We are increasingly being asked to supply and install 72 cell solar panels for residential customers. Firstly, a quick summary of the differences between a 60 cell and a 72 cell panel.
The difference is as simple as it sounds – a 72 cell panel has an extra row of 12 cells which mean the output is increased without any increase in efficiency. The panel is simply bigger.
The increase in output per panel is achieved by making the panel bigger, not more efficient (in fact they are usually marginally less efficient). As a result, the 72 cell panels are much larger (2m x 1m instead of around 1.65m x 0.95m), much heavier (around 28kg vs around 20kg), and in most cases require different mounting than standard panels.
These 72 cell panels should not be confused with the high-efficiency panels from manufacturers such as LG Solar, which now actually have 120 cells instead of 60 as the cells have been divided to further increase output from a standard panel design.
Most of the 72 Cell panels on the market today are designed for commercial or utility-grade installations where they are transported in bulk, lifted onto rooftops by crane rather than by hand and are normally required to be installed flat because there is little or no requirement for wind resistance.
When comparing one of the leading manufacturer’s 60 cell and 72 cell panels, there are small (but material) differences in the positive tolerance levels, efficiency and temperature coefficient – and a significantly reduced level of hail resistance. Perhaps this is getting a bit technical but it makes a big difference to the long-term reliability of panels in a residential setting.
The main issue with 72-cell solar panels is that they are not designed for residential use.
In particular, they are not structurally designed to be manhandled individually and so the possibility of flexing the panels whilst being carried and installed on a rooftop may reduce the long-term viability of the backing sheet (and therefore the entire panel) as microcracks may not show up for months or even years after an installation.
Another factor is that they usually require a different mounting system (3 rails rather than 2) and different engineering certificates from the mounting manufacturer.
But… they are cheaper! Yes, and the reason they are cheaper is that they are often manufactured to a different standard than residential panels, plus they are bought in bulk so a lot of the time people are looking at the wholesale prices they’ve found on the internet somewhere rather than looking at the price of what it costs to buy 10 or 20 panels as a part of a fully installed system.
If you want to install panels with a higher output (or if you just want the best available), instead of trying to install a commercial-style panel on your roof, you should consider the LG NeON panels, considered the best panel available in Australia.
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