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Here Are The Different Types Of Solar Panels You Should Consider For Your Home…

Here Are The Different Types Of Solar Panels You Should Consider For Your Home…

    Here Are The Different Types Of Solar Panels You Should Consider For Your Home

    Lexie came from HomeAdvisor and Angi (formerly Angie’s list) and is responsible for writing and editing articles over a wide variety of home-related topics. She has almost four years’ experience in the home improvement space.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    If you’ve considered adding solar panels to your home, you’ve probably also considered the amount of money and energy you could save by doing so. The potential savings is important, of course, but it isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when it comes to making the switch—you also need to decide what type of solar panels are right for you.

    Because there are several types to choose from, it isn’t as easy as simply scheduling an installation appointment.

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    How to Decide What Type of Solar Panels to Get

    The first thing to do when figuring out which type of solar panel is right for your home is to acquaint yourself with the choices at hand as well as how many solar panels you want.

    here, different, types, solar, panels

    According to Energy Sage, a U.S. Department of Energy-endorsed online resource that allows consumers to comparison shop for solar energy. there are three main types of solar panels available for residential use. They are: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film.

    A fourth option, solar roofing shingles, is a newer and more expensive technology—but certainly a suitable (and enticing) choice for those with the budget to cover the initial costs.

    Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    When you picture rooftop solar panels, you probably picture monocrystalline simply because they are very commonly used. And while all solar panels offer some level of energy efficiency, monocrystalline is considered the most efficient of the bunch. How efficient? Up to 20%, Energy Sage reports, meaning that 20% of the sunshine that hits a monocrystalline panel is converted into usable energy. Monocrystalline panels are also:

    • Made of an individual pure silicon crystal (in other words, the silicon comes from one source)
    • Cylinder-shaped
    • Uniform in color
    • Durable and long-lasting (some come with warranties up to 30 years)
    • Able to generate between 300 and 400 (sometimes even more) watts of power each

    The downside? Monocrystalline often requires a larger upfront investment than some other types of solar panels. This is because they are more expensive to make—a cost that, naturally, gets passed on to the consumer.

    And if 20% isn’t quite efficient enough for you? No worries—under the monocrystalline umbrella falls an additional type of solar panel called the PERC (passivated emitter and rear cell). While use of this technology is still ramping up, experts say it offers even more efficiency than traditional monocrystalline panels (thanks to an added layer of silicon material on the panel’s back side) and isn’t particularly cost prohibitive to manufacture.

    Polycrystalline Solar Panels

    Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are less expensive to make and therefore less expensive for the customer. The cost difference is attributed to the manufacturing process—rather than the individual silicon crystals used to make monocrystalline, polycrystalline panels are made from many different pieces of silicon that are separated into fragments and melted together.

    Polycrystalline is also somewhat less efficient than monocrystalline, producing around 250 watts of power each rather than 300-plus. Physically, though, they look similar to their monocrystalline counterparts and last almost as long (warranties are in the 25-year range, but vary by brand).

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Thin-Film Solar Panels

    Thin-film solar panels have a few advantages over monocrystalline and polycrystalline ones. First of all, they are comparatively lightweight. They are also malleable (the others are rigid), making them easier to install than the thicker, heavier varieties.

    They are also far more affordable to manufacture than other types of solar panels and also more affordable to install.

    Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Thin-Film

    Amorphous solar panels are silicon-based, like the others, but in this case, the silicone portion is just the first of three very thin layers (the second layer is heat-conductive; the top layer is protective).

    Amorphous panels also do well in warmer climates because they can withstand intense heat and are more adept at generating energy on darker days (meaning the sun doesn’t have to be shining bright in a clear blue sky for them to do their job).

    Unfortunately, amorphous panels don’t last as long as other types of solar panels—according to the American Solar Energy Society, you’ll only get between 10 and 20 years out of them. Furthermore, they are only around 7% efficient.

    Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Thin-Film

    Produced with cadmium, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers a toxic heavy metal, cadmium telluride thin-film is the second most used solar cell type in the world after crystalline cells. However, CdTes aren’t the best in terms of efficiency,

    Copper Gallium Indium Diselenide (CIGS) Thin-Film

    Also produced with cadmium, Copper gallium indium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film is above-average in efficiency but is very expensive. The cells place Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide layers on top of each other to efficiently convert sunlight into energy.

    (PERC) Passivated Emitter and Read Cell Panels

    PERC (passivated emitter and rear cell) panels are a newer type of solar technology designed to be more efficient than traditional monocrystalline panels. While this technology is still ramping up, PERC panels feature silicon material on the panel’s backside to achieve higher energy conversion efficiency. They also aren’t particularly cost-prohibitive to manufacture.

    Solar Panel Types by Efficiency

    Monocrystalline solar panels are the front runner as the most efficient panels with 20% and up. Polycrystalline solar panels are a close competitor with 15% – 17% efficiency. While CIGS thin-film has 13% – 15% efficiency, CdTe thin-film has 9% – 11% efficiency, and a-Si thin-film has 6% – 8% efficiency.

