Solar is quickly becoming a popular alternative energy source for millions of households around America, surpassing 2 million American households earlier this year (in terms of residential solar panel installations). In addition, the solar industry is providing a ton of valuable American jobs – over 260,000 as of 2016. Solar energy can help you reduce your power bill over the long haul, even if they are a bit more expensive to set up initially. After all, you’ll be self-sustainable once you get them up and running! Unfortunately, most of the major solar panel manufacturers are using overseas parts and labor to make their products. So, we set out to find the best solar panels made in the USA. Below are our findings along with all of the factors that went into our research.
Overall, we found 3 manufacturers that are making high quality solar panels right here in the USA: Mission Solar, SolarTech Universal, and Tesla/Panasonic (they partner up to make them). Super popular solar companies like SunRun, SunLux, Vivint Solar, and several others are cutting corners and making their panels in China and other places overseas. We split out our top recommendations into a few different categories based on what we thought were the strongest features and benefits of each: durability, warranty, and smart tech. Check out tons of details on each of our picks below.
|Best Solar Panels||Best for:|
|Mission Solar||Most Durable|
|SolarTech Universal||Longest Warranty|
Recommendations: Going Deeper
Below, we break down all of the major features of each of our top picks, what we liked, what we didn’t like, and how you can learn more about each option and request a quote.
Most Durable Solar Panels
Mission Solar is making some incredible solar panels out of their headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. Their panels have the highest PTC rating among all American solar manufacturers, which is basically just a test to measure performance under real life conditions. The MSE PERC 60 is their most popular panel – it’s sleek, compact, and features their PERC technology that essentially allows for more energy generation than traditional panels, which saves you money in the end. We also really like Mission Solar’s reliability. They have a 25 year warranty on all their panels and keep more than 80% effectiveness after 25 years. You have a few different wattage options to choose from that range from 300 watts to 400 watts, which should be plenty for most homes if you get the right number of panels.
Things we like:
- Proven durability
- Sleek design
- Long warranty
- Very powerful
Things we don’t like:
- Limited pricing information on site
Solar Panels with the Longest Warranty
SolarTech Universal really impressed us with their industry leading 30 year warranty, which provides an amazing level of protection should anything happen to your solar panels. SolarTech puts a big emphasis on their manufacturing process too, using what they call SmartWire technology to make a more light absorbent solar cell. Combined with an increased number of contact points across the panel, that SmartWire tech ultimately adds a ton of low light power to the panel which helps lower your overall cost per kilowatt hour. SolarTech Universal panels are locally manufactured around their headquarters in Riviera Beach, Florida.
Things we like:
- Industry leading warranty
- Absorbs more light than several competing panels
- Lots of contact points
- Knowledgeable installers
Things we don’t like:
- Limited pricing info on site
Smartest Solar Panels
Rounding out our list is Tesla, who partnered up with Panasonic to make some incredible solar panels for homes. In particular, we were very impressed by the smart capabilities of their solar panels. They can connect directly to the Tesla Powerwall, which is essentially a battery for your home that can provide power during a grid outage. Additionally, your solar system hooks up to the Tesla mobile app, which gives you tons of insights into the performance of your solar panels and your energy usage. We also really liked Tesla’s mounting system – their panels have a low-profile design and they actually require 30% fewer anchor points than other competitors. All in all, pretty impressive solar panels from Tesla that are coming out of their Buffalo, New York factory.
Things we like:
- Connects to a mobile app
- Integrates with Powerwall
- Sleek mounting system
- Strong performance
- Great support documentation on their site
Things we don’t like:
Factors We Considered
STC and PTC Test Performance
First and foremost, we looked at test performance for each of the major solar panels that researched. There are two major types of tests: Standard Test Conditions (STC) and Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications Test Conditions (PTC).
STC testing is typically done in the factory right after the panels come off the assembly line. A worker will hook up the solar panel to a measuring device and “flash” it with fake sunlight, recording performance values for: voltage (volts), current (amps), and power (watts). These testing conditions are called “standard” because the same amount of light is tested every time – 1,000 watts per square meter – and the temperature is always the same at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. As you’ve probably thought by now, these testing conditions aren’t super representative of the real world. That’s where PTC testing comes in.
In PTC testing, the solar panels are heated up as if they are in the sun. The testing temperature is slowly raised until it reaches 113 degrees Fahrenheit and then a breeze blows across the panel that is set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and a speed of 1 meter per second. The PTC test is particularly effective because as solar panels heat up, the voltage they can produce decreases, making them less effective. Tests like this one help answer the durability question.
Using the test results and manufacturing specs, we evaluated the longevity of each solar panel to make sure they will serve you well for decades to come. Good solar panels will not only maintain their performance over time in terms of energy absorption and power output, but also be able to withstand the elements. After all, they are going to be exposed on your roof for several decades – they need to be able to get through all of the rain and wind and other factors that are thrown at them.
The warranty is a big aspect of any solar panel purchase. They are a huge investment and you need to be able to protect that investment in the event of something unexpected. We looked for solar panel manufacturers that have warranties of at least two decades.
The design of your solar panels is also important. You’re going to be attaching these panels to your roof, so they should look decent. We liked solar panels that keep a low profile and are fairly unnoticeable to the passing eye.
We also evaluated each manufacturer on their installation process. More specifically, we looked at factors like:
- Number of anchor points
- Additional cost, if any
- Time it takes
- Modifications needed, if any
The last major factor we looked at was cost. After all, we want to make sure you’re getting the best solar panels for your money. Our top picks all had good price ranges across their products and several financing options. Some of them like SolarTech Universal offer $0 down (no upfront costs) to certain eligible customers as well. Ultimately though, you have to call these companies to request a quote, so make sure you collect all available information from several different manufacturers before you make a final decision.