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Solar panels have become a popular alternative to traditional grid-tied electricity. They work by harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it into power for your home, helping to reduce your environmental impact and save you money on electric bills.
You’ll need to determine how much power a solar panel can produce and whether that’s enough to meet your home’s needs to decide if going solar is worth it for you. The production levels can vary based on numerous factors, such as your climate, roof orientation and shading, and the panels’ efficiency rate. We’ll go over these factors in detail below and explain how top solar companies choose the best panels for your home.
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity, which you can use to power your home. The amount of power a solar panel produces depends on several factors, including the panel size, the type of cells used and their efficiency, and the amount of sunlight the panel receives.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are made of a series of solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells. These cells are made of semiconductor materials, such as silicon. When sunlight hits these cells, it knocks electrons loose from the silicon atoms. The electrons flow through the cell and into an electrical circuit. The more cells there are in a solar panel, the more power it can produce.
The electric current is converted from direct current (DC) energy by the panels to alternating current (AC) energy by the solar inverter. The converted electricity moves to your electrical panel and to your outlets. The current’s strength depends on the sun’s intensity and the solar panel’s size.
Solar panels work best in cloudless, sunny conditions. The more hours of direct sunlight they receive, the more energy they produce. Panels are typically installed at angles between 30 and 45 degrees to maximize their exposure. They drop in production due to shadows covering the surface, low sunlight days, or diminished sunlight exposure. Production will also go down as the number of sun hours decreases in fall and winter.
Weather conditions, such as high temperatures, can also impact a panel’s function. Solar panel manufacturers use standard test conditions of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. As temperatures rise, panel efficiency and production begin to drop. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat will affect your solar panel output and longevity.
Types of Solar Panels
Monocrystalline (mono) solar panels have higher efficiency and energy output. Efficiency indicates the amount of sunlight your panels can absorb and convert to solar energy. The higher a panel’s efficiency rating, the better its power production. Monocrystalline panels have high efficiency ratings of 15% to 21%.
Since mono panels offer better power output, you’ll need fewer panels to run your home. Monocrystalline panels also take up less room on your roof, making them ideal for homes with limited roof space. Due to their many benefits, monocrystalline panels are priced the highest.
Polycrystalline (poly) panels are a more cost-effective alternative. Though they’re less expensive per panel, the tradeoff is lower power production and efficiency. Poly panels have efficiency ratings between 13% and 16%. You’ll need a larger number of polycrystalline panels in your installation to meet your power needs, and thus ample roof space.
How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?
Solar panels are rated by the amount of power they can produce in ideal conditions, typically around 1,000 watts per square meter. However, in real-world conditions, they usually only produce 200 to 300 watts per square meter. Most residential solar panels produce between 1 and 3 kilowatts (kW) of power. That might not sound like much, but it’s enough to power a small home or business.
Panel size and the cells’ efficiency determine the power ratings. For example, a standard solar panel may be rated at 200 watts, while a more efficient panel may be rated at 400 watts.
Solar installers will determine the correct panel size based on the amount of electricity needed to run your home.
Many solar systems generate more power than your home needs. You can add solar battery storage to your system to store this excess energy for later use. Solar energy storage can power your home at night or on cloudy days. It can also serve as emergency backup power during a blackout. If you have a grid-tied system, you can use the energy stored in your solar batteries to power your home during high electricity rates, helping you save more money. You can add a solar battery during your initial installation or later on.
Building the Right Solar System
Professional solar installers determine how many solar panels you need based on how much electricity your home needs to run. They’ll review your electric bills from several months to determine your average usage and recommend the best solar panel wattage to power your home. Remember that higher efficiency panels, such as monocrystalline panels, will provide the best efficiency and power production.
Consider using statewide and federal solar incentives to reduce the high up-front costs of installing solar panels. These credits and rebates lower your installation costs, maximizing your savings and creating a higher return on investment.
It’s important to know how much power your solar panels produce so that you can properly size your system. The amount of power a solar panel generates depends on its type, efficiency, and the angle at which it’s installed. Experienced solar installations will build a solar panel system that aligns with your typical energy usage. Even if your system is slightly overpowered, you can use solar batteries to save energy for later use.
Solar Panel Power FAQ
What is the best type of solar panel for my home?
Monocrystalline solar panels are considered the best type for homes. They provide the highest efficiency and power production. Since they’re high-quality panels, you’ll need fewer panels in your installation. However, these panels cost more than other types.
What is the typical life expectancy of a solar panel?
Solar panels typically last 25 to 30 years with proper maintenance, but could last longer.
What is the standard size of a solar panel?
A solar panel is typically about 65 inches by 39 inches. However, the size can vary among solar panel manufacturers.
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