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Solar Panel Efficiency - Everything You Should Know

By Benjamin Strusnik January 14, 2022

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth. How to efficiently use this solar energy is a widely researched question which we answer for you in this article.

Important criteria considered by most people when selecting solar panel kits is their efficiency. A more efficient panel also allows you to optimize the energy produced while reducing the amount of space used.

At ShopSolarKits, we source highly respected and reputable brands to bring you the best solution for your energy needs. 

What Is Solar Panel Efficiency?

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells which convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity. Solar panels can’t convert all the solar energy they receive into usable electricity. The actual energy that the photovoltaic cells can convert into electricity, therefore, determines the panel's efficiency.

The average efficiency of solar panels is between 15 and 25 percent. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the solar panel.

most efficient solar panels

So if a solar panel has 20% efficiency this means it can convert 20% of the sunlight hitting its panels into usable electricity. Whereas, a less efficient panel requires more panels to produce the same amount of electricity compared to its more efficient counterpart.

Types of Solar Panels to Consider

Each type of solar panel comes with advantages and disadvantages. Not all solar panels are alike and how much energy a solar panel produces and its efficiency can be determined by the type of panel purchased.

1)    Monocrystalline solar panels – Although they use the oldest technology, they are the most efficient type of solar panel and produce a high wattage per square foot. Due to the higher silicon content, these panels tend to be more expensive.

2)    Polycrystalline solar panels – These are the newer technology silicon panels with a less uniform appearance. They aren’t as resistant to light and heat as the monocrystalline panels and therefore the average lifespan of the polycrystalline panel is less than that of the monocrystalline panel.

3)    Thin-film solar panels – These are still relatively new in the industry and therefore developments and changes are ongoing. They have a thin film that allows for flexibility and versatility. However, this type of panel degrades faster than conventional systems and also requires more space to be more efficient. 

Finding the Most Efficient Solar Panel

Generally, the cheaper solar panels tend to have lower efficiency levels and the more expensive solar panels are more efficient. Monocrystalline solar panels are certainly the most efficient panels to use.

Other factors to think through are wattage and panel size. A larger panel can generally produce greater wattage. The higher the wattage of the solar panel, the more electricity it can produce.

You also want your solar panel to absorb sunlight and not reflect it, so consider the anti-reflective coatings used by your chosen brand.

The greater number of high-quality panels you can add to your system, the more of the sun’s energy can be harnessed and turned into usable electricity.

A good solar battery stores the energy your solar panels produce during the day for your use at night. 

Benefits of More Efficient Solar Panels

efficiency of solar panels

Cost-saving 

In the long run, you’ll realize the benefit of your initial high-end purchase. Efficient solar panels create more electricity and thereby provide better value. You can effectively lower your electricity bill.

Space-saving

You can install fewer panels that are of higher efficiency thus meeting your energy needs without using up too much space.

Planet-saving

You are doing your part to save the planet by using sustainable and renewable energy. You can reduce your carbon footprint while improving the value of your home.

How To Make Solar Panels More Efficient?

Many external factors influence the real-world operating efficiency of solar panels. Some factors to consider on how to increase solar panel efficiency would be:

1)    Roof Space

The amount of roof space you have available determines the number of solar panels you can install. This affects the type of panel you need, with higher quality panels needing less space but coming at a higher cost.

2)    Solar Panel Installation

Properly installed solar panels ensure that the maximum amount of sunlight is captured. The right angle and orientation of the panels need to be considered to gain the highest amount of sun exposure. An adequate gap needs to be left between the panel and the roof to prevent overheating of the panels. Heat build-up is known to reduce the output power by 10% to 25%.

3)    Shade

If you’re positioning your panels in an area that receives maximum sun exposure then you could install panels with an average or lower efficiency rate since they will be getting more sunlight. On the other hand, if your panels are installed in shaded spots then you will want to invest in panels that have a higher efficiency rating to increase the amount of energy you get.

4)    Cleaning Excessive Dust or Dirt

Over time, the efficiency of your solar panels deteriorates from dust and dirt settling on them. Rain can effectively clean them off. However, if rainfall is scarce you need to clean your solar panels regularly to maintain their efficiency. Anything that blocks the sunlight from reaching your solar panel will reduce your solar panel's effectiveness.

