SunPower Vs. Tesla (Which brand should you choose?)

The battle between solar tech giants such as SunPower vs. Tesla, more specifically Tesla Energy, will be more common in the future.

Solar energy has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1909. From feeble, costly solar water heating systems, solar technologies have provided notable breakthroughs toward decarbonizing grids and running space satellites.

It’s unsurprising to see large organizations such as the U.N. and SEIA take giant strides towards net-zero carbon systems and sustainability, with solar at the dead center.

With all countries setting ambitious climate change goals, we can expect many companies to jockey for the top spots and make the most out of this demand surge.

This will culminate in close-knit competition in the solar energy market, which we’ll all benefit from.

Foreword
Climatebiz experts design, research, fact-check & edit all work meticulously.

Affiliate Disclaimer

Climatebiz is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our site.

SunPower vs. Tesla (Breakdown)

Let’s look at the SunPower vs. Tesla Energy tale of the tape:

SpecificationsSunPowerTesla Energy
Solar Panel ManufacturingMade In-house (Maxeon)Outsourced
Revenue (Q3, 2022)SunPower: $470 million

Maxeon: $275 million
$1,2 billion
Efficiency Range345W @ 21.2%

440W @ 22.8%
395W @ 20.1 %

405W @ 20.6%
Output Warranty 25 years25 years
Solar Product Warranty25 years
40 years (Maxeon panels)
25 years
Average Price Per WattApproximately $3.92$2.30
Warranty of Other ComponentsInverter (25 years)
Mount (25 years)
Monitoring System (10 years)
Energy Storage (10 years)
Inverter (10 years)
Mount (10 years)
Monitoring System (None)
Energy Storage (10 years)
(The term ‘Rated Power’ is the ideal solar panel output in desirable conditions. It is expressed in watts.)

SunPower vs. Tesla: Tesla Overview

The Tesla brand tends to be synonymous with EVs rather than solar panels.
The Tesla brand tends to be synonymous with EVs rather than solar panels.

While the Tesla name is synonymous with electric cars, the company has been part of the solar market for quite some time.

Tesla Energy is a division of Tesla, Inc. that designs, manufactures, and sells energy storage systems and solar products.

The division was established in 2015 to expand Tesla’s presence in the energy market and provide sustainable energy solutions to customers.

Product-wise, Tesla has three main solar offerings:

  • Solar roofing: Tesla solar roof tiles/shingles
  • Solar panels: From third-party manufacturers
  • Energy storage: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Solar Roof

During its launch, Tesla Energy marketed its solar roof tiles as an innovation over the typical rooftop.

Based on our analysis, Tesla solar roofs are better than traditional rooftops since they allow you to earn your money back over time. And the best part? They don’t even look like solar panels (see figure below.)

Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Come in four (4) Designs depending on your preference — SunPower vs Tesla.
Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Come in four (4) Designs depending on your preference.
Source: Tesla, Inc.

So, is a Tesla Solar Roof worth it? We believe opting for solar panels is still the quickest way to get your money back. Not to mention, Tesla is not ready to roll out solar roofs on a massive scale.

Tesla Solar Panels

Even though Tesla’s solar panels are slapped with the Elon Musk seal of approval, Tesla does NOT manufacture its solar panels.

Panasonic was the initial supplier of Tesla’s solar cells before moving to other third-party manufacturers in the second quarter of 2021.

The truth is, finding Tesla’s solar panel specifications is an arduous task compared to its PV peers. Check out their website and see for yourself. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll see that their main residential solar offerings post-Panasonic are as follows:

SpecificationsT395HT400HT405H
Rating / Efficiency395W @ 20.1%400W @ 20.4%405W @ 20.6%
Product and Power Warranty25 years25 years25 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark86%86%86%
Tesla PV Module Selection for Residential Setting

Since Tesla solar panels are more economical than Tesla solar roofs, we will use them as the point of comparison with SunPower’s solar panels for this Sunpower vs. Tesla article.

Tesla Powerwall

The Tesla Powerwall is a home battery system that stores energy generated from solar panels or the grid and makes it available anytime. Moreover, it can provide backup power during power outages.

The Powerwall is designed to be simple and easy to install, whether wall-mounted or on the ground. Additionally, it’s designed to be scalable, so you can install multiple Powerwalls together to increase the total storage capacity.

