60- vs. 72-cell solar panels
Learn the differences (and similarities) between 60-cell and 72-cell models
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Sixty-cell and 72-cell solar panels are the two most common varieties of solar equipment on the market today. We’ll explain what 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels are, then compare and contrast their features to help you understand which is right for your renewable energy system.
- In size and wattage capacity, 72-cell solar panels are generally larger than 60-cell panels.
- On the other hand, 60-cell solar panels are typically easier to fit and install on residential roofs.
- In general, you’ll pay about the same cost per watt for both 60- and 72-cell panels.
- If you work with a solar energy company, they can pick the right type of solar panel for you, but if you want to do it yourself, you may have even more options to choose from.
What are 60- and 72-cell solar panels?
Slightly different but designed to perform the same function, 60- and 72-cell solar panels are two types of photovoltaic (PV) hardware used to generate solar electricity.
To understand exactly what 60- and 72-cell solar panels are, you first need to grasp the concept of the solar cell itself. Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, are the individual squares or rectangles beneath the glass of a solar panel, usually laid out in a grid pattern, that contain the electricity-conducting materials that allow solar panels to function.
As you may assume, a 60-cell solar panel contains 60 solar cells, while a 72-cell panel has 72 solar cells. Typically, 60-cell solar panels lay their cells out in a 6-by-10 grid, while 72-cell solar panels use a 6-by-12 grid.
» LEARN: How do solar panels work?
"How are 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels different?
Besides the obvious difference in cell count, 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels are also slightly different in both size and preferred applications. 72-cell solar panels are physically larger than 60-cell solar panels because the increased cell count takes up more space on a roof- or ground-mounted array.
As Daniel Greenwald, a sales professional for electrical equipment with Viega, a manufacturing and distributing company, explained to us, “60-cell and 72-cell solar panels do the same thing, but 72-cell panels are bigger — that’s why you’ll see them more on solar farms and commercial buildings, rather than homes where there is less space to work with.”
With 12 extra solar cells, 72-cell solar panels can also generate more total energy than 60-cell solar panels when all other variables are the same. For example, if a solar cell is rated at 5 watts (5 W), a 60-cell panel would have a total wattage of 300 W (60 cells x 5 W), and a 72-cell solar panel would have a total wattage of 360 W (72 cells x 5 W).
In general, 72-cell solar panels are also slightly more expensive than 60-cell solar panels due to the increased materials required for manufacturing and assembly. Considering the added wattage capacity, however, the price you pay for 60-cell and 72-cell panels is usually about the same on a cost-per-watt basis.
So even though there aren’t significant differences in the function or relative value of 60- and 72-cell solar panels, their size difference may play an important factor in your installation. Basically, if you have plenty of usable installation space, either technology will do. However, if your roof or yard space is limited, 60-cell solar panels may be able to fit more easily in smaller areas.
» MORE: Types of solar panels
60-cell solar panel pros and cons
As the most compact product of its kind, 60-cell solar panels work best for residential applications, recreational vehicles (RVs) and other installations where space may be limited.
However, with fewer photovoltaic cells in each panel, 60-cell solar panels are also more limited in their overall output potential. When designing your system, this may mean that you’ll need more panels to reach your desired system capacity than in an installation that uses 72-cell equipment.
- Requires less installation space per panel
- Lighter than 72-cell panels
- Less wattage and power output potential
- You may need more panels
72-cell solar panel pros and cons
Generally, 72-cell solar panels can produce more solar energy per panel than their 60-cell counterparts, so you may be able to purchase fewer 72-cell solar panels to achieve the same total system capacity.
However, keep in mind that they require more installation space, which can sometimes make them more difficult to fit on the roof of a home, garage or other compact areas.
- More wattage and power output potential
- You can get the same results with fewer panels
- Harder to fit in tight installation spaces
- Heavier than 60-cell panels
» MORE: Most efficient solar panels
What do 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels cost?
Given all of the different types of solar panels on the market, it’s difficult to provide different average prices for 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels. In general, however, you can expect to pay between $200 and $400 for each panel (regardless of cell count) before the costs of shipping, labor and other installation expenses.
While individual prices for 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels may be different, when all else is equal, the cost per watt is roughly similar regardless of which you pick.
Bear in mind — the cost of going solar involves a lot more than just the price of your solar panels.
For example, we found 325W 60-cell solar panels from Canadian Solar priced at $225 on another site during the time of publishing. We also found 400W 72-cell solar panels from Canadian Solar listed for $331.67. These prices equate to about 70 cents per watt for the 60-cell panel and 83 cents per watt for the 72-cell panel.
To give those numbers a sense of scale, we did the math on how much of a price difference there would be between the two options if we used either of them to assemble a roughly 6kW solar array, which is large enough to fulfill most of the average home’s energy needs.
What did we find? Buying the 15 72-cell panels needed for a 6kW system would cost you $4,950, while the 19 60-cell panels needed would cost you $4,275. $675 may seem like a lot of money, but in this context, it’s only about a 15% difference.
» LEARN: How much do solar panels cost?
How to choose between 60- and 72-cell solar panels
In general, it’s good to be intentional about your choice of solar panel. However, instead of focusing on cell count, there are other factors you should prioritize while designing your system.
For example, whether you’re using 60-cell or 72-cell solar panels doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you verify that your system will physically fit in your desired installation space and that the panels are efficient enough to generate the power you need.
Design your solar energy system with the end goal in mind.
That’s why the choice between 60-cell and 72-cell solar panels is somewhat negligible when working with a professional solar installer. As long as a system can be installed on your property to generate enough renewable electricity, the cell count per panel doesn’t really matter, and the choice between the two will usually only depend on what equipment is readily available.
Most professional residential solar installers generally prefer 60-cell solar panels for home installations. Thanks to their smaller size, 60-cell solar panels can give you a bit more freedom in terms of placement than 72-cell equipment. That said, if you're planning a ground-mounted installation or have ample roof space, 72-cell solar panels can work just fine.
If you’re doing your own solar installation, be aware that you may find a myriad of other options on the market, including 96-cell solar panels and panels with “half-cut” cells that bring their total cell count up to 144 or beyond. However, the same guidance applies — prioritize finding quality solar panels that function the way you need them to.
» DISCOVER: Best solar energy companies of 2023
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- Global Solar Supply, “Canadian Solar 325W 60 Cell Solar Panel, CS1H-325MS-Black.” Accessed June 14, 2023.
- Solarflexion, “Canadian Solar HiDM5 CS1Y-400MS 400Watt 72 Cells BoB Monocrystalline 35mm Black Frame Solar Panel.” Accessed June 14, 2023.
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