Monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and thin film solar panels make up the majority of the solar panels used in home solar energy systems now available on the market.
The type of panel is determined by the solar cells that make it up. Since each type of solar cell has a unique set of properties, some panels are better suited for particular applications than others.
To assist you in determining which kind of solar panel is best for your house, we’ve put up a comprehensive guide to monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film solar panels.
- There are three different types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film.
- Monocrystalline solar panels are highly efficient and have a sleek design, but come at a higher price point than other solar panels.
- Polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper than monocrystalline panels, however, they are less efficient and aren’t as aesthetically pleasing.
- Thin film solar panels are the cheapest, but have the lowest efficiency rating and require a lot of space to meet your energy needs.
- The brand of solar panels and the solar installer you choose is far more important than which type of solar panel you install.
Three types of solar panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most popular solar panels used in rooftop solar panel installations today.
The Czochralski process, in which a silicon “seed” crystal is dropped into a molten vat of pure silicon at a high temperature, is used to create monocrystalline silicon solar cells.
This procedure creates an ingot of silicon, also known as a single silicon crystal, which is then divided into thin silicon wafers for use in solar modules.
Fun fact! There is more than one type of monocrystalline solar panel
There are many different types of monocrystalline solar panels available on the market today. Monocrystalline PERC cells, also known as Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact cells, are becoming more and more popular. The production capacity of PERC cells is increased by using a modified manufacturing and assembly procedure.
Bifacial solar panels, a different monocrystalline technology, are gaining popularity in commercial ground-mounted applications because they can produce power on both the front and back of a module.
Polycrystalline panels, sometimes referred to as ‘multicrystalline panels’, are popular among homeowners looking to install solar panels on a budget.
Polycrystalline panels are made of silicon solar cells, just like monocrystalline panels. However, because of the unusual cooling process, numerous crystals rather than just one form.
60 solar cells are typically found in polycrystalline panels installed on residential buildings.
Thin film solar cells are mostly used in large-scale utility and industrial solar installations because of their lower efficiency ratings.
A thin coating of a photovoltaic material is deposited onto a solid surface, such as glass, to create thin film solar panels. Amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride are a few of these solar materials (CdTe). Although each of these materials produces a unique “kind” of solar panel, they are all considered thin film solar cells.
The photovoltaic material condenses during manufacture into a thin, lightweight sheet that is occasionally bendable.
Solar panel type by performance
Highest performance: Monocrystalline
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient type of solar panel, with efficiency ratings ranging from 17% to 22%. Because they require fewer panels to produce the same amount of electricity, monocrystalline solar panels are perfect for homes with small roof spaces.
The efficiency of monocrystalline solar panels can be attributed to their manufacturing method. Electrons may readily move throughout monocrystalline solar cells since they are built of a single silicon crystal, boosting total efficiency.
Monocrystalline panels often have the highest power capacity ratings in addition to having the highest efficiency ratings. Currently available monocrystalline panels will typically have a power output rating of at least 320 watts, but they can reach as high as 375 watts or more!
Mid-tier performance: Polycrystalline
Efficiency ratings for polycrystalline panels typically vary from 15% to 17%. The movement of electrons through the solar cell is what causes the lower efficiency ratings. Multiple silicon cells are found in polycrystalline cells, which makes it harder for electrons to travel around and lowers the panel’s efficiency.
Due to their lower efficiency, polycrystalline solar panels typically produce between 240 and 300 watts less power than monocrystalline solar panels. Power ratings for certain polycrystalline panels are higher than 300 watts.
The efficiency and power ratings of polycrystalline panels have, however, received a minor boost over time thanks to new technologies and production techniques, thereby narrowing the performance gap between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
Lowest performance: Thin film
The efficiency ratings of thin film solar panels are exceedingly low. Thin film efficiencies were in the single digits just a few years ago. Thin film cell prototype efficiency has recently reached 23.4%, although commercially available thin film panels typically have efficiency in the 10–13% range.
