200-watt solar panels: are they right for you?

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One important metric to consider when comparing solar panel options is a panel’s power rating, referred to as wattage. 200-watt solar panels are on the lower end of the wattage spectrum of solar panels available today, and depending on the type of solar project you have, may or may not be the best option.

Most solar panels installed on homes or businesses today are between 250 to 365 watts per panel, and solar panels above and below that range are also available. In order to determine if 200-watt solar panels are right for you, it is important to understand what the options are and how much energy 200-watt panels produce.

200-watt solar panel kit options

While most solar companies and installers do not offer 200-watt solar panels for rooftop or ground-mounted installations, you can buy 200-watt panel kits for DIY-type solar projects. Companies like Grape Solar and Renogy offer 200-watt solar panel kits for purchase. These 200-watt kits are almost always a set of two 100-watt panels packaged together as a unified solar kit.

200-watt solar panels are most often used for portable solar projects, as well as DIY solar and generating power for RVs and boats.

How many 200-watt solar panels do you need?

A 200-watt solar panel kit is rated to produce 200 watts of power, but the actual power output you see from your panels depends on many factors, including geographic location, shading, and the tilt of your panels.

200-watt solar panel kits are often simply two 100-watt panels sold together to produce a total of 200 watts of power. 200 watts is slightly below what is considered “standard” in the residential solar panel market, and a 200-watt solar panel kit will produce less electricity than most residential panel models.

The number of solar panels you’ll install depends on the amount of electricity you want to generate and the space available for solar panels. The table below compares different sized solar panel systems by the number of 200-watt solar panel kits needed for each system size.

How many 200-watt solar panels do you need? System size comparison table

System size (kW)Average annual kWh productionNumber of 200-watt panel kits
2 kW2,82010
5 kW7,05025
6 kW8,46030
7 kW9,87035
*assumes a production ratio of 1.41

Using ten 200-watt solar panels (or twenty 100-watt panels) will produce roughly 3,000 kilowatts hours (kWh) of electricity, which is far below how much electricity a standard single-family household uses. Only once you install 30 kits, which ends up being 60 individual 100-watt panels, will you produce enough electricity to significantly offset or eliminate your electric bill with solar.

Installing 25 to 35 200-watt solar panel kits takes significant space. The table below demonstrates estimates for solar energy systems using only 200-watt solar panels. For the purpose of calculating estimated space needed, we assumed that 200-watt solar panels are, on average, 16 square feet (8’ by 4’, or two 100-watt panels at 4’ by 2’ each).

How much space will a solar installation with 200-watt solar panels take?

System size (kW)Number of 200-watt solar panel kitsEstimated space needed (sq. ft.)
2 kW10160
5 kW25400
6 kW30480
7 kW35560

If you choose to use 200-watt solar panel kits and want to cover most or all of your electricity use, be prepared to install a significant number of panels. Your roof may not even have enough space for the high amount of panels needed, and a ground-mounted system may be the only way to accommodate that many panels.

What will a 200-watt solar panel run?

200-watt solar panel kits may not be the best option for a large, 5 or 6 kW solar system, but are still useful for some types of solar projects.

For example, if you are working on an off-grid solar project aimed at powering a tiny home or a solar shed, a 200-watt solar panel kit may be enough for your energy needs. 200-watt panels are also useful for camping and RV trips for on-the-go power from the sun.

Another use case for 200-watt panel kits is if you have unlimited amounts of space for your solar panel installation and can install enough of these panels to meet your electricity needs. Large-scale commercial or utility installations may avoid high wattage panels because they have the space to install more panels and can save on the upfront cost by installing lower wattage panels. That being said, even with extra space available, projects in this category will likely use panels above 200 watts because most solar developers or solar installation companies don’t carry 200-watt panels for their grid-tied installations.

Are 200-watt solar panel kits right for my solar installation?

If you’re looking to maximize your electricity savings, 200-watt solar panels aren’t going to get the job done. To cover the majority or all of your electricity needs, you should initially consider standard and above panel options (250 watts and above).

So if not 200 watts, what power rating should you look for in your solar panels? It’s entirely dependent on the specifics of your project. If you have a perfect roof for solar, sufficient space for your solar installation, or are considering a ground mounted system, panels with standard efficiencies and wattages are likely going to meet your needs. Alternatively, if you have limited roof space or prefer to install fewer panels overall, then high wattage, high-efficiency panels (such as those carried by SunPower, LG, and Panasonic) are the way to go. These panel options are typically more expensive upfront, but they will enable you to generate as much electricity as possible and save more money on your electricity bills for the 25-30 years.

Whether you’re looking for low, standard, or high wattage panels, you can get multiple solar quotes from pre-screened installers by signing up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. If you have preferences when it comes to solar equipment, you can simply note them in your account so installers can quote accordingly. If you’d prefer to start investigating your solar options with a quick estimate on what solar can save you, try our Solar Calculator.

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is a researcher and content writer at EnergySage, where he focuses primarily on current issues–and new technology!–in the solar industry. With a background in environmental and geological science, Jacob brings an analytical perspective and passion for conservation to help solar shoppers make the right energy choices for their wallet and the environment. Outside of EnergySage, you can find him playing Ultimate Frisbee or learning a new, obscure board game.

