years 25 years 1,700 x 1,016 x 40 18.5
NeON 2 345 W Mono 340 19.8% 25 years 25 years 1,686 x 1,016 x 40 18
NeON 2 Black 325 W Mono 325 19% 25 years 25 years 1,686 x 1,016 x 40 18

NeON R

The NeON R 370W is LG’s efficient solar panel at 21.4%; this is the highest efficiency level achieved by any of the panels we found. In addition, LG guarantee that NeON R panels will still be working at 88.4% of their original capacity in the 25th year.

NeON 2

This is LG’s most popular module delivering a high efficiency of 19.8%. It includes CELLO technology replacing 3 busbars with 12 thin wires to enhance both power output and reliability.

NeON 2 Black

The NeON 2 Black has thinner wires that appear all black at a distance to enhance the aesthetics of the installation and could potentially add value to a property with its modern design.

LG also offer the NeON 2 Bifacial which has cells on both the front and back to maximise energy generation by up to 30%; this has a power capacity of 395W. We’ve compared bifacial panels separately from the standard monofacial a little later in the article but (spoiler alert) LG come out on top in that comparison too.

Panasonic solar panels

Panasonic Solar Panels

Panasonic is a big name in the technology industry but you may not be aware that the company’s expertise also extends to solar energy. Originally under the SANYO brand, the company has been developing photovoltaic technology since 1975. Panasonic Solar panels are the result of over 40 years of research and innovation and this is evident in the quality and reliability of their solar panels. They also offer an impressive 25 year warranty for both product and power.

There are 4 solar panels in Panasonic’s HIT range, all made with monocrystalline silicon for maximum efficiency:

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
HIT N325K KURO – Black Mono 325 19.4% 25 years 25 years 1590 x 1053 x 40 19
HIT N330 – Powerful Mono 330 19.7% 25 years 25 years 1590 x 1053 x 40 19
HIT N245 – Slim Mono 245 19.4% 25 years 25 years 1580 x 798 x 35 15
HIT N295 Compact Mono 295 19.1% 25 years 25 years 1463 x 1053 x 35 18

HIT Kuro Black 325W

The Kuro is a 96 cell module designed with both aesthetics and durability in mind. Completely black, it is finished with a thick 40mm frame and can withstand a wind and snow load of 5400 Pa. The panel features Panasonic’s unique water drainage corners to promote self-cleaning of the module and minimise dust accumulation for easier maintenance and a better long-term performance. The anti-reflection glass increases the energy absorption, minimises efficiency losses and reduces the risk of cells micro cracks due to lower laminate thickness.

HIT Powerful 330W

This is Panasonic’s most energy efficient module at 19.7% and is also the most powerful module in the range at 330W. It reaches this power level with just 1.67m² of surface which is around 25% more power than other comparable panels. It is finished with an anodyzed black frame to give a monochrome appearance and corner water drainage to keep the panels cleaner all year long.

HIT Slim 245W

The Panasonic HIT Slim is designed for small roofs looking to maximise energy generation with less space. At just under 160cm in length and less than 80cm wide, it can adapt to many installations and its design allows for mixed portrait and landscape installation. It is finished with an anodyzed black frame with water corner drainage.

HIT Compact 295W

Although named for its compact size at less than 150cm long, this module delivers a relatively high power of 295W. This small size allows more rows of panels on a roof to increase the output. It is finished with an anodyzed black frame with water corner drainage.

sharp solar panels

Sharp Solar Panels

The Japanese electronics corporation, Sharp, has been in existence for over 100 years with their solar research and development beginning in 1959. They offer a wide range of both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels which reach very impressive efficiencies of up to 20%. We’ve included detail on their 3 most efficient panels below:

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
NQR258H Mono 258 20% 25 years 10 years 1318 x 980 x 46 17
NQR256A Mono 256 19.8% 25 years 10 years 1318 x 980 x 46 17
NUSC360 Mono 360 18.5% 25 years 10 years 1956 x 992 x 40 26

NQR258H and NQR256A

These are Sharp’s most efficient solar panels reaching up to 20%; this is only bettered by LG in our comparison here. They are 48 cell modules with compact dimensions and are lightweight at 17kg. They can also be installed either portrait or landscape which enables an easier and more flexible installation.

NUSC360

This is a more powerful module with 72 cells and an output of 360W, but slightly less efficient at 18.5% (although this is still a high efficiency).


 
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canadian solar panels

Canadian Solar Panels

As the name suggests, Canadian Solar was founded in Canada but is a global solar business with customers, offices and manufacturing sites all over the world. It’s been operating since 2001 to try and “make a positive difference to the environment and society as a whole”. The company offers the widest range of solar panels in our comparison, so we’ve just included their most efficient here with a summary of the panels they produce.

