Solar panels have been a hot topic of conversation for sustainably-minded people for decades, but it's taken a long time for them to become a viable option for the average person. Government subsidies have made it less expensive to outfit the roof of your home with solar panels, while tech companies have sprung up to develop smaller-scale options.
In 2022, it's possible to get solar panels designed to power your home, take camping, or replace the power adapter you use to charge your phone or other small electronics. Investing in solar panels is not only a way to reduce your carbon footprint, but using them can actually save you money. By taking part of your energy use "off the grid," solar panels can lower your monthly utility bill. Here’s how you can integrate the best solar panels into your life.
— Best Overall: Raptic Portable Power Station
— Best Budget: Grouphug Solar Charger
— Best For Camping: Jackery Solar Generator 1000
— Best Battery Pack: Nature Love Solar Power Bank
— Best For Home: Eco-Worthy Solar Power System Kit
How We Chose the Best Solar Panels
Our solar panel recommendations come from a mix of hands-on experience and research into the best options available. We picked some solar panels that were the best for one specific purpose, while two or three of our recommendations could work for different aspects of your life. In addition, we looked for solar panels that could work whether you own or rent, and live in either a house or apartment. Fortunately, there are more options than ever.
Size: The first factor you should consider when getting a solar panel is its size. Most of our solar panel recommendations are small enough to fit in a backpack or dedicated carrying case. But the largest one is several feet long and needs to be permanently attached to your roof.
Battery: Solar panels absorb the sun's rays to create energy, but they should continue to provide power even during the night. The solar panels in this guide either come with a battery or can be connected to one in order to store the energy they've created. The battery's capacity (measured in Milliamps, which is sometimes shortened to mAh) determines how much power can be stored. The batteries that are compatible with solar panels can be hooked up to anything from your smallest tech accessories to the electrical system in your house.
Power Output: Creating and storing solar energy is great, but a solar panel's power output dictates the ways you can use it. Consider this: The power adapter Apple used to ship with the iPhone could output energy at 5 watts, while the highest-ranked toaster on Amazon requires 1,800 watts. That's a wide gulf. Our solar panel recommendations can accommodate the energy requirements for both of those gadgets. You can also make sure you have power when you're off the grid with the best solar generators.
The Best Solar Panels: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Raptic Titan Solar 100
Why It Made The Cut: As our pick for the best solar panel overall, Raptic’s Titan Solar 100 is a two-panel system that’s easy to set up and carry, but capable of charging all but the most power-hungry electronics.
— Panel Size: 42 inches long x 26 inches wide (21-inches long when folded)
— Battery: N/A
— Power Output: 100 watts
— Powerful for its size
— Great value
— Includes a carrying case
— Doesn’t come with a battery
Raptic's Titan Solar 100 manages to hit the sweet spot of portability, performance, and price that makes it well-suited for all but the most power-hungry needs. The system is comprised of two 50-watt solar panels, for a total power output of 100 watts. Each solar panel works independently, but Raptic attached them using a hinge system, so they fold on top of one another for easy storage. This arrangement makes the Titan Solar 100 a lot easier to set up and break down. Raptic bundles its solar panels with a carrying case to make transportation even easier.
The Titan Solar 100 is 42 inches wide and 26 inches tall when fully unfolded, which means the solar panels are large enough to capture a lot of the sun's rays. A kickstand on the back angles them to optimize their energy absorption potential, too. Raptic says its solar panels are made out of tempered glass for improved durability, so you shouldn't have to worry about degradation with regular use. The Titan Solar 100 is by far the best value in this guide, but it comes with a catch. Raptic doesn't include a battery with its solar panels, so you'll have to get one separately. Naturally, the company recommends its own power stations: the Raptic Titan and Raptic Titan XL. The Titan Solar 100 terminates into a standard DC power connector, though, so you can use any full-sized battery that has the appropriate ports.
We're inclined to recommend pairing Raptic's solar panels with its Titan or Titan XL because we've had the opportunity to test the former. We found it to be powerful enough to charge multiple devices without breaking a sweat, and were especially impressed with its relative portability. Raptic offers free shipping on all U.S. orders, which is something to keep in mind if you order directly from its site. If you only plan on getting one set of solar panels to start your journey into renewable energy, Raptic's Solar 100 is the perfect choice.
Best Budget: Grouphug Window Solar Charger
Why It Made The Cut: Grouphug’s Window Solar Panel is an apartment-friendly solar panel capable of charging small electronics. It’s a good first step to take if you’re interested in starting to use solar power.
