Types of solar panels: which one is the best choice?

Types of solar panels: which one is the best choice?

In the realm of solar energy, three primary varieties of photovoltaic panels are employed in solar ventures: monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and thin films.

Each classification of solar panel possesses distinct attributes, thereby rendering particular panels more suitable for specific scenarios.

Fortunately, we've meticulously crafted a comprehensive manual to facilitate your distinction of each panel variety and to assist you in determining the most appropriate option for your dwelling.

Three types of solar panels

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline solar panels represent the prevailing choice for rooftop solar installations in contemporary times.

The production of monocrystalline silicon solar cells employs a technique known as the Czochralski method. In this process, a 'seed' crystal composed of silicon is introduced into a crucible of molten pure silicon, maintained at elevated temperatures.

This intricate procedure gives rise to a solitary silicon crystal, termed an 'ingot,' which is subsequently sectioned into slender silicon wafers. These wafers find their purpose in the construction of solar modules.

Here's an interesting tidbit to ponder: the realm of monocrystalline solar panels offers more than just one variation. In the modern landscape, one encounters a diverse array of monocrystalline solar panel options.

Enter the realm of Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact cells, more colloquially known as PERC cells. These PERC cells embark on an alternative manufacturing and assembly journey, leading to a substantial augmentation in the electrical output they can deliver.

Another facet of monocrystalline technology, bifacial solar panels,such as the OUPES Portable Solar Panel, which have the exceptional ability to generate electricity on both the front and back sides of the module. 

Furthermore, monocrystalline panels perform exceptionally well in low-light conditions, maintaining energy production even on overcast days. OUPES 100W Portable Solar Panel crafted from monocrystalline silicon, stands as a testament to advanced solar energy conversion. Its open-circuit voltage, a robust 24.4V, works in tandem with a short-circuit current of 5.27A, illustrating its reliable performance under varying conditions.

These panels are gaining prominence, particularly in the domain of commercial ground-mounted applications.

Polycrystalline 

Polycrystalline panels, occasionally denoted as 'multicrystalline panels,' garner favor among homeowners seeking to incorporate cost-effective solar panels into their abodes.

In a manner akin to monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels comprise silicon solar cells. Nevertheless, the cooling process diverges, engendering the formation of multiple crystals rather than a singular one.

Residential implementations of polycrystalline panels conventionally encompass an assemblage of 60 solar cells.

Thin film 

                                                            

In the realm of large-scale utility and industrial solar installations, thin film solar cells emerge as the preferred choice, but their somewhat diminished efficiency ratings.

The creation of thin film solar panels involves the deposition of a slender layer of photovoltaic material onto a solid substrate, such as glass. Among the assortment of photovoltaic substances used in this process, we encounter Amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe). Remarkably, each of these materials engenders a distinct 'variety' of solar panel, yet all are categorized within the overarching domain of thin film solar cells.

Throughout the intricate manufacturing procedure, the photovoltaic substance coalesces into a lightweight and, in certain instances, pliable sheet.

 

Solar panel type by performance

Highest performance: Monocrystalline

In the realm of photovoltaics, the efficacy assessments assigned to monocrystalline solar panels span a spectrum from 17% to 22%, endowing them with the prestigious distinction of being the paragon of solar panel efficiency. The proclivity towards higher efficiency intrinsic to monocrystalline panels renders them the quintessential choice for abodes adorned with limited rooftop real estate, as they necessitate a diminished assemblage of panels to engender the requisite electrical output.

For example, the OUPES 240W Portable Solar Panel made of lightweight monocrystalline silicon material has an efficiency of up to 22% and weighs only 18.48 pounds. When used with an OUPES solar generator, it can provide an efficient and reliable energy supply for your home, RV, etc.

The superlative efficiency of monocrystalline solar panels owes its genesis to the intricacies of their fabrication process. The genesis of monocrystalline solar cells ensues from a singular crystalline formation of silicon, engendering an environment conducive to the facile movement of electrons across the cell, thus culminating in an augmented overall efficiency quotient.

Notably, monocrystalline panels do not merely excel in efficiency metrics; they concurrently garner acclaim for their robust power capacity appraisements. The preponderance of monocrystalline panels presently available in the marketplace boasts power output valuations commencing at no less than 320 watts, with the prospect of ascending to a zenith of approximately 375 watts or beyond!

