Residential solar power is gaining traction among buyers. After acquiring Solar City, Tesla is one of the big names in the industry. However, competition from companies like LG is making the market more accessible to homeowners.
Tesla wins out over LG. Tesla and LG are two of the top competitors in the home solar market. When considering which company offers more value, Tesla had the edge. The cost of solar below $2.00/watt, and the nature of the Powerwall AC-coupled design make for a product that ultimately ends up in lower dependency on the power grid.
We compared a number of variables to determine why Tesla is the more valuable solar technology. Take a look at our reasoning and see if you agree.
Tesla Is A More Valuable Option
When attacking the question of “which is better,” overall value comes to mind. So, we decided to compare many aspects of each company while viewing each through the lens of: “how is this valuable to the customer?”
To do this, we put Tesla and LG head-to-head in the following subjects:
- Battery Capacity
- Panel Aesthetics
- Customer Service & Warranty Support
- Tax Incentives
Have a look at the table below for a summary of how Tesla and LG stack up. Don’t worry; we go into detail later on.
|Panel Power Output||340 W||330 W to 375 W|
|Cost||$1.49/W – $2.01/W||$2.40/W – $3.12/W|
|Battery Capacity||13.5 kWh||9.8 kWh|
|Aesthetics||No visible grid, solar roof is an option as well||Some panels available in black|
|Customer Service||Full-service installation, user-friendly app, 24/7 system monitoring||Full-service installation, user-friendly app|
|Warranty Support||25-year panel coverage, 10-year battery coverage (unlimited cycles)||25-year panel coverage, 10-year battery coverage (limited cycle)|
|Tax Incentives||22%, up for renewal in 2022||22%, up for renewal in 2022|
Note that the comparison above considers LG solar panels vs. Tesla solar panels. Tesla’s solar roof option was not compared here. This was done to keep things apples-to-apples because LG simply does not offer solar roofing.
However, the fact that Tesla offers solar roofing and LG does not was definitely considered in the overall comparison of these two companies as residential solar power providers. So, it did have an effect on our decision.
More on the solar roof vs. solar panels later on, though. First, let’s jump into the technical comparison of each company’s solar panels.
Efficiency Is Critical
When it comes to power, efficiency is the driver of cost. So we decided to take a look at this first. As it turns out, both Tesla and LG boast a 97.5% efficiency rate. LG is able to claim that their number is California Energy Commission-weighted (CEC). Tesla, on the other hand, does not state on its website whether its 97.5% value is weighted or peak efficiency.
For the sake of this comparison though, we’re going to assume that Tesla’s reported efficiency is peak and not CEC-weighted. Thus, we assume that LG slightly edges out Tesla in terms of efficiency, but not by much.
Efficiency of What, Exactly?
The numbers above are the efficiency ratings of the power inverters that each company provides as part of their solar systems. The inverter is what converts the DC power coming in from solar panels to the AC power that all your household gadgets and lights are wired for.
So, when LG says their inverters are 97.5% efficient, they are telling us that 97.5% of the sun’s energy collected by the panels goes to your household circuit.
Knowing this % efficiency is important because it directly impacts two variables that can adjust your energy bill’s bottom line: power available to your household and power surplus sent back to the grid.
Power Available to Your Household
This one is pretty simple. The more efficient your system, the more solar power there is available to keep your lights on. We’ll get into the battery backup systems that each company offers later on. The more solar power available to keep your lights on, the less you have to pay the power company for that amperage. Money in your pocket.
Power Surplus Provided Back to The Grid
This variable is a less direct way of putting money in your pocket, but again efficiency will come into play. If your backup battery is fully charged, your lights are out, and your solar panels are still soaking up the sun, that power needs to go somewhere. That somewhere is back to the grid.
Most power companies, depending on where you live, have programs in which they credit your account based on the amount of energy your solar system is giving back to the grid.
So, if you’re household is running a power surplus (usually in the summer months), you’ll get a credit in dollars with the power company to either lower your bills or supplement the winter days when your panels aren’t generating as much power.
The verdict: Either way, Tesla and LG solar systems are neck and neck in terms of inverter efficiency, and we docked Tesla a bit for not reporting whether their data is CEC-weighted or not.
How Much Power Is Being Inverted?
Efficiency is important, but it’s not the whole picture. That is especially true in this comparison where both the Tesla and LG inverters have virtually the same efficiency. So, what to look at next?
