What Solar System Is Recommended?

Solar power has grown rapidly in recent years as a renewable energy source. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the solar industry has grown at an average annual rate of 24% over the last decade Solar Industry Research Data | SEIA. About 3.4% of electricity generated in the U.S. is powered by solar energy, up from 2.8% in 2021 according to EcoWatch Top 25 Solar Energy Statistics for 2024. Solar photovoltaic systems convert sunlight directly into electricity using solar panels, while concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight to drive traditional steam turbines or engines. Residential and commercial solar systems provide distributed renewable power generation and can work together with the utility grid or operate off-grid. This overview examines the key types of solar power systems and provides recommendations for homeowners and businesses considering installing solar.

Types of Solar Systems

There are three main types of solar power systems for homes: grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid systems.

A grid-tied solar system is connected to the local utility grid and any excess solar energy produced is exported back to the grid. This allows homeowners to receive credit or payments for the excess energy through net metering programs. Grid-tied systems are the most common residential solar option as they are easy to install and allow homeowners to reduce their electricity bills without having to invest in a battery system. However, grid-tied systems will not provide backup power if the grid goes down [1].

Off-grid solar systems operate independently from the grid and require battery storage to supply power when the sun isn’t shining. They are more complex and require careful system sizing and energy monitoring. Off-grid systems are a good choice for remote locations without grid access. They can also provide uninterrupted power during blackouts. However, off-grid systems require more equipment and maintenance than grid-tied systems [2].

Hybrid solar systems are connected to the grid but also have battery backup. This allows homeowners to benefit from net metering while also enjoying backup power during outages. Hybrid systems provide the best of both worlds but are more expensive due to the added battery storage.

Solar Panel Types

There are three main types of solar panels to choose from: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal of silicon and have a distinctive black appearance with an even coloring. They are the most efficient type of solar panel, with typical efficiency ratings of 15-20% (Source). The highly purified silicon results in higher performance and longevity.

Polycrystalline solar panels are made from multiple silicon crystals melted together. They have a speckled blue color appearance and slightly lower efficiency than monocrystalline at 13-16%. However, polycrystalline panels tend to be cheaper to produce than monocrystalline (Source).

Thin-film solar panels use extremely thin layers of photosensitive materials like amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper indium gallium selenide deposited on glass or stainless steel. Due to the lower amounts of materials used, thin-film panels are cheaper but also less efficient than crystalline silicon panels, with typical efficiency of 7-13% (Source).


Inverters play a critical role in solar systems by converting the DC power generated by solar panels into AC power that can be used in homes and businesses. There are three main types of inverters to choose from: string inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers with central inverters.

String inverters, also known as central inverters, are the most common type used in residential solar installations. As Solar.com explains, “String inverters connect to multiple solar panels—strings of panels—in series. The inverter sits between the solar array and your home’s electrical panel.” Solar.com

Microinverters are attached to each individual solar panel instead of multiple panels together. Arise Energy notes that “The efficiency of one panel won’t affect the others. If shade covers one panel, the rest can operate at maximum efficiency.” Microinverters may be a good choice for complex rooftop setups. Arise Energy

microinverters can maximize solar panel efficiency by converting each panel's electricity separately instead of in strings.

Power optimizers are DC/DC converters that connect to each solar panel and maximize energy harvest from each one. The power optimizers then connect to a central inverter that converts the power to AC electricity. As Green Ridge Solar explains, this setup “allows panels of different wattages and types to work together.” Green Ridge Solar

Battery Storage

When pairing solar panels with a home battery, homeowners have two main battery chemistry options: lead acid batteries or lithium-ion batteries. There are pros and cons to both options.

Lead acid batteries are the more mature, established technology. They have been around for decades and are widely used in things like cars and forklifts. Lead acid batteries are cheaper upfront than lithium-ion, with costs ranging from $200-$500 per kWh of storage capacity. However, they have a shorter lifespan of only 3-5 years and lose capacity over time. They are also much heavier and larger than lithium-ion batteries for the same capacity.

Lithium-ion batteries are the newer battery chemistry that has become popular in electric vehicles and consumer electronics. Li-ion batteries have a lifespan of 10 years or more and lose little capacity over time. They are lighter, more compact, and have up to double the energy density of lead acid batteries. However, li-ion batteries have a higher upfront cost of $300-$1,000 per kWh. Major solar battery manufacturers like Tesla (1) and sunrun (2) now use li-ion battery technology exclusively.