Mid-tier performance: Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline panel efficiency ratings typically exhibit a range spanning from 15% to 17%. The diminished efficiency ratings stem from the intricate manner in which electrons traverse the solar cell's structure. Owing to the presence of multiple silicon cells within polycrystalline panels, electrons encounter impediments that hinder their mobility, consequently diminishing the panel's overall efficiency.

The reduced efficiency inherent in polycrystalline panels corresponds to a comparatively lower power output in the range of 240 to 300 watts, with certain panels boasting power ratings surpassing the 300-watt threshold.

Lowest performance: Thin film

Thin-film photovoltaic panels exhibit remarkably low-efficiency metrics. Just a few years ago, thin-film photovoltaic modules recorded efficiency levels residing within the confines of single-digit percentages. 

Presently, diligent researchers have attained a remarkable milestone, achieving a notable 23.4% efficiency with thin-film solar cell prototypes. However, when perusing the thin-film solar panels that are readily accessible in the commercial realm, their efficacy predominantly lingers within the moderate range of 10–13%.

To fulfill your energy requisites using thin-film solar panels, one would necessitate an extensive installation of these panels, sprawled across a vast expanse, to generate an equivalent quantum of electricity when juxtaposed with crystalline silicon solar panels. It is for this precise reason that thin-film solar panels seldom emerge as a rational choice for residential deployments, particularly in settings characterized by spatial constraints.

An intriguing facet to consider is the temperature coefficient associated with thin-film solar panels. Despite exhibiting relatively inferior performance specifications in most other domains, thin-film photovoltaic panels invariably lay claim to the title of the best temperature coefficient. 

Essentially, this signifies that as the temperature of a thin-film solar panel ascends, its electricity production undergoes a gradual attenuation. The temperature coefficient serves as a quantitative indicator, disclosing the extent to which the power output will dwindle for every 1°C increment beyond the 25°C reference point.

Conventional mono and polycrystalline solar panels typically manifest temperature coefficients that fluctuate within the span of -0.3% to -0.5% per °C. In stark contrast, thin-film solar panels chart a different course, resting comfortably at approximately -0.2% per °C. This numerical distinction underscores the profound proficiency of thin-film panels in adeptly coping with elevated temperatures when juxtaposed against their counterparts from different solar panel genres.

 

Solar panel type by cost

Highest cost: Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline solar panels, due to their intricate manufacturing processes and superior performance capabilities, command the highest price among the three solar panel types.

However, with advancements in manufacturing techniques and the overall progress in solar panel technology, the price disparity between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels has significantly contracted. According to research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, monocrystalline solar panels are currently retailing for a mere $0.05 per watt more than their polycrystalline counterparts.

Mid-cost: Polycrystalline panels

In the annals of history, polycrystalline photovoltaic panels have traditionally stood as the most economical choice for homeowners embarking on their solar journey, without unduly compromising on panel performance. The allure of affordable pricing rendered polycrystalline panels a formidable presence in the realm of residential solar installations during the period spanning from 2012 to 2016.

However, as previously alluded to, the chasm in cost between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is gradually closing. At present, an increasing number of homeowners are inclined to part with a marginally higher sum in exchange for markedly enhanced efficiency and power ratings offered by monocrystalline panels.

Lowest cost: Thin film panels

Thin-film photovoltaic panels possess the most economical attributes among solar panel variants. This primarily stems from their simplified installation process and reduced equipment prerequisites. Nevertheless, their operational capabilities fall significantly short, demanding a substantial expense for the generation of sufficient electricity to power a household.

Furthermore, thin-film panels exhibit accelerated degradation compared to alternative panel categories, necessitating frequent replacements. This, in turn, results in augmented long-term recurrent expenditures.

 

Solar panel type by appearance

Most attractive: Thin film panels

In the realm of photovoltaic technology, thin film panels emerge as a manifestation of sleek sophistication. Their svelte design allows for a flush integration with rooftops, resulting in an unobtrusive aesthetic synergy. 

