In this article, we will look at the best solar panels for a range of different wattages. This will give you an idea of the different panels out there as well as their purpose.
After all, there are all kinds of use cases for solar—The from charging a single cell phone all the way up to powering and entire home.
Thus, in addition to covering (one of) the best solar panels in each category, we’ll also quickly summarize who it’s best for.
How Do Rooftop Solar Panels Work?
We could certainly get very scientific about this question, but for most of us, a more basic understanding is sufficient.
Solar panels are made up of tiny cells, known as photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells can be comprised of different types of material, but, generally, silicon is most common.
Once the PV cells absorb sunlight, that energy must be converted to DC power. Why? This conversion is what allows the energy to actually power our homes.
That conversion is done using a solar inverter.
And that’s pretty much it! Once the solar inverter converts the power to DC, it can be used to power your home and everything in it.
If you’re able to send power back to the grid, you can potentially even generate a bit of passive income this way, too.
For many years, solar power was generally considered something that was good in theory, but much less good in reality.
The reasons for this were many, but two of the main reasons were cost and energy efficiency. The former was too high; the latter was too low.
In the early 20th century, solar panels could cost many hundreds of dollars while having a single-digit efficiency.
But, as you can see, the cost has come down drastically over time.
So, too, has energy efficiency improved. Panels today have effiencies near 25%, which makes them roughly three times more efficient that those we saw around 20 years ago.
All of this means solar is much more compelling than it was back then.
Best Rooftop Solar Panels
Without further ado, let’s get into some of the best solar panels by wattage. This may not exactly be a perfect solution, but we attempt to satisfy each amount of wattage.
Also, note that energy demands can vary quite widely. However, to give one of the simplest examples, a single-family home cannot nearly be powered entirely by a single solar panel.
That becomes apparent if you think about homes you may have seen with a roof covered in an array of solar panels.
Granted, you can certainly cover some of your energy demands with solar; it’s not necessarily an all-or-nothing solution.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that every home is different and you will have to adjust your solar array to meet your individual needs.
Now, onto the best panels.
100 Watt Solar Panel
The Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel is our pick for the best 100 watt solar panel. A similar 100-watt panel made the list of our best camping solar panels.
This particular panel, while still ideal for camping trips, has a less portable design. The other Renology panel is foldable; this one isn’t.
So, rather than stowing this in your backpack and using it on the campsite, it’s more suitable for mounting on a boat or RV.
You can use these panels to charge a battery which can then power your devices.
Note that you will likely need more than one panel, especially if you are power large appliances such as an air conditioner and water heater in an RV.
250 Watt Solar Panel
You won’t find a wealth of 250 watt panels out there. So, instead, we’ll use this slot for a 200 watt panel.
More specifically, the RICH SOLAR 200 Watt 12 Volt Moncrystalline Solar Panel. These panels are well-made, durable, and have great performance.
These panels are still a bit low on wattage if you plan to install them on your roof. Still, several customers have already done so.
And if your goal is to simply offset your monthly energy costs with an on-grid solution, these panels would be great for that.
300 Watt Solar Panel
Upping the wattage and the voltage, we’re starting to get into serious panels with the Renogy 300 Watt 24 Volt Monocrystalline Grid
Depending on the size of your home and how much energy you use, panels like these can get close to offsetting your energy entirely.
These panels are weather-resistant including wind and snow. Made with Passivated Emitter and Reac Cell (PERC) solar cells, these panels are also very efficient.
400 Watt Solar Panel
Our pick for 400 watt solar panel is the LG NeON 2 LG400N2W-A5 400W 72-Cell Solar Panel. Note that this is just about the highest wattage you’re going to see in a single panel.
Another panel at this wattage to consider is a Sunpower 400 watt solar panel. For example, the Sunpower SPR-A400-G-AC is a quality panel you could have professionally installed.
You might see slightly higher voltages with some panels, but you probably won’t actually see a single panel that is 500W or more.
That said, if you are looking to go completely off the grid, panels in this range probably make the most sense.
That’s simply because the panels do take up space, and you’re probably going to need 10 or more 400W panels to completely power an entire house.
500 Watt Solar Panel
Again, if you’re looking for a 500 watt solar panel, you might be looking for a while. For now, your best bet is to combine two or three smaller panels.
You could buy two of the RICH SOLAR panels or two of the 300W panels from Renology.
That being said, 500-watt panels are on their way. In fact, they’ll be available soon from Trina, so that’s something to keep in mind.
1000 Watt Solar Panel
As you could have guessed by now, looking for a 1000 watt solar panel would be fruitless. Perhaps such a high-powered single panel will be available at some point in the future.
But, for now, we’re left buying multiple panels.
If 1000 watts is what you’re after, you can buy five of the panels from RICH SOLAR. Alternatively, you could wait for the 500 watt solar panels from Trina.
Whichever option you pick, multiple panels is inevitable at this point if you need 1000 watts of power.
How Do You Install Solar Panels?
I feel it’s important to mention this because buying solar panels directly from Amazon or elsewhere implies you may be installing them yourself.
But that’s not exactly an easy task given that you will have to deal with electrical wiring. You can certainly find guides on installing them yourself, but it might be worth leaving to a professional.
Depending on where you live, you may have several companies that offer solar panel installation. Tesla for example offers solar roof installation, but you may have small, local companies that offer it, too.
I do intend to put together a guide in the near future on how to install your own solar panels. In the meantime, I would recommend searching for a DIY guide if that’s what you need.
What is The Cost to Install Solar Panels?
Although the cost of solar panels is continuing to decline, the biggest cost to install of installation remains the panels themselves.
In fact, other than the additional components I mention in my off-grid article, you won’t have many additional costs.
As far as the cost of the panels, again, it’s not a small one. The Home Depot has a useful table that can help you estimate the total cost.
Yes, the total cost will probably be in the five-figure range. And while that up-front cost will likely be prohibitive for many, it’s important to think long-term.
This video from Matt Ferrell is a good resource for those having trouble justifying the up-front cost:
Again, I’m not saying solar panels aren’t expensive–they absolutely are. But even with the exorbitant up-front cost, they can still pay themselves off in the long run.
Conclusion on Best Rooftop Solar Panels
There are already quite a few options available for rooftop solar panels. That said, researchers are constantly developing new materials and ways to make solar panels better.
As the technology progresses, you can expect to see more and more of them–both because there are more solar panels available and because such improvements will make them more attractive for potential buyers.
Needless to say, I am very excited about this technology and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Have you installed solar panels on your roof or had them professionally installed? If so, let us know about your experience in the comments.