Not All Solar Panels Harness the Same Amount of Power
The actual amount of power available from each solar panel. Why? Because simple math says that 97.5% of a higher number is more than 97.5% of a lower number. So, let’s compare an LG solar panel to a Tesla solar panel in terms of how many raw watts of solar power each can harness and redirect to your house.
Tesla makes one residential solar panel option. Their panel is 68.5″ x 40.6,” and it’s capable of putting out 340 watts.
We compared this to the LG NeON R and NeON 2 60 Cell solar panel models, mainly because they are the closest in size to the Tesla panel. LG actually sells different wattage options for each model, and the bottom line is that the options range from 330 watts up to 375 watts.
LG manufactures and offers solar panels that are capable of putting out more power than Tesla solar panels. And mind you, the LG Neon R 375W panel has a slightly smaller footprint, at 66.9″ x 40″.
The verdict: LG wins out here. More power, smaller footprint.
Next up, we’ll take a look at the cost of each panel to see if that extra 35 watts is worth it.
How Much Does Each System Cost?
We are going to compare these two companies on a cost per watt basis. The reason for this is that there is so much variation between individual solar systems.
Cost of the System
Both LG and Tesla will design a unique system to best meet your power needs. Some things that will impact the way that system looks are:
- The size of your roof and how much of it is facing the sun throughout the day
- The amount of power your household typically draws
- The local “soft costs” for things like permitting and inspections during installation
So, let’s look at the cost per watt in the US for each of these two companies.
Keep in mind that these costs are for installed solar panels on your roof. Tesla is clearly the lower cost option here, and they know it. They are currently claiming the lowest cost in America and backing it up with a money-back guarantee.
Cost of the Backup Battery
As for power storage, let’s take a look at the cost of a Tesla Powerwall 2 vs. an LG Chem Resu. We’ll get into the technical comparison of these two backup batteries later on, but here’s the cost breakdown of each backup battery.
*Powerwall price when purchased with solar panels as part of a system. Cost is $12,000 without panels.
Assuming we are installing a solar system from scratch and purchasing panels plus a backup battery system all at once, the Tesla Powerwall is the better bet. It’s also an AC-coupled battery vs. the DC-coupled LG Chem Resu. We’ll explain that in a bit.
Verdict: In terms of cost, Tesla is the winner in the context of our comparison.
Backup Battery Storage Is Important
Solar panels are great, but they only produce energy while the sun is shining. When the sun goes down, and it comes time to actually turn the lights on, you’ll want a good battery system to draw from.
Let’s compare the technical specs and features of the Tesla Powerwall 2 against the LG Chem Resu.
One Powerwall 2 is capable of storing 13.5 kWh of energy. By comparison, the LG Resu can capacitate 9.8 kWh. Obviously, here more capacity is better because it means less power required from the grid. Less power from the grid is what lowers the bottom line of your energy cost.
The winner: Tesla
Battery capacity is one thing, and the other side of the same coin is a battery’s potential for power output. As you run appliances and turn on lights in your house, you increase the amount of power drawn from the battery at a given time. So, higher power output is more desirable. Couple that with a higher capacity, and you can keep more lights on for a longer time.
In terms of power output, the Tesla Powerwall edges out the LG Resu battery again. The Powerwall 2 is able to put out 5kW of continuous power or 7kW of peak power. The LG Resu comes in with slightly lower power capability, putting out 3.5kW continuously and 5kW at peak.
For clarification, continuous power output is what the battery is capable of providing under normal operating conditions over an extended period of time. Peak power capability refers to maximum power output over a very short time.
The winner: Tesla is the better option in terms of both power capacity and power output capability.
AC vs. DC Coupling
As we mentioned earlier, it’s worth noting that the Tesla Powerwall 2 is an AC-coupled battery, whereas the LG Resu is a DC-coupled battery. Why does this matter? Again, we frame the answer in terms of how this will affect your energy bill.
How DC-coupled Systems Work
A DC-coupled system consists of a single inverter that takes DC power from the panels on your roof and either charges the DC battery or converts it to AC power and sends it to your house. The DC-coupled system is a simpler system, but in this case, simple does not necessarily mean better. More on that in a bit.
How an AC-coupled System Is Different
The key here is multiple inverters. DC power from the solar panels is passed through an inverter that sends AC power to your house. Excess AC power is then directed to a second inverter to charge the backup battery. If the battery is fully charged, then excess AC power is directed back to the grid.
