Why Tesla Solar Panels are the Best You Can Buy (Or are They?)


Why Tesla Solar Panels are the Best You Can Buy

Many people look at Tesla as the leader in solar energy for residential systems. Tesla touts its home energy systems as the best on the market.  Many homeowners considering solar for their home face a daunting task to answer the question, are Tesla solar panels really the best?

Comparisons of the photovoltaic cells typically installed as part of a Tesla solar power residential installation with cells manufactured by other companies show that the Tesla cells fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.  From the standpoint of power output and efficiency, Tesla cells are not the best you can buy.

Although Tesla has done a good job marketing, Tesla isn’t the only game in town. Let’s take a look at how their solar panels compare to the competition. We’ll give you the facts so you can make your own decision.

Tesla Residential Solar Systems – How They Rate

In 2016 Tesla purchased a company named SolarCity, a residential solar power company.  At the time of the purchase, Tesla announced that its strategy was to streamline the manufacturing of both solar cells and battery storage systems.

Most people didn’t realize and still don’t understand that SolarCity while being the largest installer of residential solar energy systems in the United States, didn’t own any solar cell manufacturing.   All the solar cells installed by SolarCity came from third-party vendors.

Tesla partnered with Panasonic to provide solar cells, which Tesla used in its new solar panel design.  In 2020, Panasonic ceased providing solar cells to Tesla.  Tesla has recently been buying solar cells from a company called Hanwha.

Looking Across the Solar Cell Industry

Efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity and the output of solar panels is the best way to judge how solar panels compare.  Most reputable solar power panel manufacturers make this information available.  For best comparisons, figures from independent testing labs are the most reliable.  What we found across the industry shows how several of the leading supplier’s products rank.

MakeModelPowerEfficiency
SunPowerMaxeon 3400W22.5%
LGNeon R380W22.0%
RECAlpha380W21.7%
Longi SolarHi-Mo 4375W20.6%
Trina SolarHoney M DEO8375W20.5%
SolariaPower XT370W20.5%
Jinko SolarTiger Pro 6R13390W20.4%
Canadian SolarHIDM CS1H-MS345W20.4%
Phono SolarTwinPlus M4-9B-R375W20.4%
Q CellsQ.Peak DUO G8+360W20.3%

Clean Energy Review

How Tesla Fairs – Look in the Middle of the Pack

The Hanwha cells used by Tesla failed to make the top 10.  The Hanwha solar cells produce only 315W of power and an 18.7% efficiency rating.   The Tesla solar panels are certainly not the best, but they aren’t the worst, either.

The solar panel market is overwhelmed with much cheaper solar panels from China and other pacific rim manufacturing plants.  A search on Amazon, Ali-express, and other mass marketers return a plethora of solar panel options.

In most cases, the efficiency rating on these cheaper solar cells can range from 11 to 15 percent.  Considering the entire range of available solar panels, Tesla is average at best.

What Tesla Does do Well – Marketing and Presentation

Tesla does excel in several areas, particularly in its solar panel products’ marketing and visual presentation.  The design of the Tesla solar panel installations is sleek and appealing. The factors that most solar system buyers like about the Tesla system include:

  • Low profile installations – The Tesla design keeps the solar panel mounts close to the roof surface. 
  • All black surfaces – The solar panels feature an all-black finish.  There is no metallic sheen or reflective surfaces to distract the eye toward the solar panel array on the roof.
  • Fairings and flashing – Tesla adds fairings and flashings on the edges of their installation to create the allusion that the solar panel installation is part of the roof.

None of these features adds any efficiency to the Tesla solar power systems.  These visual enhancements do create marketing and sales points.   Most homeowners have concerns about how the solar panels’ look on their roof will affect the home’s curb appeal.

Is Panel Efficiency That Important?

Efficiency is certainly one of the top considerations when choosing solar panels for a residential roof installation.  However, homeowners should also consider

  • Quality of the panels
  • Reliability and durability
  • Service and Warranty

Quality Matters – Life Span and Efficiency

The quality of the solar panels you select for your home is directly tied to the return on your investment.  The quality of the panels in your system expresses itself in several ways

In general, the life span of solar panels across the industry is between 25 and 30 years.  Don’t worry too much about lifespan.  Even the cheapest and lowest quality solar panels will produce electricity for many years.  However, the efficiency and output of solar cells degrade every year.  The higher the quality of the cells, the less degradation occurs.

Quality Means Durability and Reliability

Solar panels must be tough to withstand exposure to harsh weather, sunshine, and exposure to damage on the roof.  The quality of the construction of the solar panels on your roof is directly related to how well they will stand up to constant weather and exposure.

As solar panels degrade, the reliability also begins to drop.  Solar panels are constructed with arrays of smaller solar cells.  Poor construction can lead to the failure of these individual cells, reducing the power output and efficiency of the entire solar panel.

Service and Warranty

Even the best solar panels are not immune to damage.  Windstorms, hail, or an errant baseball can damage your solar panels.  Higher quality solar panels usually come with a better warranty.  Using a reputable dealer to purchase your solar array can mean better follow-up service and a professional installation.

Keeping Your Panels Working at Peak Efficiency

No matter where you buy your solar system or which company manufactures it, keeping the system operating at peak efficiency makes good sense.  To maintain your solar panel array, you should:

  • Keep your panels clean.  Any debris, dust, or other material on the surface of your solar panels will reduce the efficiency of the electric production
  • Monitor the system regularly.  Keeping track of the amount of electricity your system produces over time can help you spot fluctuations in the energy production that may point to problems in your system.
  • If you get frequent heavy accumulations, you should remove any snow buildup on your solar panels as soon as possible.  Not only does the snow cover prevent the solar panels from producing electricity, but heavy snow accumulations can also damage the structure of the panels.
  • Check the mounting hardware and electrical connections for damage or loose parts.  The mounting hardware and electrical connections are subject to the same harsh environmental conditions as the panels themselves.  Visually inspect these parts of your system as you clean the panels.

The Final Verdict – How Good Are Tesla Solar Panels

Doing a comparison of the solar panels on the market, the verdict is in. Overall, Tesla solar panels are average.  They are certainly not the best solar panels you can buy. However, they are not the worst.  Taking a look at the competition, there are better and stronger options.

Do the research. In the end, many factors weigh in the decision on what solar electrical system to install on your home. We hope that the information provided in this article helps you make the best choice possible.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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