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

The battles we are currently seeing between solar tech giants such as SunPower vs. Tesla 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.

Foreward
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.

Free Solar Savings Estimate Certified by climatebiz

Are you looking to offset your energy costs & reduce your home’s environmental impact? Fill in a few details to get your free personalized savings estimate.

SunPower Vs. Tesla

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

SpecificationsSunPowerTesla
Solar Panel ManufacturingMade In-houseOutsourced
Rating / Efficiency415W @ 22.3%395W to 405W @ 20.1 % to 20.6%
Output Warranty 25 years25 years
Output Guarantee92% of Rated Power186% of Rated Power1
Solar Product Warranty25 years25 years
Dimensions (L x W x H)72.2″ x 40″ x 1.57″74.4″ x 41.2″ x 1.57″
Weight46.5 lbs (21.1 kg)51.8 lb (23.5 kg)
Price per Watt$3.30 to $4.20$2.44
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)
(1 The term ‘Rated Power’ is the ideal solar panel output in desirable conditions. It is expressed in watts.)

On the business side of things, even though Tesla is a relatively new player in the solar industry, they are only slightly behind SunPower in energy revenues ($1.6 billion vs. $1.8 billion in 2018). This is quite a feat since SunPower is considered an “O.G.” in the solar energy business.

A deeper look into the finances shows that the majority of Tesla’s revenues come from:

  • Energy Storage Business (PowerWall)
  • High Gross Margins

Getting To Know Tesla

When you hear the word Tesla, you imagine a fancy-schmancy car instead of solar panels. It’s no secret that their popularity is deeply rooted in their electric vehicle business.

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 many of you may see Tesla as the go-to solar brand, some of you will have mixed opinions about their solar energy products.

In terms of product offerings, Tesla has two main solar products:

Tesla Solar Roof

During its launch, Tesla 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? In our opinion, going with 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 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 will see that their main residential solar offerings post-Panasonic are as follows:

SpecificationsT395HT400HT405H
ApplicationResidentialResidentialResidential
Rating / Efficiency395 @ 20.1%400 @ 20.4%405@ 20.6%
Output Warranty25 years25 years25 years
Output Guarantee86%86%86%
Materials and Processing Warranty25 years25 years25 years
Weight51.8 lb / 23.5 kg51.8 lb / 23.5 kg51.8 lb / 23.5 kg
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 panel for this Sunpower vs. Tesla article.

Getting To Know SunPower

On the other hand, SunPower is a company dedicated to developing and installing solar energy systems. This commitment to solar innovation translates into impeccable products that outperform their peers.

In terms of solar panels, their primary offering is the SunPower 415, which boasts 22.3% efficiency compared to a conventional panel on same-sized arrays (260 W, 16% efficient, approx. 1.6 m²).

SunPower also claims to have the highest D.C. power output protection in the solar industry, with 92% D.C. power after 25 years of usage.


SunPower Vs. Tesla — Result

Here’s the bottom line:

Sunpower is the winner In terms of efficiency and rated power degradation. However, Tesla solar panels have arguably better visual appeal. Not to mention, Tesla has recently been very competitive in innovating its panels, price-matching its competition, and offering low installation costs. In terms of price per watt, Tesla blows SunPower out of the water.


Which Company Produces Better Quality?

However, looking at it from a long-term investment standpoint, we think that SunPower’s residential PV module takes the cake because of its superior PV efficiency, and ability to minimize output degradation. Dominating the market in these categories is a mark of a professional manufacturer who has its head in the game.

It would be nice if they do something about their pricing though, as we will see later on.

Alternatively, you can’t deny the aesthetic allure and pleasure you derive from saying your PV roof is the Tesla.


SunPower vs. Tesla – Which Company Is Cheaper?

According to the NREL’s white paper report, SunPower’s residential solar panels cost around $4.2 per watt (ouch!)

This is pretty high considering that the median price of residential solar in the U.S. is $2.75 per watt.

SunPower Residential Solar Systems cost around $4.2 per watt
SunPower Residential Solar Systems cost around $4.2 per watt
Source: 2021 NREL white paper

As of 2020, the median gross cost of solar panels is $2.75 per watt.
As of 2020, the median gross cost of solar panels is $2.75 per watt.
Source: 2021 NREL white paper

However, Electrek.co recently reported that Tesla has decided to become competitive in the pricing arena. According to Electrek, Tesla’s price reduction in their 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).

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

  • $3.3 to $4.2 per watt * 5,000 watts = $16,500 to $21,000 for SunPower
  • $2.44 per watt * 5,000 watts = $12,200 for Tesla

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

Note: These systems will offset 78% of the electricity consumption of a home with a monthly bill of $130-$150, depending on which state you are in.

Which Company Is Right For You?

Here’s an updated summary:

SpecificationsSunPowerTesla
Solar Panel ManufacturingMade In-houseOutsourced
Rating / Efficiency415W @ 22.3%395W to 405W @ 20.1 % to 20.6%
Output Warranty 25 years25 years
Output Guarantee92% of Rated Power186% of Rated Power1
Solar Product Warranty25 years25 years
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)
(1 The term ‘Rated Power’ is the ideal solar panel output in desirable conditions. It is expressed in watts.)
SpecificationsSunPowerTesla
Cost ($ per watt)$4.2$2.44
System Size5kW5kW
Total Cost$16,500 to $21,000$12,200
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: $12,200 vs. SunPower $16,500 to $21,100) 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 the 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.
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 make your own decision 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, the company you choose will determine your renewable energy experience for the decades to come.

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
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]