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
HiDM CS1U-410MS Mono 410 19.89% 25 years 10 years 992 x 1700 x 35 19.2
KuDymond CS3U-MS-FG Mono 380 19.15% 30 years 10 years 2000 x 992 x 5.8 29
KuMax CS3U-0MS Mono 380 19.15% 25 years 10 years 2000 x 992 x 35 22.5
  • Standard – polycrystalline, 60 cell panels
  • All-black – monocrystalline, 60 cell panels in a black finish
  • MaxPower – polycrystalline, 72 cell panels
  • HiKu – polycrystalline, high power output up to 405W
  • HiDM – monocrystalline, high density of cells reaching high efficiency up to 19.89%
  • BiKu – bifacial panels which have PV cells on both sides to increase power output by up to 30%
  • Dymond– these panels feature heat-strengthened glass for extreme weather resistance and durability

Ku Modules include Low Internal Current (LIC) module technology – the next generation of module technology in both poly and monocrystalline. The Ku module portfolio includes: KuMax (144 cells), KuPower (120 cells), KuBlack (120 cells) and the corresponding double-glass KuDymond.

solarworld panels

SolarWorld Solar Panels

SolarWorld is a German technology company but sells its Sunmodule solar panels internationally. They offer one of the smallest ranges in our comparison but use only the best monocrystalline technology with both mono and bifacial options. This is reflected in their substantial product warranty of 20 years which is double that of most other manufacturers. Below is the data for their standard (monofacial) solar panels while their bifacial module is detailed later in the article.

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
Sunmodule Plus Mono 300 17.89% 25 years 20 years 1675 x 1001 x 33 18
Sunmodule Plus Black Mono 290 17.30% 25 years 20 years 1675 x 1001 x 33 18

The Sunmodule Plus is a 300W lightweight module at just 18kg with hardened, extra thin glass giving a depth of just 33mm. It also has a wave-shaped profile which makes it stronger and easier to install as well as flexible fitting options.

The drainage corners ensure the panels can self-clean, minimising maintenance and maximising energy generation. If aesthetics are important in your installation then you also have the option of the Sunmodule Plus Black at 290W.

LG solar panels

Yingli Solar Panels

Chinese company, Yingli Solar, has shipped over 85 million solar panels to more than 90 countries. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are included in the range as well as choice of bifacial or monofacial, so there is likely to be a solution to suit most homes in most climates. The panels are covered by a 25 year power warranty and 10 year product warranty. These are the most efficient panels produced by Yingli Solar:

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
YLM-VG 72 Cell Mono 370 19.1% 25 years 10 years 1956 x 992 x 40 22.5
YLM 72 Cell Mono 335 18% 25 years 10 years 1960 x 992 x 40 22
YLM 60 Cell Mono 290 17.9% 25 years 10 years 1650 x 992 x 35 18.5

solarcentury panels

Solarcentury & IKEA Solar Panels

Solarcentury was founded in 1998 and in the years since has installed over 25,000 solar panels systems in the UK.

Their solar panel – the Sunstation – is available in a 275W power output. While many solar panels are fitted to your roof on a raised frame, the Sunstation has been designed to be integrated into your roof for a more subtle look.

Panel Type Maximum Power (watts) Maximum Efficiency Linear Power Output Warranty Product Warranty Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)
Sunstation Mono 275 16.82% 25 years 10 years 1858 x 1115 x 34 20.6kg

Solarcentury’s ‘mission’ is to make solar power accessible for as many people as possible and, as part of this mission, they’ve joined forces with the global home design brand, IKEA.

As a team, Solarcentury and IKEA offer solar panel packages for homeowners which include the panels, the installation and the option of a solar battery to enable you to store your energy for use later on. These packages are:

Product Description Design Price including installation & guarantees*
Rooftop A ready-to-go low cost solar package. 6 Panel system, Blue £3,535
Rooftop Plus A customised solar system designed to optimise energy production and maximise your investment. 6 Panel system, Black £3,800
Rooftop Built-in Plus A customised solar system, designed to give an elegant, integrated look. 6 Panel system £5,250

*Prices correct September 2018.


 
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Bifacial Solar Panels

What are Bifacial Solar Panels?

Bifacial solar panels have PV cells on both the front and back; when the panel is installed on a reflective surface this maximises the amount of energy it can generate. Manufacturers claim that bifacial panels are capable of producing up to 30% more energy. It is possible to buy polycrystalline bifacial panels but most are monocrystalline.

Best Bifacial Solar Panels (Most Efficient)

Here are the UK manufacturers currently offering bifacial solar panels as well as the most efficient model in their range:

Manufacturer Model (Type of Panel) Standard Max Efficiency Max Efficiency at 5% Gain Max Efficiency at 10% Gain Max Efficiency at 20% Gain Max Efficiency at 25-30% Gain Product Warranty Power Warranty
Canadian Solar BiKu CS3U-375MB-FG (Mono) 18.04% 18.94% 19.84% 21.64% 23.45% 10 years 30 years
LG NeON 2 Bifacial 395W (Mono) 18.7% 19.6% 20.6% 22.4% 24.3% 25 years 25 years
SolarWorld Sunmodule bisun protect clear 290 (Mono) 17.3% 18.24% 18.87% 20.43% 21.2% 20 years 30 years
Yingli Solar PANDA Bifacial 144HCL 360W (Mono) 17.8% 18.6% 19.5% 20.4% 21.3% 10 years 25 years

As with the standard solar panels, LG achieve the highest efficiency level and also offer the longest power and product warranty with their bifacial panels.

choosing solar panels

How to Choose the Best Solar Panels

Types of Solar Panel

There are 2 types of solar panel to choose from: monocrystalline or polycrystalline. This refers to the type of silicone in the panels and effects how effectively they will produce energy for your home.