    Solar Panel Types by Cost

    Although monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient, they are also the most expensive type of solar panels, with the average cost being 1 to 1.50 per watt. Polycrystalline solar panels are next in line as the most expensive, costing 0.70 to 1 per watt. While CIGS thin-film costs 0.60 to 0.70 per watt. CdTe thin-film costs 0.50 to 0.60 per watt. and a-Si thin-film is the least expensive at 0.43 to 0.50 per watt.

    Solar Panel Type by Power Output

    Most residential solar panels on today’s market are rated to produce between 250 and 400 watts per hour. Monocrystalline solar panels can generate between 320 watts and 375 watts of power capacity, while polycrystalline solar panels generate ratings between 240 watts and 300 watts. Thin-film panels don’t come in uniform sizes, so there is no standard measure of power capacity. However, thin-film solar panels have a lower power output comparatively.

    Solar Panel Type by Appearance

    One benefit of thin-film solar panels is their sleek appearance. Labeled the most attractive of the three solar panel types, the panel’s all-black thin design allows them to lie flat against roofs, so they blend in seamlessly.

    Like thin-film solar panels, monocrystalline panels have a sleek, solid black aesthetic. However, the panel’s solar cells are shaped in a unique way that causes quite a bit of white space on the panel, making them more pronounced than thin-film solar panels.

    In the last place for appearance, polycrystalline solar panels look less seamless than thin-film and monocrystalline. Each polycrystalline cell is manufactured with a blue, marbled look, making each panel look substantially different from the next, making them more distinctive.

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    Other Factors to Consider When Comparing Panel Types

    In addition to efficiency, cost, power output and cost, there are several other factors to consider when determining which panel type is right for you. For instance, the weather in your area should undoubtedly be a consideration.

    Hail Rating

    Although most solar panels are protected by a thick layer of tempered glass that can tolerate severe impacts, a hail storm can present significant problems for your solar panels. Therefore, they are tested for hail impacts.

    On average, solar panels are certified to withstand hail of up to 1 inch falling at approximately 50 mph. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are ideal for areas that experience heavy hail. At the same time, thin-film solar panels are not ideal for hail since they have a thin design.

    Hurricane Rating

    Hurricanes are inevitable in some locations, so solar panels must withstand high winds and rain. While there is no formal solar classification rating for hurricanes, most solar panels can withstand up to 140 mph winds and are secured via fasteners, through-bolting modules, or a three-frame rail system to ensure safety through a hurricane or tropical storm.

    Temperature

    The temperature outside can determine how efficiently solar panels generate energy. Solar panels work best at about 77°F. If the peak temperature of your solar panels gets higher than 149°F, solar panel efficiency can decline.

    here, different, types, solar, panels

    Fire Rating

    In the event of a fire, solar panels are required to match the fire rating of the roof where they are installed to ensure they do not accelerate the spread of flames. Therefore, solar panels now carry the same fire classification rating as roofs, such as:

    • Class A: severe fire test exposure
    • Class B: moderate fire test exposure
    • Class C: light fire test exposure

    How Do Solar Panels Work?

    Before deciphering which solar panel type is right for your home, you should know how solar panels work and what to expect when you utilize them. The first thing to know is that solar panels harness the sun’s power and are an endless energy source that can perform all necessary functions. Solar panels are also able to create this energy in a manner that can save not only the planet but also your money.

    Solar Roofing Shingles

    Efficiency and price aside, some homeowners are hesitant to go solar for purely aesthetic reasons. In other words, they just don’t like the look of solar panels. If this is you, consider solar shingles.

    Solar shingles allow you to get many of the benefits of solar panels without disrupting the look and feel of your roof. They are manufactured using the same technology as solar panels, and they are available at a variety of price points (depending on the brand).

    Sadly, the cons are not insignificant. First and foremost, price is a huge concern—shingles are almost always more costly (especially if you go with a brand like Tesla, which launched a line of solar roofing shingles in 2019). Not only that, solar shingles are in short supply. So, even if you have the budget and the desire to add them to your roof, you might not be able to track them down.

    Efficiency-wise, solar shingles are also only between 14% and 18% efficient, which isn’t bad compared to the less efficient amorphous panels but, on the lower end, doesn’t really seem all that great next to the monocrystalline ones.

    Furthermore, solar shingles won’t necessarily work on every type of roof. Most are made to replace asphalt roofing tiles only (with some exceptions). The most cost-effective route? Coordinating overall roof replacement with the addition of solar shingles, which has a higher upfront cost, but is more likely to even out in the long run.

    Which Type of Solar Panel Is Best?

    Due to a wide selection of capabilities, quality, price points and features, shopping for the perfect solar panels for your home can be overwhelming. However, with some help, you can typically find the panel type that suits your home’s needs.

