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200-watt solar panels: what to know

An in-depth, beginner’s guide to 200-watt solar panels

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    Solar panels are often categorized based on their wattage, which is the amount of solar power they can potentially capture and convert into electricity. So, you may see references to 200-, 250-, 300-, 400- or even 500-watt panels.

    200-watt (often abbreviated as 200 W) solar panels are relatively small solar panels that can be used for a variety of purposes. Keep reading to learn what they can run, how many you may need and whether they’re right for you.

    Key insights

    • 200-watt solar panels are relatively small, but they can generate more electricity when used together.
    • With a few 200-watt solar panels, you could power an RV or a small off-grid cabin.
    • In general, you’ll want to use a higher-wattage panel for a home installation.

    What can 200-watt solar panels run?

    When connected to the right battery and inverter system, 200-watt solar panels can power anything from a single appliance to many different aspects of your life, depending on the number of panels you install. (We’ll break down the math in more detail later.)

    To increase your power potential, you will just need to make sure that you pair your 200-watt solar panels together with the proper wiring and equipment to allow for safe electricity production and use.

    What can one 200-watt solar panel run?

    A single 200-watt solar panel is far from the most powerful option on the market, and it’s considerably weaker than the equipment used in a typical home or commercial installation. As a rule of thumb, 200-watt solar panels have essentially half of the power potential that today’s premium panels offer. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their uses.

    For example, a single 200-watt panel can produce about enough daily solar electricity to run your computer, TV or gaming system, but not necessarily all three at once.

    To capture and use all of the power produced by your 200-watt panel, you will need a battery of some sort, too. Otherwise, you can’t run these devices at night, early in the morning or whenever sunshine isn’t available.

    How many 200-watt solar panels do you need for a larger installation?

    The number of solar panels you will need for your installation varies depending on your location, energy use and goals. Put simply, the number of panels needed for a small cabin is vastly different from the number of panels needed for a mansion.

    With that said, if you are hoping to totally offset the average electricity consumption of a U.S. residence (over 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year), you may need more 200-watt panels than you can fit on your roof or property.

    System capacity# of 200-watt solar panelsApproximate daily outputAverage annual productionExample use
    1 kW 5 panels 3,000 Wh 1,095 kWh Small cabin or RV
    4 kW 20 panels 12,000 Wh 4,380 kWh Small home
    8 kW 40 panels 24,000 Wh 8,760 kWh Average home
    12 kW 60 panels 36,000 Wh 13,140 kWh Large home

    Large solar energy systems with dozens of panels require a lot of usable surface area. Given that an average solar panel occupies approximately 18 square feet, 40 normal-sized solar panels would cover over 720 square feet of surface area once installed, not including any required safety setbacks from roof edges.

    Although some homeowners are lucky enough to have a roof with that much available space receiving full sunlight, higher-powered panels are typically better suited for residential jobs. On the other hand, 200-watt panels are typically of better use providing power for individual electrical devices or small off-grid systems.

    » MORE: Solar panel size and weight: a guide

    How much energy can a 200-watt solar panel produce?

    Solar panels can generate electricity at different efficiencies every day for years on end, so it can be difficult to know the true lifetime output of one particular installation. In reality, solar production is based on many different factors beyond wattage, including the number of sunlight hours, weather conditions, and the efficiency of your panel and overall system.

    Multiply the number of peak sunlight hours in your area by the wattage of your solar panel to calculate the theoretical output of your solar panel.

    With that said, you can roughly estimate the production of a single 200-watt solar panel by referencing a solar irradiance map for the approximate number of daily sunlight hours on your property and doing some math. As a quick reference — Seattle receives approximately three and a half hours of full sunlight per day, while Las Vegas can see up to six peak hours daily.

    Assuming an average of about 4.5 daily peak sunlight hours nationally, a 200-watt solar panel could theoretically generate 900 watt-hours of electricity every day. However, multiple factors can reduce this theoretical power output, especially the solar panel’s efficiency, so true daily production levels are usually much lower.

    Mark Kapczynski of Energy Shares, which connects investors with renewable energy projects, said that, under real-world conditions, “a 200 W panel will produce [about] 600 watt-hours of solar energy per day.” That means 200-watt solar panels can theoretically be used to run a 50-watt laptop for 12 hours in ideal conditions. (You can calculate how long you can run a device by dividing your actual watt-hours produced by the wattage of your device.)

    » LEARN: How do solar panels work?

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      Are 200-watt solar panels right for you?

      If your goals are small, 200-watt solar panels could be right for you. They’re a good, environmentally friendly way to run small electronics, and wiring a few together can unlock more power, though space may become an issue with larger arrays. While they are certainly not the best solar panels for most residential roof installations, a 200-watt array can help you power your:

      • Campsite
      • RV
      • Mobile home
      • Laptop
      • Television
      • Boat lights

      One last note — before installing any of your own solar equipment, we recommend consulting a professional to ensure your safety as well as the safety of your property and your green energy investment.

      » MORE: Best solar panels in 2023


      How much do 200-watt solar panels cost?

      With so many different products and technologies on the market, finding the average cost of solar panels is fairly difficult. However, as of publishing, you can buy 200-watt solar panels on Amazon for around $200 each, with cheaper and more expensive options available.

      How many batteries do I need for a 200-watt solar panel?

      The number of batteries you need for a 200-watt solar panel will depend on the watt-hour ratings of each battery you purchase. In general, a 500-watt-hour battery or larger will provide enough reserve capacity to store all the excess solar power your 200-watt panel can generate each day.

      How many amps does a 200-watt solar panel produce?

      A 200-watt solar panel produces about 11 amps per hour in full sunlight.

      ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page. Specific sources for this article include:
      1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “How much electricity does an American home use?” Accessed Feb. 24, 2023.
      2. Unbound Solar, “Sun Hours Map: How Many Sun Hours Do You Get?” Accessed Feb. 24, 2023.
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