To produce the same amount of electricity as crystalline silicon solar panels, you would need to install more thin film panels across a larger area in order to meet your energy needs. Thin film solar panels are therefore not truly practical for residential installations with constrained space.
Fun fact! Thin film panels have the best temperature coefficient
Thin film panels often have the best temperature coefficient, which indicates that when the temperature of a solar panel rises, the panel produces less electricity, while having lower performance specifications in most other areas. The temperature coefficient indicates how much the power output will drop for each degree the panel is heated above 25 degrees.
For monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, the usual temperature coefficient ranges from -0.3% to -0.5% per *C. On the other side, thin film panels are about -0.2% per *C, which means they can withstand heat significantly better than other panel types.
Solar panel type by cost
Highest cost: Monocrystalline panels
Due to their production method and superior performance, monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive of the three solar panel kinds.
The cost difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels has, however, significantly decreased as production techniques and solar panel technology in general have advanced. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that the cost of monocrystalline solar panels is currently just $0.05 per watt more than that of polycrystalline modules.
Mid-cost: Polycrystalline panels
Polycrystalline panels have historically been the least expensive alternative for households that want to go solar without significantly losing panel performance. Between 2012 and 2016, polycrystalline panels gained a sizable market share in home solar installations thanks to low costs.
However, as we previously stated, the cost difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels is decreasing. Now, more households are prepared to spend a little extra to purchase monocrystalline panels with much greater efficiency and power ratings.
Lowest cost: Thin film panels
Thin film solar panels are the least expensive type of solar panel, partly due to its ease of installation and equipment requirements. They can produce enough electricity to power a home, but they also operate much less well and take up a lot more room.
Additionally, thin film panels need to be updated more frequently than other panel types since they age considerably more quickly than other panel types, which increases long-term recurrent expenses.
Solar panel type by appearance
Most attractive: Thin film panels
All-black thin film panels have a modern appearance. Because of their thin shape, they can lie flat against rooftops and fit in better. In certain cases, thin film panels are so thin that it is difficult to even see the panel’s individual cells. Additionally, they often have less wiring and busbars, which leaves less open space.
Thin film panels would need to cover your entire roof, which may or may not be to your taste, due to their extreme inefficiency.
Mid-tier appearance: Monocrystalline panels
Monocrystalline panels look completely black, which makes them blend in well with your roof. However, there is a lot of empty space on the panel due to the design of monocrystalline solar cells. Some manufacturers have found ways to get around this, such as using black packing or reshaping the cells, although these aesthetic alterations might affect the panels’ performance and pricing.
Monocrystalline panels still have a modern aesthetic overall, but they stand out a little more than thin film panels.
Worst appearance: Polycrystalline panels
Polycrystalline panels have a propensity to stand out. Polycrystalline solar cells have a blue, marbled appearance as a result of the manufacturing process. This indicates that each polycrystalline panel is significantly distinct from the one next to it in appearance. The looks of polycrystalline panels aren’t particularly appealing to the majority of homeowners.
Fun fact! Crystalline panels are more durable than thin film
Thin film panels tend to have lower wind and hail ratings than mono and polycrystalline panels. So, while thin film panels might look nice at first, one bad storm could cause significant damage.
What is the best type of solar panel for your home?
The best solar panel type for home solar installations is monocrystalline.
Even though the cost will be slightly greater, you won’t have to give up durability or performance to have a system with a subdued appearance. Additionally, the monocrystalline panels’ high efficiency and power output ratings can help you save more money over the course of your system’s lifespan.
Polycrystalline panels can be a better choice for you if money is short. Because of their poor performance and durability, thin film solar panels are not advised for residential installations. Additionally, it is unlikely that you will have nearly enough room to install the necessary number of thin film panels to meet your household’s electricity needs.
Types of solar cells: The best in their line Ratings