What is the standard size of a solar panel?
Here’s a guide to understanding the standard dimensions of solar panels, including what cell count means.
If you’re thinking about covering your house or garage with solar panels, or even building a solar pergola, you’ll want to know something about solar panel sizes.
I’ll get to that, but first let’s clarify what we mean by size. It could mean a number of things:
- The physical dimensions of the panel, or
- The power output of the panel in watts and volts
This article will focus on the first question, but also mention how dimensions and cell count affects power output.
First of all, the size of a solar photovoltaic panel for residential use varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they are commonly around 39 inches wide by 65 inches long, give or take an inch or two. They will also usually have 60 individual solar cells and have an output of anywhere from 250 watts to 350 watts or more.
There are a few more details to explain, such as the difference between 60 cell and 72 cell panels. There are also solar panels for different applications, such as motorhomes and large utility-scale installations. This article will cover these in detail.
Solar panel dimensions by type
There are a lot of solar panel sizes available to suit a wide variety of applications.
You can get small solar panels to mount on your motorhome or boat. They even come in flexible form factors, which you can easily take with you camping if you want electricity but don’t want a generator.
Smaller solar panels for camping, RVs, boats, etc.
If you read the article on RV solar panels, you’ll know that there are smaller solar panels that are compact enough to fit nicely on the roof of a motorhome or boat, including flexible panels that can be glued in place.
But even if they’re marketed for RVs, you can use these solar panels for any number of applications. Got a garage or shed that doesn’t have wiring, but you need electricity to run some lights? Stick a panel on it so you can charge a deep cycle battery.
There are three common sizes for small solar panels: 50 watt, 100 watt, and 160 watt. Keep in mind that these wattages are approximate, so you might find 150, 160, or 175 watt panels.
Here’s what the typical dimensions of these panels are. As with all the panels listed in this article, the width and height can vary by a few inches:
|Wattage (approx)||Width (approx)||Length (approx)||Thickness (approx)||Voltage|
|50 watts||21 inches||26 inches||1 inch||12 volts|
|100 watts||21 inches||47 inches||1.5 inches||12 volts|
|160 watts||26 inches||58 inches||1.5 inches||12 volts|
|50 watts (flexible)||21 inches||26 inches||0.1 inches||12 volts|
|100 watts (flexible)||21 inches||48 inches||0.1 inches||12 volts|
|160 watts (flexible)||26 inches||55 inches||0.1 inches||12 volts|
The ones listed as flexible refer to bendable crystalline solar panels. They look like this:
Flexible solar panels tend to vary a little more in their sizes, so don’t be surprised if you find panels with dimensions that differ from this table.
Solar panels for homes, commercial, and industrial uses
Polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels come in two size categories. Residential panels normally use the smaller size, while commercial and industrial installations usually use the larger size.
The size almost always corresponds with the cell count: 60 cell panels are smaller, while 72 cell panels are the larger size for commercial and industrial uses.
There are exceptions to this, however - SunPower being a notable one. SunPower 96 cell panels are about the same size as other manufacturers’ 60 cell designs. The reason for this is that SunPower uses smaller individual solar cells. You can read more about cell size below.
|Cell count||Width (approx)||Length (approx)||Thickness (approx)|
|60 cells||39 inches||65 inches||1.5 inches|
|72 watts||39 inches||78 inches||1.5 inches|
Lastly, Hanwha (a Korean manufacturer) has a line of solar panels called Q.PEAK where the individual cells are cut in half. This results in a panel with 120 half cells. According to Hanwha, this allows them to use wiring that increases the panel efficiency and improves performance in the shade. The Q.PEAK panels are the same dimension as a typical 60 cell panel.
What does cell count in solar panels mean?
The cell count affects the output voltage of the panel. The individual solar cells inside a panel are wired together in series, which causes the voltages of the individual cells to be added up. This means that 72 cell panels will have a higher voltage than a 60 cell panel.
For the average homeowner who is having solar panels installed on their home, this isn’t something to worry about. Your installer will choose an appropriate inverter to handle the voltage from your system.
It does matter to the DIY solar user who is building a photovoltaic system. For example, if you need to charge a 12 volt battery, you need to make sure that the nominal voltage of your panel is at least 12 volts as well. The details can get a little technical, but the video below does a good job of explaining it.
What is the size of an individual solar cell?
Solar cells come in two sizes:
- 125mm x 125mm (5 inch)
- 156mm x 156mm (6 inche)
Most solar manufacturers are using 6 inch cells, with one notable exception being SunPower. For example, the 96 cell SunPower panels use smaller 5 inch cells, which explains why their panels are the same dimension as 60 cell panels from other companies.
This does mean SunPower panels have higher voltages, but again, this is something that most homeowners don’t need to worry about because their installer will select compatible equipment.