— Panel Size: 10 inches long, 8 inches wide
— Battery: 3,400mAh
— Power Output: 10 watts
— Apartment-friendly size
— All-in-one design
— Aesthetically pleasing
— Not very powerful
— Only one charging port
Grouphug's Window Solar Charger is not only the most budget-friendly solar panel you can get right now, it's also the easiest to set up and most versatile. The single panel is fitted inside a pane of glass, which is wrapped in a wooden frame. This solar panel is designed to live semi-permanently on your window, where it's attached using a suction cup. There's nothing to set up: unbox the Window Solar Charger, attach it to your window, and wait.
The self-contained solar panel has a built-in 3,400mAh battery, which can charge most smartphones to about 50 percent when the sun goes down. You can plug your devices directly into the Window Solar Charger's USB-A port, which is located at the bottom of the frame. Grouphug offers a USB-C to USB-A adapter for under $10, and we recommend springing for it since many tech accessories have begun shipping with a USB-C to USB-C cable. Grouphug says it'll take roughly 10 hours of sunlight to fully charge the Window Solar Charger's battery, so be mindful of your placement.
What we like most about the Window Solar Panel is the fact that it's designed for everybody. At 14 inches tall, it's the smallest solar panel we're recommending, and the only one that can be easily used indoors whether you own or rent your place. We were skeptical about the solar panel's suction cup, but it's held for several weeks without fail.
We're a little wary about the fact that the Window Solar Charger's USB-A port is built into the frame of the solar panel, because it'll be tough — if not impossible — to repair for yourself if something goes wrong. That said, Grouphug says it'll take a broken panel back to replace parts if necessary, so there is a reparability option if you need one. If you've avoided getting solar panels because of their cost, cumbersome setup, or space constraints, Grouphug's Solar Charger leaves you with no more excuses.
Best for Camping: Jackery Solar Generator 1000
Why It Made The Cut: Jackery’s Solar Generator 1000 is a bundle that includes two high-powered solar panels and a high capacity battery pack. This combo generates and stores enough energy to power any camping appliance, or everyday electronics like your phone or computer.
— Panel Size: 48 inches long x 21 inches wide (24 inches long when folded)
— Battery: Yes (capacity N/A)
— Power Output: 200 watts
— Ultra powerful
— Includes a huge battery
— Fairly large panels for portable use
— Doesn’t come with a carrying case
Campers devoted to making their outdoor activities as sustainable as possible should seriously consider Jacekery's Solar Generator 1000. It's handily the most powerful portable solar panel system we're recommending. Jackery, much like Raptic, has opted to design its solar panels to fold inward for easier storage. Each solar panel has a power output of 50 watts, but Jackery's system contains four panels for a total of 200 watts. Energy from the solar panels is fed directly into the Explorer 1000, Jackery's high-capacity battery pack.
The Explorer 1000 has three AC outlets, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, a car outlet, and a maximum power output of 1000 watts. Jackery says this is enough to run a coffee maker for 88 minutes, an electric grill for 50 minutes, and a heating blanket for 11 hours. It's feasible to run all of your camping gear through renewable energy using Jackery's solar panels. You'll probably keep the SolarSaga solar panels connected to Explorer 1000 all the time, but it's worth noting that the panels themselves have a USB-C and USB-A port. If you need to quickly charge your phone while setting up this solar power system, this is a nice touch. Another nice extra is the Explorer 1000's tiny LED screen, which displays how much power the battery has left, and the amount of energy that's currently being used.
When it comes to portability, the SolarSaga solar panels included in this bundle fare pretty well. Each one is 48 inches wide and 21 inches tall when unfolded, and half the width when folded. Jackery doesn't include a bag with these panels, though, so you'll need to get one separately. The appropriately sized artists’ portfolio is probably your best bet, as it's designed to be carried around easily. You'll need a fair bit of space to take full advantage of what Jackery's Solar Generator has to offer, but it's the ideal solar panel solution for anyone who loves spending extended periods of time outdoors.
Best Portable: Nature Love Solar Power Bank
Why It Made The Cut: Because of its small size, this is the only solar panel you can take with you everywhere.
— Panel Size: Roughly 7.5 x 5 inches
— Battery: Yes; 25000mAh
— Power Output: N/A
— Extremely portable
— Panel built right into the battery pack
— Can charge up to four devices at once
— Small panel size
— Can only power smaller electronics
Most of our solar panel recommendations are portable, but Natural Love's Solar Power Bank takes that concept to the next level. The high-capacity battery pack has a solar panel on its back, so you can charge it anywhere there's sunshine. We've chosen this battery pack because it's durability and wide variety of ports. Nature Love says the Solar Power Bank has an IP66 rating, which means it's dust-proof, and won't get damaged when exposed to water, though it shouldn't be fully submerged.
