60 and 72-cell solar panels, does size matter?

Francisco CastroApril 23, 201914110

Does size matter when it comes to solar panels?

The basic unit of any solar power system is the photovoltaic (PV) cell made from a crystalline silicon wafer that transforms sunlight into electricity. Those are the squares you see that make up a solar panel. 

Solar cells come in two types: monocrystalline (black) or polycrystalline (blue) with little difference in efficiency; monocrystalline is the oldest and most developed of the solar cell technology and has the highest efficiency rating while polycrystalline tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance, which can affect energy output. There are also thin film amorphous, but those are strictly for use on commercial projects because they require larger proportions to equate the output generated by the other two types.

But each solar cell can only produce so much energy. That’s why they’re grouped together in solar panels or modules that can range from 36 cells to 144, each increasing size providing more energy than the other. But by far the two most common for the residential and business market are the 60 and 72-cell modules.

Besides their height (about a foot taller for 72-cell solar panels), what’s the difference between them? Is either one more efficient than the other? Are they both used for home solar projects?

Either option can be used in residential installations; the choice depends on your array layout and space available for your system. Both options can also be used for ground mounts, carports and canopies, and any other solar power projects. 

The issue of size

So, in essence, they are identical, except for the 12 additional cells the larger ones carry. And that can make a difference when it comes to usage.

Fortune Energy carries a large selection of 60 and 72-cell solar panels to choose from, all with the latest technology and voltage needs.

Given their larger dimensions, 72-cell panels are mostly used for commercial and other large-scale projects, which are typically ground-mounted and where space is not limited.  

A 60-cell module measure about 5.4 ft x 3.25 ft; a 72-cell panel will have the same width, but its height will go up to 6.5 ft.

That means that if you only have so much space available on your home’s roof, you’re going to have to make the most with it, and 60-cell solar panels allow for this. They’re also most useful when it comes to complicated layouts with several rows.

The installation

The installation of the panels themselves also changes.

72-cell panels require less racking rail, fewer electrical connections, and fewer clamps to secure in place. That makes them easier and cheaper to install on a large scale. And there’s no need to buy stronger racking to support the larger panels. 

Experts note that 72-cell solar panels can best be suited for the outdoors like on a solar ground mount.  They may be able to be stacked in portrait two high or 4-5 high landscape.  Also, since they are on the ground, the need for high quality aesthetics may be less important.  With some of the added costs that come with a solar ground mount, the 72-cell solar panel can help balance costs

The taller solar modules also tend to have higher wattages and power output than 60-cell panels, so you need less of them to produce the same amount of electricity. If you are using them with a string inverter, this means less panels placed on each string. But that’s not always the case. Different panels have different wattage outputs. Even 60 and 72-cell panels vary in this regard. 

Other important factors to consider is the weight of solar modules. Because they’re bigger, 72-cell solar panels are heavier and not as easy to maneuver. If you're doing the installation of the solar system on your own, this is something to consider. A professional installer company will usually send two or more employees to work on a project, so it shouldn't be an issue.  

Mix and Match

They may have different sizes and wattage limits, but it’s possible to mix and match these panels.

Your roof may be able to accommodate larger-size modules on top and smaller-size panels on the bottom or the sides. 

However, do remember that different panels will run on different voltages, so you will need compatible inverters. Microinverters, which are placed underneath each individual panel to regulate its singular output maybe a good option in this case. Just make sure the microinverter matches the voltage output of the panel.

Otherwise, string inverters may work by connecting different solar panel groups together.

Your solar installer can help you decide on this layout. He can also recommend the best options given the space available on the roof and your energy needs. A lot will depend on what’s the best fit.

For some projects it might be more beneficial and budget-wise to go with the shorter panels; in others the 72-cell panels might give you more bang for your buck. 

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