Rayah’s Top 10 Solar Panels of 2020

It’s that time of year again. Time for Rayah to issue our Top 10 Solar Panels for 2020. Last year we went into extensive detail on our methodology. In short, we did not change much. We are still using 10 metrics (brand, efficiency, technology, power output, aesthetics, product warranty, performance & degradation warranty, labor warranty, cost/watt & value) to compare different solar modules; each ranked on a scale from 1-10 (10 being the best). We do, however, have some shake-ups in our Top 10.

*For a detailed explanation of how we compare solar panels, please Click Here to see last year’s blog.

Industry Changes

One of the biggest changes this year is that three companies are now competing for the most powerful solar panel on the market: LG, SunPower and Solaria. In past years, it was SunPower and then everyone else, but not any more! The majority of our Top 10 modules all boast efficiencies above 20%. This is a big deal and we believe this leveling of the playing field will be good for the solar industry.

Another interesting shift in the industry has occurred with solar panel warranties. As a recap, a solar warranty is made of three portions: performance, product and labor. A standard 25-year performance warranty for a Top 10 solar panel used to have an average degradation rate between 1% – .75% and an 80% twenty five year output guarantee. This year, seven of our top models have degradation rates at .5% or below with a 90% year 25 output guarantee – Boom! That is a big leap forward. Manufacturers are also offering longer product warranties with 9 out of 10 finalists offering 25 years. Keep in mind, the industry average is still 10 to 12 years. Lastly, and this is also a big deal, we are seeing more and more companies offer labor warranties. Again, this used to be something exclusive to SunPower, but now Panasonic, LG and Solaria include labor as part of their warranties. This means that if their panel fails, the manufacturer will pay a solar installer to perform the service work.

Movement in the Top 10

Some of our old favorites like LG and Panasonic have maintained multiple models in the top 10. SunPower on the other hand, with the pending discontinuation of their X-Series modules, a company split, and a decision to move away from standard-size residential modules, has only one top ranked module this year. Brands like Solaria and LG are building solar panels that match or exceed the power output of SunPower, but for a fraction of the cost. Hanwha Q-Cells, which received an honorable mention last year, enters our list with their brand new 340 watt six diode module. Silfab again squeeks in with the fabulously all black panel. And most exciting, we have a brand new solar company as our #1 ranked panel.

So without further ado, here are the Top 10 Solar Panels of 2020.

*Click Here to View our Detailed Top 10 Comparison Chart (includes information on each company, panel technology, warranty details and more!)

10) Hanwha 340 Watt Q-Cell – Q.PEAK DUO BLK G6 340 (All Black)

Number 10 in the top ten solar panels Hanwha 340 Watt Q-Cell – Q.PEAK DUO BLK G6 340. Graphic of panel's specifications.

Since 2012, when Hanwha, one of the largest electronics conglomerates in Asia, bought the German solar manufacturer Q-Cell, they have had a steady presence in the solar market. The Q-Cell technology has been so coveted, that many solar manufacturers are being sued by Hanwha for patent infringement. Their new 340 watt all black panel though, marks the first time we can start to compare Q-Cell to the rest of our prestigious Top 10.

The new Peak-Duo technology separates the modules into six sections. This is very unique in the industry, as most solar panels have three diodes (sections). Before diodes, a small portion of shading from a chimney could knock out an entire solar panel. In recent years, panels have three diodes, meaning only ⅓ of the panel would lose power. Under the same condition, the 340 Watt Q-Cell could still be at ⅚ capacity. The only other module with similar functionality is Solaria, which we’ll mention later.

In terms of appearance, this is a solid 8. This panel is “all black,” however, it should be noted that its silver bus bar lines are readily apparent. Q-Cells and Silfab both share similar pricing that are by far, cheaper than any other panels on this list. Also, at 340 watts, we are very pleased with the power output. Our only knock on this panel would be the appearance. If someone truly wants an all black sleek module, another module may be a better choice for you.

Let’s recap the benefits: German technology, 6 diodes, all black, lots of power, and a low price! Hanwha has done a great job of manufacturing great looking quality products at rock bottom prices. If you want a Top 10 panel at rock bottom pricing, this 340 watt Hanwha Q-Cell may be the right choice for your roof!

9) Silfab 320 Watt – SIL320NL (All Black)

Number 9 in the top ten solar panels Silfab 320 Watt – SIL320NL. Graphic of panel's specifications.

With a slight 10 watt increase in power production since 2019, Silfab continues to produce a fantastic Canadian-made solar panel with an amazingly low price. This panel also boasts the longest performance warranty in the industry, 30 years! However, it should be noted its 25-year performance rate of 80% is the lowest on this list (although still much better than the 70% industry average).

