There are tons of solar panels with different performance specs. Do you know the difference between 12V, 24V, and 48V panels and how to choose them for your specific applications?
In this informational guide, let's break them down and which one to use if you are not sure.
Let's get started
5 Major Deciding Factors
- Battery compatibility
- Inverter compatibility
- Charge controller compatibility
Applications - When To Use 12V, 24V or 48V
Most solar panels and inverters come in either 12V, 24V, and 48V. One thing you must pay attention to is to use the compatible battery for matching voltage rated for the solar panel. The inverter's job is to turn power from DC to AC.
12V solar panels are applicable for small size solar system projects for:
- RV, Camper trailers
- Small off-grid homes
- Street lights, science projects
- Water pump, boats
- Offices & vans
Most RV and motorhomes already have 12V batteries for AC, refrigerator, water heater control and lighting. So it makes perfect sense to use 12V for these type of systems.
24V solar panels are applicable for larger scale projects that require more energy around 1000 to 5000 watts.
- Homes, hospital
- Apartments, Large facilities
- Solar panel farms
48V solar panels for large off-grid houses and it's considered much safer to run full power appliances more efficiently with fewer amps running through the 48V wiring system to increase power, thus minimizing copper = cut cable cost & better current transmission.
Basically a 48V system provides the balance between increased capacity without increasing danger.
But there are few more things to consider...
Use matching voltage inverter and the solar panel.
A 12V solar panel must use with a 12V inverter and a 24V solar panel must use with a 24V inverter. On top of that a series connection is required to maintain the same voltage between the battery, inverter and the solar panel
- 12V solar panel - 12V inverter - 12V battery
- 24V solar panel - 24V inverter - 24V battery
To keep things simple, just remember to keep the voltage the same.
A 24V panel works with a 24V battery or 2 12V batteries (Connected in series)
A 12V solar panel works with a 12V battery
Note: 24V battery is not available on the market, we listed above as an theoretical example.
12V batteries are the most common, please browse 12V solar panel batteries here.
Charge Controller Compatibility
The charge controller's job is to regulate current and voltage to keep the battery from overcharging. So it regulates the voltage & current coming from the solar panel to the battery.
The voltage rating of the charge controller must match the voltage rating of the inverter and the battery.
- 12V solar panel - 12V inverter - 12V battery - 12V charge controller
- 24V solar panel - 24V inverter - 24V battery - 24V charge controller
IMPORTANT FACT TO REMEMBER - Even through the voltage rating are the same, but electrical current is different. Do not use solar panels with mismatching current performance to the charge controller (9 amp solar panel doesn't work with a 6 amp charge controller)
Depend on your solar panel configuration you might need multiple panels to meet the wattage requirement, and that could add up the cost. Buyers must figure out how much solar power and the number of panels needed.
Most 12V and 24V solar panels generally go between $300 to $600 per panel.