The Best Solar Panels for a Sustainable Home

Last Updated: 25 March, 2019 by David West

Over the past decade alone, the cost of solar panels has decreased by more than 70%. Coupled with constant innovation in terms of quality and efficiency, attractive prices have incentivized more and more home owners to invest in solar panels for home use.

There are many reasons why you too should consider going solar. However, if you’re not yet ready to commit to a significant change, a solar panel starter kit might be your best choice. We’ve put together a list of solar panel reviews to help you dip your toe in the waters of sustainable energy.

Editor’s Pick
RENOGY 400W Solar Starter Kit
RENOGY 400W Solar Starter Kit
Top Pick for High Wattage
RENOGY 800W Solar Premium Kit
RENOGY 800W Solar Premium Kit
Second Pick for High Wattage
GRAPE SOLAR GS-400-Kit
GRAPE SOLAR GS-400-Kit
Top Pick for Quality Components
WINDY NATION Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit
WINDY NATION Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit
Top Pick for a Tight Budget
HQST 400 Solar Panel Kit
HQST 400 Solar Panel Kit

Best Solar Panels Reviews

In order to switch from traditional electricity to a home fully (or mostly) powered by the sun, you’ll need to invest upwards of $10,000. The sum can be intimidating, particularly if you’re not yet used to the way solar panels work.

The starter kits reviewed below feature some of the best solar panels for home use, but they can be acquired for a much lighter initial investment. They’re a great way to get familiar with the technology so that you can then decide whether you want to go solar all the way.

1

RENOGY 400W Solar Starter Kit

You’ll find products by Renogy at the top of most solar panel reviews, and that’s because these starter kits offer impressive quality for attractive prices. We recommend the Renogy 400W solar starter kit as our favorite pick due to its ideal PV input and ease of use.

The set includes 100Watt 12Volt monocrystalline solar panels for a total PV input of 400Watt, which is more than enough to charge a decent sized battery from 50% during the course of one day. The energy conversion efficiency of the monocrystalline solar cell is one of the highest currently on the market, at 18.4%.

The kit by Renogy also features the components necessary for the DIY installation of a new solar system. With your order, you’ll receive four sets of Z-brackets that can be used to mount the panels on the roof of your home, cabin, or RV, a Renogy Rover 40A MPPT charge controller that transfers power up to 30% more effectively than traditional PWM charge controllers, as well as a 20ft long 10AWG MC4 adaptor kit and a pair of 8ft long 10AWG tray cables.

These solar panels work wonderfully for off-grid applications, but can also be connected to your power grid at home in order to decrease monthly electricity bills.

PROS:
  • Complete starter kit designed for people who are new to solar power systems
  • High energy conversion efficiency at 18.4%
  • Four solar panels that can be connected to the MPPT charge controller for a total PV input of 400W
  • Sleek design and durable build
CONS:
  • Some customers complain about the quality of the MPPT charge controller
2

RENOGY 800W Solar Premium Kit

Still wondering who makes the best solar panels currently on the market? This 800W solar premium kit is the living proof that Renogy is definitely up there with LG, Panasonic, and other major producers.

The set features the best Renogy has to offer in terms of solar panels for homes in the shape of their 100W Eclipse monocrystalline panel. The latter presents a peak efficiency of 18.35%, which means that you can use less of your roof space to obtain the same battery charging time. The kit is therefore ideal for those who do not own a large roof or for owners whose homes do not get a lot of direct sunlight.

Renogy’s solar premium kit also features a 40A MPPT Rover Controller, which can be used to connect up to 8 solar panels for a total PV input of 800W, a set of Z-brackets for easy installation on any type of roof, an adaptor kit and a pair of tray cables, fusing components for the controller and an optimal protection of your battery, as well as a Bluetooth module that can help you connect your solar system to a phone or other device for easy monitoring.

Finally, the panels are built with a sleek design and a durable frame for outdoor exposure. They are perfect for both off-grid and at-home applications.

