12v solar panel price

renogy 400w solar starter kit with 40a mppt charge controller

What is the 12v Solar Panel Price? 12V Solar Panels work by converting sunlight into an electric current which can be used to charge batteries or converted using an inverter to safely power 240V appliances such as laptops and phone chargers. While solar panels are simple to set up and use, choosing the right one takes a little more consideration. With a range of solar panel brands on the market, you need to know that the products you are buying will meet your power requirements and are of high enough quality to last.

Our guide to choosing a 12V portable solar panel takes you through what you need to look for in the construction of your panel, as well as sizing information and how to use a solar regulator.

The Difference Between Fixed vs Portable Solar Panels

12V Solar Panels can be used in two main variations, depending on your power needs and the type of trip you’re taking. Fixed Solar Panels are mounted on the roof of your caravan, boat or 4WD to absorb sunlight while travelling or when your vehicle is parked in a sunny spot. Most caravans have a roof space big enough to hold a system that covers the majority of their power needs and there won’t be any set up to worry about when you arrive at your destination. The disadvantage of fixed solar panels is in their positioning – because they will be laid flat atop your vehicle and you may not always park in direct sunlight, they lose around 20% of the power they could potentially produce in a day. With portable solar panels, this is less of a problem. The panels can be placed in the sun and moved to follow its arc while a cable runs back to your battery. This allows you to ‘chase the sun’ and generate the maximum amount of power from your panels. However you will need to allow extra time for setting up and packing down your solar panels as you journey around.

The Cell Quality in 12V Portable Solar Panels is Important

The type of cells used in your 12v portable solar panel is an important consideration. Solar panels are graded on the quality of the photovoltaic cells used in their construction; with the more efficient cells producing the most energy. The three main types of solar cell used in modern solar panels are the mono-crystalline which works best in direct sunlight, poly-crystalline which functions more efficiently in low-light conditions and the less common amorphous cells made from thin, flexible film panels.

Look for a trusted manufacturer behind your solar cells, such as Kyocera. The Japanese brand’s solar cells use multicrystalline technology (a combination of mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline), which features a greater surface area to collect sunlight and increase output.Some lower quality brands will rate their solar cells to a higher wattage than the level they perform at, leaving you with an inferior panel that won’t support your power needs. When it comes to Solar Panels the cheapest options are often an inferior panel and it is worth investing a little more to know that you’re getting a good quality panel that will last and is covered by a warranty. Good quality panels will generally have great standard warranties because the product technology is advanced and has a proven track record.

12v solar panel price

Best Overall: Renogy 400W Solar Starter Kit with 40A MPPT Charge Controller

  • Watts: 400
  • Volts: 12
  • The High Points: Comes equipped with a Rover MPPT charge controller.
  • The Not-So Good: No battery bank included.

As one of the leading solar energy brands on the market, Renogy offers superior equipment at a competitive price. From efficient panels to reliable charge controllers, the popular brand always impresses. The trend continues with their 400W Starter Kit that comes equipped with a name-brand 40A Rover MPPT charge controller and four 100W solar panels.

The kit includes all the essentials, minus the battery bank, which is easy enough to purchase separately. And if you’d like to expand your energy potential in the future, you can purchase additional Renogy panels to connect to the system. The MPPT charge controller can handle up to 800W (24V) of power.

What Do Reviewers Say?

The majority of reviewers claim that the system is easy to install independently. However, they warn that the kit doesn’t come with installation instructions, so it’s important to do research beforehand. If you have any questions, Renogy’s support team is available to provide advice.

Several buyers have used their kits to power vans or trailers with great success. The 400W rating is ideal for small consumption use while still providing location independence. The lightweight design and easy installation is also a key selling point for travelers looking to power their rigs.

There have been a few complaints to Amazon because the MPPT charge controller was not included in the package. Some question whether or not there are quality checks conducted in the warehouse before the units are shipped. However, this issue was quickly resolved for the reviewer after sending in a support ticket.

