400 Watt Solar Panel (Everything you need to know)

With the 400 Watt solar panel you can now produce more power in less space!

Solar Energy is fueled by innovation, constant research of efficiency and durability. The latest market standard, the 400 Watt solar panel, is now available to all, and it is a game changer for residential solar systems.

Let’s take a deeper look into its specifications and we’ll see why 400w in one panel makes all the difference.

What is a solar panel made out of?

400 watt solar panel
Solar system set up on a residential house

As magical as it sounds solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They do so with few components and with no moving parts, which make them the simplest and most robust energy production system ever made.

Their deep blue or black color is due to their main active material: silicon. Let’s see how we came out with this material over years.

Modern science now clearly describes the working principle of solar panels. It took the work of many great scientist of the 20th century to fully explain the way solar cells are operating, if we had to remember one of them, it will be, perhaps the most brilliant mind, multi-Nobel prize awardee, a pop culture icon: Mr. A. Einstein.

In 1905, in relation with quantum physics, Einstein theorized that light is dual, a wave and a particle caring energy. The photon (a light particle and a wave) is born, and together with it the photoelectric effect that explains the generation of electrons (electricity!) when a certain metal is exposed to light (the sun!).

You might think that solar technology is old (more than one hundred years!) but from Einstein ‘s theory to the 2021 state of the art 400W panel, generations of scientist worked together on one goal: improving the efficiency.

The efficiency of a solar panel is basically the power output of the solar panel over the power it will receive from the sun.

Efficiency = Ppanel(W)/Psunlight(W)

Looking for the most efficient material achieving the photoelectric effect, scientists found out that silicon was one of the best candidates. Later on, manufacturers also massively adopted silicon as it is easily accessible and widely available on the planet.

As an electricity generator, solar panels are by far the simplest systems. They are made of few components and with no moving parts.

  • Solar Cells
  • Encapsulant
  • Aluminum frame
  • Front window, self-cleaning glass
  • Silver/Copper current harvester
  • Regular DC wiring

The basic building block of your solar panel is the solar cell, multiple solar cells are electrically connected to produce the powerful 400W solar panels.

Each solar cell is made of a crystalline silicon wafer, stripped with conductive layers for electricity harvesting (generally a mix of silver and copper).

The assembly of solar cells is then encapsulated and frammed with aluminium, a front self-cleaning window complete the system.

And here you have a solar panel with 25 to 30 years durability!

Most of the scientific research effort is focused on the active material. Thanks to years of research, silicon based solar cells are now reaching their maximum theoretical efficiencies, scientists are looking beyond silicon for more efficient materials.  


How much power does a 400 watt solar panel produce?

400 watt solar panel
Solar panels facing the sun

If you think that your 400 watt solar panel will produce 400w of power you are right but you are also wrong, let’s see why.

Multiply the maximum system voltage (Volt) and the amperage (Amp) of the panel to obtain the instant output power (Watt) of your solar panel.

Ppanel(W) = Ipanel(A)*Vpanel(Volt)

In the specifications of your solar panel you will find the circuit current and circuit voltage at their maximum values.

For a 400w panel, generally 40 Volts and 10 Amps, which is equal to 400W!

So, right a 400w panel can produce 400 watts of power, but what about in real life condition?

Those figures greatly depend on the sun irradiance: the power of sunlight.

As a natural source of energy, the power of the sun is intermittent, it varies during the day, and depends on your position on the planet.

To determine the power of their products, the industry has chosen a standardized test condition (STC) in a lab with direct sunlight irradiance power of 1000W/m2 at a temperature of 25°C. In real outdoor conditions, you will reach this sun intensity on a beautiful and clear day at the zenith (around noon).

bright sun
A clear sky on a beautiful summer day, best conditions for solar production

As you now understand, those ideal conditions are scares in real life. Furthermore, other factors will influence the power output:

  • Outdoor temperature
  • Exposition of the panel and local shadowing
  • Cleanliness of the front window

Let’s see our tips to maximize your power output:

  • Cool down your panels!

