There are many solar products available beyond the traditional 60 or 72-cell panels used for rooftop, ground-mounted, commercial, and utility-scale solar panels. For solar shoppers looking for small solar panels, we’ll walk through some of the options available.
How are small solar panels different? What makes a “small solar panel”?
Small solar panels are physically smaller and produce much less electricity than traditional solar panels. As such, they are most often used in off-grid or portable energy applications. Most manufacturers who produce traditional solar panels do not also produce panels of smaller sizes. Small solar panels can be used in many different ways: as a phone charger, for RVs and during camping trips, and for small off-grid solar projects.
If you’re looking to save money by offsetting your home energy use with a solar power system, small panels likely won’t get the job done. In order to generate the electricity needed to power all of your appliances, the best option is to get quotes for a solar system installation that produces much more energy than smaller panels can.
Types of small solar panels
There are two general product categories you can choose from if you’re looking for small panels: low-wattage solar panels and portable solar gadgets.
Low-wattage solar panels
Typically, solar panels used in rooftop and ground-mounted installations are between 250 and 365 watts (W). Panels of 100W and lower are available for purchase from many companies and can be a good solution for small-scale electricity generation projects. For example, using one or more 100W solar panels to provide electricity to a boat or motorhome is a great way to keep electrical appliances and batteries charged up on the go using the sun’s energy.
Low-wattage panels come in several sizes, from around 10W up to 100W. Panels larger than 100W will begin to have more similar dimensions as standard residential solar panels. Here are just a few small panel options you can purchase:
There are several other essential components that you’ll need to have set up in order to generate and use electricity from a small solar panel. In addition to the panel or panels themselves, you’ll require a solar charge controller, an inverter, and a battery backup system. Solar panels don’t produce usable electricity independently, so you can’t simply plug in an appliance to a panel to power it.
Setting up a functional off-grid solar energy system like this means working with wires and electrical components. Unless you have experience working with photovoltaics and electrical systems, it may be worth your time to hire a trained electrician to set your small panels up for energy generation. When it comes to larger, grid-tied solar panel systems, it’s always a safe bet to hire a certified solar installer to get the job done.
Portable solar gadgets
The second type of smaller solar panels is the general category of solar gadgets. This could include anything from portable phone chargers to solar-powered speakers, keyboards, backpacks, and more. In general, gadgets like solar phone chargers are much smaller than a solar panel, usually handheld or even foldable for easy transportation and use.
There are tons of portable solar gadgets available, so here are just a few examples of what you might find:
Unlike low-wattage solar panels, portable solar gadgets are all-in-one systems, meaning you won’t need to buy and set up charge controllers, batteries, and extra wiring to use your gadget. All that you need to operate a solar phone charger is some sunlight and a low-charged mobile phone.
Solar panel size: what are typical dimensions for solar panels?
Small solar panels vary in size based on their wattage. On the lower end of the wattage scale, panels can be close to 1 foot by 1 foot, and most 100W solar panels tend to have dimensions of about 2 feet by 4 feet.
Most often, residential solar panels (250W to 365W) are around 5.5 feet by 3.5 feet. Larger, commercial and industrial-scale panels have extra solar cells and can be closer to 6 feet long. Check out our article on the size and weight of solar panels to learn more about how the space on your roof impacts the amount of electricity you can generate from solar panels.
Compare solar quotes for your property on EnergySage
For smaller solar projects, lower wattage panels can be a great way to avoid starting up a gas generator. Additionally, small panels make for easy portable power on camping trips, RV trips, or long hikes. When it comes to providing power an entire home or business, the best way to get the right solar energy setup is to register your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. Through our platform, qualified solar installers can submit quotes on your property. If the type and size of panel used for your installation is an important factor, you can easily view your quotes and the equipment they include side-by-side through the Marketplace.