Many factors influence the size of a solar panel. Despite the variation in size these result in, all solar panel companies use industry-standard sizes to make sure that fitting panels to your rooftop is a bit less complicated.
How Much Space Do Solar Panels Take Up?
Solar Panel Dimensions
Understanding solar panel specs can help you make the most of your available space.
The standard size for solar panels used by most solar manufacturers is around 65 inches by 39 inches. This measurement only applies to residential solar panels, which are panels made for home or mobile use.
Commercial solar panels, made for warehouses and other large buildings, are typically larger than residential solar panels and have a standard size of about 78 inches by 39 inches.
That sets the industry standard size for commercial solar panels at approximately 15 inches longer than residential panels, while sharing the same width.
When it comes to depth, solar panels are generally between 1.4 to 1.8 inches thick.
Residential solar panels are made by manufacturers to be a bit smaller than commercial panels for them to make the most of your available roof space.
They aren’t all exactly the same size, though. There is a slight variation in the standard sizing between solar panel companies due to manufacturing differences. Take a look at this if you want to know how much weight solar panels add to a roof.
Now let's see what makes up a solar panel to get a better grasp of what influences their size.
What Makes Up a Solar Panel?
Solar panels are made up of numerous photovoltaic (PV) solar cells made from silicone, which are lined up in rows and framed in a lightweight aluminum alloy to form a panel.
On an important side note, the way certain companies frame their panels can be different, which is the main reason for the variation in the industry-standard sizing.
The PV cells each measure 6 inches long and 6 inches wide. The size of the solar panels may vary, but PV cells always have a measurement of 6 x 6 inches. The solar panels are given a non-reflective glass coating to protect the silicon PV cells, which are extremely delicate.
Each PV cell is capable of generating a maximum open-circuit voltage of 0.5 to 0.6 volts. As for how many solar cells are in a solar panel, there are 60 PV cells found on a residential panel of standard size.
A residential solar panel with 60 PV cells can produce around 250 to 300 watts per hour, which is the most common solar panel used for homes due to its size and efficiency.
Standard-sized solar panels for commercial use, on the other hand, contain 72 PV cells, which have a power output of 350 to 400 watts.
Factors Determining the Size of Solar Panels
Solar Panel Wattage and Roof Space
Solar panels are sold according to their maximum energy output in watts per hour, which is determined by the number of PV cells located on the module.
The wattage of residential solar panels ranges from 150-watt panels to 370-watt panels. Homeowners generally purchase standard 250 to 300-watt solar panels containing 60 PV cells. The best place to install these kinds of solar panels is on the roof of your house.
A standard 60-cell solar panel takes up roughly 17 square feet. Each square foot of roof space can potentially generate up to 15 watts of energy with optimum sunlight levels. Smaller homes require around 200 square feet of roof space to gain maximum efficiency, while a larger home needs as much as 1,000 square feet.
This estimation depends on the quality of the panels used because not all solar panels are made equal. For example, solar panels made from monocrystalline cells are more energy-efficient than panels made from polycrystalline cells. This also determines how durable a solar panel is.
Type of Solar Panel
We focus on 2 types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.
Monocrystalline solar panels have an energy efficiency rate of 15% to 20%, while polycrystalline panel efficiency rates sit at around 13% to 16%. This means that monocrystalline panels produce more solar energy per square foot.
Their higher efficiency is because they’re made from just a single cut of silicone, allowing sunlight to be converted more effectively. Due to their space-saving capabilities, monocrystalline cells are usually the go-to solar panels for mobile homes and similar scenarios that require an off-grid solar system.
Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are the regular blue-hued glass modules you picture when thinking about solar panels. They are the most common residential solar panel for homeowners because they’re more affordable.
Each PV cell is made up of multiple layers of silicone that gives the panel its blue color. The movement of electrons is limited because of the layered silicon, which is the reason for polycrystalline panels being slightly less efficient than their monocrystalline counterparts and why they require more roof space.
Since solar panels use a wide range of wavelengths (250-2,500 nm), they can generate power even when they’re in the shade or when the light is dull. That being said, they operate best in bright, direct light.
How Much Space Is Needed to Power an Average Household?
The energy consumption for an average American household is around 10,715 kilowatt-hours, which means that you'd need a solar panel system with an energy output of 10 kilowatts to power your home.
If you're using standard-sized 300-watt solar panels you'd need roughly 28 to 34 of them, which of course depends on the efficiency of the panels used and your available roof space.
To work out how much roof space you’d need, simply multiply the size of the panels in square feet (give or take 17 sq. ft in this scenario) by the number of panels you need.
Let's say you need 34 panels. This requires around 578 square feet of roof space. Solar panels can be placed anywhere on your property if enough space is available, it's not just limited to roof space. It's important to assess the space you have available before purchasing solar.
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