    For instance, monocrystalline solar panels have proven to be the best solar panel type due to their 20% and up solar efficiency, although they may be the most expensive per-watt solar-type. The second most popular solar panel type is polycrystalline, which is also made of crystals but is less durable, efficient and costly to produce and purchase. Finally, thin-film solar panels are the least efficient, least expensive type and are more common in commercial applications.

    Should I Get Solar Panels?

    You are now familiar with your solar panel choices, but is it even a good investment? That depends. Before getting your hopes up, ask yourself a few questions:

    • Do I have the right roof for solar panels? Roofs on older homes are often incompatible with solar panels, and things like skylights can also be problematic. Consult with a roofer and solar panel installer to find out for sure.
    • Does My HOA allow it? If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, the rules may or may not allow you to install solar panels.
    • Do I have the money to cover the costs? Solar panels should save you money over time, but there is still an upfront investment. If you can’t afford it, the future savings might not be worth it.
    • How long am I going to live in this house? If you are planning to sell your house anytime in the foreseeable future, it might be better to let the future homeowners decide for themselves whether or not to get solar panels. Otherwise, you might find yourself investing a lot of money for a benefit you don’t get a chance to enjoy (it can take years to recoup your investment).
    • How much do I spend each month on electricity? Households with low energy costs aren’t going to benefit as much from solar panels as a household with large electrical bills, so be sure to run the numbers before making a decision.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels: What’s The Difference?

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    Solar energy, once a sideline to carbon-based energy sources, is rapidly proliferating and is powering more homes than ever. Of the estimated 3 million solar installations across the country, one-third were built just in the last couple of years – with searches for the best solar companies increasing yearly.

    So it pays to scrutinize all aspects of your solar energy system, especially the choice between monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. Efficiency, cost and durability hinge on your choice of the type of solar panel.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    What a Solar Panel Is

    There are two types of solar panels : thermal and photovoltaic. Thermal solar panels concentrate sunlight to produce heat. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.

    Photovoltaic solar panels are often favored by homeowners as the best solar panels for residential use. Though they are actually less efficient than solar thermal panels, they work better on a residential scale because they do not require large facilities.

    A solar panel can be likened to a picture frame. It is rectangular; it has a metal frame around it and the front has protective glass. There are several layers to a solar panel, the most important of which is the layer that contains the matrix of solar cells.

    Anywhere from 32 to 96 solar cells are arranged within each solar panel, with all of the cells wired together side to side and outputting anywhere from 230 to 275 watts of electricity.

    The solar cells can either be monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline solar cells comprise the more premium panel since they more effectively harness the sun’s rays. But polycrystalline panels are less expensive and can be a good option for high sunlight areas.

    What Monocrystalline Solar Panels Are

    Monocrystalline solar panels (or mono panels) are made from monocrystalline solar cells. Each cell is a slice of a single crystal of silicon that is grown expressly for the purpose of creating solar panels.

    In the lab, the crystal is grown into a cylindrical log shape called an ingot and is then sliced into thin discs. Each disc is cut along the edges to form octagons.

    When the solar cells are placed on the solar panel, the octagonal shapes help the solar panels fit a maximum number of solar cells into the array. It’s much like cookies on a baking sheet. Even tightly spaced round cookies always have spaces between them, but octagonal cookies can be placed tightly together with little wasted space.

    Distinctive for their black color, monocrystalline solar panels typically have an efficiency range of between 15% to 20%, with some newer experimental models even reaching close to 50%.

    What Polycrystalline Solar Panels Are

    Polycrystalline solar panels (or poly panels) are made of individual polycrystalline solar cells.

    Just like monocrystalline solar cells, polycrystalline solar cells are made from silicon crystals. The difference is that, instead of being extruded as a single pure ingot, the silicon crystal cools and fragments on its own. These fragments are melted in an oven and formed into cubes which are cut into thin wafers. So, many different crystals form this amalgam, rather than the single crystal of the monocrystalline solar cell type. It’s a less exacting production process than with monocrystalline cells, so it allows for more solar cells to be produced faster and less expensively.

    The blue-colored square polycrystalline cells fit neatly side by side, eliminating any empty space between the cells. Polycrystalline solar panels operate less efficiently than monocrystalline panels because the melted fragments of silicon afford less room for the electrons to move around.

    Polycrystalline panels generally have an efficiency rating of between 13% and 16%. While only a few percentage points less than monocrystalline panels, it’s a difference that can count for a lot when compounded across many solar panels.

    Polycrystalline Solar Panel Pros and Cons

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    Best Applications for Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    Monocrystalline solar panels are best for areas where space is limited since they produce more electricity on a smaller scale than poly panels. Monocrystalline solar panels can draw out the maximum amount of energy even in areas of lower sunlight. So, they are ideal when the goal is efficiency more than cost.

    Though all solar panels are bulky, monocrystalline solar panels, with their dark hue, fade into the background better than poly units.