The Solar Power Bank can charge up to four devices at once using two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, and a wireless charging pad on top of the battery. Its 25,000mAh capacity allows you to fully recharge an iPhone up to four times and an iPad twice. The battery pack's solar panel is only on one side, so you'll need to front-side up to get an eco-friendly charge. If you need to top it up on a cloudy day, you also have the option to connect the Solar Power Bank to a traditional charging brick. This is the highest-capacity power bank we've found with a battery pack, which means it's a good pick for international travel or camping. If you get stuck outside, the Solar Power Bank's flashlights and LED array can help conserve your phone's battery. If you've begun to replace the tech accessories you rely on most with eco-friendly alternatives, Nature Love's Solar Power Bank is the only battery pack you should consider.
Best For Home: Eco-Worthy Solar Power System Kit
Why It Made The Cut: If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, Eco-Worthy’s Solar Power System Kit can help take your home off the grid without breaking the bank.
— Panel Size: 58.3 Long x 26.2 Wide
— Battery: Yes; 50Ah (4x)
— Power Output: 1100 Watts
— Can power any electronic device
— Very durable
— Semi-permanent placement
— Most difficult to install
If you're interested in a solar panel solution to power your entire home — or at least a nice chunk of it — we highly recommend Eco-Worthy Solar Power System Kit. The kit comes with six rooftop solar panels, each of which can output up to 195 watts of electricity. These panels come with instructions, but we recommend that you get them professionally installed if you're not comfortable with moderately difficult home repairs. Keep in mind, these solar panels are designed to be permanently attached to your home.
Each panel in Eco-Worthy's kit is 58.3 inches long and 26.2 inches wide, so you'll need a fairly large area if you'd like to have them installed side by side. The company says its panels are made out of Monocrystallin (durable silicon) and designed to withstand heavy exposure to rain and snow. While they're powerful enough for home use, Eco-Worthy says its solar panel kit can be installed onto an RV or boat. In this system, energy from the solar panels is fed to a centralized control box, which routes it through a power converted into four battery cells. Each battery can output up to 3500 watts of electricity, which means they can power multiple appliances simultaneously without the risk of being overloaded. A professional electrician will be able to provide guidance on how to integrate Eco-Worthy's system into your home to mitigate any other potential risk.
It'll take a serious commitment to purchase and install Eco-Worthy's Solar System, but they're a relatively affordable purchase for the sustainably-minded homeowner. Keep in mind that installing solar panels should be seen as an investment because weaning yourself off the electrical grid will continually save you money. When you look at it through that lens, Eco-Worthy's Solar System is a no-brainer. If you're looking for a more design-oriented choice, the SunPower Equinox® complete home solar solution is another strong choice.
Things to Consider
Location: It should go without saying, but solar panels will work best if they're used in an area with a lot of sunlight. You'll want to spend a couple of weeks monitoring how much sunshine your home gets if you're opting for a whole-home solar panel system, and check the weather report before bringing portable solar panels on a trip.
Energy Consumption: If possible, you should check how much electricity you use either at home or remotely before deciding which solar panels are right for you. One easy way to do that is taking a look at the energy requirements of your most-used electronics. Smaller gadgets — think phones and tablets — will need a lot less power to operate than a washing machine and dryer. To cut down on your energy usage further, consider the best rechargeable batteries.
Q: How long do solar panels last?
According to research conducted by the U.S. Government's National Renewable Energy Lab, solar panels can last up to 25 years at full strength. After that, the panel may become less efficient, generating less energy over time.
Q: Can the environment I live in impact the performance
Yes, another study conducted by the NREL found that extreme heat can drive solar panels to become less effective and degrade more quickly. This generally applies to rooftop solar panels installed in very hot regions.
Q: Is there a tax credit for solar panels used to power my home?
Yes, the U.S. Government does offer a 26 percent tax credit for solar photovoltaic systems installed in 2022 (this drops to 22 percent in 2023, and is currently set to expire entirely in 2024). For the full details on what can be deducted, please refer to energy.gov's comprehensive explainer.
Q: Can using solar panels meaningfully reduce the amount of money I spend on energy?
That depends entirely on a few factors including, where you live, how much energy you typically consume, the size and number of your panels, and your home's HVAC system. If you'd like to gauge the amount of money you're likely to save, energysage.com has created a calculator to help you out. Stay connected off the grid with the best wireless chargers.
Final Thoughts on Solar Panels
You may not be able to fully convert your energy consumption from fossil fuels to renewables, but getting solar panels is an excellent start. Making small changes — only charging your phone using a solar panel, for instance — can add up over time. That first step may encourage or empower you to take additional steps into lessening your reliance on fossil fuels. This is especially true if you move from an apartment into a house, which will enable you to have even more control over your home's relationship to the grid. Regardless, there's never been a better time to get a solar panel.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.