• We've all seen them. The big, clunky, steel-framed, waffle grid-looking solar panels sticking so far off of the roof, it looks like a squirrel could make a nest under them. It's not necessarily a pretty sight. Unfortunately for many homeowners not in the know, this gaudy archetype of a solar panel is what they assume all solar panels look like, and this idea keeps them from going solar and reaping the benefits. This could not be further from the truth.

    The truth is, while many solar panel manufacturers still churn out these blocky panels, there are many companies out there that are creating discrete, inconspicuous solar panels that look great on any roof. The aesthetically-minded homeowners out there have spoken, and some solar companies have listened, focusing a ton of their energy on creating not only the most efficient, but best-looking solar panels possible. As a result, it is now possible to have very powerful, yet discreet solar panels installed on your roof that do not detract from the aesthetics of your home.

    Inconspicuous Solar Panel Systems

    When it comes to solar system aesthetics, the three main elements contributing to the look are the system size, the racking system, and the look of the panels. Creating a sleek looking panel that is compact yet powerful, along with a racking system that is close to the roof, yet doesn't sacrifice efficiency to heat buildup, is a difficult thing to do. That's why these elements have be closely analyzed, as both have to work together to create a good looking system.

    So let's take a look at a few different factors that make up what most would consider an aesthetically pleasing solar system. We'll look at panel size, panel look, and racking in order to determine which solar company is truly innovating when it comes to solar panel aesthetics.

    Solar Panel Size Comparison

    One huge factor that determines solar panel aesthetics is how large the solar system itself actually is. A bigger system is obviously less discrete, so looking at how big the panels are from brand to brand can help us determine how much size the system will take up on the roof and therefore how discreet or garish it will be.

    The LG NeON 2 335

    The LG NeON 2 335 module is one of LG's premiere solar panels. LG, a longtime maker of electronics, has been in the solar game for awhile now and has primarily focused on creating an affordable panel as compared to an efficient or aesthetically pleasing one. First, let's take a look at the actual size of the panel:

    Panel Size: 66.37 x 40 x 1.57 in

    Panel Efficiency: 19.6%

    So it’s about 5 and a half feet long, and three feet wide. Not a huge panel, but takes up quite a bit of space nonetheless. Now let’s compare it to some other similar panels from other brands to see how it stacks up.

    The Panasonic N330 HIT

    Panasonic has been producing solar panels for many years and has come out with some good products. One of their top of the line panels is the N330 HIT, which boasts high efficiency and some extended performance guarantees. Let's see how it stacks up size-wise with the LG panel.

    Panel Size: 62.6 x 41.5 x 1.4in

    Panel Efficiency: 19.7%

    So while a touch wider, these panels are significantly shorter than the LG NeOn 2's, about 4 inches. So while that may not seem like alot, that couple inches can make a big difference when you have limited roof space to work with. Add on the fact that they basically have the same efficiency, and that means you’re producing more power with less space with the Panasonics.

    The SunPower X-22-360 AC

    SunPower has long been known as the world's premiere solar panel manufacturer, and has always been known for creating the most efficient, durable, and stylish panels on the market. Their 360AC panel is somewhat of the standard now, so let's' take a look at how it stacks up size-wise compared to both LG and Panasonic.

    Panel Size: 61.3 x 41.2 x 1.8in

    Panel Efficiency: 22.2%


  • So the 360 AC, which boasts the highest efficiency of all three of the panels we are looking at, at 22.2%, comes in at the shortest of all three panels, at 61.3 inches. What that means is that with the SunPower 360, and the majority of SunPower panels, your system can produce more power, or as much power as other panels, while using much less space, and less panels. That means that with SunPower panels, you can get a smaller, less conspicuous system, and produce the same amount of power as a much larger system made up of LG's or Panasonics, as not only are the panels smaller, but you need less of them, because they create more power per panel.

    So we now can see that when it comes to panels, SunPower makes the smallest and most discreet for the money. But the other major factor that determines how low-key and discrete a solar system looks on your roof is the solar system racking. Racking determines how far off the roof the panels sit, how they blend with the roof, etc. So let's take a look at the different racking styles different solar brands use and how they differ.

    Solar Racking Comparison

    Most solar companies use a conventional solar racking system where the rails hold the panels high off the roof. With these racking systems, there is often ends of rails sticking out, as they are not flush with the panels. The result is often a large, gaudy racking system that holds panels high and has an incomplete look to it. These racking systems look industrial and garish, and often can detract from the aesthetics of a solar system.  

