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Different Types Of Solar Panels

Learn more about the types of solar panels available and how to choose those for your home or business. SmartSolar.org can help you get started.
Solar Panels
5 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
January 13, 2023

Learning the different types of solar panel options for your home or business is a big step in making the decision to invest in solar panels. Understanding the options, such as thin-film solar panels and the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, can help you see which one may be best for your home. Take a look at some of the types of solar panels available today.

Then, reach out to SmartSolar. Our team can help you choose the right solar panel system for your home, giving you the tools to get the most power output for your needs.

What Are the Types of Solar Panels?

The U.S. Department of Energy says that solar panels turn the energy from the sun's rays, called solar radiation, into electricity. This is done through the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels or, in some cases, through the use of mirrors that are able to improve and concentrate the solar radiation. There are several types of solar panels that can do this.

There are three common types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, which is sometimes called multicrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. Here is a look at each type.

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline solar panels have a more complex manufacturing process than others. That is because the solar cells that make up these solar panels come from a single silicon crystal. This is pure silicon, which is the highest quality used for the creation of a solar cell. The hard part (and the most expensive part of the process) is the creation of these crystals. The process is called the Czochralski process. It requires a lot of energy and time, which ultimately leads to a higher level of wasted silicon in the production of the solar panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels have an efficiency rating of 15 to 20%, most often. They are some of the most efficient options of all crystalline solar panels. The higher efficiency of these solar panels and their improved performance make them a better option for those who want to use a smaller solar power system or who want the most reliable use. The disadvantage is that they are more expensive.

Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline solar panels are more affordable than monocrystalline panels because the manufacturing process is less complex. In this process, the solar cells are produced using silicon fragments. That means that, instead of creating a single, large crystal, manufacturers are able to use smaller components that are less pure. This ultimately impacts efficiency somewhat but makes the manufacturing process much faster and less expensive.

This type of solar panel costs less than monocrystalline. They tend to be very efficient at about 15 to 17% efficiency overall. That makes polycrystalline solar panels the most efficient of all crystalline panels for the cost. This option is best suited for those who may not need the highest level of performance but want a competitive price on their solar panels.

Thin Film

Thin film solar panels are a bit different in that they are more likely to be used in less common or unorthodox roof styles that typically do not lend themselves well to other types of solar panels. They are very resilient and built to last. They have a lower level of efficiency than polycrystalline solar panels, but their actual efficiency rating depends on the actual panel system with a significant amount of variance. They are portable and flexible, which makes them a solar option that is right for some locations.

Thin film solar panels vary significantly. CdTe is one form and tends to be the least expensive option from a manufacturing standpoint. CIGS solar panels are another option, but they tend to cost more because the manufacturing process is more labor intensive. The key benefit, though, is that the installation of solar panels is easier with these products. That is because thin-film tends to be much less difficult to maneuverable to put in place, and it weighs less, putting less weight on the structure.

Which Solar Panel is Right for You?

When it comes to all of the options, consider a few key aspects before choosing. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive but tend to be far more efficient. This makes these solar cells best for situations where you need the highest level of efficiency and where traditional solar panels will work well. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are silicon solar cells, which means they operate in much the same way as compared to thin film panels.

Crystalline silicon panels are typically the most likely option, including amorphous silicon panels. However, when you consider the options in how solar panels work on your roof structure, going with thin film solar cells could be the better overall option.

Key Factors to Consider When Purchasing Any Solar Panel Type

As you consider the panel type for your home to produce energy for your property, look at the different types of solar based on your goals. Solar technology also continues to improve, which means you’ll be able to see improvements in solar efficiency over time. Consider:

  • How the various panel types work on the size and structure of your home
  • How important is a high level of efficiency to you? If it is, mono panels are the way to go
  • With residential solar, silicon cells tend to provide good energy efficiency and, therefore, tend to be the best PV panels for homes with a typical roof structure

Which Solar System Is Best for You?

As you think about panel types as well as your goal to get to the lowest carbon footprint possible, be sure to reach out to solar companies like SmartSolar. Our team can offer insight into how the best way to generate electricity for your home and help you find the best solution for your needs. Contact SmartSolar now to learn more about how we can help you. Take the SmartSolar quiz to get started.

Joey Cheek

Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of SmartSolar.org, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

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