Features & Considerations

Renogy’s solar panels use monocrystalline solar cells, which have the highest efficiency rating. This type of solar cell is also lighter, making it easier to install. The entire kit, including bolts, panels and a charge controller weighs in at a reasonable 90 pounds. Each panel is 39.7 inches by 26.7 inches by 1.4 inches.

The kit will need to be supplemented with a solar battery bank. A 300AH gel battery is enough to meet most homeowners’ needs. Alternatively, you can also use golf cart batteries, boat batteries or any other type of power bank to charge your devices.

The Rover MPPT charge controller is another quality addition. The Rover model is a top-tier piece of equipment in its own right. Overall, MPPT controllers are more efficient than PWM controllers, which is why we chose the Renogy MPPT kit over the cheaper PWM kit as our best overall.

The kit also includes mounting Z brackets, a 20ft 10AWG MC4 adapter kit, and 8ft 10AWG tray cables. The kit can be installed on any off-grid system, including RVs, trailers, boats and cabins.

For more specialized kits, like waterproof marine systems, Renogy offers a variety of other options at various price points. However, their 400W starter kit is the best overall option for general use.Click to See Price

grape solar 540w off grid solar panel kit

Runner Up: Grape Solar 540W Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit

  • Watts: 540
  • Volts: 12
  • The High Points: The kit is great for powering small, location-independent consumption systems.
  • The Not-So Good: An expensive price point for relatively low wattage and no included battery bank.

Grape Solar’s unique 540W Off-Grid kit boasts minimal maintenance, easy installation and durability. With a price point that’s more expensive than most other similarly equipped kits, Grape Solar has a lot to prove. However, the well-reviewed system lives up to its marketing; buyers love their kits, no matter the price point.

Overall, the kit is best for off-grid systems like boats, RVs, cabins, sheds, vehicles and tiny houses. It’s not suitable for entire households as it only provides enough power to fuel small appliances and electronic devices. With USB ports and outlets, the system is easy to connect to.

Like the Renogy starter kit, Grape Solar’s kit doesn’t come with a 12V battery bank. This will need to be purchased separately. Otherwise, all essential hardware, including a charge controller, is included. This makes assembly a breeze as you don’t need to scramble to find the right parts for installation.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Reviewers love how easy the kit is to assemble. It comes with an instruction manual that explains the wiring and connectors. However, you will need to build your own frame/panel rack for mounting, which may be a nuisance for novice DIYers.

Even at the relatively high price point, buyers claim that the kit is a great value. With its high-quality materials and excellent customer service, Grape Solar’s solar panel kit exceeds expectations. This should be reassuring for anyone who is worried about investing in a more expensive kit.

Features & Considerations

The 540W rating is a good choice for those looking to fully power small appliances, like pumps, solar lights or laptops. It’s an “in-between” option as most kits offer 100-400W of power, or 1,000W+. Overall, the system can produce roughly 1,620W hours or 135A hours of charge per day.

The kit includes three 180W monocrystalline solar panels, which are the most efficient solar cells available. The panels are also built with an aluminum frame and sealed junction box, so the system is virtually weatherproof. Durability is an important consideration for solar panels, and Grape Solar hits the mark.

Along with the panels, the kit also includes a 40A Comet PWM charge controller. The PWM charge controller is not as efficient as an MPPT controller but it does the job. It also offers mobile monitoring which is great for those on the road.

While the kit does not come equipped with a 12V deep cycle battery which is necessary for operation, it does have a 15A inline-MC4 comparable fuse, a 1,800W pure sine inverter with two outlets and a USB port. The USB port is particularly useful for plugging in small devices.Click to See Price

renogy 3600 watt solar cabin kit

Best for Off-Grid Homes: Renogy 3600-Watt Solar Cabin Kit

  • Watts: 3600
  • Volts: 48
  • The High Points: Can fully power small-sized households or work as a backup source for regular homes.
  • The Not-So Good: Not ideal for those looking to dabble in solar panels.

