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Series vs Parallel Solar Panels

Do you know the difference in series vs parallel solar panels? SmartSolar.org can help you choose the best solar panels for your home.
Solar Panels
7 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
January 6, 2023

When making the decision between series vs parallel solar panels, it is important to consider how these systems work and which option could be best for your needs. There is a lot to learn about solar panels, but the more you know, the better your decision can be. To help you, SmartSolar offers a breakdown of what these series solar panels and parallel solar panels are. To learn more about the services and resources we offer, contact SmartSolar today.

Wiring Solutions in Solar Panels

There are times when you will need to wire solar panels together. Wiring multiple solar panels together into a single solar system means that you have to choose a method to do so. That could be series or parallel. The easiest explanation of what these are is how the panels sit next to each other – either in a series, one after the other, or parallel. Which one you choose depends mostly on the application.

What Is the Difference in Series and Parallel?

There is a significant difference in these solar panel designs. The biggest difference is the output voltage and current. When you wire multiple solar panels together in a series, the output voltage of them is added together. At the same time, their output current will remain the same.

The opposite is true with parallel systems. Here, when you wire multiple solar panels together parallel, the output current is added together. Their output voltage remains the same.

Why does this matter, and how does it happen? Let’s take a closer look before you install solar panels on your home.

Series Solar Panel Wiring Offers Key Benefits

If you decide to wire solar panels in series, you will connect the positive terminal on the first solar panel with the negative terminal on the next solar cell or solar panel. This continues on and on until all of the solar panels are linked to each other. In this situation, the voltage is the total sum of all of the panel voltages within the series. However, the total current does not change – it remains the same as the single panel.

The use of series solar panel wiring may be best in situations where there is no shade. In unshaded conditions, this type of panel can work at its best. In situations where there are shaded areas – even just a portion of the panel, that means the series array will have a lower power output. In this method, then, every single panel is critical. Series connections need that direct sunlight across the entire solar array.

In addition to this, series solar panels may be ideal in situations where you do not need a lot of amps. If you have low amperage system needs, you can rely on this type of system to meet most needs. The higher voltage system that you have, the lower your amperage will be. There is a benefit to this. If you have lower amperage, that means you can use smaller gauge wires. These tend to be simpler to work with, and they also tend to be less expensive overall.

Parallel Solar Panel Wiring Offers Key Benefits

The second option is to wire solar panels in parallel. When you do this, you will connect all of the positive terminals on each solar panel with the positive terminals on other panels. That is, all positive terminals are connected. You then do the same thing to connect all negative terminals to each other.

In this situation, the solar panel will have a current that is the sum of all of the panel amperages within the entire solar array. In this situation, the total voltage remains the same – it is the same as the output voltage of just one panel.

There are some situations where parallel panel wiring is the best option. In this method, every solar cell in the solar array works independently of the other. This creates the best option for situations where there could be some mixed conditions, such as areas with partial shade. In these situations, if shade covers a few of the solar cells at various times of the day, the other cells in the solar array will continue to produce power at the level expected.

If you are looking for a way to have a low voltage system that uses a lower cost PWM controller, the use of a parallel solar array is the better option.

This method does not change the amount of total output voltage. In this situation, then, you need to be sure the panel output voltage is equal to your nominal solar battery charging voltage.

Which Type of Solar Panel System Is Best?

When choosing options for wiring solar panels, it is important to consider the solar panels and their location as a first step. Solar panels wired in one way or the other will impact how well they work for you. Most solar panel system designs will have multiple panels that need to be wired together. The key is to work with a solar installer that can help you choose the best configuration for your wiring, such as parallel wiring the same panels or wiring solar panels in series.

In situations where you are connecting your solar panels in series, you are likely to benefit the most if you are placing that solar array in an area that is unshaded. If the panels will have some shade, that is going to limit their overall function for you because the solar panel system will be less efficient overall. In unshaded areas, the solar panel system will be far more efficient and effective for you.

If you have solar panels that will be on the roof, then there are tall trees on either side of the system, which is going to lead to the need to have the solar panels wired parallel. If the area above the solar panels is unobstructed on all sides, wiring solar panels in series work the best.

Can You Mix Flexible Solar Panels and Rigid Solar Panels?

One of the questions you may have as you work to wire solar panels is if you can mix types of solar panels. That includes mixing rigid forms and flexible solar panels. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of solar panels, and sometimes a combination of versions is the best way to set up your solar panels overall.

There are advancements in solar panels that make it possible to use them in various ways. Flexible solar panels make it possible to position solar panels on uneven surfaces that are not flat or otherwise considered ideal.

If you are considering using both types of solar panels, you can mix them. You can wire them in the same overall method as previously mentioned with a parallel wiring configuration or series connection methods. Take into consideration the same premises as before when connecting panels to determine which offers the best system output voltage or amperage based on your needs.

How to Choose the Best for Your Situation

When it comes to choosing solar panels for your home, there is a wide range of factors to keep in mind. There is no right or wrong method for wiring solar panels. Both methods can be beneficial in different situations. The good news is that your solar panel installer can help determine which method offers the best outcome in your specific situation.

The solar setup you choose depends on the overall goals you have. All of the panels can be wired together in the same way, which could help in situations where there is a shaded area. This gives the panel array the total voltage that is equal to the output voltage of the single panel. If you want a low voltage system, this method of wiring solar panels is necessary.

Take into consideration all of the options before making a decision. When you first work with a solar panel installer, they will provide you with a wide range of details about your options, including the various positions and locations you can place the solar panels to get the most out of them.

The wiring method is dependent on the location. However, it is important to understand the different electrical ratings associated with the way you plan to use solar panels. There is a lot to take in, but your solar panel installer can help you.

Joey Cheek

Thinking About PV Panels? Let Us Help You

The investment in a solar setup for your home or business can be an excellent investment. Yet, you need to ensure you have the right setup, especially when it comes to unique uses such as a camper van electrical system.

SmartSolar can offer the help and guidance you need. Reach out to us today to learn more about your solar panel options.

Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of SmartSolar.org, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

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