Natural cooling with a 15 cm space between your panels and the roof will do the job.

400 watt solar panels spaced 15cm away from one another for optimal cooling
A simple, yet effective way of cooling the panels; 15 cm between each row will add to the airflow
  • Expose your 400w panels to full sunlight

Silicon solar panels love direct sunlight, avoid local shadow (from trees or other buildings), find the optimal angle to install them.

LocationOptimal Exposition Angle
Northen hemisphere37° to 45°
Southern hemisphere30° to 35°

Check your optimal tilting angle to maximize your production

  • Clean them from time to time, the 400w solar panels have self-cleaning window however a gentle water cleaning every month will slightly improve the power output.

How much energy does a 400 watt solar panel produce?

More than the power output of a solar panel, the real energy production in kWh, is what matters the most to residential users. As this is what we will pay to our electricity provider every end of the month, right?

To obtain your energy production, multiply the instant power output by the time.

Epanel(kWh) = Ppanel(kW)*Time(hour)

What can you expect from your 400W panel in one average day?

Let’s look at the photovoltaic production potential map.

Thanks to a constellation of satellites scanning the earth continuously, we now have a clear view of the solar energy received in every part of the planet.

photovoltaic potential map
Global solar energy production potential

As you can see, your production potential greatly depends on your location on the planet. With the same system, you might produce three times more energy in South Africa than in United Kingdom!

Let’s take an example: in Los Angeles, California, the average energy production potential of a 1kW solar system is 1805 kWh/year, or 4.9 kWh/day.

With one 400w panel your production potential is close to 2 kWh/day.

Evaluate your solar energy production potential here!


How much does a 400 watt solar panel cost?

The current buying price of a 400 watt solar panel is roughly 300 USD, but it is virtually free after a couple of years, and even better you will earn from it for more than 20 years, let’s see why.

Nowadays, the solar industry is unique.

It is blooming with constant technological development, enabling products with lower prices, better efficiency and durability years after years.

In California, for example, the electricity costs 0.208 USD per kWh, as one 400w panel is expected to produce 730 kWh per year, you will save: 151 USD every year. In 2 years your panel is paid back, with 20 to 25 more years of production in sight!

So over its entire lifetime your solar panel will easily save you more than 3500 USD!


What can I power with a 400 watt solar panel?

You can power a refrigerator for 24 hours with a 400w solar panel!

a 400 watt solar panel can power a fridge for 24 hours
This refrigerator can be powered by a 400w panel

Let’s see how:

A 400w solar panel can power most of our common household appliances. Ranging from light bulb to TV and computer.

Their lenght of operation will mainly depends on the battery associated to your 400 watt solar panel.

The sun is a natural source of energy, its power greatly fluctuates depending on the weather conditions and the time of the day.

Solar panels are usually paired with batteries, they will store your energy and act as a buffer in case of a cloud passing by or any reduction of power output.

The batteries together with an inverter will provide the clean and stable power that is needed for our appliances. 

We’ve seen that practically a 400w panel can produce 2 kWh/day, storing your energy in batteries is a must for a stable power output over time. During battery storage and inverting, you will loose some of the produced energy. However, you can still hope to use at least 85% of what you intially produced.

A medium size refrigerator with freezer will consume around 1.4 kWh/day, still less than what your 400w panel can produce in one day.

But always remember we are working with natural elements here, and on a cloudy and rainy day, the output of your solar panel won’t be enough for the refrigerator to run the whole day.

Below an example of appliances running time for a 400W solar system paired with a 1 kWh battery pack.

ApplianceHours of operation per dayTotal energy consumption (Wh)
5 Light bulbs (35 W)7245
1 65 inch LED TV  (120 W)4480
1 Laptop (70 W)4280
2 Smart phones (20W)240
1 Electric fan (40W)5200
 Total1245

Find here a list of power consumption of typical household appliances.


How many batteries do I need for a 400 watt solar system?

A 1 kWh lithium battery pack is the best partner for your 400 watt solar panel.