Furthermore, you can integrate it into an existing solar system or use it as a standalone backup power source.

For reference, here’s a look at some specifications for the latest Tesla Powerwall 2.0 model:

Usable capacity13.5 kWh
Continuous power rating5.0 kW
Depth of Discharge (DoD)100%
Round-trip efficiency90%
Warranty10 years (unlimited cycles)
End of warranty capacity70%
Tesla Powerwall 2 Datasheet – North America

SunPower Vs. Tesla: SunPower Overview

SunPower was first established in 1985 and has been headquartered in Silicon Valley ever since.

The company provides green-tech energy solutions to consumers by selling, installing, and financing solar power products such as panels, batteries, monitoring software, and mounting hardware.

A point of pride for this solar giant is that they’re the only U.S.-based company that’s been around longer than its 25-year warranty.

In August 2020, SunPower Corporation decided to split into two separate public companies:

  • SunPower: responsible for supplying all solar-related services to customers.
  • Maxeon Solar: the company responsible for producing the high-efficiency solar panels that SunPower is known for
Infographic illustrating the SunPower and Maxeon Technologies split in 2020.
Source: SunPower Newsroom

Currently, SunPower’s primary offerings include:

  • Solar panels: SunPower Performance & Maxeon panels.
  • Energy storage: SunPower SunVault Storage

SunPower solar panels

SunPower has two primary ranges of solar panels to choose from:

Performance Panels

SunPower’s Performance Panels make up the make cost-effective offerings from the company.

These panels use a distinct shingled PERC-cell (based on P-type silicon) design made up of six strings of shingled cells in parallel. This makes the panels more resistant to micro-cracks — a common issue among convention square cell panels.

The P-series is available in both DC and AC variants, and its residential panels range from 370 to 415 watts.

Here’s a closer look at some of the P-Series panels:

Performance 6 SeriesSPR-P6-395-BLKSPR-P6-400-BLKSPR-P6-405-BLK
Rating/ Efficiency395W @ 20.1%400W @ 20.4%405W @ 20.6%
Product and Power Warranty25 years25 years25 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark87.2%87.2%87.2%
Source: SunPower Performance 6 Series

Maxeon Panels

SunPower’s Maxeon range represents the company’s highest-quality panels.

These panels comprise high-quality Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) cells built using high-purity N-type silicon. Additionally, they use fine fine-grid conductors integrated into the rear side of their cells.

Infographic illustrating Maxeon Panels’ power degradation through year 40.
Source: SunPower

Ultimately, these design choices come together to form panels with extremely high levels of performance, efficiency, and very low degradation rates — approximately 0.2%/year compared to the average of 0.75%/year.

For these reasons, SunPower and Maxeon back this range of solar panels with a whopping 88.25% retained capacity after a 40-year period

Here’s a closer look at some of the P-Series panels:

Maxeon 3 SeriesSPR-P6-395-BLKSPR-P6-400-BLKSPR-MAX3-410-BLK
Rating / Efficiency395W @ 22.3%400W @ 22.6%410W @ 21.6%
Product and Power Warranty40 years40 years40 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark92%92%92%
Source: SunPower Maxeon Series

SunPower SunVault

SunPower’s SunVault storage is the company’s answer to Tesla’s Powerwall.

This energy storage solution is a seamless backup power method during power outages and for general use.

You can easily integrate these units into existing SunPower solar systems. On the downside, SunVault systems are not compatible with third-party solar equipment.

Here’s a closer look at what the SunVault has to offer:

Usable capacity13 to 26 kWh
Continuous power rating6.8 kW
Depth of Discharge (DoD)100%
Round-trip efficiency85%
Warranty10 years (unlimited cycles)
End of warranty capacity70%
Sources: SunPower SunVault Storage brochure/ SunVault warranty info

SunPower vs. Tesla: Which Company Produces Better Quality?

Both SunPower and Tesla provide quality solar panels and ESS solutions. But which company comes out on top?

