Man installing solar panel array.

What Is A Solar Array And What Size Do You Need?


Installing solar panels on your home is one of the best ways to lower your electricity bills and decrease your carbon footprint. But before you can start saving, you need to make sure you have the right setup in place. This means choosing a solar array that fits your home’s energy needs and your budget.

But before selecting an array, let’s explore the true solar array definition and what it means for your home’s solar panel system.

Harness The Sun

The sun powers the Earth. See if you can use it to lower your energy bills.

What Is A Solar Array?

A solar array is a group of solar panels wired together to collect energy from the sun and send it into your solar system’s inverter, converting that power into usable electricity for your home. Solar arrays can be large or small, depending on your home’s energy needs.

You can have more than one array, and you can install those arrays anywhere on your property with adequate sun exposure. The point is to maximize the amount of electricity your solar panels catch each day.

Ideal Solar Panel Array Placements

Every home is different, which means the perfect solar array placement will depend on your property’s conditions. Here are a few common ways to mount solar arrays:

  • Rooftop arrays: Rooftop arrays are the most common type of solar panel system used today. These arrangements mount directly to the home’s roof, ideally on a south-facing slope. Rooftop systems are installable on any roof with adequate space and sun exposure.
  • Ground mounts: For homeowners who have shade-covered homes or want to install more panels than their roofs can handle, ground mounts are a great option. These mounts allow you to have multiple solar panels away from your home in an area of your property that gets the most sun. Ground mounts can also be linked to rooftop arrays to fully maximize solar energy collection and reduce your home’s reliance on grid power.
  • Exterior building arrays: If homeowners have exterior buildings like storage sheds, carports or detached garages, they may choose to install their solar panels on those buildings rather than their homes. Keep in mind that this option may make wiring more difficult.
  • Dedicated patio spaces: Some homeowners prefer to build covered patios, decks or gazebos and use those rooflines for their solar arrays. This allows you to avoid putting holes in your home’s roof. You can also use these arrays to supplement rooftop arrays.

A Sun Equation

The angle of exposure × the size of your panels ... let us take care of the math!

How Large Should Your Array Be?

Choosing the right size solar array or number and wattage of solar panels for your home is essential if you want to maximize your energy system’s energy collection. However, since every home is unique, you’ll need to take a few factors into account before you can buy panels and have them installed.

Think About Your Goals

Before buying solar panels, it’s best to figure out what you want the panels to accomplish. Are you hoping to reduce your home’s energy consumption from the grid? Do you want to cut ties with your electric company, go off-grid and power your entire home with your panels alone? Or do you want to generate so much energy that you can sell that power back to your electric company?

Your long-term goals will determine how large of a solar panel array you’ll need. Typically, the more power you want to create, the larger the array must be.

Consider Your Current And Future Needs

Once you know your goals, take a look at your home’s average energy use. Your electricity bill should let you see how much energy you’re using each month. If possible, find out how much energy you’ve been using on average for the last year. This should be the minimum amount of energy your solar array can create.

Then, think about your future energy needs. If you’re planning on adding new appliances or building a new home addition, investing in a larger solar array may make more sense. The wealth of solar incentives – including federal and state tax credits – available to prospective solar adopters may allow you to build the robust system you need from the start if you are eligible to claim such incentives.

Pay Attention To How Much Light You Get

Simply put, larger solar arrays can capture more energy than smaller arrays. If you live in a shady area or your home doesn’t receive a lot of direct sunlight during the day, you’ll want to invest in a larger array. This will help you maximize your panels’ energy production.

However, if your home is in a sunny area that receives lots of direct sunlight, you may be able to generate enough power with a smaller solar array. The best way to determine your property’s sun exposure is to calculate your sun number. The higher the number, the more direct sun exposure your home (and your panels) will receive.

Calculate How Many Watts You Need

Different size solar panels produce different amounts of energy, and that production is measured in watts. Higher-watt panels produce more energy than lower-watt panels but can also be significantly larger in size.

To calculate how many solar panels you’ll need in your array, you must convert your home’s energy use from kilowatts to watts. To do this, multiply your average energy use by 1,000.

For example, say you use 30 kilowatt-hours per day. Multiply 30 by 1,000 to get your watt-hour usage which, in this example, comes out to 30,000. To fully meet your home’s energy needs, you’ll want a solar array that produces at least 30,000 watts.

While you won’t be able to install a single 30,000-watt panel, you can get the same energy production by combining multiple smaller panels.

Consider where you’ll install the array and how much space you have in that area. Keep in mind that rooftop installations are limited by the size of the roof. If your roof is larger, you can accommodate more panels. If it’s smaller, you’ll want to consider installing a ground-level array to supplement your rooftop installation.

What Happens If Your Needs Change?

Luckily, you’re not locked into your first solar array setup. You’ll be able to add panels down the line if your energy needs change and as technology advances. Depending on your setup, it may be necessary to install new arrays and tie them into your existing system to meet your home’s increased energy needs.

The Bottom Line

Installing the right solar array on your property can help you keep your electricity costs low while also reducing your carbon footprint for years to come. You’ll have to calculate your home’s energy use and make sure your array is large enough to produce the solar power you need consistently.

If you’re ready to invest in clean, renewable energy, take the guesswork out of choosing the right number of panels for your home. Instead, get a free quote from Rocket Solar℠ and let our experienced advisers guide you through the process of going solar.

Transform Your Power

Solar panels can help make the sun your power plant. Let's connect.

Related Resources