Remarkably, within certain variants of thin film panels, the individual cellular constituents remain shrouded in obscurity, defying facile observation. Furthermore, they exhibit a reduced prevalence of wirings and busbars, thereby minimizing the presence of vacant interstices.

Nonetheless, the trade-off for their aesthetic finesse is their intrinsic inefficiency, necessitating the coverage of an entire roof expanse with thin film panels—a prospect that may or may not align with one's stylistic predilections.

Mid-tier appearance: Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline panels possess a solid obsidian hue, rendering them discreet on your rooftop. However, the geometric configuration of monocrystalline solar cells results in a significant expanse of void, adorning the panel with copious white spaces. Some manufacturers have sought remedies by introducing ebony encasing or altering the cellular structure. 

In sum, monocrystalline panels maintain an elegant appearance.

Worst appearance: Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline panels often stand out conspicuously. The process involved in the manufacture of polycrystalline solar cells imparts to them a distinctive blue and marbled appearance. Consequently, each polycrystalline panel presents a markedly dissimilar visage from its neighboring counterpart. The aesthetics of polycrystalline panels, in this regard, do not align with the preferences of most homeowners.

An intriguing tidbit: Crystalline panels boast superior durability compared to their thin film counterparts. Thin film panels tend to exhibit lower wind and hail resistance in comparison to mono and polycrystalline panels. Hence, while thin-film panels may initially appear visually appealing, the advent of a severe storm could result in considerable damage.

 

What is the best type of solar panel for your home?

Monocrystalline solar panels have emerged as the preeminent choice for residential solar installations. Despite incurring a slightly elevated cost, you shall procure a system endowed with an understated aesthetic appeal, all while not compromising on its performance or robustness. 

Furthermore, the monocrystalline panels' exceptional efficiency and formidable power output ratings bestow upon you the prospect of superior long-term savings from your solar energy system.

For those tethered to a stringent budget, the choice might gravitate toward polycrystalline panels. It is our unequivocal stance that thin film solar panels remain an ill-advised choice for residential deployment. 

The juxtaposition of their lackluster performance and fragility does not justify their economic allure. It is improbable that you would possess adequate available space to accommodate the requisite multitude of thin film panels to fulfill your household's electricity demands.

Herein, we furnish a succinct compendium to facilitate your discernment in selecting the most suitable option for your domicile!

Monocrystalline solar panels

  • Distinguished by its sleek, ebony appearance and premium-grade silicon composition.
  • Exhibits a propensity for occupying reduced space and boasting an extended lifespan.
  • This particular item bears a more elevated price tag, both for those engaged in its installation and for the discerning consumers who seek its benefits.

Polycrystalline solar panels

  • Visible Crystals: These panels are marked by the presence of visible crystals, adding a unique aesthetic element to their appearance.
  • Scattered Appearance: They offer a more sporadic look compared to conventional panels, lending an unconventional charm to solar installations.
  • Space Efficiency: Interestingly, these panels require slightly more space to generate the same energy output as their black counterparts.
  • Simplified Production: Their manufacturing process is less intricate, leading to minimal waste production and contributing to their affordability.

Factors to consider besides solar panel type

In our estimation at SolarReviews, two elements eclipse the significance of the solar PV cell variety in the quest for optimal panels for domiciles: the pedigree of the solar panel brands and the selection of a proficient solar installer.

Opting for a solar panel fabricator of sterling reputation guarantees the installation of a superior apparatus atop your abode, independent of the panel's specific type. 

Irrespective of your chosen solar panel variant, the act of equipping your home with solar energy is a decision replete with sustainability, offering numerous advantages:

  • Diminution of deleterious emissions
  • Accessibility to facile financing avenues for solar panel installation
  • Eligibility for sales and property tax abatements
  • Acquisition of credits for excess power generation
  • Paramount among these, is the substantial reduction in monthly energy expenditures regardless of the panel type installed.

The selection of a solar installer, however, stands as a critical consideration in your solar journey. Given that a solar panel system will grace your roof for a quarter-century or more, the necessity of a trustworthy installer for this extended period cannot be overstated. Our counsel leans towards local, esteemed solar installers, distinguished by lofty customer satisfaction ratings, as they tend to provide the most bespoke and attentive service for solar ventures.

 

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