Solar panel comparison

First, let’s compare some solar panel offerings:

395W panels

T395HSPR-P6-395-BLKSPR-P6-395-BLK
Efficiency20.1%20.1%22.3%
Product and Power Warranty25 years25 years40 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark86%87.2%92%

400W panels

T400HSPR-P6-400-BLKSPR-P6-400-BLK
Efficiency20.4%20.4%22.6%
Product and Power Warranty25 years25 years40 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark86%87.2%92%

405W panels

T405HSPR-P6-405-BLKSPR-MAX3-410-BLK
Efficiency20.6%20.6%21.6%
Product and Power Warranty25 years25 years40 years
Guaranteed Output % At 25-Year Mark86%87.2%92%

Energy Storage Comparison

Now let’s take a look at these companies’ respective energy storage options:

Powerwall 2.0SunVault
Usable capacity13.5 kWh13 to 26 kWh
Continuous power rating5.0 kW6.8 kW
Depth of Discharge (DoD)100%100%
Round-trip efficiency90%85%
Warranty10 years (unlimited cycles)10 years (unlimited cycles)
End of warranty capacity70%70%
Tesla Powerwall 2 Datasheet – North America

Conclusion

Looking at it from a long-term investment standpoint, SunPower’s residential PV modules take the cake thanks to its superior PV efficiency and ability to minimize output degradation.

Moreover, it has a strong relationship with a quality manufacturer in Maxeon, and it’s easy to find out where its panels are made.

Looking at energy storage, the winner is not so clear. While Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 certainly edges out SunPower’s SunVault in terms of round-trip efficiency, its continuous power rating is not as high. Moreover, Tesla does not have a model that rivals the larger SunVaults 26 kWh capacity.

However, the SunVault has one big drawback — unlike the Powerwall 2.0, it cannot be integrated with third-party solar systems.

For this reason, we believe the Powerwall 2.0 is the winner.


SunPower vs. Tesla: Which Company Is Cheaper?

According to the NREL’s white paper report, SunPower’s residential solar panels cost around $3.92 per watt — ouch! This is pretty high, considering that the median price of residential solar in the U.S. is $2.77 per watt.

As of Q2, 2022, SunPower residential solar systems cost approximately $3.90.
Source: 2022 NREL white paper
As of Q2, 2022, SunPower residential solar systems cost approximately $3.92.
Source: 2022 NREL white paper

However, Electrek.co recently reported that Tesla has decided to become competitive in the pricing arena, stating that Tesla’s price reduction in its installation service will come from lowered installation costs and more powerful solar panel modules. This results in a $2.44 per watt cost before FTCs (Federal Tax Credits).

A graph illustrating the median gross price of residential solar in H1, 2022.
As of H1, 2022, the median gross price of residential solar is $2.77 per watt.
Source: 2022 NREL white paper

In addition, Tesla has made the consultation / quoting process more seamless thanks to its convenient solar panel calculator.

That said, SunPower is still holding its punches in this area. In their opinion, talking to a consultant is still the way to go to get a free evaluation.

While SunPower is not wrong, the concept of empowering your potential clients does give Tesla the upper hand, at least initially. Not to mention this goes really well with their price-matching strategy.

The Climatebiz Insight

Looking at these figures, a 5kW solar panel system in the United States will cost you around:

  • SunPower: $3.92 x 5,000 watts = $19,600
  • Tesla: $2.30 x 5,000 watts = $11,500

However, while the solar cell efficiency of SunPower helps reduce the cost of its entire system, Tesla still has a lower price for a 5kW residential system.

Note to our readers: These systems will offset 78% of a home’s electricity consumption with a monthly bill of $130-$150, depending on your state.


Which company is right for you?

Here’s an updated summary:

SpecificationsSunPowerTesla Energy
Solar Panel ManufacturingMade In-house (Maxeon)Outsourced
Revenue (Q3, 2022)SunPower: $470 million

Maxeon: $275 million
$1,2 billion
Efficiency Range345W @ 21.2%

440W @ 22.8%
395W @ 20.1 %

405W @ 20.6%
Output Warranty 25 years25 years
Solar Product Warranty25 years
40 years (Maxeon panels)
25 years
PricePper WattApproximately $3.92$2.30
Warranty of Other ComponentsInverter (25 years)
Mount (25 years)
Monitoring System (10 years)
Energy Storage (10 years)
Inverter (10 years)
Mount (10 years)
Monitoring System (None)
Energy Storage (10 years)
(The term ‘Rated Power’ is the ideal solar panel output in desirable conditions. It is expressed in watts.)

