This blog post will teach you how using mixed and mismatched sizes of solar panels in the same array will affect the output of the entire array.

Before we talk about mixing solar panel sizes, lets have a refresher for some, or a crash course for others on how wiring solar panels in parallel vs series affects their voltage and amperage.

- Wiring solar panels in series adds their voltages while their amperages stay the same.
- Wiring solar panels in parallel adds their amperages while their voltages stay the same.

## How Does Wiring Solar Panels In Parallel Affect it’s Volts & Amps?

Here we see four – 100w solar panels wired in parallel, which means all of the positive wires are connected and all of the negative wires are connected. Since Wiring solar panels in parallel adds their amperages while their voltages stay the same, we would add 5+5+5+5 amps to get a total of 20 amps at 20 volts heading into the charge controller. We installed 400 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 20 V * 20A equals 400W for 100% array efficiency. This means, of the 400 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see all 400w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

## How Does Wiring Solar Panels In Series Affect it’s Volts & Amps?

Here we see 4, 100w solar panels wired in series, which means that the positives and negatives of neighboring panels are wired together with the positives and negatives of the end-panels are going to the charge controller. Since Wiring solar panels in series adds their voltages while their amperages stay the same, we would add 20+20+20+20 to get a total array voltage of 80volts and 5 amps heading to the charge controller. We installed 400 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 80 V * 5A equals 400W for 100% array efficiency. This means, of the 400 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see all 400w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

## How Does Wiring Solar Panels In Series-Parallel Affect it’s Volts & Amps?

Here, we see 4 100w solar panels wired in series parallel. In this array, pairs of panels are wired in series with the two resulting series strings wired in parallel.

Since solar panels wired in series adds their voltages while their amperages stay the same which means that for each of the two series strings, we would add 20v + 20v which gives us a total of 40v and 5a for each of the two series string.

Since series strings wired in parallel adds their amperages while their voltages stay the same, we would add 5a + 5a for a total of 10A at 40V heading to the charge controller.

We installed 400 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 40 V * 10A equals 400W for 100% array efficiency. This means, of the 400 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see all 400w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

Now that we have out solar panel array basics covered; lets’ talk about wiring different sizes of solar panels in the array.

## How does Wiring Different Sized Solar Panels Together Affect the Array Voltage & Amperage?

When mismatched solar panel sizes or mismatched solar panel series-strings are wired in parallel or series, the affect is VERY similar to the guidelines posted earlier, except for one change.

- Solar Panels wired in series gets their voltages added while their amps stay at the lowest amperage of the panels in series.
- Solar Panels (or series strings) wired in parallel get their amperages added together while their voltages stay at the lowest voltage of the panels (or series strings) wired in parallel.

## What Happens when Different Solar Panel Sizes are Wired in Parallel?

For this example, we have two – 200w solar panels and 2 x 100 w solar panels. The two 100w solar panels are operating at 20V and 5 amps and the 200w panels are operating at 25V and 8 amps.

If we were to wire all of these panels in parallel, solar panels in parallel adds their amperages while their voltages stay the same. This means we would add 8A + 8A + 5A + 5A for a total of 26 amps heading to the charge controller. Now, although the volts stay the same in a parallel wired array, since we have different panel voltages, we must use the lowest common denominator, which is 20V. So we have 20 volts at 26A amps heading to the charge controller.

We installed 600 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 20 V * 26A equals 520W for only 86% array efficiency. This means, of the 600 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see only 520w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

## What Happens when Different Solar Panel Sizes are Wired in Series?

For this example, we have two – 200w solar panels and 2 x 100 w solar panels. The two 100w solar panels are operating at 20V and 5 amps and the 200w panels are operating at 25V and 8 amps.

If we were to wire all of these panels in series, solar panels in series adds their voltages while their amperages stay the same. we would add 25v + 25v + 20v + 20v to get a total of 90 volts heading to the charge controller. Now, although the amps stay the same in series wired arrays, since we have different panel amperages, we must use the lowest common denominator, which is 5 amps. So we have 90 volts at 5 amps heading to the charge controller.

We installed 600 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 90 V * 5A equals 450W for only 75% array efficiency. This means, of the 600 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see only 450w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

## What Happens when Different Solar Panel Sizes are Wired in Series-Parallel?

Now, lets say we were able to find solar panels of different wattages, but their voltages are the same, or at least REALLY similar: In the earlier example of mismatched solar panels wired in parallel, our 20V at 26A figure MAY not produce enough array voltage to really let our MPPT solar charge controller do it’s job properly, OR we are installing a 24v battery bank and we need to boost the array voltage to a more appropriate level (Panel array voltage MUST be at leave 5V higher than battery bank voltage).

This array shows mismatched panel sizes of 100w and 200w, but we were fortunately able to find panels with similar voltages.

Wiring the similar wattage solar panels in series would yield 40V at 10A for the 200w panels and 40v at 5 amps for the 100w panels. Wiring those two series strings in parallel would yield 40v at 15A since 10A plus 5A equals 15 amps and the volts stay the same at 40.

We installed 600 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 40 V * 15A equals 600W for 100% array efficiency. This means, of the 600 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see the full 600w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions.

Great! So, we can just always wire similar panels in series and wire those series strings in parallel, right? Not so fast…

## When Mixing Solar Panel Sizes is Not Advised

Same solar panels as last time, but if the three 200w solar panels were wired in series and the 100w solar panels were wired in series, then those series strings were wired in parallel, by all of the same math we’ve been using for the previous however-many diagrams, we would end up with 60V at 10A for the 200w series string, 40v at 5a for the 100w series string, and 40v at 15A for the total array.

