Perhaps you’re browsing the market for solar panels, but are overwhelmed by the different types of panels available? From Monocrystalline to Polycrystalline to Thin-Film Solar Panels, it can be intimidating looking at the different options when you’re not familiar with the options you’re given. In this post we’ll break down which solar panels are available for consumers, what the difference is in how they’re made, which ones are most cost-efficient, and which are more energy efficient.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar cells, characterized by their rounded edges, get their name from the single-crystal silicon used in them. Since these cells use single-crystal silicon, they’re able to generate electricity by giving electrons more room to move around. Monocrystalline panels are often seen as a “premium” solar panel since they are known for their higher efficiencies and sleek designs.
According to Energy Informative, monocrystalline solar panels have typical efficiency rates between 15-20%. Not only do these panels have an energy-efficient advantage, but they also tend to live longer, with the average manufacturer providing a 25-year warranty on their monocrystalline panels.
Do be cautious if you live in an area that is shaded or where it snows often, as these types of solar panels are known to break down if they’re even partially covered with shade, dirt, or snow.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are popular for their wallet-friendly price, unlike monocrystalline solar panels. They tend to be characterized by their blue hue, compared to the black hue of monocrystalline panels, and their straight edges.
The major differentiating factor of polycrystalline solar panels is that they’re made from many silicon fragments melted together, unlike the single crystal of silicon used to manufacture monocrystalline panels. Since poly is Greek for “many”, it makes sense that these solar panels are also referred to as “multi-crystalline”. As a result of there being many crystals in each cell, there is little room for the electrons to move about. This is why polycrystalline solar panels have lower efficiency ratings, about 13-16% compared to the 15-20% of their counterpart, monocrystalline panels.
Another factor to consider when looking at polycrystalline solar panels is that they need more roof space to produce the same amount of energy that monocrystalline panels do.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Different from their more popular photovoltaic (PV) energy solar panel counterparts mentioned above, thin-film panels, as their name suggests, are much more lightweight and flexible. Standard solar panels require a significant amount of silicon, while thin-film doesn’t, making them more environmentally friendly since the emissions required to create a thin film cell and panel are much lower than those of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
As far as efficiency rates, thin-film have shown an efficiency rate range of 7-13% in prototypes, and around 9% in production modules, but their efficiency rates are expected to grow to 10-16%.
When it comes to installation because their efficiency is on the lower end, thin-film panels do need more roof space to be able to accommodate the increased amount of space necessary for the system. On the other hand, installation costs can be expected to be less since these panels are very easy to install and require much less labor than traditional panels, but keep in mind that you will need more of these panels than if you use traditional panels.
One thing to note when it comes to thin-film panels is that a large amount of them are made with moderate amounts of the carcinogen Cadmium. However, not all are made with Cadmium, and you can also use CdTe technology to make sure the panel plant is not in direct proximity to your house or yard.
Hopefully, our quick and simple breakdown of the types of PV solar panels has helped you understand each one a little better, and in turn, will help you make a well-informed decision on your solar panel purchase. Reach out to us if you’d like to discuss adding solar panels to your home!
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