Two steps will help you size your battery system:

1- Know your energy production capacity

2- Estimate your energy consumption

Battery pack and inverter are a must to smoothen the rough energy production curve of your solar panel over the day and to store your production.

The inverter will convert the Direct Current (DC) of the batteries into Alternative Current (AC) used by all our appliances.

Store your energy and use it during night time or when the weather is not favorable.

In California, a 400w solar system will produce on average 2 kWh/day. A 1 kWh storage capacity is adequate with the 400w solar panels. At the end of the day your battery will be full. Giving you enough capacity to enjoy a whole relaxed night without brown out.


How long will it take a 400 watt solar panel to charge my battery?

Full charge takes a couple of hours with a lithium battery but up to 12 hours for lead acid batteries.

Forget about AGM, deep cycle, valve regulated or other type of lead acid batteries, they are all based on the same outdated technology and are definitely not the best for solar charging.

Lithium batteries are your best choice, whereas lead-acid batteries might require 12 hours or more to reach full charge due to technological limitations, lithium batteries can be charged in just a few hours.

They also exhibit a high tolerance towards sharp power input variations, for example when a cloud suddenly shadows your panels.

Combined with a long-life span, lighter weight, high power output, they are the game changer we were waiting for.

They might require a bigger investment at first, but their durability and ease of use largely surpass the lead-acid technology, you won’t regret it.

lithium iron phosphate battery
A 1 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack, your best choice for a solar system

Don’t forget that your charging abilities depend on the instant power output of your 400w panel.

Maximize the circuit current and voltage by optimizing the exposition of your solar panel to direct sunlight.

Charging will be faster around noon time (between 10am and 2pm) when the sun irradiance is at its maximum.


How to make your own DIY 400 watt solar kit

Have you ever dreamed of living off-grid, with the sun as your only electricity source?

All you need are the four main elements below that compose your DIY 400w solar kit:

  • Solar panels for energy production (400 watt panel)
  • Solar charge controller for smooth battery charging (MPPT type)
  • Battery for energy storage (1 kWh, lithium type)
  • Inverter for stable usable AC current (Pure sine Wave, 2 kW max. power)
400 watt solar panel schematics
A residential solar Off-Grid system, courtesy of Alkhalidi A. thesis

Get the latest 400w solar panels, they offer more power in a smaller space.

Then you will connect your solar panel to the solar charge controller.

The sun intensity greatly fluctuates during the day or in case of instant shadowing by passing by clouds. Therefore, the circuit current and the circuit voltage of your system are never constant. As it is named the charge controller will regulate the voltage and intensity from your 400 watt panel to your batteries.

Your best choice is the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) solar charger. It is designed to maximize the power output of your solar panel at any time and in any condition.

The best partner of your 400w solar panels are the batteries, they store your solar energy.

Choose lithium batteries!

They are perfectly fitted for solar charging, they have high tolerance to intermittent charging, they are durable and light weight compared to the outdated lead-acid batteries. For a 400W system a 1 kWh battery is best suited.

You could already use your energy from the battery, this will be direct current (DC), usually 12V or 24V. In that case you can only power Direct Current (DC) appliances.

All our home appliances are designed to use Alternative Current (AC, 220V, 50Hz). An inverter will convert the DC to AC. For a 400W system, choose a 2kW inverter, pure sine wave. It means that you will be able to power up to 2kW of appliances at the same time.

Get some tools, 1 mm2 electrical cables, fuse box and you are on your way to an off-grid experience!


How to maintain your 400 watt solar panel

All you need to do is to clean the front window of your panel with clear water every month to remove the dust.

man cleaning 400 watt solar panel
Cleaning the front window of your solar panel is a must! Don’t follow his example, he is stepping on the panel 😨

Every 3 years you should perform a visual inspection of the mounting rails of your 400 watt solar panel .

That’s it and you are good to go for 25 to 30 years!

Conclusion

Solar panels are one of the best energy production technology mankind has ever created, they are virtually maintenance free and have a long-life span!

Combined with an ever-decreasing buying price, today this is the most attractive energy production device for both residential and industrial use.

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