Considering a switch to solar, but not sure which panels to pick? Here's our guide to choosing the best solar panel system for your home
The best solar panels are an excellent investment to power your home sustainably for decades to come. And while energy bills remain sky-high, solar panel prices have dropped significantly over the years, making residential solar power a better buy than ever before.
Buying solar panels isn’t like buying other home appliances. Instead of pulling them off the shelf, you usually go through a specialist solar power installation company. However, it’s well worth finding out in advance which panels are best for your roof, your needs and your budget. For example, the most efficient models are great for shady spots and limited space, while others are designed to withstand direct sunlight in a heatwave.
To find out more about how to choose the best solar panels for your home and your energy needs, read on for our buying guide, below which you’ll find our roundup of mini-reviews. Or, for a quick list of recommendations, see our at-a-glance list.
Best solar panels: At a glance
|Best solar panels for UK homes
|SunPower Maxeon 6 AC
|Best solar panels to last a lifetime
|Project Solar Evolution Titan
|Best-looking solar panels
|Belinus M8 HJT Glass-Glass 400W
|Best solar panels for an old roof
|Panasonic HIT N340
How to choose the best solar panels for you
What are the different types of solar panels?
Most residential solar panel systems in the UK are roof-mounted collections (‘arrays’) of PV (photovoltaic) panels, made using either monocrystalline silicon or the cheaper and less efficient polycrystalline silicon.
There are a few other types of solar panel you can get for domestic energy systems. Thin-film and portable solar panels are less powerful than standard monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, but are also lighter and more versatile, making them ideal for DIY and off-grid (separate from the mains) uses such as sheds, campervans and houseboats. You can also buy solar thermal systems, which look like a row of tubes and are designed to produce heat from the sun’s light.
Can I buy solar panels off the shelf for DIY?
We don’t recommend going the DIY route with a conventional rooftop residential solar PV array. Installing solar panels combines two of the riskiest trades going – roof work and electrics – so DIY installation generally isn’t worth the money it saves you. To meet legal requirements and qualify for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which reduces your bills if you produce more electricity than you use, your panels have to be fitted by an MCS-certified installer.
The DIY approach is only recommended for smaller projects such as sheds and campervans. Amazon has portable solar panels for as little as £70 that provide all the renewable energy you need for a camping trip. But for residential PV panels, you’ll want to get a quote from an installation company or three.
The specialist company will survey your roof, produce a tailored quote, and then install the panels and system safely for you – with all the required certification.
Even when going through a professional installer, you may still find it useful to check out the per-panel prices and detailed specs of panels that are sold individually online, either by the manufacturer or a third-party seller. For example, the Panasonic HIT N340 – our pick for best solar panel for old roofs – costs £250/panel from Plug-in Solar, where you can get more info and photos.
READ NEXT: How do solar panels work?
Should I get solar panels from my electricity supplier?
You can, but you don’t have to. Some big-name energy suppliers supply and install solar PV systems (EDF and E.On, for example), and if you’re particularly happy with them as your energy supplier then you may decide to use them for your switch to solar. But it may work out cheaper to have your panels provided and installed by a specialist solar company. All you need to do is let your electricity supplier know that you’ve had solar panels fitted.
READ NEXT: Solar panels grants, explained
How do I choose the best solar panels installer?
Your best bet is to use the quote-finding tool above, then get three quotes from different providers. Each quote should include specs of the proposed solar PV system, including how much electricity it will produce, and how this compares with your current usage (which you can get from your energy bill).
Before you decide on a quote, the company should send a registered surveyor to carry out detailed checks of your roof in person, and give you a fully itemised list of what you’re paying for.
The average solar PV system costs a cool £6,000. So, considering the spend, any company worth its salt should happily take the time to answer your questions, explain your options, help you decide on the best solar panels for your home, and take your own preferences into account.
READ NEXT: How to clean solar panels
What features should I look for in the best solar panels?
Efficiency: Industry average efficiency for a single solar PV panel is about 21%, with the top-performing solar panels achieving up to 23%. Great, but what does that actually mean? In this context, efficiency is the proportion of sunlight energy that the panel can convert into electricity. If you live in a shaded spot or you have limited roof space, you’ll want a system that’s particularly efficient at converting light into electricity.