    Monocrystalline solar panels tend to have better heat tolerance than polycrystalline panels. So, they are a good choice for areas of extreme heat, such as desert environments.

    Best Solar Companies By States And Cities

    Best Applications for Polycrystalline Solar Panel

    Polycrystalline solar panels are best when you need to observe the bottom line.

    Because monocrystalline panels tend to cost about 0.05 per watt more, the polycrystalline units are a better value, as long as you have enough space for the panels.

    Polycrystalline solar panels work better in areas that are rich in sunlight since they deliver less wattage than the panels.

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    The bluish tint and speckled appearance of the polycrystalline panels may not suit everyone, especially when installed in large numbers in residential areas. But they do work well for rural areas or for urban areas where the panels can be conveniently tucked away, like on a rooftop or in back of the property.

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    Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels (What’s Best?)

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    Written by Leonardo David

    Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015. Learn About This Person

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    Karsten is an editor and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. His work has been shared by sources including NPR, the World Economic Forum, Marketwatch and the SEIA, and he is certified in ESG with the CFA Institute. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace. Learn About This Person

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    What are Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Panels?

    Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the two most common types of solar energy receptors. Both work using photovoltaic cells made of silicon — the same material that’s used in chips for electronic gadgets. The difference between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar cells is the configuration of the silicon:

    • Monocrystalline solar panels: Each solar PV cell is made of a single silicon crystal. These are sometimes referred to as “mono solar panels.”
    • Polycrystalline solar panels: Each PV cell is made of multiple silicon crystal fragments that are melded together during manufacturing. You may see them called “multi-crystalline panels” or “poly panels.”

    Both types of solar panels have the same purpose: converting sunlight into electricity. However, the crystalline silicon structure of individual solar cells affects their performance and appearance. In fact, you can identify the type of panel by simply observing the shape and color of its solar cells.

    So which type of solar panel, monocrystalline or polycrystalline is better?

    Truly it depends on what you are looking for in a solar panel but in our experience monocrystalline solar panels are better because they boast higher efficiency ranges and better power capacity. They also tend to be more widely available solar panel type when looking at best solar panel brands and options.

    SunPower

    SunPower designs and installs industry-leading residential solar and storage solutions across all 50 states. With a storied history of innovation dating back to 1985, no other company on this list can match SunPower’s experience and expertise.

    SunPower earns its position as the top national installer on our list for a handful of reasons: It installs the most efficient solar technology on the residential market, offers the most expansive service area and backs its installations with a warranty well above the industry standard. All the while, SunPower pioneers sustainability efforts within the industry.

    If that weren’t enough, SunPower systems come packaged with products all manufactured in-house by its sister company, Maxeon. This means that your panels, solar cells, inverters, battery and EV chargers are designed to work together and are all covered under the same warranty.

    SunPower’s biggest downside? Its high-efficiency panels are considerably more expensive than most of its competitors’ products. However, its powerful panels are workhorses that make up for the initial cost with more backend production (think about this like spending more money for a car that gets more miles per gallon).

    Facts and Figures: SunPower

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    5
    A
    1985
    Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, System Monitoring
    SunPower Panels
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

    Blue Raven Solar

    We like Blue Raven Solar because it understands that, for most homeowners, the cost of solar presents the biggest barrier to entry.

    For that reason, Blue Raven Solar developed an innovative solar financing plan that offers in-house, flexible, zero-money-down options. The results speak for themselves, as Blue Raven Solar is now one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the nation and was recently acquired by SunPower. Its BluePower Plus plan (exclusive to Blue Raven) mimics the flexible structure of a lease while still providing the greatest benefits of owning your system.

    Eligible homeowners enjoy 18 months of solar power before having to pay their first bill. When coupled with the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), the initial energy savings can offset more than a third of the overall cost of a system before requiring a dollar down.

    In contrast, other installers can only offer similar financing through solar leases, PPAs or third-party providers (such as Mosaic or Sunlight). Third-party loan providers can complicate the process, while opting for a loan or PPA will disqualify you from some of solar’s biggest benefits (additional property value, federal solar tax credit and local solar incentives).

    Facts and Figures: Blue Raven Solar

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    4.5
    A
    2014
    Solar Panels, System Monitoring
    Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, SolarEdge, Silfab, SunPower
    25-year manufacturer warranty; 10-year workmanship warranty, 2-year production guarantee

    ADT Solar

    ADT Solar sets the industry standard for warranty coverage by including a multifaceted guarantee, making it one of the top installers for homeowners who want added peace of mind.

    Its warranty coverage includes all of the following for 25 years:

    • Power Production Guarantee: Also known as a performance guarantee, this ensures your solar system will produce the amount of electricity that’s outlined in your proposal, or ADT will write you a check for the difference.
    • Labor Guarantee: This covers any issues with the installation of your system and is also known as a workmanship warranty.
    • Panel Module Performance Guarantee: This is what ADT Solar refers to the manufacturer warranty as, and it ensures that any manufacturing defects are repaired or your ineffective panels replaced.
    • Enphase Microinverters Guarantee: This backs the performance of your inverters.