What This Means for Your Solar Setup
So, back to DC-coupled systems. Let’s consider an example. Say you have a system with dual LG Resu batteries. The inverter in this system is capable of passing 6.6 kW of AC power on to your house. In this example, say your house requires 20 kW during the afternoon. While the sun is shining, your solar panels are delivering 7.6 kW. Great!
However, since there is a single inverter, the house would pull 7.6 kW from the solar panels and no power from the batteries. AC power can only be inverted from one source or the other, not both the panels and the battery at once. This means that in our 20 kW scenario, you’d need to draw 12.4 kW from the electric company. You wouldn’t be able to draw that 6.6kW from the fully charged batteries because they don’t have a dedicated inverter.
Why the AC-coupled Tesla Powerwall 2 Provides Big Benefit
Consider the same example, except now we have a dual Powerwall 2 setup. The house needs 20kW, and the solar panels are producing 7.6kW. Each Powerwall has its own dedicated 5kW inverter. This means that the house is able to draw from the batteries and the solar panels simultaneously.
So, to finish up the example, 2 Powerwalls at 5kW each, plus 7.6kW from the roof is 17.6 kW. Now you only require 2.4 kW from the power company to meet the power draw. Less energy from the grid means more money in your pocket.
The winner: In addition to higher battery capacity and power output, the AC-coupled nature of the Tesla Powerwall 2 system provides additional energy-saving benefits when compared to the DC-coupled LG Resu.
We touched a bit on the benefits of each Powerwall having its own dedicated inverter built-in… in terms of AC-coupling vs. DC-coupling. There is another benefit to this, though, and that is scalability.
Yes, you can stack up LG Resu batteries for more capacity, but the single inverter will limit the continuous power output available. But because each Powerwall has a dedicated 5kW inverter, the amount of power you can draw from the system increases by 5kW each time a Powerwall is added.
The winner: Tesla Powerwall.
Battery Cooling Technology
Battery temperature also plays a role in the overall performance of the system. Overheated batteries generally spell bad news. While both the LG Chem Resu and the Tesla Powerwall 2 can be mounted indoors or outdoors, their cooling systems differ.
- The Powerwall features a state-of-the-art active liquid cooling system that does a darn good job keeping the battery right in the temperature range it wants to be in.
- The LG Resu takes a passive approach to cooling, but it’s still plenty effective. This battery features a couple of heat sinks on the back that are designed to bleed off heat into the ambient air.
So, most installers of either battery will recommend mounting them in a garage if possible or a covered carport where they won’t see much sun. However, both can be mounted outdoors.
The winner: Powerwall might just fare a bit better outside due to the active nature of its cooling system.
Don’t Write Off Aesthetic Value
While solar energy is gaining traction, there are still home buyers out there who are put off by the image of big, clunky solar panel grids on the roof. While most people buy solar systems based on the technical energy cost benefits, the aesthetic design of the panels is plenty valuable, if only in a different fashion.
Tesla Solar Vs. LG – How Their Looks Compare
If you’re considering the resale value of your home or just have a certain taste in how you want your roof to look, then the appearance of the solar panels you decide to go with carries some weight in the decision.
- Tesla offers a sleek, low profile design. They’ve eliminated the traditional solar panel grid that so many people find ugly. Their designers put a lot of effort into producing a solar panel option that’ easy on the eyes.
- LG is not quite there yet. Their panels still don the blue and silver grid look. And hey, that could be your style, nothing wrong with that… especially if you plan on being in this particular house for the long haul.
This is not LG’s only option either. They do offer all-black panels for a lower profile look. Just keep in mind that the black panels are slightly less efficient as they absorb more heat. (Generally, an efficiency killer when it comes to solar).
Do Looks Really Matter?
Yes. The moral of the story here: in many cases, looks do matter. Curb appeal is real, and it has an impact on your home’s value.
The aesthetics of the batteries count, too, especially if they are going to be mounted outside! Generally speaking, the Tesla Powerwall has a very appealing, clean look to it. However, the LG Resu is anything but ugly.
In fact, of all the solar batteries, the LG option is probably a close second to the Powerwall. It does lose a few points because of those heat sinks we mentioned earlier. These create an odd-looking gap between the battery and the side of your house once mounted.
The winner: In the context of our comparison, Tesla manufactures the more aesthetically pleasing solar panels and batteries.