Renogy, the top-tier brand that topped our list with their 400W starter kit, also offers a variety of other systems. The 3600W Solar Cabin Kit is a powerful addition to any small household. With advanced panels and a host of high-quality equipment options, the kit is ideal for remote cabins, off-grid residences and commercial rooftop systems.

Although the price tag may seem startlingly high for newbies in the DIY solar market, it’s actually a reasonable cost when considering the size of the bundle. The kit comes with a MidNite Classic MPPT charge controller and a MidNite Solar MNPV6 Combiner box. However, you will need to purchase a 48V battery bank separately.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Overall, reviewers are pleased with their purchase. Few buyers have left comments, but those who have are satisfied and have not had issues with installation or output. One reviewer claims they haven’t yet experienced any problems after a year of continuous use.

However, a buyer claimed that no instructions were included in the kit. This may be an issue for those who are not familiar with solar power systems. If this is the case, it’s best to reach out to Renogy’s customer support for assistance.

Features & Considerations

The kit comes with twelve 300W monocrystalline solar panels. The panels use PERC solar cells, which are more efficient. Overall, each solar panel is 15-20% shorter and lighter than a regular 72 cell 300W panel.

The solar panels are able to withstand high winds (2400Pa) and snow loads (5400Pa) should you live in a climate with frequent inclement weather. This durability makes it ideal for rooftop mounting on residential or commercial buildings. The panels also boast the ability to perform well in low-light environments.

In each kit, you’ll find a MidNite Classic 150 MPPT charge controller. This industry favorite is a leader in remote monitoring and offers a wide range of features and more control over the system compared to PWM charge controllers. There’s also a MidNite Solar MNPV6 Combiner Box, another popular piece of equipment, which is rated for outdoor use.

Renogy guarantees a positive output tolerance (0-3%). They also offer a 25-year power output warranty on the panels, a 5-year material warranty and a 1-year accessories warranty. This may ease potential buyers’ concerns about the upfront investment in an entire system that’s not backed by a professional installation and solar service company.Click to See Price

allpowers 100w solar panel charger

For Those on a Budget: ALLPOWERS 100W Solar Panel Charger

  • Watts: 100
  • Volts: 18
  • The High Points: A unique, flexible design offered at a low price point.
  • The Not-So Good: Doesn’t offer the ability for expansion as you’re limited to a low number of panel connections.

The 100W solar panel kit by ALLPOWERS is a great option for new solar DIYers or those looking to power small devices. Although the kit is cheap, it still offers some great perks, like a flexible panel, 18V output and super simple mounting design. Not only that, but ALLPOWERS boasts a 21% panel efficiency rating, compared to the standard 15% of other panels.

Although there are certainly cheaper 100W panels on the market, the ALLPOWERS model rises to the top because of its quality and features. However, be aware that you will still need to purchase a battery bank and charge controller separately which will significantly increase your overhead costs.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Purchasers are pleased with the overall quality and capacity of the ALLPOWERS solar panels. Various verified uses include camping vans, boat refrigerators, charging iPhones, water pumps and tiny houses. The wide range of applications make this a great option for most buyers.

However, one reviewer claimed that they faced issues when connecting two panels in a series. The voltage dropped and the reviewer did not know if this was a result of faulty panels or their charge controller. Whatever the cause, this may be a red flag for those looking to expand their system for higher capacity output.

Features & Considerations

ALLPOWERS solar panels offer a relatively innovative feature: flexibility. The SunPower panel is semi-flexible and the plastic back sheet can be bent into a 30-degree arc. This flexibility means that it can be mounted on a variety of irregular surfaces, like cars, trailers or boats.

The 100W solar panel is made with monocrystalline solar cells, which have a high conversion efficiency rating. Each panel only weighs 4.1 pounds, making it easy to transport and install. The unique frameless design with pre-drilled panel holes is also an added benefit for those on the go.