    Though in recent years other solar companies have started to offer similar guarantees, ADT Solar has been at it since 2008, performing over 30,000 installations across the country.

    Facts and Figures: ADT Solar

    EcoWatch Rating Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating Year Founded Average Cost (-) Solar Services Brands of Solar Equipment Offered Warranty Coverage
    4
    A-
    2008
    Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
    Silfab, Panasonic and others depending on location
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

    Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    Monocrystalline solar panels are characterized by their black PV cells with rounded edges. They have a higher conversion efficiency than polycrystalline panels, which means they produce more kilowatt-hours of electricity. If you want to install a solar panel system but your space is limited, monocrystalline panels will be more productive per square foot. While they’re the most efficient solar panels, they’re also the most expensive, since the manufacturing process of single-crystal silicon cells is more complex.

    Polycrystalline Solar Panels

    Polycrystalline solar panels have blue-hued PV cells with straight edges. They have a lower efficiency compared with monocrystalline cells, which means you need more panels to reach the same power output. However, polycrystalline panels also have a lower price, since their manufacturing process is simpler. Polycrystalline panels are very durable, but they tend to last slightly less than monocrystalline panels. They are also affected more by high temperatures, which reduces their productivity on the hottest days.

    If you’re ready to see how much you can save right away, connect with one of these trusted EcoWatch providers noted below.

    Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Key Differences

    Now that you know the basics of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels, let’s discuss how each type of solar panel technology performs. The following table summarizes the most important differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels:

    Factor Monocrystalline Solar Panels Polycrystalline Solar Panels
    Silicone Arrangement One pure silicon crystal Many silicon fragments melded together
    Cost expensive Less expensive
    Appearance Panels have black hue Panels have blue hue
    Efficiency efficient Less efficient
    Lifespan 25-40 years 20-35 years
    Temperature Coefficient Lower temperature coefficient, making them more efficient in heat Higher temperature coefficient, making them less efficient in heat

    How the Two Panel Types Measure Up with Pricing and Costs

    The silicon structure of each solar panel is the main factor that determines cost. To produce polycrystalline panels, manufacturers must simply pour molten silicon into square molds, then cut the resulting wafers into individual cells. On the other hand, to produce single-crystal solar cells, the solidification of silicon must be controlled very carefully. Because of this more complex manufacturing process, mono panels tend to be more expensive but affordable options and good deals exist too. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the cost of solar panels:

    • Monocrystalline solar panels have a higher cost when comparing only the panels.
    • The cost of inverters, wiring, electrical protections, racking and labor is the same for both solar panel types.
    • Because monocrystalline panels are more efficient, you may get a better return on your investment.
    • Homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit whether they choose mono or poly panels.

    The differences in Efficiency and Temperature Coefficient

    As mentioned above, monocrystalline solar panels have a higher efficiency. However, this does not mean that polycrystalline solar panels are inferior products — you can find high-quality solar panels of both types. Here are a few more facts about efficiency:

    • When a solar panel has a higher efficiency, it converts a larger percentage of sunlight into electricity.
    • As of 2021, polycrystalline panels have typical efficiencies below 20%, while the best monocrystalline panels are approaching 23%.
    • You will need more polycrystalline panels to reach a certain kilowatt-hour output per month, since their efficiency is lower.
    • All solar panels suffer a temporary efficiency drop when their temperature increases, but monocrystalline solar cells are less affected by heat.

    The temperature coefficient indicates how much solar panels are affected by temperature. All solar panels are factory-tested under the same Standard Test Conditions (STC) to ensure a fair comparison. In general, polycrystalline solar panels tend to have higher temperature coefficients, which means they lose more productivity when they heat up. However, as technology improves, there are now solar panels of both types with similarly low temperature coefficients. Solar panel efficiency is not a critical factor when you have plenty of space available. Since polycrystalline panels have a lower price, installing more to compensate for the lower efficiency is not a problem. If you have limited space, installing more panels is not always an option, so monocrystalline panels will maximize electricity production in the available area.

    Mono vs Poly Panels Appearance and Lifespan Comparison

    The appearance of solar cells is also a result of their silicon structure, since it determines how they interact with sunlight and how they are perceived by human eyesight. The single-crystal structure of monocrystalline cells gives them a black color, while polycrystalline cells are blue. Both solar panel types have a long lifespan, while their payback period is less than five years in many cases. Solar manufacturers normally offer a 25-year power production warranty, but some brands now come with 30-year warranty coverage.

    Are Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels Best for You?

    Each type of solar panel has advantages and disadvantages, and you can get an excellent return on investment with both. However, to make your choice easier, consider the following factors when picking the best solar panels for your home:

    Do you want solar panels of a specific color?