We installed 800 watts of solar panels and by using watts law of V x A = Watts we can see that 40 V * 15A equals 600W for 75% array efficiency. This means, of the 800 watts of panels installed, we can expect to see only 600w of power heading into the charge controller under ideal conditions, which means that the two 100w panels are effectively useless in this array and by just using the 3, 200w panels in series, we could expect the same amount of power output with fewer panel

## What Happens When Dissimilar Solar Panel Series Strings are Wired in Parallel?

If you are wanting to install, say, seven panels into your array; the only possible ways to wire these without severe power loss are series OR parallel. NOT series-parallel. Here’s why:

These seven 200w panels have operating voltages of 17V and an operating amperage of 11.76A. Let’s say our charge controller has a maximum voltage input of 100V which we must stay below. If we wired the 7 solar panels in series, we would see an array operating voltage of 119V; which would exceed the capabilities of the charge controller (NOTE: When sizing the charge controller; the Open Circuit Voltage AND temperature compensation must be used. More info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxziHKvTRh8). Wiring in purely parallel is not advised due to reasons we’ve discussed here: https://www.explorist.life/solar-panels-series-vs-parallel/ so to combat these issues, wiring the array in series-parallel is the common fix. Since 7 panels can’t be evenly divided (Those damn prime numbers strike again!), let’s see what happens when 2 series strings of three are wired in parallel with a single panel like the diagram above.

The two series strings get their voltages added while their amps stay the same, resulting in 51V and 11.76A per series string.

The Two series strings and the single panels wired in parallel get their amperages added while their voltages remain at the lowest common voltage from the wires coming into the combiner. This means that the array is operating at 35.28 amps and 17V. Using watts law of Amps x Volts = Watts we can see that 35.28A x 17V = 599.76W. Since we installed 1400W of solar on the roof; wiring as previously described will yield a measly 42% efficiency rate.

Literally omitting the 7th panel and only using 6 panels in a 3s2p configuration would yield twice as much power as having 7 panels wired as previously described.

Another fix – If 7 panels was truly desired in this scenario; a charge controller capable of handling the higher voltage should be purchased so the panels could be wired with all 7 panels wired in series.

## Finishing up…

Unequal solar panels CAN be used in the same array, but proper array **planning** is CRITICAL to avoid array inefficiencies. But… If array inefficiencies are unavoidable, make sure you account for this in your power audit and manage expectations by making sure you understand how these inefficiencies can impact your system performance.

Steve Arnold

Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

So here my deal; my caravan came with (2) 150watt poly, I asked dealer what I could add for 3rd on the roof he suggested 200watt mono (at that time I didn’t know the difference that’s to you I do now)

So what I’m wondering after watching this video is if I added a fourth 200watt mono and parallel them as we as parallel the (2) 150 watt poly then series the two sets would thus be a better solution Although that means my 100/50 mppt may be useable

Brian Bertsch

Sunday 14th of February 2021

Hi Nate

Your blog and videos have been invaluable to me. Best I've seen anywhere by far. I literally spent all day yesterday reading and watching your content but I can't seem to find information about my particular situation.

I have a single 300w panel on my RV (voc 39.85, lmp 9.3). I'm thinking of getting three new 360w panels (voc 43.9, lmp 9.82). What would my total system output be if I connect the 300w panel with one of the 360w panels in one series string then the other two 360w panels in a second series string (then both strings parallel)? Can I use a 150/100 charge controller in this situation?

If this isn't a good idea, I'll just toss the 300w panel and get four of the 360w panels so they are all matched.

Thanks so much for your help!

Nate Yarbrough

Sunday 14th of February 2021

Hey Brian! For the sake of education... you tell me. :) This blog post teaches you how to figure out what you are asking.

For sizing a charge controller, you'll also need some of the temperature coefficients, but here's how you figure that out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxziHKvTRh8

Hans

Friday 5th of February 2021

Hi Man,

I think I've seen most of your videos and checked most of the blog, but I'm stuck in the middle: I got 3x 440W, 48.3V open circuit (STC rating) @ 11.5A panels. If I connect in series, it'll be 144.9V @ 11.5A My (Growatt) MPPT is 145V open circuit V max, and 80A max. It was just OK, until I saw your temperature compensation video. Now I'm afraid I'll fry the MPPT if I go to Alaska. I still want to go there... So my thinking is to parallel connect them, so V will stay at 48.3, and A jump to 34.5. The problemo is that I only have an AWG 10 wire. From what I read is that AWG 10 is up to 30A max... what would you recommend?

Thanks a bunch in advance!

Nate Yarbrough

Saturday 6th of February 2021

This array is a perfect candidate to go with a charge controller with a higher voltage input rating like this: https://battlebornbatteries.com/product/victron-smartsolar-mppt-250-100/?afmc=explorist_bb67

I would recommend wiring the panels in series and going with that charge controller I just linked.

Diego

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Hey man, amazing blog, thank you so much for all this info!! I have a question, a friend bought 2 solar panels, for his diy van conversion, one of 200W and another of 120W. Which would be the best connection he could do? Thanks in advance for your answer. Much love

Diego from Germany

Nate Yarbrough

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

For the sake of education (and the fact that I do not know the voltage or amperage of the panels in question)... Based on the information I've provided in this blog post... what do YOU think is the best way? :)

Brian Scott

Sunday 27th of December 2020

great tutorial.

Nate Yarbrough

Tuesday 29th of December 2020

Thanks! :D