ALLPOWERS recommends that you should not use more than 2 panels in parallel with a PWM controller, or 4 panels in a series connection with an MPPT controller. This means that the total wattage available is fairly low, and you are limited by the number of panels you can install. You will also need to purchase an 18V battery bank and solar charge controller.Click to See Price

acopower 3x35w solar panel kit

Best for Traveling: ACOPOWER 3X35W Solar Panel Kit

  • Watts: 105
  • Volts: 12
  • The High Points: Unique “suitcase” design makes it very portable and easy to transport.
  • The Not-So Good: Design flaw with the wiring to the charge controller.

For those who are perpetual nomads, the ACOPOWER solar panel kit is here to meet your needs. With a useful and unique folding panel design, the kit makes assembly and packing up a breeze. The lightweight and compact panel construction means those who are always on the go can tuck their panels in the trunk or stowaway compartment when you aren’t using them.

The panel kit also comes with a LandStar 10A PWM charge controller. This also includes a USB output and alligator clamps for battery charging. You can tuck these extra additions away into the front pocket of the “suitcase” for easy access.

With a variety of bells and whistles, the ACOPOWER kit is an incredibly affordable option for those looking to power appliances on the road. 105W is all the power you need to charge laptops, phones or other essential devices. You will not need to do any setup, including tools or wiring. Simply stop your RV, pop out the standing legs and start charging.

What Do Reviewers Say?

The quality of construction and efficiency of the ACOPOWER portable kit thoroughly impresses reviewers. Successful applications include being used as RV solar panels, and for disaster relief and camping. People have even used this all-purpose kit in stationary capacities, like a household.

One reviewer claims that it outperforms other similar models made by other brands. The peak efficiency rating was consistently higher. This should provide confidence for those comparing other brands and/or models to ACOPOWER’s 105W suitcase kit.

However, some have had issues with the panels being too delicate. The crimp-on wire ends that secure the controller have a gap which exposes the wires. This can become an issue in the future if it isn’t fixed.

Features & Considerations

Perhaps the greatest selling point for ACOPOWER’s solar panel kit is its unique “suitcase” design. The panel is actually three separate 35W panels mounted on a foldable surface. This tri-fold option is great for those looking to regularly transport their panels, like those traveling in an RV or on a boat.

The entire compact kit is only 7.9 pounds and can be reduced down to a size of 22 inches by 17 inches by 50 inches. The laminated panels and mounting surface are also weather-resistant and can be safely used in rain. The panels come equipped with a back prop stand for easy and quick assembly on the go.

The kit comes with an SAE connector for pre-wired Zap Solar RV or campers. You can also purchase additional adapters from the company. On top of that, you will need to acquire a 12V battery that’s compatible with your devices.Click to See Price

windynation 400w solar panel kit 1500w vertamax power inverter agm battery bank

Best All-In-One Kit: WindyNation 400W Solar Panel Kit + 1500W VertaMax Power Inverter + AGM Battery Bank

  • Watts: 400
  • Volts: 12
  • The High Points: Comes fully equipped with a charge controller, inverter and battery bank.
  • The Not-So Good: No choice in equipment as it comes fully bundled.

As one of the more popular brands in the DIY solar market, WindyNation is known for making reliable equipment. Their 400W comprehensive solar panel kit is no exception. If you’re looking to completely eliminate the need to research and purchase additional accessories for your solar system, then this kit is for you.

The kit comes equipped with everything you need to create a solar panel system from scratch. It even includes an inverter and four battery banks. However, one downside to this bundled option is that you have no choice in accessories and must accept the models they provide, regardless of the quality.

The WindyNation kit is a reasonable price for the number of items you receive. It’s a cost-friendly option for those looking to start their first solar power system and newbies who don’t have the knowledge or expertise to select the necessary components. Overall, WindyNation’s all-inclusive kit is great for powering small devices and appliances in cabins, RVs, or small households.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Reviewers appreciate the comprehensive scope of the kit. It really does include almost everything you need to begin. Some have chosen to purchase additional hardware or accessories to customize their kit. However, this is not necessary for installation.