    Keep in mind that monocrystalline panels are black, while polycrystalline panels are blue. If you prefer one over the other, you can buy solar panels to suit your taste.

    How much space do you have for solar panels?

    The exact dimensions of home solar panels depend on their brand and manufacturer. The typical dimensions are 65 inches by 39 inches, equivalent to 17.6 square feet per panel, but monocrystalline panels offer more watts per square foot. Here’s a simplified example of how you can install more kilowatts in a given area by using monocrystalline panels:

    • You may find that a polycrystalline panel produces 300W, while an equally-sized monocrystalline panel produces 350W.
    • If you have space for 20 of them, you will reach 7 kW with the monocrystalline panels, but only 6 kW with the polycrystalline panels.

    What do your budget and financing options look like?

    Polycrystalline solar panels are more affordable, but monocrystalline panels are more productive. If you have access to solar loan options with favorable interest rates, you can finance your solar installation and pay the loan off with the money you save on utility bills.

    In this case, the extra cost of monocrystalline panels is not an issue. Also, make sure you compare several solar quotes. Monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive individually, but you must also consider other system components and installation costs. There may be cases in which a completed installation with monocrystalline panels is actually cheaper, even if a single panel costs more.

    Other Types of Solar Panels

    Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the most common, but they are not the only types of panels available. You will also find thin-film solar panels, which have a completely different manufacturing process:

    • Instead of using crystalline solar cells, they use a photovoltaic material that is deposited in thin layers.
    • There are many subtypes of thin-film solar panels based on their PV material. The most common are cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper gallium indium diselenide (CIGS) and amorphous silicon.
    • Since thin-film solar panels are not divided into cells, they have a uniform surface without divisions.
    • Most flexible solar panels use thin-film solar cells.

    The main disadvantage of thin-film solar panels is that they are much less efficient than polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels. This means you must cover a larger area with thin-film solar panels to reach a certain kilowatt-hour production. But are often preferred for those on the go looking for solar panels for RV’s, boats, or camping

    If you’re ready to see how much you can save right away, connect with one of these trusted EcoWatch providers noted below.

    Types of Solar Panels: On the Market and in the Lab [2023]

    Solar panel installations have grown explosively all over the world in the last ten years.

    The best part is their costs have dramatically plummeted by 99% over the last four decades, so there’s no better time than now to take advantage of clean solar energy for your home or business to lower the electricity bill.

    According to 2018 data from International Renewable Energy Alliance, (IRENA), the United States is the world’s third-largest solar energy user behind China and Japan. The United Kingdom is in 7th place followed by Australia in 8th place.

    As the decade comes to a close, the forecast for solar power has never looked brighter.

    Much of that growth will occur predictably in sunny California, but several other states are spearheading solar projects, too. Note from the graph below that three of the top five states leading in solar panel installations in 2019 were in the not-too-sunny Northeast United States.

    Even the UK, with less sun than many parts of the U.S., had over one million solar panel installations in 2018, up by almost 2% (in terms of power generated) from the previous year.

    Australia meanwhile hit the 2 million solar installation mark in 2018.

    In light of this solar energy trend wherever you turn, accelerated by the urgency to stop burning fossil fuels and switch 100% to renewable energy as quickly as possible, maybe you’re thinking it’s time to jump onboard.

    If so, welcome to the solar energy revolution!

    One of the major concerns when you’re initially considering a solar panel installation for your home or business is choosing the best type of solar panel for you.

    In this article, you’ll do a deep dive into the three main options for solar panels available today. These are:

    The technologies underpinning all three of these types of solar panels have made significant improvements over time to meet your energy needs better.

    We’ll also survey what’s up and coming in the solar energy world. This includes technologies like:

    • Bifacial solar
    • Concentrated PV (photovoltaic) cell
    • Solar tiles
    • Transparent solar panels

    All of these innovations in solar energy are cutting edge and many, especially bifacials and CPVs, are commercially available in some regions and competitively priced. They hold a lot of promise to boost the green energy segment of the global energy consumption mix.

    For example, bifacial solar modules are expected to increase tenfold in capacity by 2024 to 28,000 megawatts (MW)! For reference, the current national average of American homes powered by just one MW of solar is about 190.

    In this article, we’ll first consider what all solar panels, both those in commercial production and those up-and-coming, have in common: solar cells enmeshed in a solar panel system.

    What is a solar panel system?

    A solar panel system is an inter-connected assembly, (often called an array), of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells that (1) capture energy emanating from the sun in the form of photons; and (2) transform that solar energy directly into electricity. The amount of electricity produced, as measured in volts or watts, varies according to the system and the type of solar cell.

    Each individual solar panel (also called a module) in the array consists of a group of solar cells packaged together in a metal frame. There are typically 60, 72 or 96 solar cells in a single solar panel.

    To convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced into the alternating current (AC) used in your home, every solar cell system contains an inverter. The inverter may be large and centralized.