Don’t Forget About Tesla’s Solar Roof
We can’t talk about aesthetics without talking about the solar roof option from Tesla. This technology is still relatively young compared to the more established solar panel model, but the premise is pretty dang cool.
Instead of mounting big solar panels on top of an existing roof, this is an actual roof made up of solar capturing tiles. The result is an entire roof that works double duty by:
- Putting a roof over your head
- Providing power for the household
Tesla is currently working out their installation procedure, but they are pretty close to being able to install a solar roof in about the same amount of time it takes to install a regular old asphalt shingle roof.
A typical solar roof from Tesla can produce 8 to 12 kilowatts, which means there is little compromise in performance when compared to traditional solar panel products.
So, if the aesthetics are weighing in a bit higher in your decision matrix, then it might be worth considering the solar roof from Tesla.
Ease of Installation And Overall Customer Support
Home solar power systems are pretty low maintenance, but they are somewhat complex, and they are meant to be in service for a couple of decades or more.
This means that the support level from the supplier you get, and the peace of mind that comes with it, is pretty valuable. Same with installation, the peace of mind in knowing that the system was installed properly and all permits were acquired is a nice-to-have.
Both LG and Tesla offer full-service installation through a third party, professional installation contractors.
Both Companies Offer Help Getting Started
Tesla and LG are among the top competitors, so their available services seem pretty neck-and-neck:
- LG offers an Energy Concierge service. This helps to guide you through the process of designing a solar system specific to your house and connecting with a contractor to install it.
- Tesla does the same thing. Tesla does state on their website that their “full service” installation package includes all local inspections and permitting in addition to design and installation.
These pre-installation services seem pretty par for the course in terms of solar providers.
Both Companies Offer A User-Friendly Energy Monitoring System
The Tesla mobile app and an LG Enervu app are two user-friendly applications that allow you to keep an eye on your solar system’s performance as well as your house’s energy demands. A quick peek on the Google Play Store showed me each app’s rating.
- The Tesla App ranked at 4.1 stars
- The LG Enervu App ranked at 4.7 stars
So, LG has a better app. However, it looks like a new Enervu 2 app has just rolled out, and there don’t appear to be any reviews of that one on the Play store at the time of this article.
The Tesla advantage: Much as they do with their fleet of electric cars, their engineers and developers are constantly delivering software updates to the Powerwall to make sure that it’s performing on its highest level. This is not a service that LG provides
In the end: What Tesla lacks in their app, they make up for with 24/7 Powerwall monitoring.
Before we hop into the details of warranty coverage, there is a customer service element to Tesla’s warranty that sets them apart from LG.
- Tesla is the only company to offer advanced shipping of a replacement Powerwall. That is, if you have an issue with a Powerwall, they will ship you a new one before requiring you to return the existing one.
- LG operates the way most other solar company’s warranty departments operate – inconveniently. LG must receive the shipment of your old battery before they send you a replacement… leaving you without your solar battery backup for days or weeks, depending on how quickly the products ship.
We have to say: This one little thing that Tesla does differently makes a big difference for its customers.
Speaking of Warranties.
Both companies offer competitive warranties for their products. Each offers a 25-year performance warranty on their solar panels and a ten-year warranty on their batteries. There are a few slight differences here. Let’s highlight them.
- LG has a stronger performance warranty on their panels. Solar panels lose efficiency over time; this is a known reality of the solar industry. So, LG will replace them if their performance drops below 88.4% of the original levels before hitting the 25-year mark.
- By contrast, Tesla’s 25-year performance warranty is limited. It only covers the panels if performance drops below 80%.
At first glance, both companies offer a 10-year product warranty on their batteries, but these warranties are not created equal: the warranty on the Tesla Powerwall is for unlimited cycles, whereas the LG warranty is 10 years or 22.4 MWh energy throughput.
So, similar to a car warranty, consider the energy throughput as your battery’s “mileage.” If you hit 22.4MWh usage before 10 years, the warranty is up.
Tax Incentives Lower the Cost
For the sake of this comparison, though, neither LG or Tesla has a better Federal Tax incentive since the IRS doesn’t favor one company over the other.
All home solar costs are eligible for a 22% credit back from the government in 2021. This is known as the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This program is up for renewal in 2022, and the future of the home solar tax credit is in the hands of Congress.
Wrapping It All Up
LG and Tesla are both very competitive options for home solar. However, given the recent reduction in cost per watt that Tesla is claiming, it seems to be the more valuable option at the moment.