Generally speaking, monocrystalline panels are more efficient, last longer and look sleeker in design. However, as you might expect, these benefits come with a higher price tag than their polycrystalline counterparts. Most professionals will recommend that you opt for monocrystalline, but polycrystalline could still be an effective option if you’d rather keep costs to a minimum. It’s now also possible to buy bifacial solar panels which have PV cells on both the front and back to maximise your energy generation.

In terms of aesthetics, monocrystalline panels tend to be black in colour (which many homeowners find a more attractive option) and polycrystalline are blue. You can opt for panels which are attached to frames and sit slightly above the roof, while others can be integrated with your tiles so they blend in more seamlessly.

Efficiency

The efficiency of your solar panels is one of the biggest factors to consider. The higher a panel’s efficiency, the more energy it will generate for your home.

When comparing efficiency remember to look at ‘module efficiency’ rather than ‘cell efficiency’. The efficiency of the individual cell will be a higher number but doesn’t represent the overall capacity of the solar panel. Modern solar panel efficiency usually sits between 16 – 20%. A solar panel with an efficiency of 19% or more is what you should be looking for, but they are more expensive.

However, you should also consider the size of your roof. If you don’t have very much roof space then you’ll need to buy a small number of the most energy efficient panels you can afford. But if you have a large roof, you can install more panels of a lower efficiency which may enable you to reduce your upfront costs.


 
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Warranty

As with any warranty, the longer the manufacturer is willing to guarantee their product for, the more confidence you should have in its quality. In the case of solar panels, they come with 2 types of warranty period:

  • Product Warranty: This guarantees the workmanship and manufacturer’s components. If your solar panel breaks during the product warranty period they should repair or replace it at no charge. These range from 10 – 25 years.
  • Power Warranty: This refers to the length of time that the solar panels will continue to produce energy for and how effectively it will do so. For example, most manufacturers will guarantee that your panels will generate electricity at a minimum of 90% of its capacity for 10 years and 80% for 25 – 30 years.

Power Output

The higher the power output of your solar panels the more electricity it will supply your home with. The power output is measured in watts (W) and generally domestic solar panels range from 200 – 400W.

Solar panels with an output of 300W are the best choice if you want to generate all (if not most) of your electricity with them, but these will be more costly to purchase. Solar panels of 200 – 275W will be less expensive and while they will only generate some of your home’s electricity, they can still significantly reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint.

Reviews

You can often get a good overview of a brand’s reputation by browsing through online forums and consumer review websites.

Don’t underestimate the value of good old fashioned word of mouth. As solar panels have become more affordable they are becoming a more popular choice among homeowners, so the chances are you’ll have family or friends who have their own. Which brand did they choose? Were there any problems during installation or since? Have they noticed a significant drop in their energy bills?

Once you’ve identified a few brands you’re interested in, the next step is to contact some professional installers in your area. They’ll be able to assess your home, lifestyle, energy requirements and give you a bespoke quote. Get quotes for solar panels now.

Cost

On average, a solar panel system costs around £6,000 – £7,000 including the installation, but you can find systems for as low as £3,000. The cost will be impacted by the brand, type, power output and efficiency of the panels, plus the labour costs of the installation.

However, when you are considering the upfront cost of a solar panel system it’s important to factor in the long term financial benefits. Generating your own electricity will mean a significant drop in your energy bills and (if your system is installed before the March 2019 deadline) you could also earn money for the electricity you generate through the government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme for the next 20 years.

To get an exact cost for solar panels, you need to get several quotes. Professional solar installers will provide you with a free, no obligation quote which tells you what system they’d recommend for your home and how much they would charge. You should always get quotes from at least 2 or 3 different companies to compare their advice and identify where you’re getting the best deal.

How to Get the Best Deal on Your Solar Panels

When choosing solar panels for your home, you need to ensure that the panels are approved by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). The MCS is a nationally recognised quality assurance scheme for technologies which produce electricity and heat from renewable sources. If your panels or your installer aren’t MCS approved, not only are you at risk of getting low quality panels, but you also won’t qualify for the FiT scheme payments.

REMEMBER: To be eligible for the government’s FiT scheme payments for the next 20 years you need to have your solar system installed by 31st March 2019.

And, as we’ve said a few times now, to get the best price on your solar panels you need to compare at least 2 or 3 different quotes. At Solar Guide we have a network of MCS approved solar installers all over the UK. Send us an enquiry today and we’ll put you in touch with up to 3 companies in your area. They’ll provide you with a competitive, free and no obligation quote bespoke to your home.


 
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