One reviewer claims that the solar inverter is not good quality. They also found the wires that come with it to be too short for general use. These may add a few extra hundred dollars to the overall price if you need to replace or repair the defective items.

Features & Considerations

As one of the most comprehensive kits on the market, the WindyNations 400W kit packs a punch. It includes four 100W panels, a 30A solar charge controller, a 1500W VertaMax power inverter, four 100Ah BattaMax deep cycle batteries, a variety of cables and mounting hardware.

The equipment is fairly basic and doesn’t offer the most advanced technology. The panels are polycrystalline, which isn’t the most efficient, and the charge controller is a PWM rather than MPPT model. However, the comprehensive scope of the kit is great for those looking to eliminate the stress of finding the right components for your system.

The included 1500W inverter works to convert DC to AC power, which is ideal for running household appliances. You can also use it to power RVs, cabins, boats and backup systems. On average, the panels provide 1600W hours of charge per day, depending on available sunlight.Click to See Price

TIPS FOR BUYING YOUR SOLAR POWER SYSTEM.

Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.

Buying solar tips: Solar quotes online

Recommendations

Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

Length of manufacturer’s warranty

Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.

Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.

Solar panel certifications

This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.

Decide on the type of panels

It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.

It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.

Solar panel mounting

Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system  and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.

Solar inverter efficiency

A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.

Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of  generic type brands.

Get a few solar quotes

It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.

Buy solar power at discount prices

Avoid high pressure sales people

High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.

High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

One of the best buying solar tips is to make sure to use an accredited solar power system installer, certified by the Clean Energy Council.

HOW TO BUY SOLAR PANELS

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How to Buy Solar Panels

Are you thinking about buying a solar panel system but don’t know where to start? You came to the right place!SEI PV Design ManualA Really Great Read

Before we dive in to the specifics of solar panels (a.k.a. PV modules, solar electric panels), let us remind you that energy efficiency and conservation are the best ways to reduce your energy foot print and your electrical bill (see our Energy Efficiency and Your Home article). Please actively explore and incorporate all avenues of efficiency before pursuing a home solar panel system. That being said, solar power is an exciting clean-energy option that is becoming more and more popular. Solar electricity is a fascinating topic. To really feed your curiosity, we highly recommend the book PHOTOVOLTAICS: DESIGN & INSTALL MANUAL.

What shapes, sizes and types do solar panels come in?

Solar panels vary in length and width and are often about 2 inches thick. They are generally about 30 pounds or less, but the larger solar panels can be cumbersome to carry onto the roof. We carry a wide selection of solar panels for home use: framed, foldable, and rollable.

  • Framed solar panels are the industry standards. They are the most cost effective and applicable for most home solar panels applications.
  • Foldable solar panels are lightweight (less than 5 pounds) and can fold up and fit easily in a backpack.
  • Flexible (or rollable) solar panels are also lightweight but bulkier than the foldable panels. Many people use these rollable solar panels on boats because they are durable and can be easily stowed after use.

Generally thin-film laminate type of solar panels (foldable & flexible) are more expensive per watt and require more square footage to produce the same wattage of an equally sized framed module.

What size solar panels do I need for my home and how many?

The number of solar panels you will need depends primarily upon the amount of electricity you are trying to produce and the insolation in your area. Solar insolation can be thought of as the number of hours in the day that the solar panel will produce its rated output. This is not equivalent to the number of daylight hours. Read more about insolation in our How To section and get an idea of the insolation in your area: Solar Insolation Map – USA.

You’ll find solar panels in a variety of wattages. Watts are the main measure of a solar panel, along with nominal voltage. For a rough idea of how many watts of solar panels you will need for your home, start by dividing your electrical usage (in watt-hours per day) by the solar insolation in your area. Bump that number up by 30-50% (to cover system inefficiencies) and you’ll have an idea of the number of watts of solar panels total you will need. If that number is more than 1000 watts, you are talking about $4K to $8K or more for the solar electric system. (Could we take this opportunity to mention the importance of energy efficiency again?!) If you could still use a little help with the math, please give us a call and tell us how much electricity you are trying to produce (in kwh/month or watt-hours/ day) and your location, and we’ll help get you started.

