Three Tiers of Solar Panels Explained

What if I told you that there are three different types or “tiers” of solar panels, but that quality is not the only distinguishing factor? In fact, in most cases quality has nothing to do with what tier a solar panel falls into. 

To start with, let me also say that a solar power installation is not only an awesome investment, it’s also an important one.

In this article, we are going to talk about the different tiers or rather “levels” of a solar panel.

Not to overuse an old cliche, but not all solar panels were created equal. And just like anything you buy, there are different manufacturers that produce different “tiers” or solar panels depending on specific requirements that they are required to meet, as manufacturers. 

Different from many things you buy, in the solar industry we have specifically categorized the different levels of quality solar panels and we call these “tiers”.

Tier 1 being the best, tier 2 being the next down, and tier 3 being the last.

This doesn’t mean a tier 3 solar panel is bad, or that if you choose a tier 2 or 3 solar panels you’re doomed. But it’s important to understand the difference.

What Is The Main Difference Between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Solar Panels?

To start with, let’s talk about the single biggest difference between the different tiers of solar panel quality: PRICE.

Tier 1 solar panels tend to be 10-30% more expensive than tier 2 and 3 solar panels. Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers have a better manufacturing process and due to this, a large reason why they cost more is that they generally come with longer and better warranty plans.

When you buy a solar panel, you are essentially buying two things:

1. Physical solar panels that produce electricity and,

2. A guarantee or promise from the manufacturer that the solar panel will continue to produce a certain amount of electricity from the sun for a certain amount of time.

Some of the most immediate concerns that you should ask about are:

  • Pricing.
  • How long will the solar panels last and,
  • Customer service, meaning if there is a problem within the first 25 or 30 years of its life span, what kind of warranty does the manufacturer offer, and what are the chances of them honoring it?

Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers have to meet specific criteria, which include:


  • They have been producing solar panels for more than 5 years.
  • They are either a public company, traded on the stock market, or have very stable balance sheets.
  • They have a fully automated production line and a very high degree of vertical integration.
  • Invest heavily in research.
  • Invest heavily in marketing the brand.
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Tier 2 solar panel manufacturers are generally smaller or medium sized manufacturers that do not fit the above requirements.

Tier 3 solar panel manufacturers generally only cover the assembly of solar panels and do not produce all the various components.

Here is a diagram that gives you a good idea of each different tier:

3 Tiers of Solar Panels

As you can see, Tier 1 solar panels are the better choice however when you are on a budget, there are good Tier 2 and Tier 3 options that are perfectly workable panels, from up-and-coming brands. 

I hope you found this article helpful and remember that we are available to answer any questions you may have concerning solar panels, or a solar installation. 

Ricardo SolArticle by:
Ricardo Sol
Senior Editor