5)    Solar Panel Age

Solar panels lose a bit of their efficiency the older they get. However, they’re still expected to work as well as they originally were intended for, just at a slightly reduced efficiency rate. As innovations grow, newer panels are going to be able to work at an even higher efficiency rate than the older ones.

How Solar Panel Efficiency Varies by Product

Practically, you can have two solar panels of the same size, however, one can have a 20 percent efficiency rating and the other a 16 percent efficiency rating. If they are both exposed to the same amount of sunlight for the same length of time, the 20 percent efficiency panel will produce higher kilowatt-hours(kWh) of electricity compared to the 16 percent efficiency panel.

Therefore, investing in the more efficient solar panel can amount to bill savings in the long run while allowing you to maximize energy usage.

Most Efficient Solar Panels

Here are a few of ShopSolarKit's most efficient solar panels. Remember that all our panels come with free lifetime after-sale support.

200 Watt Solar Panel | High-Efficiency 12V Monocrystalline - 19.98% Efficiency

If you’re looking for a portable solution for your RV, boat, or other applications when you’re off the grid, then the 200 Watt Solar Panel is for you. It makes use of monocrystalline panels that result in higher efficiency energy output (in this case 19.98% efficiency).

how efficient are solar panels

This panel can withstand severe weather conditions and also performs well on cloudy days, early mornings, and evenings.

SolarEver USA 360 Watt Solar Panel | Monocrystalline | 12/25-Year Warranty

This high-efficiency solar panel (up to 20.38% efficiency) is great for rooftop installations. The 360 Watt Solar Panel is certified to withstand severe wind and snow conditions. Its advanced glass and cell surface textured design allow for excellent low-light performance.

high efficiency solar panels

The panels also perform well under extreme environmental conditions, ensuring their efficiency doesn’t drop over time. Made in North America, the quality of this panel is something we stand by.

100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger Rockpals

This 100W Foldable Solar Panel is perfect for charging or running small electronics when the power grid goes out. The plus side of this solar panel is that it works with most solar generators on the market.

solar panels efficiency

Its conversion efficiency is on the high end with ranges between 21.5% – 23.5% of solar power converted into usable electricity. This solar panel is ideal for camping or just about any outdoor trip you have on the cards.

200 Watt Folding Solar Panel Suitcase | MC4 Connectors - Compatible w/ Bluetti, EcoFlow, Titan, Hysolis Solar Generators

This is one of our most portable 200W Solar Panels available that can be taken with you on any of your outdoor adventures. It is widely compatible with most solar generators.

most efficient solar panel

This solar panel offers a conversion efficiency of up to 23.5%. It is made from durable and waterproof material and can endure some of the toughest conditions.   

Solar Panel Efficiency FAQs

What Is the Most Efficient Type of Solar Panel?

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient due to their uniform composition. They can achieve superior performance; however, this is at a higher cost.

How Can I Tell the Real-world Efficiency of My Solar Panel?

Have a look at your panel's temperature coefficient to better understand how the efficiency may vary due to changing weather conditions outdoors. Apart from the weather the other factors that determine the efficiency of your panel include any installation issues or even dirt on your panel.

Can I calculate solar panel voltage?

Under Standard Test Conditions each cell can produce approximately 0.5V. Therefore, when calculating solar panel output you need to do the following:

A typical 12V solar panel has 36 cells in series thereby giving an output of 18V, which will be reduced to about 15V by the use of a regulator.

How Can I Produce More Electricity On a Budget?

High-efficiency solar panels produce more electricity in a smaller area. They come at a higher price but are mostly necessary if you have limited roof space.

If you’re on a budget you can still get high-quality standard efficiency solar panels to meet your electricity needs especially if you have the space for it. 

To Summarize

When searching for the most efficient solar panel for your needs there are several factors to take into consideration. If you can invest a higher amount of money in a premium quality solar panel, then you are sure to get a panel that produces your electricity at a higher efficiency rate.

With that being said, maximum output cannot be achieved if the criteria for making solar panels more efficient are not met. You need to ensure that the installation and maintenance of your solar panels are correctly applied to benefit from their electricity output.

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