What types of solar panels are there?

Most solar panels can be classified as monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. This is based on the silicon structure that comprises the cell. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Basically a 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel should have the same output as a 100 watt polycrystalline solar panel and a 100 watt amorphous solar panel. The main difference is the amount of area which the solar panel occupies. Because the monocrystalline structure is more efficient than amorphous (and only very slighlty more so than polycrystalline) in turning sunlight into electricity, the amorphous solar panel of the same wattage will be physically larger. By the way, when talking about efficiency of solar panels, keep in mind that solar panel efficiency is still only about 13-18% efficient in turning sunlight into electricity. Often amorphous solar panels are less expensive than the crystalline panels. If space is not an issue, then an amorphous panel could be a great option. Additionally, amorphous solar panels perform better than crystalline solar panels in very hot temperatures and are also slightly more tolerant of partial shading.

Solar Energy for Home Heating & Cooling

Please keep in mind that solar panels produce electricity, and should not be used to produce electricity for heating or cooling sources. If heating is your main issue, be sure to check out Solar Air Heaters and Solar Water Heaters. Solar air heating and solar water heating are examples of solar thermal technologies which produce heat, but not electricity (and are much more cost effective than solar panels). While solar electric panels are not an economically feasible choice to power your air conditioning, a solar panel can power an attic fan that can help reduce the amount of time you use your AC.

Locating your Panels – Very Important!

A key factor in the effective use of solar electricity is proper placement of the solar panels. Make sure to locate the panels where they will receive full sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Be sure that the solar panels will not be shaded by shadows from tree branches, chimneys, other structures, etc. Once again – NO SHADE! You will be mounting the solar panels on the roof, the ground or a pole. For more information on the proper placement solar electric panels, please checkout the How To for Solar Panel Mounting article.

How Long will Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels use the sun’s light to generate electricity. They generate electricity during sunny daylight hours and can be used in a system with batteries so that the electricity can be used at other times as well. Also known as Photovoltaic (PV) modules, solar panels are the main component of a solar electric system. Along with an inverter, mounting system, batteries and Solar Charge Controllers, solar panels can produce electricity to power the energy efficient appliances and lights and appliances in most households. Solar panels themselves generally last over 25 years, and require little maintenance. Many of the first solar panels produced in the 50s are still in use today. Many of the solar panels have a 20 year warranty or more. A common warranty states that the panels will produce at least 80% of their rated power after 20 years.

What else will I Need with a Solar Panel?

In addition to the solar panel mounting hardware, there are additional components that you will need for a safe installation. If you plan on using just one solar panel in a battery based system (an off-grid system), you will need a solar charge controller and overcurrent protection to protect each major component of your system: solar panels, solar charge controller, deep cycle batteries, and inverter. If you plan on using more solar panels in your system, you will also need to safely wire the photovoltaic solar panels together and to the charge controller. An easy and safe way to do this is by using MC (multi contact) connectors. These connectors connect to the cables coming from the solar panel and can be cut in half to expose bare wire. Combiner & pass-through boxes are used to collect the bare ends of the wire from multiple solar panels; then from the combiner box you can run just one set of wires to the solar charge controller. For each series string of solar panels, you will need an appropriate sized breaker.

That’s a lot of components to figure out! If after reading all this you are a little confused but even more excited about solar energy, what’s next? Well, you can read more about solar panel systems. Also, our AltE U offers in-person workshops in Massachusetts and Ohio, as well as free education online videos. If you are considering installing your own solar electric system or installing PV (photovoltaic panels) as a business, be sure to check out our series of three classes beginning with our Basic Photovoltaic and Site Assessment class.

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