Silfab panels are BAA / ARRA compliant. Silfab panels are designed and manufactured to meet “Buy American Act Compliance.” The US State Department, US Military and FAA have all utilized Silfab panels in their solar installations. Us too at Rayah, as Silfab modules dawn the roofs of some of our staff.

Besides quality, the Silfab 320 watt panel looks great. It’s all black and has nicer styling than Hanwha or Panasonic (but not quite as nice as other higher ranked all black modules). Silfab is still a great fit for someone with ample roof space and wants a great looking, inexpensive, American-made, great quality product. In other words, if you have a big roof, want to hold on to a few extra bucks, and don’t need a ton of power, Silfab may be the panel for you.

8) Panasonic 325 Watt HIT – VBHN325KA03 (All Black)

Number 8 in the top ten solar panels Panasonic 325 Watt HIT – VBHN325KA03. Graphic of panel's specifications.

The Panasonic 325 swapped places with Silfab this year in positions 8 and 9. This is largely due to Panasonic’s enhanced warranty and a stronger dedication as a company to support the solar market. This panel still boasts their incredible HIT technology, which is a combination of traditional silicon wafers and thin film solar! If this is the first time you are hearing about it, that probably blows your socks off. It has N-Type solar cells that are super efficient, boasts extremely low levels of degradation (rivaling only SunPower), and operates great in environments with fluctuations of temperature (like New England).

The one knock we have with Panasonic’s technology is that it’s old. In the past few years where competitors are approaching 400 watts, Panasonic’s power output has lagged behind. In terms of aesthetics, this is our least favorite all black model available. Sorry, but it’s true. The large and obvious silver bus bars and conductors take away from the all black solar cells, frame and backsheet. Our honest opinion is that the all black Panasonic HIT needs a makeover, similar to what LG did a few years ago with their Type-R line.

Here’s the thing though, a lot of people really like Panasonic! They have a great reputation in the solar industry and with electronics in general. And for many, that is enough to want to choose the all black 325 Panasonic HIT.

7) SunPower 350 Watt X-Series – X21-350-BLK-E-AC (All Black)

Number 7 in the top ten solar panels SunPower 350 Watt X-Series – X21-350-BLK-E-AC. Graphic of panel's specifications.

Without question, this is still one of the most beautiful solar panels on planet Earth. And SunPower still ranks among the best for technology, efficiency and durability. This is a quality solar panel, built with Maxeon Cell technology and the lowest degradation rate on the market; not to mention, probably the longest expected lifespan of 40 years.

However, SunPower lost its advantages this year in three major categories; price, power output and company. This panel is much more expensive than even the top of the line LG, and as of 2020, LG and Solaria panels produce more power than SunPower. Simply said, one could argue that SunPower finds themselves outpowered and overpriced. Additionally, the SunPower corporation has undergone a lot of changes in the last few years, lowering its company score in our metrics.

In general, we still recommend this panel for anyone that wants a gorgeous all black top-of-the-line solar module with a factory integrated Enphase microinverter, all covered by SunPower’s comprehensive 25-year warranty.

6) LG 335 Watt NeON2 – LG335N1K-V5 (All Black)

Number 6 in the top ten solar panels LG 335 Watt NeON2 – LG335N1K-V5. Graphic of panel's specifications.

The LG NeON2 is perhaps the most tried and true solar panel available today. The core technology behind the NeON2 has been around for about a decade and it is on tens of thousands of roofs across America. At Rayah alone, this product or its previous iterations probably makes up half of our installations over the years. And we can tell you this, we have NEVER had a single LG module fail – NOT ONE!

This model has some features we really like; a low degradation rate, high quality and durable solar cells and a lower price than the newer LG Prime models. In the solar-coaster industry, if there has been one constant over the years, is that LG will continue to produce this mighty panel and consistently enhance its power output and performance each year. We think that’s worth noting.

One potential drawback of the all black NeON2 is that it still has front plate conductors (silver lines where the electricity flows). Please note, so does just about 99% of solar panels on Earth (including Panasonic, Hanwha, and Silfab). So this is less of a knock, but an FYI. It’s important though, as any panel with front plate conductors will not look as nice as other panels, whose companies have figured out a way to “hide the silver lines.” However, with that said, we do like the appearance of the all black NeON2 better than the other low cost options in our Top 10, although, it is the most expensive of the four.

So let’s recap; an amazing solar panel made by an amazing company that just doesn’t break! Kinda of a no-brainer. Do we believe in this solar panel – you betcha. So, is the all black 335 watt LG NeON2 right for you? If LG is a brand you trust, and don’t need the highest wattage panel on the market, and want an all black panel without breaking the bank, then the 335 watt LG NeON2 is a great fit for you.

