Commercial vs residential solar panels

Fast read

Generally speaking, commercial solar panels are bigger, less efficient, and more expensive than residential ones.

They might not be the ideal option for a residential residence. Despite having more wattage and voltage per panel because of their size, look, and installation difficulties. Residential panels provide all-black alternatives and more adaptable clamping zones designed to be more effective and aesthetically beautiful.

It is crucial to consider the particular requirements of a residential solar system. Selecting panels that are suitable for the home's size, roof, and energy requirements. Working with a reputable, knowledgeable solar installer is advised to ensure the optimum system design and installation.

Can I use a large commercial solar panel on a residential house in Australia?

As more solar panels pop up in residential homes. More businesses are also looking into getting a commercial solar system. Also, some spruiking solar sales companies try to impress customers with the wattage size of the panel. While a conventional residential panel currently hovers around the 400W mark (380W – 440W). Commercial solar panels reach 500W as a minimum and even 600W plus.

Solar sales companies aim to win the sale with the impressive wattage number of the panels. While regularly failing to mention that they are selling a panel earmarked for commercial rooftops and solar farms.

While the technical functions of the panels used residentially and commercially are similar. There are distinct differences between the two.

The size

Commercial solar panels, on average, have 144 half-cut cells and are at least 210cm by 110cm in size. But it can be even more significant. Residential solar panels usually have 120 half-cut cells and are around 180cm high by 100cm wide.

This is because commercial buildings using solar have much larger surface areas than the average residential roof and can accommodate larger solar panels. Also, commercial solar systems are much larger. Therefore, lifting the panels onto the roof via a crane can make financial sense.

However, bigger is not always better. Commercial panels on a residential roof are not that visually appealing if they can be seen. They just look noticeably big and out of proportion with the rest of the structure. To quote one of my past customers:” It seems like somebody put a big army tent on the back of this roof.”

Smaller panels cover less surface area. So they offer more flexibility in the installation pattern. Ironically, a more extensive kW system can sometimes be placed on a roof when using smaller panels. This applies to a roof with many narrow sections, angles, valleys, and gables.

This means you could have bigger individual solar panels, but have a lower overall system output than if you were to put smaller panels.

The clamping zones can be challenging

With these two different solar panel sizes, you must consider the clamping zones.

Clamping zones are where racking clamps can be attached to the panel to achieve maximum installation strength in case of heavy wind. Staying within the manufacturer-specified clamping zones is usually also one of the key panel warranty conditions.

Large panels often have particular and relatively narrow clamping zones, meaning installation can be fiddly, as panels can only be attached to certain frame parts. If the installer ignores the clamping zones guidelines, and you later have a panel warranty issue, the manufacturer is most likely within their rights to decline the claim. This is especially true if the claim relates to how the panels have been fastened, e.g. cracked glass.

commercial solar panels
Commercial panels are larger and more focused on utility than visual aesthetic


Another difference is the efficiency of the panels. Commercial solar panels are usually less efficient than residential panels, as the less efficient cells are used in manufacturing.

So while the wattage of larger panels sounds impressive, the output per square metre might be less than the smaller panels.

Full black panels are not available

In many residential homes, especially with dark roofs, full black solar panels with black frames are used to have the panels blend into the roof and create an aesthetically pleasing result. While residential panels come in a full black version, commercial solar panels always have a white backing sheet.

Voltage issues

Due to their higher wattage per panel, commercial solar panels will also have a higher voltage. Panels usually get connected in a string. Strings in a solar system are limited by maximum voltage per string rules. This means connecting fewer commercial solar panels in one line than residential ones. So again, commercial solar panels might not give you an advantage when it comes to the overall size of the system.

Installation difficulties

Installing commercial solar panels creates another issue, as they are bulkier and heavier than residential panels. As a result, getting them safely onto the residential roof can be a challenge, and there are always a minimum of two installers required to handle these panels.


The final consideration to look at is the cost. Commercial solar panels are slightly cheaper per watt than residential panels, but one would see a relatively small saving in the case of a large residential system of, let’s say, 10 kW.

Given one might have to look for a few decades at a visually less appealing system, the question must be asked- is it worth it? Most quality-focused solar & battery installers would not consider a commercial panel for a residential solution.

Each roof is different

Ultimately, the final decision comes down to each unique owner and roof set-up. The best option is to discuss with a trusted solar installer before selecting what panel you will be going with.

Our overall recommendation at Your Energy Answers is to go with a residential-size panel in a residential application and a commercial solar panel in a commercial application. Only on flat residential roofs, which are not seen from the street or backyard, could commercial panels be considered.

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