Solar is quickly becoming a popular renewable energy source for millions of households around the United States, 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 manufacturing 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 all of the solar panels made in the USA. Below are our findings.
Full List of Solar Panel Brands Made in the USA
Mission Solar is making a range of 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. Mission Solar also has a 25-year warranty on all their panels and keeps 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.
SolarTech Universal has an industry-leading 30-year warranty, which provides a huge 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 assembled in their manufacturing facility near their headquarters in Riviera Beach, Florida.
Rounding out our list is Tesla, which partnered up with Panasonic to make solar panels for homes that feature smart capabilities. 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. Tesla has also put thought into their mounting system – their panels have a low-profile design and they actually require 30% fewer anchor points than other competitors. Tesla’s solar panels are made at their Buffalo, New York factory.
Factors To Consider
STC and PTC Test Performance
First and foremost, look at the test performance for each of the major solar panels that you research. 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, evaluate the longevity of each solar panel to make sure they will serve you well with great solar power 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 rooftop 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. Look 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 like solar panels that keep a low profile and are fairly unnoticeable to the passing eye.
Evaluate each manufacturer on their solar installation process. More specifically, look at factors like:
- Number of anchor points
- Additional cost, if any
- Time it takes
- Modifications needed, if any
The last major factor to look at is cost. After all, you want to make sure you’re getting the best solar panels for your money. The American made options above all have 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.
What About SunPower and SolarWorld?
SunPower is a super popular U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer. Unfortunately, most of their Maxeon cell technology is made in Malaysia and the Philippines, and their panels are assembled in Mexico and France.
SolarWorld is another major name in the solar industry. They make a lot of panels in the United States but are headquartered in Germany and run a lot of their operations out of there, so we didn’t feel appropriate including them.
Along with these popular brands, here are some of the other companies we considered that didn’t make the cut due to product quality or foreign manufacturing:
- Hanwha Q CELLS (based in South Korea)
- SunRun (based in California)
- SunLux (based in California)
- Vivint Solar (based in Utah)
- LG Solar (based in South Korea)
- Jinko Solar (based in China)