Solar energy is hands down the fastest-growing renewable energy source, registering about 25% growth over the last five years.
The new year presents the perfect opportunity to hop on the solar wave and push for a sustainable future. Before you do so, it might be a good idea to get acquainted with the types of solar panels so you know what you’re getting into.
If you’ve already started your solar panel shopping, you’ll notice that not all solar panels look alike. You’ll also notice that some solar panels are more expensive than others. It’s not just aesthetics; there’s a more technical reason for the appearance and price disparity.
Check out our in-depth look at the various types of solar panels to help you make a more informed decision when in the market for solar panels.
As the name connotes, monocrystalline panels consist of monocrystalline cells and are the oldest solar panels, tracing back to the 1950s. The panels consist of silicon solar cells made via the Czochralski method.
The Czochralski method involves inserting a small silicon crystal or seed in a crucible of molten silicon. The manufacturers then slowly pull the seed out of the molten silicon. As the silicon hardens around the crystal, it forms a shell on the crystal known as an ingot.
A machine slices the ingot into small wafer-like objects. Another machine divides the wafer-like objects into cells. The last step of the process involves assembling the cells to create the final product, a solar panel.
Manufacturers cut the cells into distinct shapes, mostly squares with missing edges. It’s hard to miss a monocrystalline panel because you’ll recognize it from the shape of its cells. The shape of the cells doesn’t confer any functional advantage but helps make the panels appear uniform.
Monocrystalline panels have a deep black natural appearance. Although the cells are black, you can find monocrystalline panels in various colors to match your home’s exterior.
Benefits of Monocrystalline Panels
As mentioned above, monocrystalline panels are the oldest type of solar panels. Over the years, they have undergone considerable development to become very efficient and affordable. That said, here are a few benefits of monocrystalline panels:
- They take up less space as compared to other types of solar panels
- They are very efficient with an efficiency of approximately 15%-20%
- Suitable for cloudy weather because they function well in low light
- Very durable and can last for about 25 years before needing replacement
Disadvantages of Monocrystalline Panels
Despite the many benefits, monocrystalline panels aren’t without their drawbacks. Here are a few cons of monocrystalline panels
- Monocrystalline panels are expensive, meaning you’ll have to dig deep in your pockets to afford them
- When temperature increases, it may suffer performance loss, although quite negligible
There’s both upsides and downside to installing monocrystalline solar panels. However, if monocrystalline panels aren’t your cup of tea, you can always consider polycrystalline panels.
Polycrystalline panels are the most popular type of solar panels in the world. If you spot a solar panel on any roof in your residence, there’s a high chance that it’s a polycrystalline panel.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels have one thing in common; both are made from silicon. However, the two types of panels differ in their manufacturing process. Polycrystalline panels are made from melted silicon crystal fragments.
Just like the Czochralski process, the crystals are dunked in a crucible of molten silicon. However, for polycrystalline panels, the crystals aren’t pulled up slowly but instead cool in the crucible until it fragments.
Once the crystals fragment, a machine slices the now cool crystal into thin polycrystalline wafer panels. The assembly of these wafers together is what creates the polycrystalline solar panels. Polycrystalline panels have a somewhat grainy appearance because of the boundaries that form when the crystals cool and fragment.
Unlike monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels are blue because of the way the crystals interact with sunlight. You’ll notice that this is different from monocrystalline panels, which have a deep black color. That’s because the cell fragments reflect light differently compared to purse silicon cells.
Benefits of Polycrystalline Panels
The benefits of polycrystalline solar panels are what make them a popular choice among homeowners across the globe. That said, here are a few benefits of polycrystalline panels.
- They’re less costly than monocrystalline panels because their production method is simpler
- They work better in higher temperatures than monocrystalline panels
- Their blue color might be appealing to some homeowners
Disadvantages of Polycrystalline Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels have their perks; however, this doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Polycrystalline panels also have their downsides. Here are a few disadvantages of polycrystalline panels.
- They take up more space on the roof, hence not suitable for small buildings
- They are less efficient compared to monocrystalline panels
- They also don’t work well in low light conditions
- Excessive heat may interfere with the panels’ performance
These few drawbacks don’t deter millions of homeowners from getting polycrystalline panels for their homes. If neither monocrystalline nor polycrystalline panels fit your fancy, then you might want to consider thin-film panels for your home.
Thin-film panels are the least popular among the solar panel types and have the lowest market share. However, this doesn’t mean the solar panels are no good. Thin-film panels can’t boast such huge numbers as their counterparts because they are a much more recent development.
Thin-film panels are very distinct from monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels because they don’t have to be made from silicon. Manufacturers make thin-film solar panels from various materials including, cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, and other similar materials.
The most common thin-film panels are made from cadmium telluride. The solar panel consists of two distinct parts. First is a thin layer of cadmium telluride. The second are two transparent conducting layers
The manufacturer sandwiches the thin layer of cadmium telluride between the two layers of conductive material. The manufacturer also adds a layer of glass on both faces for extra protection. Manufacturing thin-film panels is unique from the standard solar panel manufacturing process.
Keep in mind that thin-film panels made from silicon don’t use silicon crystals but instead use amorphous or non-crystalline silicon. As the name suggests, thin-film solar panels are noticeably thinner than the other solar panel options.
They are more than 300 times thinner than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. However, some manufacturers make thick versions of thin-film solar panels, which may be confusing to the untrained eye. What’s more, these panels can either be black or blue, depending on their materials.
Benefits of Thin-Film Solar Panels
Despite the lack of popularity, thin-film solar panels are quite beneficial and maybe better than the other solar panel types. Here are a few benefits of thin-film solar panels.
- The panels work better with shade, unlike their counterparts
- Their performance doesn’t deteriorate with higher temperatures
- Although still new, the technology for its development means the solar panels will be much more affordable
Disadvantages of Thin-Film Solar Panels
Some might argue that the drawbacks of thin-film panels outweigh their benefits. However, it’s up to you to decide whether this is true. That said, here are a few cons of thin-film panels
- They take up almost twice as much roof space as the other types of solar panels
- They are the most inefficient of the bunch
Because thin-film panels are a recent development, don’t be too quick to dismiss the solar panels. Over time, we’re bound to see drastic improvements in the technology to make the panels more efficient and take up less space.
Why Should You Switch to Solar?
Switching to solar could be one of the best decisions you ever make in your life because of the many benefits you get. Most important is that you be joining millions of other like-minded people who are saving a bundle in energy costs.
The government has put in place solar incentives to encourage more people to embrace solar energy. That means installing solar panels in your home is cheaper, and you get rewarded for it.
Types of Solar Panels for Your Consideration
Now that you know the different types of solar panels, it’s upon you to decide which one is best suited for your home. Buying solar panels can be a tad difficult if you have no clue where to start. We hope this post helps you make a well-informed decision when in the market for solar panels.
If you decide to jump on the solar bandwagon, make sure you do so with the right solar installation company. For expedient and timely solar installation, schedule a consultation today.