Cost for a 5kW system

SpecificationsSunPowerTesla
Cost ($ per watt)Approximately $3.92$2.30
System Size5kW5kW
Total Cost$19,600$11,500
Additional Considerations (Sample Case Study: 5kW system)

Climatebiz professional advice

If, at this point, you’re still undecided, consider the following:

Go with Tesla if you:

  • Are not fond of spending hours with consultants and installers;
  • Are not a fan of going through electricity bills to get precise sizing (an intelligent online estimate is fine);
  • Want a cheaper solar system at face value; (Tesla: $11,500 vs. SunPower $19,600) for the same output is a huge gap in the initial lump sum.
  • Value looks of solar panels on roofs (this is debatable, though).

In a nutshell, Tesla buyers prefer convenience and don’t mind a broader solar system size estimate. The cheaper initial cost and near-term savings are appealing to you as well.

Although lagging behind performance and warranties, you can't deny the charm a Tesla Product brings to the table — SunPower vs. Tesla.
Although slightly lagging behind performance and warranties, you can’t deny the charm a Tesla Product brings to the table. Not to mention the company’s aggression in acquiring the lion’s share of the residential PV market through extreme cost-cutting and referral fees.
Source: Tesla, Inc.

Go with SunPower if you’re:

  • Detail-oriented and a fan of exhaustive approaches (leave no stone unturned!) like our lengthy deep dives on U.S. Solar Panel Installations;
  • A fan of a more tailor-fitted approach;
  • Value good warranty established reputations and love the 92% output guarantee after 25 years.

Bottom-line

SunPower is your best bet if you:

  • Value higher solar panel production capacity over 25 years (long-term savings).
  • Love a hands-on approach (which includes assistance in licensing, permitting, HOA approvals, and all that regulatory stuff).
  • Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with warranties from a company that has been in the game long enough.

Don’t completely ignore solar roofs

While we agree that the Tesla solar roof cost cannot compete with traditional solar panels, we don’t want to remove it from your options entirely.

Tesla’s think tank definitely had a target market in mind when it created the Tesla Solar Roof concept. And given that it’s a relatively new and unique product, it’s crucial for you to learn everything you can about Tesla Solar Roofs before deciding if they’re right for you.


Final thoughts 

We’re confident you can decide based on the information we provided you in this SunPower vs. Tesla discussion.

Just remember; your solar system will be on your roofs for 25+ years. Therefore, your chosen company will determine your renewable energy experience for decades.

Enjoy your savings while helping mother earth!

Gustav Cruz

Gustav Cruz

Gustav has a Bachelor of Engineering and is currently practicing as a senior-level electrical engineer specializing in research. He is eager to deliver his analyses in a comical fashion while providing you with the right amount of scientific information. He believes that, with a bit of help, a well-informed decision is rewarding to make, it saves you money, and it is a win-win for all - the planet included.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Punit

I am considering TESLA solar system and spoke to an engineer @ Tesla. According to him, Tesla now (Apr 2022) uses T400H TESLA panels manufactured at Buffalo factory. They no longer use Hanwha panels.

Kyle Browning

You are correct Punit, we have already gotten feedback from Tesla. You can expect an updated article within the next week.

Oscar Drum

Except that it’s been more than a month now and there hasn’t been any updates. So Tesla it is. Sunpower is 50% more expensive. Not worth it.

Kyle Browning

Hi Oscar, please note we have now updated the article accordingly.

David Acton

I appreciate this comparison of solar panels as I’m researching options for our home and one of them is Tesla. However, I want to point out a misleading part of the article. You state that a SunPower solar panel will produce 8.25% more power than a Tesla solar panel because of the efficiency difference (22.3% vs. 20.6%) and use that conclusion to reduce the effective cost of a SunPower installation. That’s not accurate. A 400W solar panel produces the same amount of power (400W under ideal conditions) regardless of its efficiency. The more efficient panel does that using a smaller solar cell area. Indeed the SunPower 400W Maxeon 3 panel is 1.77 m^2 vs the Tesla T400H panel which is 1.98 m^2. So there’s indeed an advantage to higher efficiency panels, which is you can fit more production on a given roof size. But it does -not- mean the cost of a 5 kW SunPower installation should be reduced by 8.25% compared to a 5 kW Tesla installation. Both systems will produce the same amount of power so you should compare their non-adjusted prices.

Kyle Browning

Hi David, thanks for your insight.

Please note, that we have updated the article accordingly.

Recommendations are still the same. However, the revision benefited Tesla and updated the price point of SunPower.

Climatebiz
Logo