How much energy does a solar panel produce?

You already know that solar panels create electricity–but do you know the average solar panel output?

Edited by: Emily Walker
8 min read
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Solar panel generating power sitting in the sun

Most home solar panels that installers offer in 2023 produce between 350 and 450 watts of power, based on thousands of quotes from the EnergySage Marketplace. Each of these panels can produce enough power to run appliances like your TV, microwave, and lights. To power an entire home, most solar panel owners need 15 to 25 solar panels

The amount of electricity your solar panels produce directly impacts your long-term savings. If it doesn't cover your electric bill, it will take a lot longer to break even on your solar installation. A solar panel's output rating, or wattage, is the best indicator of its power production. Especially if you have a small roof, it's important to choose a solar panel model that will generate enough power to offset the amount of electricity you use. 

We'll help you understand why your roof's square footage, shading, orientation, and sun exposure are important to choosing the right solar panel. You don't want to waste money on high-wattage panels if you don't need them.

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Key takeaways about solar panel output

  • Most solar panels installers offer on the EnergySage Marketplace in 2023 are 350 to 450 watts–you should expect to see panel outputs in this range in your quotes.

  • Your panels' actual output will depend on your roof's shading, orientation, and hours of sun exposure.

  • The efficiency and number of cells in your solar panels drive its power output.

  • You'll need about 15 to 25 solar panels to cover your home's electricity usage.

All solar panels are made up of a series of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert light to electricity. The wattage of your panel depends on the efficiency and the number of these cells. We use watts (W) as the unit to express a solar panel's power output under ideal sunlight and temperature conditions. The wattage rating you see on your solar panel comes from the amount of power it produces under standard test conditions.

The amount of solar energy a solar panel produces depends on its wattage rating and the amount of sunlight it receives throughout the day. To get the most energy from your solar panel system, choose high-wattage panels and maximize their sun exposure.

Of all the metrics to look at when you're shopping for solar panels, cell efficiency is one of the most important. The higher a panel's efficiency, the more power it can produce. Most solar panels have cells that can convert 17-22% of the sunlight that hits them into usable solar energy. The efficiency depends on the type of cell in the panel. Monocrystalline cells are more efficient and generate more electricity, while solar panels with polycrystalline cells tend to be more affordable. 

In 2022, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed the most efficient solar cell to date at 39.5% efficiency, though it's too expensive to be incorporated into solar panels you can buy today. NREL's team of researchers is working to improve solar cell technology, so we may see higher efficiency panels in the future.

Most home solar panels included in EnergySage quotes today have power output ratings between 350 and 450 watts. The most frequently quoted panels are around 400 watts, so we'll use this as an example. If you live in a sunny state like California, your panel's production ratio is probably around 1.5, meaning a 10 kW system produces 15,000 kWh of electricity in a year.

See the average production ratio in your state based on quotes from EnergySage installers

You can calculate your estimated annual solar energy production by multiplying your solar panel's wattage by your production ratio. This means a 400-watt panel in California will produce about 600 kWh in a year, or about 1.6 kWh daily. That's enough energy to power some small appliances without too much issue.

We looked through thousands of quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace and found that SunPower offers the most powerful solar panels for homes at 440 watts and 22.8% efficiency. 

Highest output home solar panels quoted on EnergySage in 2023

Wattage Per Square Foot
Solar Panel Model
SunPower440 W22.8%6.1 X 3.4 ft21.2SPR-M440-H
Q CELLS400 W22.5%5.6 x 3.7 ft20.9Q.TRON BLK M-G2+ 440W
REC Group430 W22.3%5.7 x 3.7 ft20.7Alpha Pure-R 430 W
Maxeon Solar420 W22.2%5.9 x 3.4 ft20.63 DC Black 420 W
Silfab Solar420 W21.9%6.1 x 3.4 ft20.3SIL - 420 BG

*This table only includes solar panel models with over 21.5% efficiency that appeared in at least three Marketplace quotes. 

Because solar panel companies usually offer more than one line of solar panels, the power output of their products ranges widely. When we look purely at power output, here's what you can expect from the frequently quoted solar panel brands on EnergySage: 

Solar panel wattages from popular brands

Panel Brand
Minimum Output
Average Output
Maximum Output
Aptos Solar Technology365423450
Axitec, LLC360400450
Blue Sun370410450
Canadian Solar Inc.385399460
CertainTeed Solar365386440
Convalt Energy400400400
Emmvee Photovoltaic Power440440440
Hyperion Solar400400400
Hyundai Energy Solutions355400410
Inxeption mSolar400400405
JA Solar270394410
Jinko Solar380414435
LA Solar Factory450450450
LONGi Solar355358450
M Solar435440440
Maxeon Solar Technologies405411420
Meyer Burger375381395
Mission Solar Energy310398430
Phono Solar Technology Co, Ltd.365400450
Q CELLS335401485
REC Group320401440
SEG Solar400410415
Seraphim Energy Group, Inc.400413415
Silfab Solar360394420
Solarever USA410410455
SunSpark Technology335335335
Trina Solar US380393410
United Renewable Energy (URE)365403455
ZNShine Solar370401405

We often compare solar quotes based on dollars per watt ($/W) to make it easy to evaluate them based on price and power output. A system with higher wattage panels usually costs more than one with lower wattage panels. If you need that extra energy to fully cover your electric bills, it's worth it. You'll pay more upfront, but your savings on electric bills usually make up the difference. 

Let's assume you spend $150 each month on electricity and need a 10 kW system to fully cover your usage. A 10 kW solar installation costs $3.00/W on average, for a total of $21,000 after the federal tax credit. A smaller 7 kW system is about $3.10/W, costing $15,190 after the tax credit.

Without solar, you'd spend $61,050 on electricity over 25 years, assuming an annual inflation rate of 2.45%. With the 10 kW system, that electricity is free, so your only expense is the system cost at $21,000. The 7 kW system only offsets about 70% of your electricity bill, so you still end up paying $18,315 on electricity over 25 years. The 7 kW system may be cheaper upfront, but you lose out on $12,505 in savings overall.

This depends on weather conditions, how much sunlight your roof gets, and your solar panel output. If you live in California and have 400-watt panels, you'll need about 20 of them to produce 1,000 kWh of electricity each month.

If you're in the early stage of shopping for solar and would like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator, which offers upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. If you want to compare quotes from local contractors today, check out the EnergySage Marketplace to go solar with confidence.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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