8 thoughts on “200-watt solar panels: are they right for you?

  1. AvatarGrover Larkins

    First off, most of the newer 360 watt class panels are much higher efficiency than most of the older 200 watt and 100 watt panels. The 200 watt panels are generally in the 15% range, the 360 watt panels are in the 19-21% range .

    Secondly, for efficiency it behooves the designer to utilize LiFePO4 batteries as their cyclic life is 10 times that of lead acid, their storage loss is lower and the charging efficiency is nearly 95% versus about 60% for lead acid.

    Thirdly, the more modern systems are going to solar panel strings in series of 400+ volts and battery banks of up to 96 volts (48V used to be the “high” end but this is no longer the case for larger systems. This reduces wire sizes and the inductor ferrite/iron sizes and losses in the inverter as well since the current on the inductors and transformers is lower. Note that 10 amps at 400V dc is 4 kW so the power available at the panel farm IS lethal.

    Finally, a 360-400 watt panel is nominally 1 m x 2m so you have 2 m^2 per panel. 10 panels side by side is about 400 inches or 33 feet. Two meters is 6.6 feet or about 80 inches. This means that a 3.6 to 4 kW panel farm will require about 220 square feet of space. A small 1000 square foot house with a peaked roof thus has about a maximum of 500 square feet on the sunny side of the peak. A 7-8 kW panel farm can fit such a roof.

    Battery bank sizing should be such that even if you have 3 days of cloudy weather the entire load can be covered by the bank. Hence if you are harvesting 8 kW for 4 hours a day and only using 20 kW-hr per day you have a surplus of 12 kW-hr but need a storage system for 60 kW-hr. LiFePO4 batteries generally cost about $800 per kW-hr so the battery bank is $48,000. This is, by far, the single largest cost. Panels are about $1 per watt and about $1.5 per watt to install. This is $20,000 for the panel farm. The inverter and charger system is in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 depending upon power output. Clearly the battery bank is, overall, somewhere above 50% of the total cost.

    The lifespan of the system is about a decade. After that time you will be seeing significant reduction in the output of the panel farm, issues with the battery bank and the structure supporting the panel farm will need re inspection and, if on a roof, potentially, a new roof.

    This is not inexpensive! About the only time that whole house solar becomes cost effective is if the house is remotely located and quite a few miles from the grid. Power companies can charge a lot to bring power to an outlying home and that may cost more than a solar system.

    As a final caveat: heating loads should never be put on a solar system. They are far better served through propane or oil heating. A small space.heater that you plug in and move around is a 1000 watt load. You need over 5 kW of constant power to heat a 1000 square foot home in a very cold winter even with very good insulation. Cooling from 90 F to 70 F is a 20 F differential in the summer. Heating from 15 F to 65 F is a 50 F differential and costs 2.5 times as much energy. Hot water is likewise better served with propane. If your total electric usage was calculated using electric heating and water heating you should factor in the cost of converting to propane and then recalculate your electrical needs. They will likely be significantly lower….

    Good luck,

    Dr. Larkins

    Reply
  2. AvatarRobert Finnigan

    Reply for Joseph G Michaud;
    I’m using a 100 watt home made AC pulse charger: 16 Vac at 6amp, center fed to two Interstate Deep Cycle SRM-27 batteries. Had one batt. bad from the store, replaced for free on warrentee.
    Runs AIMS Power PWRINV250024W 24volt DC to AC Inverter. Not a sine wave.
    You need the two 12 volt batteries to hook up together for 24 volts. (Measure at 27v charged). You need thick battery cables, 4 short runs of 10 AWG at 70 amps drops notable power.
    I get 1,600 watts for 44 minutes on a full charge until the ‘low input shut off’ stops the unit.
    @1.5 KWHour.
    My lights are LED, 4 foot T8s, run 15 watts each total. (Store box reads 40 watts but LEDs drops it.)
    I’d guess (never tried) NOT to run a microwave on non sine wave power.
    Old hot plate, toaster, flat grill that have those red hot elements work OK on this type “Square wave” power. Figure on 80% to give you 19 hours to charge back up the two batteries, with my 100watt charger. IMO -Your best plan would be to use two 200 watt kits, one to charge each battery for the 24 volt inverter.

    Reply
  3. AvatarJoseph G Michaud

    Sorry my question should have read solar kit not solar can’t and living in an RV without power so will a 200 watt solar kit work for me?

    Reply
  4. AvatarJoseph G Michaud

    I’m living off the grid in have an RV will a 200 watt solar can’t be sufficient for my lights and my microwave all which are powered by 110 volt?

    Reply
  5. AvatarDavid Brower

    This makes very little sense, and in no way addressed the question why one would choose 200w panels instead of higher capacity ones that are cheaper per watt, and cheaper to install because of reduced labor and racking expense.

    Reply
  6. AvatarMDB

    Very informative! I think the numbers you have provided are accurate, thanks for breaking this down. I agree with this general rule, “the number of solar panels you’ll install depends on the amount of electricity you want to generate and the space available for solar panels.” Great read and I hope to continue reading more informative piece in your blog!

    Reply

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