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Small Solar Panels - The Ultimate Buyers Guide

With the current state of energy prices, it makes more sense now than ever to invest in solar panels. 
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Small solar panels can be really useful if you want to power something without connecting it to the grid or if you want to power a portable electrical device.

One good place for small solar panels, to give an example, is on a boat. You can easily fit small solar panels to the roof of a boat and use them to charge its batteries on the go. Alternatively, if you’ve got a shed at the bottom of your garden and you don’t want to pay to connect it to the grid, you might be able to power a few appliances in there with just a few small solar panels.

What Are Small Solar Panels?

Normally, what people mean when they talk about small solar panels is any solar panel with a power output under 200 watts. The smaller a solar panel is, the less electricity it will produce. As you move below 200 watts, solar panels start to shrink noticeably in size.

Small solar panels are useful in some situations. If you don’t have much space, if you don’t need much power or if you need your panels to be portable, then you might find that small solar panels are really helpful.  

You can buy solar panels that have an output as low as 5 watts. However, for most people the smallest solar panel they would buy would be 10 or 20 watts.

Here are some typical dimensions for small solar panels with varying power outputs:

Solar Panel Output

Typical Dimensions

Typical Weight

10 watt solar panel

40cm x 30cm

2kg

60 watt solar panel

50cm x 80cm

5.5kg

100 watt solar panel

55cm x 105cm

9kg

180 watt solar panel

70cm x 132cm

15kg

What Can You Use Small Solar Panels For?

As we’ve said already, you can use small solar panels to power something portable or to power something you don’t want to connect to the grid.

  • For portable appliances, it’s easy. You just need to find a portable solar panel that will work with the device you want to power. 

 

When it comes to small solar panels for static production of electricity, things are slightly more complicated. As we said, your solar panels will need a few extra electrical components in order for you to be able to actually use the electricity they produce. Usually, this will mean getting professional help to get your solar panel system fully operational.

While this may make things slightly difficult, small solar panels are still a good idea. Don’t forget that with solar panels you get free electricity from the sun, instead of having to pay for expensive grid electricity.

Places To Install Small Solar Panels

Small solar panels can be used in situations where grid electricity isn’t available or where it would make more sense to install solar panels than connect something to the grid.

Here are some examples:

  • On a caravan, a campervan or a boat
  • To provide power to a shed or outbuilding that isn’t connected to the National Grid
  • To power an outside electrical device – gate opening mechanisms or remote security cameras are examples
  • To provide a remote charging location – you could provide a charging point on a campsite, for example

 

Small solar panels can be used to provide small scale electricity production in locations where it’s difficult to get grid electricity. Given that the electricity output of small solar panels is less than that of a normal solar system, the benefit is actually less in the financial savings than in the fact that they simply make it possible to have electricity in certain locations.

Small solar panels are great. They provide electricity where it would otherwise be difficult to have any electricity at all.  

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How Big Are Normal Solar Panels?

Normal domestic solar panels you see in the UK have an output of around 300 watts and measure about 1m x 1.6m. Typically, the weight of one of these solar panels is around 18kg.

While domestic solar panels are all quite similar in size, there is some variation. Outputs vary from 250 watts to 400 watts and dimensions vary slightly as well.

Are Portable Solar Panels Different To Small Solar Panels?

As we said earlier, small solar panels have two main uses:

  • For powering something without connecting it to the grid
  • For powering something portable

 

If you want to power a portable electrical device, you’ll need to get a portable solar panel.

Portable solar panels are slightly different to small conventional solar panels. These solar panels come ready to be plugged straight into a device or a battery to charge it with electricity. As we’ll explain later, small conventional solar panels, on the other hand, need a few additional electrical components to be installed with them for you to be able to actually use the electricity they produce.

Portable solar panels give you electricity on the go, while small solar panels are for small scale static electricity generation.

What Are Flexible Solar Panels?

Often, small solar panels are manufactured as flexible solar panels.

As the name suggests, flexible solar panels are solar panels that you can bend. You can lay these solar panels on virtually any surface, and they’re not as awkward if you don’t have a nice flat surface to mount your solar panels on.

What’s The Best Way to Save Money With Solar Panels?

comes to saving money on domestic energy bills with solar panels, the best thing to do is to get a solar panel installation company to install a proper solar panel system at your property.

  • Solar panel systems are cheaper than they’ve ever been
  • Electricity prices are higher than they’ve ever been

 

For replacing domestic National Grid electricity with solar panel electricity, it makes more sense to install larger solar panels than small ones. After the costs of installation and additional components are considered, in order for a domestic solar panel system to bring good savings a slightly larger initial investment is needed.

It should be noted that the extra investment really is only slightly larger. Solar panels are cheap. If you want to save money with solar panels, you don’t need to invest a huge amount.

The average cost of a solar panel system in the UK is only £5,500 according to the Energy Saving Trust. For an impartial, comprehensive guide to the costs and benefits that solar panel systems offer, have a look at their article here.