PROS:
  • Premium kit includes everything you need to set up a PV input of up to 800W
  • Comes with one 100W Eclipse monocrystalline panel with a top efficiency of 18.35%
  • Takes up less space on your roof for the same charging time
  • Includes an MPPT charge controller, as well as a Bluetooth module for ease-of-use
CONS:
  • More expensive than other options
  • The set includes only one 100W Eclipse monocrystalline solar panel, which means that additional solar panels must be purchased in order to make the most of the MPPT controller
3

GRAPE SOLAR GS-400-Kit

When you put together several solar panel comparisons, this kit by Grape Solar comes close to what Renogy has to offer in quality and attractive pricing. For a decent initial investment, you get a similar PV input and equally durable components.

More specifically, the GS-400-Kit includes four high efficiency GS-Star-100W crystalline solar panels for a total PV input of 400W, a Xantrex C35 (PWM) charge controller that can handle up to five identical solar panels, and a 1,800 Pure Sine Wave DC to AC inverter that ensures the solar system can start up demanding appliances such as the refrigerator, the microwave, or variable speed power tools.

Each solar panel comes with a 2-diode junction box that minimizes power drops caused by shade and poor weather and MC4 connectors for secure and weather-proof connections. Meanwhile, the high transmittance, low iron tempered glass that makes up the surface of the panel enhances durability and impact resistance. In other words, the panels are perfectly suited for outdoor use in any type of weather and require little to no maintenance following the initial installation.

 

During one day, the kit by Grape Solar will provide up to 100Ah or 1200Wh of battery charge, which is enough to fully recharge most batteries from 30%.

PROS:
  • The kit includes some of the best solar panels on the market, as well as all other necessary components for DIY installation and use
  • An additional solar panel can be added for faster recharging times
  • Includes a DC to AC inverter that ensures most appliances will power up when connected to the system
  • Weather-proof and durable
CONS:
  • Wattage (or PV input) is not as high as with other options
  • The PWM charge controller is not as efficient as an MPPT charge controller
4

WINDY NATION Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit

This kit by Windy Nation also makes the top of our solar panel reviews, primarily due to the quality of its individual components. Featuring an excellent solar charge controller, a powerful inverter, and even a battery, depending on your purchase, the kit is easy to install and a pleasure to use.

The set comes with four 100W polycrystalline solar panels that can total up to 400W. On average, the system will provide 1600Wh or 135Ah of charge per day, depending on how long the panels are exposed to sunlight. Even on a cloudy day, however, the panels will be enough to recharge a battery from 50%.

The included 1500W (3000W surge) VertaMax DC to AC inverter is sufficient to startup any household appliance, including TVs, computers, a fridge, and others. The 30A P30L charge controller comes with an LCD display that helps you adjust various settings, while the optional 30Ah battery can serve as a decent backup for several hours in case of a power shortage.

The kit is perfect for home owners who are new to solar power. It provides 40ft of 12AWG solar cable, MC4 connectors, mounting hardware and battery cables that connect to a compatible 12V battery. Basically, it comes with everything you need to successfully install these solar panels for home use.

PROS:
  • Complete set with four panels, charge controller, inverter, battery (optional), cables, and installation hardware
  • Provides up to 1600Wh of charge per day, which is more than with most other similar options
  • Features excellent quality components that are designed for long-term use
  • Can be purchased in a bundle for advantageous prices
CONS:
  • More expensive than other options
5

HQST 400 Solar Panel Kit

Some of the best solar panels for homes are included in this kit by HQST at a bargain price. Almost 50% less pricy than other options, the set still provides much needed features, as well as all the components necessary to install and use the 100W 12V monocrystalline solar panels.

With four solar panels and a total PV input of 400W, this kit promises a maximum of 2000Wh charge per day. According to its producers, it will fully charge a 100Ah battery in less than 2 hours from 50%, depending on sunlight availability.