Overall, li-ion batteries are superior to lead acid batteries for home solar battery systems due to their longer lifespan, smaller footprint, lighter weight, and slower capacity degradation. The higher initial cost of li-ion batteries is usually recouped over the 10+ year lifespan compared to having to replace lead acid batteries twice as often.

Net Metering

Net metering allows homeowners with rooftop solar panels to send excess electricity they generate back to the grid. In return, they receive credits on their utility bills. This policy aims to encourage more renewable energy adoption by making it financially viable for homeowners.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), net metering provides substantial economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. It increases demand for solar energy, which in turn drives growth in the solar industry and makes solar more affordable through economies of scale (SEIA).

With net metering, any excess solar electricity gets fed back into the grid. The homeowner then receives credits to offset electricity used at night or during cloudy weather. This makes it possible to zero out electricity bills with net metering (BigDog Solar).

However, some utilities are moving away from traditional net metering policies and implementing changes like added fixed charges or lower credit rates. This makes payback periods longer for solar owners. Overall though, net metering remains a valuable incentive for homeowners considering solar in most markets (MarketWatch).


When it comes to installing your solar system, you have two main options – doing it yourself (DIY) or hiring a professional solar installer. DIY solar installation can save you money, but also requires significant technical knowledge and experience. Professional installation costs more, but you benefit from their expertise and get the peace of mind of a warranted, code-compliant system.

If you decide to take the DIY route, be prepared to spend a lot of time learning about electrical systems, solar equipment, and installation best practices. You’ll need to pull permits, submit plans, and schedule inspections. Any mistakes could lead to costly rework or safety issues. DIY is only recommended for very experienced homeowners.

For most homeowners, hiring a professional solar installer is the best option. Look for an installer that has several years of experience, proven expertise with grid-tied systems, and strong customer reviews. Ensure they pull all the required permits and handle the inspection process. Reputable installers usually provide multi-year workmanship warranties as well. The incremental cost of professional installation is well worth it for the expertise, warranty protection, and peace of mind it provides.


Installing a solar system requires obtaining permits from your local jurisdiction. The purpose of permits is to ensure the system meets all safety and zoning regulations. The permitting process involves submitting an application along with electrical diagrams, equipment specifications, and other documentation. A building inspector will review the plans and then inspect the system after installation to verify compliance with codes.

Permit requirements and costs vary by location. In some areas, smaller solar installations may be eligible for expedited or online permitting. Work done without proper permits can lead to fines and make it difficult to sell your home. Hiring a solar contractor familiar with local permitting rules can streamline the process. Be sure to research the specific permitting regulations for solar in your municipality.


There are a variety of incentives available to help offset the cost of installing a solar system. These vary by state and utility provider but often include rebates, tax credits, and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs).

Massachusetts offers some of the best solar incentives in the country, according to sources like This Old House. For example, municipalities like Hudson Light & Power and Concord Municipal Light Plant offer rebates to residents who install solar PV systems. The state also has a robust SREC market, which allows solar owners to sell certificates for every megawatt hour of solar electricity they produce.

The federal solar tax credit allows homeowners to deduct 26% of solar installation costs from their taxes. Many states like Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon also offer additional state tax credits to make solar even more affordable.

When considering incentives, it’s important to research what’s available in your specific area. Utility providers and state/local governments offer the best solar incentives, so check their websites for current rebates, tax credits, and SREC policies.


When choosing a solar system for your home, the most important factors to consider are efficiency, reliability, warranties, and cost. Based on research from leading consumer sites, the recommended solar panels for residential installations are monocrystalline panels from top brands like SunPower, Panasonic, or LG.1,2 These panels have high efficiency ratings of 20% or more, meaning they can produce a lot of electricity from a small surface area. They also tend to have 25+ year warranties. For the inverter, microinverters from Enphase or SolarEdge are recommended for their reliability and system monitoring capabilities.1

When it comes to batteries, the Tesla Powerwall is a top choice for integrated solar systems thanks to the Powerwall’s large capacity and smart software integration.1 Finally, be sure to use a reputable, licensed installer who can properly size and install the system. Shop around for quotes, and check for local incentives that can offset 30% or more of the overall costs.

The optimal solar system combines high-efficiency panels with robust microinverters, battery backup for outage protection, professional installation, and local or federal incentives to maximize long-term savings.

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