Small solar panels: What are your options?

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Small solar panels.

Many solar products are available beyond the traditional 60- or 72-cell panels used for rooftop, ground-mounted, commercial, and utility-scale solar panels. We'll walk through some of the options for solar shoppers looking for small solar panels.

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We'll go over some small solar panel products further below, but first, what are your options for buying and installing "small solar panels" generally?

If you're searching for solar panel manufacturers online, you'll likely come across a few categories of companies. First, some manufacturers specialize in panels designed for residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar projects. These companies (like Panasonic, LG, SunPower, and many more) are usually large, international manufacturers, making the vast majority of solar panels on rooftops and solar farms. Panels from these companies are typically purchased by solar installers, who then complete installation projects with them.

Second, there are manufacturers like Renogy who make more DIY-focused solar panels. Companies like this often make solar panels with lower wattages and can be bought easily online from wholesalers by individuals looking to install solar themselves, without an installation company. If you're looking for "small solar panels" available for purchase in a DIY home solar setup, you're likely best off going with products from companies like these. You can buy small panels from online stores like Amazon and eBay. Traditional panels from large manufacturers like Panasonic must be purchased through a distributor or as part of a solar panel installation from a solar installer.

Small solar products are physically smaller and produce less electricity than traditional solar panels. As such, they are most often used in off-grid or portable energy applications. Most manufacturers who produce conventional solar panels don't offer smaller models. Smaller 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. 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.

You can choose from two general product categories 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 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 to 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 to generate and use electricity from a small 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, hiring a trained electrician to set your small panels up for energy generation may be worth your time. Regarding 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. Devices like solar phone chargers are much smaller than solar panels, usually handheld or 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 you need to operate a solar phone charger is sunlight and a low-charged mobile phone.

Curious about other portable solar gadget options? Check out our complete buyer's guide for portable solar products.

Small 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.

Lower-wattage panels can be a great way to avoid starting up a gas generator for smaller solar projects. Additionally, small panels make for easy portable power on camping trips, RV trips, or long hikes. When providing power to an entire home or business, the best way to get the right solar energy setup is to register your property on the EnergySage Marketplace. Through our platform, qualified solar installers can submit quotes on your property. If the type and size of panel used for your installation are important, you can quickly view your quotes and the equipment they include side-by-side through the Marketplace.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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