Also part of the set are a 30A PWM charge controller with an easy-to-read LCD display, four sets of Z-brackets that can be used to mount the panels (with pre-drilled holes) on any type of roof, a pair of 20ft AWG adaptor cables, and any additional necessary mounting hardware (bolts, washers, and nuts).

This is a wonderful solar panel starter kit because it gives you a good idea of what going solar entails without requiring an exorbitant initial investment. For this and particularly for its bargain price, we reserve a spot in our top solar panel reviews for this kit by HQST.

PROS:
  • Bargain price for the entire set, which features all the components and installation hardware you need to go solar
  • A maximum of 2000Wh of charge per day, which is more than decent compared to other similar models
  • Pre-drilled holes in solar panels and included hardware make installation easier
CONS:
  • Not as durable as other, more expensive models
  • PWM charge controller is not as powerful as other options
6

PROS:
CONS:

Why Choose Solar Energy for Your Home?

As they experience climate changes, but also rising prices of electricity, more homeowners are switching to solar panels. In theory, solar panels reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower your electricity bill, and set you on the path of being energy independent. The main benefit of harnessing solar energy is that the process does not produce any environmentally adverse side-effects. Once installed, the technology requires no supervision and little to no maintenance, which makes it a low-commitment high-reward energy source. More importantly, solar panels for home use give you the ability to use less electricity from harmful supplies. Currently, the most polluting energy sources are coal plants, natural gas, and nuclear facilities.

However, solar panels for homes are not always a sure-fire investment. Before signing any purchase agreements, there are a few key elements that determine whether a domestic photovoltaic (PV) installation is a sound investment on your part. These factors include whether you live in a geographic area that gets direct sunlight for a decent amount of time every day, the cost and provenance of native electricity, the cost of installation, as well as the existence of government incentives for switching to green energy. In some parts of the world, you can even connect your panels to the public grid and sell any excess energy you produce.

Is Solar Energy the Right Choice for You?

Before you browse and compare solar panel reviews, you might want to carefully evaluate the elements that render a PV system profitable. Without enough exposure to the sun, not even the best solar panels can save you money and help reduce gas emissions. Moreover, you may find that most of your electricity is generated by hydroelectric and wind turbines.

Location and Sun Exposure

Location is crucial when it comes to solar energy. PV panels rely on sunlight exposure to produce electricity. Latitude, sunlight hours, cloud covers, aerosols, elevations, orientations, and shading all play a role with regards to your potential to generate solar energy. Without a doubt, the best locations for solar technology are the places that get the most sunlight exposure with the least amount of cloud covers. In the United States, several areas in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico are blessed with abundant sunshine that guarantees a maximum return on solar investments.

Roof Size and Orientation

Homebuilders and real-estate developers rarely think of optimizing for solar energy when they commission house projects. The direction that your roof faces, also known as the azimuth, is the game changer. South and West facing is currently the best way to go. Since many roofs are multi-faceted, there are high chances that you have some slopes already. In addition, the bigger your roof, the better. An average of 300ft is the optimum surface for a system that has about 20 panels, each capable of generating 250Watts.

Energy Requirements

Your energy requirements and costs will directly impact the viability of investing in some of the best solar panels for homes. The more expensive your electricity, the higher the odds that you’ll offset your initial costs and then accumulate some handsome savings. New England and California, for instance, are known to have the highest rates per kilowatt hour in the United States. Although the national average is around 13 cents per kWh, this will often fluctuate according to energy source availability and consumption. Many homeowners are also purchasing solar battery banks to store any excess energy, which renders them 100% energy independent.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels?

How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels?