Power: This refers to the amount of energy a panel can produce in peak conditions. Current industry standard is 400 watts per hour. The more powerful a solar panel, the bigger, heavier and more expensive it will tend to be.
Weight: The average 1 x 2m solar PV panel weighs up to 30kg (15kg/m²), on top of roof tiles that weigh around 30-60kg/m². Your poor roof! If your roof is on the old side or gets battered by the wind, lightweight panels are a better bet. Look for a high efficiency rating to offset any loss in power.
Product warranty: With solar panel prices coming down and energy bills going up, a solar PV system no longer takes more than a decade to pay for itself – it’s more like seven years now. Even so, you’ll want to make sure that your panels are working, and working well, after several years on your roof. Luckily, the average solar panel product warranty is an impressive 25 years, and one of our best solar panels even comes with a lifetime warranty.
Performance warranty: All solar panel manufacturers also offer a promise of future performance, calculated as a proportion of original performance level. A performance warranty of 75% after 30 years may sound good, but all our best solar panels do much better than that, with one even promising 88% after 40 years.
Heat resistance: Solar panels love a good heatwave, right? Nope. They thrive on light, not heat. Like humans, they start to flag when the mercury rises too far, losing around 0.4% in efficiency for every degree over 25°C. Note that when the ambient temperature is 25°C, the direct sun shining on a solar panel will be much hotter than that, probably 40°C or more, meaning a significant reduction in energy output. So if you live in a warm spot, look for a heat-resistance figure of under 0.3%.
Get a free quote for solar panel installation today
Find out how much solar panels could cost you – and save yourself valuable time and money – by taking our quick survey below.
The best residential solar panels you can buy in 2024
1. SunPower Maxeon 6 AC: The best solar panels for UK homes
Price when reviewed: From around £350 exc. installation (per panel) | Find out more at SunPower
If you live in a small terraced house with limited roof space, overcast skies and seasonal leaf fall (basically, you live in the UK), SunPower’s new Maxeon 6 AC panels are a superb choice. They’re lightweight, powerful and incredibly efficient, adeptly converting the sun’s rays into home electricity – even when the clouds take up permanent residence.
These panels look a bit different from the norm. Each one has a micro-inverter that works on its own to turn solar energy into electricity. Conventional systems have one central inverter, usually in your loft, and they only perform as well as their weakest panel (say, the one covered in leaves or shade). So a system of micro-inverters makes your roof much more productive.
Then there’s the green appeal. Each Maxeon 6 AC panel is made from recycled materials, which adds to the already significant eco credentials of solar. And with a product and power warranty of 40 years, these panels are effectively built to last and work for a lifetime. Definitely something to mention when you come to sell your home!
SunPower doesn’t publish individual prices for the Maxeon 6 AC, and the price you pay for your system will depend on many factors. But these panels are likely to cost from around £350 each, plus installation.
Key specs – Power: 420-440W; Efficiency: Up to 22.8%; Weight: 21.8kg; Heat resistance: -0.29% per °C; Warranty: 40 years product and power coverage
2. Project Solar Evolution Titan 445: Best solar panels to last a lifetime
Price when reviewed: From around £800 inc. installation (per panel) | Find out more at Project Solar
UK company Project Solar is so confident about its Evolution Titan panels that it has given them a rare lifetime guarantee, plus an impressive promise of 84% performance after 30 years. So, if you’re pondering solar as a long-term investment, these panels won’t let you down.
The lengthy guarantees don’t come at the cost of power, either: the Evolution Titan achieves an above-average 445W and good efficiency, especially in low light. These panels even look rather beautiful, thanks to a sleek black top layer that isn’t at all shown off to its best in Project Solar’s photo (above).
Project Solar is also a little coy on cost. Rather than list individual panel price, it says that the average 10-panel system will cost around £8,000. That’s on the expensive side, although it does include installation and parts.
Key specs – Power: 445W; Efficiency: 21.4%; Weight: 21.8kg; Heat resistance: -0.34% per °C; Product warranty: Lifetime; Performance warranty: 84% after 25 years
3. AIKO N-Type ABC White Hole Series (72 cell): Best solar panels for a big family
Price when reviewed: From £188 | Find out more at AIKO
Things change fast in the world of solar panels. When we first published this article in 2023, the most powerful residential solar panels boasted power ratings of 500W or more and efficiency ratings of 22% or more. Now along comes this trailblazer from AIKO, boasting 620W of power and an unprecedented efficiency rating of 24% to help you make the most of the sun’s rays all year round.