5) LG 350 Watt NeON2 – LG350N1C-V5 (Black on White)

Number 5 in the top ten solar panels LG 350 Watt NeON2 – LG350N1C-V5. Graphic of panel's specifications.

Oh look, another fantastic LG solar panel in our Top 10 list. Why? Because LG makes really good solar panels. As stated with the all black version of the NeON2, this technology has been around a really long time and has a proven track record of durability. This module has a black frame, black cells and white backsheet. This means it’s not quite as sleek as some of the other panels on this list. However, for many homeowners, they like the white backsheet because it gives them a little more power.

In terms of power output, it is right up there at 350 watts (that’s really good by the way). For many, this panel is the perfect blend of high wattage, great durability and is backed by the LG corporation themselves. There is a lot of reassurance in that brand name!

So who’s buying this panel? You like LG but don’t need the Prime. Why? You could care less about having all black aesthetics and the 25 watt power difference isn’t worth the added cost for the Prime (and yes, there is a fairly big price difference between the NeON2 and Prime models). Admittedly, these nuances can get a bit confusing, but that’s what we’re here for!

4) Panasonic 340 Watt HIT – VBHN340SA17 (Black on White)

Number 4 in the top ten solar panels Panasonic 340 Watt HIT – VBHN340SA17. Graphic of panel's specifications.

We are pleased to see that Panasonic has worked their way back up our list this year with this more powerful 340 watt black on white HIT model. While 340 watts doesn’t quite “wow” the crowd, this panel is worthy of the #4 spot in our prestigious Top 10 Solar panels of 2020.

For starters, this panel has the highest efficiency rating this year at 22.9%; higher than both SunPower and LG. It has proven N-Type cell doping, which translates into extremely low degradation rates. And Panasonic stands behind those rates with a 90% year 25 performance guarantee. Although, it should be noted that all the LG panels have a 90% year 25 performance guarantee as well.

So why is this Panasonic HIT ranked higher than the two LG panels at 5 and 6? Price my friend! The Panasonic is cheaper than all the LG models, cheaper than SunPower and even cheaper than Solaria. In other words, it is the lowest cost brand name product available.

Additionally, the tried and true technology of the HIT performs great in the New England climate. Here’s a quote from the 340 watt HIT data sheet: “Panasonic’s unique heterojunction technology uses ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers. These thin dual layers reduce losses, resulting in higher energy output than conventional panels.” This tech also helps the panels produce well when the solar enemy is around. Who’s that? Heat, of course. Solar panels love the light, but heat is the enemy.

There are some downsides to this solar module. To start, it won’t win any beauty contests. Even the all black HIT is nothing to write home about. But with the white backsheet, this panel looks like something that was designed a long time ago. Also, 340 watts is good, but still lagging behind its competitors.

Plainly put though, a lot of people really like these Panasonic HIT panels. Their price point is awesome, and if you don’t need a higher output module, and are fine with the black on white styling, then it’s time to pony up for your new shiny Panasonic HIT.

3) LG 375 Watt NeOn Prime – LG-375Q1C-V5 (Black on White)

Number 3 in the top ten solar panels LG 375 Watt NeOn Prime – LG-375Q1C-V5. Graphic of panel's specifications.

Per square foot, at 375 watts, this is the most powerful solar panel on our list. It just beats out Solaria, however, it is important to note, it does this by using a white reflective backsheet. Our top two ranked panels both have black backsheets (that’s why they look so good), but as you can imagine, a black backsheet does not reflect light as well as a white backsheet.

This LG Prime has all the bells and whistles. Highest power output available – check; super 25 year warranty with a 90% performance guarantee, product and labor included – check. Exceptional LG brand name – check. Arguably, the most award winning technology with backplate conductors and N-Type cells: Check, check, and check!

We do want to point out again, the 375 watt Prime does have a white backsheet. So if aesthetics is your thing, then this might not be a good fit for you. Also, the price point on this one may be more than you might want to spend.

If you don’t care about the white background (many do not), and you want as much power as possible on your roof, look no further. The 375 watt LG NeON Prime is the Optimus Prime of this list.

2) LG 360 Watt NeON Prime – LG-360Q1K-V5.AW1 (All Black)

Number 2 in the top ten solar panels LG 360 Watt NeON Prime – LG-360Q1K-V5.AW1. Graphic of panel's specifications.

If not for the price, the new 360 watt all black LG NeON Prime with backplate conductors may have stolen the top slot this year. Years ago, you had to buy SunPower to get a panel that looked like this, but no longer. As far as price goes, it’s still a bit higher than the competition (except SunPower), but for many, this top-of-the-line LG panel is the way to go.