On average, the purchase and installation of solar panels for homes will cost anywhere between $24,000 and $35,000 for a system that is capable of generating between 8 and 12kW. What is essential about this price is that you can significantly reduce it with a federal tax credit. The ITC scheme was extended by Congress at the end of 2018 by an additional 5 years. After reductions, the $24,000 to $35,000 can be turned into a highly affordable $17,000 to $25,000, which can mean almost $10,000 worth of savings on your end. In addition, there are state rebates and local tax incentives you can cumulate with the federal credit to give you an even better price.

Furthermore, each 1kW of solar panels for home use adds an average of $5,900 to the resale value of your home. Given the average cost of installing a 5kW system, you can actually make a good profit just by reselling your property once the solar panels are in place. More importantly, you’ll be able to save anywhere from $500 to $1,500 every year on your energy bill, depending on your location, how much you consume, as well as local kW rates.

PPAs and Leases for Solar Panels

When looking for solar installers, you’ll find that many vendors offer the possibility to make a solar lease or engage in a power purchase agreement (PPA). These have become common ways to reduce your electricity bill, since the contracts are straightforward, low-maintenance engagements on your part. Although some agreements require no money from the client, others may ask you to make a down payment. The obvious advantage of these options is that you can reduce the cost of solar panels and your utility bill at the same time. However, the major drawback is that you do not own the solar system installed on your property, so you will not benefit from any tax incentives either.

Another option that few people consider is purchasing a starter kit. Adepts of DIY can sift through solar panel reviews and, once they’re familiar with the technology, they can select the best solar panel starter kit for their specific needs. Upgrade options include more panels and an energy bank that can store additional electricity they’re not using. Some energy providers even allow them to export excess electricity to their grid, so they can make even more money from their solar investments.

Before You Buy Solar Panels

The most important things you should consider before you buy a solar power installation are the level of sun exposure you get and the suitability of your roof(s). Secondly, you should estimate the cost of installation and maintenance, how much money you can make by giving excess energy to the grid (if possible), as well as how much you’ll be saving over a 10/20-year timeframe. A few additional factors to consider are the following:

Conversion efficiency

The efficiency of a solar power system is determined by how much of the sun’s energy the latter is capable of converting into electricity given ideal conditions. It is a fact that even the best solar panels will become less efficient in time and this variable is commonly factored in by solar power calculators that estimate how much your investment is worth. Recently, manufacturers have been adjusting their technology to increase conversion efficiency, which has led to the development of solar cells in the shape of micro-pyramids.

Temperature coefficient

If you want to maximize the efficiency of solar energy, the temperature coefficient of your solar panels can also make a difference. The coefficient is the result of the percentile decrease in output for every additional 1 degree Celsius (°C) of heat. For instance, solar panel reviews often mention a coefficient of -0.3 to -0.5%/°C. Their average temperature for producing maximum energy can range between 15°C (59 F) and 35°C (95 F). For every extra degree above their range, their energy generating potential will decrease by the specified amount.

Materials (or equipment) warranty

Typically, solar power installations have equipment and a performance guarantees. Despite the fact that PPA or lease contracts calculate a 70% performance efficiency, your panels will likely decrease in output by no more than 10% every 10 years. Product warranty concerns those scenarios wherein the system sustains damage in any form that is not a result of misuse, manufacturing defects, but also premature wear.

Monitoring services

A monitoring setup is instrumental towards your ability convert your solar panels ratings into raw performance. Depending on the product of your choice, manufacturers will likely offer a proprietary system that helps you keep track of energy consumption, generation, usage trends, as well as various strategies for optimizing use. This is an often underrated aspect of solar panel comparisons, because without one of these, you won’t be able to tell whether your solar power system is operating at peak performance.

Overall, although solar power is widely recognized as a viable domestic energy investment, there are several fundamental elements you need to review before committing to a purchase. From geographic sunlight exposure in your region to governmental tax credits, rooftop position, and native electricity costs, a more thorough analysis of your circumstances is necessary before you can estimate the viability of a solar installation. Given the right conditions, the right solar panels for your home can potentially make you 100% energy independent.

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