These sleek-looking panels offer a long lifespan, too, and are guaranteed to retain more than 89.5% of their original power rating after 30 years. As such, they’re ideal if you have a growing family with significant energy needs. However, they’re big and heavy, so they won’t be suitable for older or more delicate roofs, and the product warranty of 15 years is relatively modest.
We had assumed that these panels would be very expensive – partly because of their specs, but also because AIKO doesn’t reveal prices upfront. However, retailer Plug-in Solar is currently selling these panels for a mere £188 each including VAT.
Key specs – Power: 595-620W; Efficiency: 23-24%; Weight: 28.2kg; Heat resistance: -0.29% per °C; Product warranty: 15yrs; Performance warranty: 89.5% after 30 years
4. SunPower Maxeon 3: Best solar panels for top performance for decades
Price when reviewed: From around £300-£350 exc. installation (per panel) | Find out more at SunPower
SunPower is onto another winner with its Maxeon 3 panels, whose appearance and specs are similar to the Maxeon 6 AC, but without the individual micro-inverters. The panel has a brilliant efficiency rating and, like the Maxeon 6 AC, is made from recycled materials. And with a 40-year performance warranty, you’re set for reliable sustainable electricity for many decades to come. The price is reasonable too, coming it at around £300-£350 per panel. As ever, the overall cost of the system will depend on the particular needs of your installation.
Key specs – Power: 415-430W; Efficiency: Up to 22.7%; Weight: 21.1kg; Heat resistance: -0.27% per °C; Product warranty: 40 years; Warranty: 40 years product and power coverage
5. Panasonic HIT N340: Best solar panels for an old roof
Price when reviewed: From around £250 exc. installation (per panel) | Find out more at Panasonic
The state of your roof could be the biggest speed bump on your road to energy self-sufficiency. Heavy panels are just too bulky to be safe on old and delicate roofs, and even medium-weight panels are risky. So these brilliantly lightweight HIT panels from Panasonic are a godsend for period properties and outbuildings.
These panels are the least powerful on our list, as you may expect given their petite nature. Nevertheless, dual layers of ultra-thin silicon get them surprisingly close to the industry average of 350W per panel, all while hogging much less space than average. They also perform brilliantly in high temperatures.
You can buy individual panels off the shelf for £250 each, which is cheaper than average. Of course, you’ll end up paying more as part of a specialist installation package, but it’s always handy to go in with an idea of basic panel costs.
Key specs – Power: 340W; Efficiency: 20.3%; Weight: 18.5kg; Heat resistance: -0.25.8% per °C; Product warranty: 25 years; Performance warranty: 90.76% after 25 years
6. Q Cells Q Peak Duo BLK ML-G9: Best solar panels for a shady spot
Price when reviewed: N/S | Find out more at Q Cells
These panels boast top-notch efficiency in lower light, making them a brilliant choice for reliable electricity output all year round. They’re also pleasingly small and light. Less welcome is the dinky size of the product warranty, which stands at just 12 years. The performance warranty promises 86% after 25 years, though, which is about what you’d expect.
Key specs – Power: 385W; Efficiency: 21.4%; Weight: 19.5kg; Heat resistance: -0.35% per °C; Product warranty: 12 years; Performance warranty: At least 85% after 25 years
7. Belinus M8 HJT Glass-Glass 400W: Best-looking solar panels
Price when reviewed: POA | Find out more at BelinusThe M8 HJT solar panels from Belgian solar manufacturer Belnius are variously called Glass-Glass, GlasGlas and Double Glass, which can get confusing. But there’s no confusion over their big plus point: they look incredible. Fully black, with no white backing to distract the eye, these sleek panels will give your house a classy, modern finish that will soon have the neighbours asking for details.
The Glass-Glass is a great all-rounder, whose slightly below average yield of 400W is offset by its high efficiency of 22%, superb 35-year product warranty and excellent performance warranty that promises 86% of original yield after 35 years. We’re also impressed by the green credentials of the company, which uses solar and other renewable sources to power more than 60% of its own energy usage.
Key specs – Power: 400W; Efficiency: 22%; Weight: 23.5kg; Heat resistance: -0.25% per °C; Product warranty: 35yrs; Performance warranty: 86% after 35 years