This panel has it all. An unbeatable 25 year warranty from LG (perforamance 90% at year 25, product and labor included); 360 watts of power; minimal degradation; best type-N cell technology on the market, and did we mention, it’s so pretty it will make your knees buckle. For comparison sake, we give the all black LG Prime a slight aesthetic edge over Solaria. Admittedly though, when they are 20-plus feet high on the roof, that difference is negligible.

The all black 360 watt LG Prime is perfect for someone that wants the best looking product on the market and the reassurance of brand recognition – LG. We like the price point too. It’s more than Solaria, but way less expensive than SunPower. But for many, the LG brand name is worth it!

1) Solaria 370 Watt – PowerXT-370R-PD (All Black)

Number 1 in the top ten solar panels Solaria 370 Watt – PowerXT-370R-PD. Graphic of panel's specifications.

Solaria has made a worthy leap into the #1 spot this year. Their module efficiency has increased, they’ve improved their warranty to rival their top competitors, and its black on black finish is just so darn beautiful. 10 out of 10 for sleekness and awesomeness!!!

There are over 65 patents built into the 370 watt Solaria PowerXT, and they matter. They have patented a way to hide all those nasty silver lines (bus-bars) on the front of the module, while increasing power output. In fact, when you compare this all black module with similar competitors, LG, SunPower and Panasonic, the power difference is huge. Solaria booms 370 watts, while the others are rated at 360, 350 and 325 watts respectively. Additionally, the Solaria modules have 4 unique sections (diodes). This is a significant advantage over all the other solar modules on this list, save the Hanwha Q-Cell, with six. More diodes means that this panel will perform better than its competitors in shaded conditions such as snow, tree branches and basic soiling (dirt or pollen). Don’t believe us, check out this study comparing Solaria’s performance to conventional 3 diode solar modules: https://www.solaria.com/shading-whitepaper

Solaria’s innovative technology combines larger silicon wafers with overlapping cells. When we first saw it our reaction was 1) this looks amazing, and 2) why doesn’t everyone else do that? Here’s a quote from the data sheet “Solaria PowerXT panels have fewer gaps between the solar cells; this leads to higher power and superior aesthetics.” Yeah, we agree with that!

The price point on the Solaria 370 is below the LG Prime without compromising on quality, bringing it among our highest “value” scores (power output vs. price). Here’s another interesting tidbit, Solaria ranked in 1st place in half of our 10 metrics.

Is this gorgeous brunette right for your home? It’s got the looks, the power, the value, is really funny (oops, that’s not a characteristic of a solar panel), perhaps, this 370 watt Solaria PowerXT is meant to be your solarmate 😁. We don’t know about that, but here is what we do know – Solaria PowerXT-370R-PD, you are worthy to wear the crown of the #1 Solar Panel of 2020. Congratulations!

Shopping for Solar

We have two customers, brothers, who both live in the same town and both went solar with Rayah Solar. But guess what, both brothers chose different solar panels and different forms of financing. Solar panels are no different than cars or TVs. You don’t expect your neighbor to have the same car as you! Is a BMW better than a F150? Depends right? It depends on who you are and what you are in the market for.

There is an argument to be made that the cheapest solar panel is best, and forget the rest. However, in reality, that is not represented in consumer buying habits for solar and with other products too. People don’t necessarily buy the cheapest cell phone. The same is true for solar. Many of our top ranked brands are more expensive than others not on the list. Why? Because from our decade plus of experience, we’ve found that people care just as much about the technology, quality, brand reputation and warranties, as they do the price. For some, brand name recognition is very important, and they are willing to pay for it. Others NEED the best looking solar panel on the market. Others are price shoppers and just love brands like Silfab and Hanwha Q-Cell (both great brands). What’s in your pocket? Is it an iPhone, Samsung, Pixel or is it another less expensive and less common brand?

Our goal at Rayah Solar is to help you understand the differences between solar panels. We do this by taking the time to study our market, analyze it and offer you the best unbiased observations and recommendations as we can. Please note, we do not have any incentive or a special deal to sell one brand over another. In fact, we’ve tried to position ourselves as brand-agnostic as possible. That goes for solar panels, inverters, energy storage systems and more. Our goal is to offer our customers the best products available, and provide a quality installation with superior customer service and solar care (our ongoing service and maintenance). We call this the Rayah Experience – merging technology with humanity and lifestyle.

If you have any questions about the solar panels in our Top 10 Solar Panels of 2020, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 617-564-3159 or email us at info@rayahsolar.com.

Sunny Regards,

The Rayah Team

Click Here to View our Detailed Top 10 Comparison Chart
(Includes information on each company, panel technology, warranty details, etc… and scoring for all 10 metrics!)

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