    Alternatively, some photovoltaic modules have an inverter already built-in. These are called AC modules. Wiring is much simpler with AC modules.

    What are solar cells made of?

    Solar cells today are mostly made of silicon, a chemical element with semiconducting properties. In most types of solar cells, silicon is in a crystal form.

    Because 100% pure silicon crystal doesn’t transfer electric current, it is “doped” with very small amounts of “impurities”—usually phosphorus and boron—that do readily carry an electric current within the silicon crystal lattice.

    The silicon doped with phosphorus is called N-type (for “negative” because it has a surplus of electrons).

    Silicon doped with boron is referred to as P-type (for “positive” because it has a deficit of electrons).

    When constructed with one N-type section next to one P-type in this manner, the solar cell is called single-junction, meaning it has only one p-n junction.

    When doped silicon absorbs some of the sun’s energy, it dislodges some free electrons in the process. In the electric field of a solar panel system, the electrons are routed to flow in one direction, establishing an electric current.

    The solar cell’s electric field causes voltage. The mathematical product of current and voltage is power—the power used to run your household appliances and heat or cool your home.

    Other components of a solar cell include an anti-reflective coating, since silicon’s natural luster would cause sunlight to reflect off of it—which is not what should happen if you want to create electrical power.

    The silicon crystals of the solar cells are grouped inside an electric field and then covered in glass to protect all components from weather.

    What is solar cell efficiency?

    A measure of how well solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it to electrical energy is called efficiency. Light travels in different wavelengths of varying energy levels across the bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, and not all is absorbed by a solar panel. Measured in electron volts (eV), the typical Band gap energy which can be absorbed and transformed by a solar panel into electricity is about 1.1 eV.

    Photons hitting the panel with more energy than that (and there are lots of them) represent an energy loss.

    Using different materials in solar panels with a low Band gap would increase the number of photons absorbed, and, consequently, the current. But, it would also reduce the voltage of the panel. Since power equals current multiplied by voltage, there’s a trade-off between material selection and electric field strength in solar panel development.

    Research shows that the optimal Band gap of a material is between 1 and 1.6 eV.

    Besides the material of a solar panel resulting in some energy loss, there is the problem of the internal resistance of a material (called series resistance).

    Silicon, as a semiconductor, doesn’t conduct electrical current as well as metals. Its series resistance, in fact, is rather high. This translates into yet another source of high energy loss.

    To correct for this, some panels are covered with a metal grid to allow the electrons to move more easily in the electric field, complete the circuit and create electrical power for your home.

    But, the downside of this superimposing grid is that it blocks some of the PV cell surface from absorbing photons! A thinner grid covering would minimize this loss, but the thinness itself would contribute significant resistance and result in more energy loss.

    Takeaway: There are several reasons why solar cells aren’t highly efficient. Ongoing research is based on finding materials that are more efficient, at reduced cost and are aesthetically pleasing.

    Solar Trivia: The highest efficiency ever recorded for a PV panel to date (developed in 2006) was about 41%!

    This was a U.S.-funded effort for power in space exploration. At the time, the Department of Energy believed the system would be scaled commercially, eventually reaching a solar panel cost of a mere 3/watt, producing energy at 0.8–0.10 per kilowatt/hour (kWh).

    Incidentally, in 2019, the solar price per watt (PPW) is approximately 3–4. In some areas, it may be as low as 2.50!

    The cost of a kilowatt-hour of solar energy derived from a rooftop solar array is about 0.06–0.08 cents (versus 0.09–0.13 for coal or natural gas-derived energy).

    Take-Home Message: These super low rates for solar renewable energy is extremely competitive with fossil fuel energy today.

    Unfortunately, a 41% degree of energy efficiency is still not common for residential or commercial solar systems. However, some of the work done in labs looks promising.

    here, different, types, solar, panels

    Besides achieving higher efficiencies, experimental work on solar panels also focuses on lower costs and a more pleasing appearance.

    major types of solar panels on the market today

    Depending on your energy needs, budget, cosmetic preference and space allotment, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your three options in solar panels for your home or business.

    Two of these solar panel types consist of single-junction solar cells. Theoretically, their maximum efficiency is about 33%. The highest efficiency achieved to date with single-junction cells is about 22%.

    The thin-film solar panel may be single- or multi-junction depending on its material(s). Multi-junction solar cells are made of different materials, each of which best captures photons of varying wavelengths. In this manner, more sunlight can be converted to electric energy.

    Monocrystalline solar panels

    Constructed from a single silicon crystal that’s been sliced into wafers, monocrystalline solar panels contain rows and columns of these wafers. Since the silicone crystal (also called an ingot) is cylindrical, slicing them into wafers causes them to have rounded edges.

