Power output or wattage is an important factor to consider when comparing solar panel options. You may hear your solar installer say, “it’s a 255 Watt panel” or “the panel I am recommending is a 300 wattage.” Or, when you are reading a quote from a solar installer, you might see numbers like 245W, 300W, or 345W next to the name of the panel. They are all referring to a solar panel’s wattage, capacity and power output. So, what is the typical output of solar panels?
This piece will explain how solar panel ratings work so you can better compare your solar options. All solar panels are rated by the amount of DC (direct current) power they produce under standard test conditions. Solar panel power output is expressed in units of watts (W), and represents the panel’s theoretical power production under ideal sunlight and temperature conditions. Most solar panels on the market today have power output ratings ranging from 200 to 350 watts, with higher power ratings generally viewed as being more favorable than lower power ratings. Pricing in solar is typically measured in dollars per watt ($/w), and the wattage of your solar panels plays a significant part in the overall cost of your solar system.
Why Does Solar Panel Power Output Matter? How to Calculate Panel Wattage
When you buy or install a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy system for your home or commercial property, the price you pay is typically based on the total power output of the solar panels in the system (expressed in watts or kilowatts). Solar panel wattage represents a solar panel’s theoretical power production under ideal sunlight and temperature conditions. Wattage is calculated by multiplying volts x amps where volts represents the amount of force of the electricity and amperes (amps) refers to the aggregate amount of energy used. The financial savings you derive from the solar system is a result of the electric energy that it generates over time (expressed in kilowatt-hours).
Size vs. Quantity: The Typical Solar Panel Ratings and Capacity
Power output on its own is not a complete indicator of a panel’s quality and performance characteristics. For some panels, their high power output rating is due to their larger physical size rather than their higher efficiency or technological superiority. For example, if two solar panels both have 15 percent efficiency ratings, but one has a power output rating of 250 watts and the other is rated at 300 watts, it means that the 300-watt panel is about 20 percent physically larger than the 250-watt panel. That’s why EnergySage and other industry experts view panel efficiency as being a more indicative criterion of solar panel performance strength than solar capacity alone.
In practical terms, a solar panel system with a total rated capacity of 5kW (kilowatts) could be made up of either 20 250-Watt panels or 16 300-Watt panels. Both the systems will generate the same amount of power in the same geographic location. Though a 5kW system may produce 6,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every year in Boston, that same system will produce 8,000 kWh every year in Los Angeles because of the amount of sun each location gets each year. (Read our blog on how electricity production and electricity prices you pay to your utility impacts your savings.)
The electricity generated by a solar PV system is governed by its rated power output, but it’s also dependent on other factors such as panel efficiency and temperature sensitivity, as well as the degree of shading that the system experiences and the tilt angle and azimuth of the roof on which it’s installed. As a general rule of thumb, it makes prudent financial sense to install a solar system with as much power output as you can afford (or that your roof will accommodate). That will ensure you maximize your savings and speed up the payback period of your solar energy system.
Find out more about average prices for solar across the country for 3.5kW,4.5kW, 5kW, 6kW, 7 kW, 8 kW and 10kW solar systems.The EnergySage Solar Marketplace makes it easy for you to compare your savings from solar panels with various power output ratings.
How Many Watts Does a Solar Panel Produce?
The two Exhibits below present different views of the power output characteristics from the leading manufacturers who supply solar panels to the US market. Because panel manufacturers often produce more than one line of solar panel models, the power output of most company has a significant range. Exhibit 1 illustrates the range of power outputs offered by each manufacturer’s panel products, and Exhibit 2 lists the minimum, maximum, and average power outputs of the solar panels within each manufacturer’s portfolio.
Solar Panel Electricity Production By Manufacturer
Exhibit 1: Range of Power Output of Solar Panels Manufacturers
Exhibit 2: Power Output (in Watts) of Solar Panels Manufacturers
Solar Panel Manufacturer
|Trina Solar Energy||250||345||287|
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
When it comes to solar quotes, the more the merrier
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation is a long process that will include a lot of research and consideration. Amidst that research process should be a thorough review of every option available to you and every company that serves your area. Of course, in order to find the smaller contractors that cannot afford to put up billboard ads or run TV commercials across your state, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. If you’d like to get some free quotes from vetted installers in your state or even town, register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installer will not always offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. In residential solar, a few big companies control more than half of the overall market share, and their business model is built on the assumption that homeowners won’t bother looking at all of their options. On the contrary, small installers on EnergySage are aware that they are competing for your business and thus offer lower quotes. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers in your area to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
Just as large installers will not need to offer lower prices because of the nature of reduced competition, they are also unlikely to offer a variety of solar equipment options – they may just offer one brand of solar panel and inverter. For this reason, it is equally as important to get a diverse array of solar bids so you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
Certain panels will have much higher efficiency ratings than others. Depending on where you live and the roof you have, you may or may not need to pay more for top-notch solar equipment. There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. Your roof may best suit an economy solar panel – the only way to find out is to look at quotes that have varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like to get a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.