    SunPower's Invisimount Racking System

    By far the most versatile, efficient to install, and discrete - the SunPower Invisimount racking system is unquestionably the best looking solar racking out there. With the SunPower Equinox system, the entire solar system from the panels, to the racking and inverters are all made by SunPower and are designed to work with their matching components specifically. Due to this, when SunPower panels are mounted on the Invisimount racking, there are no ends sticking out, everything is flush, and they are mounted low, all so perfectly that it literally looks like the panels are floating. No other solar racking can emulate that discrete look, or that versatility.


  • The final contributing factor to the overall look of a solar system is the design of the panels themselves - that is, what color they are, the look of the cells grouped together, etc. Let's take a look at a few styles and models of panels and see which company makes the best looking.

    Solar Panel Aesthetics Comparison

    The aesthetics of solar panels have become more and more important to customers over time - and as a result solar companies have adjusted. Most customers are ok with the classic waffle grid look, but progressively, those more aesthetically minded customers are demanding the new black panels. Many customers find these panels better looking because of their discrete and sleek look, as with the black color they blend better with the roof. The only issue is, due to the black backing, they can generate more heat, and a result, lose some efficiency compared to the white-backed panels. With that in mind, let's look some black panels that companies are making, and compare them to find the one that is the most compact, and most efficient.

    LG NeOn 320 Black

    The NeOn 320 Black is LG's premiere black solar panel. From the frame to the backing, it's all black - although the cells and wiring around the cells is still relatively visible. Let's take a look at how it stacks up spec-wise

    Panel Size:  66.38 x 40 x 1.57 inches

    Panel Efficiency: 18.7%

    Now let's take a look at Panasonic's version of the black panel.

    Panasonic N325K HIT Black

    The Panasonic N325K Black is a good looking panel, although the vertical wires are still visible, so the panel is not fully blacked out. Let's take a look at the tech specs to see how it adds up otherwise.

    Panel Size: 62.6 x 41.5 x 1.6 inches

    Panel Efficiency: 19.4%

    So the Panasonic black panel is a little bit shorter.. And a little more efficient.  Let's check out the SunPower model.

    SunPower 335 Signature Black

    The SunPower 335 Signature Black is what you imagine when you think of a black solar panel. It's SOLID black. No wiring visible, no backing visible, and of course with the black frame. But how does it stack up tech wise? Let's look.

    Panel Size: 61.3 x 41.2 x 1.8 inches

    Panel Efficiency: 21.0%


  • So again, the SunPower panel comes in at the smallest, the best looking, and the most efficient. When it comes to black panels, SunPower clearly makes the most discrete and powerful.

    So reflecting on all this data, and our perceptions of what the panels look like, it is clear at this point: SunPower makes the smallest panels that look best, have the highest efficiency, and the best looking racking. So if you're looking to install an inconspicuous solar system, that is the most aesthetically pleasing, SunPower is the clear choice. Not only can you install a smaller system that requires less panels, the panels themselves look better, they create more power, and the racking, specific to SunPower, is more discrete and overall just looks better.

    The other part of the aesthetics equation is that you have to hire a proficient solar installer who knows what they're doing in order to ensure that your installation is as clean and discreet as possible. That's why it's best for homeowners interested in maximum solar system aesthetics to contact a SunPower Master Dealer, which are SunPower dealers with proven track records of installation success and top notch craftsmanship. SunPower Master Dealers, like us, take the extra initiative to install your system to look as clean and inconspicuous as possible, so that your system looks beautiful. If you want to hide your system away to be unseen from the ground, a Master Dealer like us will be able to work with you and design your system to have the exact look you want.

    So if you're looking to install the best looking solar system possible, that doesn't stick out and take away from your home aesthetics - contact us today. We are a SunPower Master Dealer, known for our quality craftsmanship and beautiful installations, and we are only installing SunPower - the smallest, most discreet solar panels producing more power than any others. This combination will guarantee that you have a discrete, sleek, powerful system on your roof, that will deliver results for longer, and save you more money than any other panels.


  • About the Author

    Michael Powers


    Michael is one of the founding partners of Stellar Solar. In 2001, he helped launch The Home Depot’s national solar energy program which is now offering home solar through hundreds of stores in nearly a dozen states. He is a writer and marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in the fields of energy, market intelligence and leadership training. He currently serves as treasurer and board member of Global Energy Network Institute (GENI), a San Diego-based non-governmental organization that advocates linking renewable energy resources around the world using electricity transmission.