    Polycrystalline solar panels

    Polycrystalline (also referred to as multi-crystalline) solar panels have solar cells containing multiple crystalline fragments of silicon. The fragments may be the left-over pieces from monocrystalline solar production. They are arranged in an irregular manner. Then they’re melted together and formed into solid blocks before being cut into wafers. Each wafer is more rectangular than its monocrystalline counterparts.

    Thin-film solar panels

    Called second-generation solar cells, thin-film solar panels can be made of a variety of materials including:

    • Amorphous silicon (no crystal lattice)
    • Gallium arsenide
    • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)
    • Cadmium telluride (CdTe)

    Each wafer of a thin-film cell is super-skinny compared to the other types, making it flexible. They may be applied by an adhesive directly to a surface (like your roof, boat, or RV), or set up into durable frames (rack) much like the other common types of solar panels.SEE ALSO: Flexible Solar Panels: Application and Helpful Buying Tips

    Here’s a summary table of the three most common solar panel types:

    (If you’re using a mobile device, please swipe left and right to view the full-size table.)

    Solar Panel TypeMaterialEfficiencyCostAppearance

    Solar panel innovations

    The overarching goals of research and development into solar panels are to:

    • Increase efficiency
    • Lower cost of materials
    • Increase longevity of solar systems
    • Heighten aesthetic appearance

    Although some of the following solar technologies are commercially available only in certain areas right now, here’s a glimpse of what you can look forward to everywhere as the renewable energy revolution advances.

    Solar Panel Purchasing Tip: When you begin getting estimates for your rooftop or backyard solar array, always inquire about the local availability of these newer technologies. You just may get lucky!

    Bifacial solar technology

    “Two-faced” solar panels are able to generate electric current through photon contact with both sides of solar cells.

    As sunlight hits the top of a solar panel, activating some PV cells, it continues on and passes through the panel. Then some of it is reflected back off the surface underneath the panel (like a roof). Those reflected rays expose the bottom solar cells to further photon activation.

    Bifacials may be either monocrystalline or polycrystalline.

    Concentrated PV technology (CPV)

    One of the most avant-garde solar panel technologies uses lenses or curved mirrors to direct sunlight into a specific point, thereby concentrating it on a small, multi-junction solar cell.

    Essentially, CPV reduces the energy loss by sunlight diffusion over a large surface. As a result, efficiency is greatly improved, even more than what a monocrystalline solar cell will deliver.

    Right now, CPV is expensive because of added components like solar trackers and cooling mechanisms.

    Solar tile technology

    In 2016, Elon Musk of Tesla announced the concept of a solar roof equipped with solar tiles (also called solar slates or solar shingles). The solar tiles function like traditional solar panels. They may be constructed of thin-film material or monocrystalline silicon.

    Right now, solar tiles are slightly less efficient than conventional monocrystalline solar cells.

    However, this solar panel system has no supporting rack that traditional solar panels are placed in, and so considered more visually appealing than the common setup. Solar tiles are installed like conventional asphalt shingles and span the entire roof surface.

    Tesla estimates that their solar roof costs about 22/sq. ft. while others calculate a price tag of 35/sq. ft. To put this in context today, to cover an average-sized home with solar shingles, it may cost upwards of 45K or more.

    Transparent solar panels

    Discovered by MIT researchers, transparent solar panels capture only the wavelengths of light that our eyes can’t see (near-infrared and ultraviolet) while allowing visible light to pass through.

    So, everything in theory—from mobile phones to laptops to Windows—could have a transparent solar panel on its surface, producing electricity, but you’d never know it!

    Here is a schematic diagram of a transparent solar cell—low-cost to boot—taken from the MIT source linked in this section.

    Currently, efficiencies for transparent solar panels are on the low end, but researchers see 11% or more very likely in the near future. Note, however, that if these cells cover all of the Windows of a huge skyscraper, for example, even a 5% efficiency could easily defray 25% of the total cost of the power needs of the building.

    Another significant advantage of transparent solar panels over conventional solar arrays is that they don’t need vast expanses of land or water (like traditional solar farms do) to operate.

    First commercial applications (for cell phones) are expected in a few years.

    Imagine how transformative the widespread use of transparent solar panels for Windows (solar Windows) in urban locations will be! Achieving this milestone in solar energy innovation will definitely tilt the global energy consumption pattern in favor of renewable energy from the sun.

    Key takeaways on types of solar panels

    Solar panel installations have grown in popularity and efficiency while decreasing in price due to the green, clean energy revolution. Now is a perfect time to invest in a solar panel system.

    The most common types of solar panels for home use are composed of monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film solar cells. They vary in efficiency and cost. Monocrystalline panels are the most expensive and most efficient. The least expensive, but typically least efficient, are thin-film solar panels.

    Polycrystalline solar cells usually have moderate efficiencies and reasonable costs.

    There is a large body of active RD into new solar technologies. Among the most promising—already in the marketplace in some areas or projected to be in the next few years—are bifacial solar, CPV, solar tiles, and transparent solar panels. comment

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