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Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels: what’s best? SmartSolar.org can help you choose the best solar panel system.
Solar Panels
8 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
January 19, 2023

If you're considering purchasing solar panels for your house, you should weigh the pros and cons of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline panels. Both forms can be beneficial for adding solar cells to your home, but there are significant differences between polycrystalline solar panels and monocrystalline solar panels, including in the way they are made and in their efficiency, cost, and availability. 

SmartSolar can help you figure out what kind of solar panel will work best for you. Here is what you need to know.

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The Bottom Line

  • What are monocrystalline solar cells? These premium, high-quality cells are made from single-crystal silicon and are very efficient to use.
  • What are polycrystalline solar cells? Polycrystalline cells are made from multiple silicon fragments melted together at a very high temperature to produce silicon wafers. These cells are less efficient but sold at a lower cost.
  • What type of solar panel is better? Learn as much as you can about the solar panels themselves, including the brand and the model they offer. Consider which product is going to fit your budget and help encourage you to make the move to solar panel technology.

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Changes in Panels: Exploring Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Over the last few years, there has been a significant amount of improvement in solar panel technology. With new innovations in solar technology occurring so rapidly, there are many different types of solar panels on the market. Though they all work to convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity to power your home, there are a variety of different ways this can be done.

In particular, most PV solar panels are either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Both types have been used for decades and can provide a reliable source of power for your home. Before you make a buying decision, you should know the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells.

What are monocrystalline solar cells?

Monocrystalline solar panels are premium, high-quality solar panels. The solar cells in these are designed to have a higher level of efficiency, which means they tend to be more efficient to use. The way they are manufactured is different in that they are produced using silicon wafers. To do this, manufacturers will first form the silicon into bars. It is then sliced into very thin wafers.

What makes this a monolithic panel is that it uses single-crystal silicon. That means that the solar cell is made up of a single crystal. Because of this, the electrons have more room to move, which results in better electricity flow through the solar panel.

When comparing solar panel options, monocrystalline solar panels tend to be of much higher quality, which means they tend to create a higher level of efficiency compared to other forms of solar panels.

What are polycrystalline solar panels?

Polycrystalline solar panels are also made using silicon. These solar panels do not come from single-crystal silicon, though. That means that multiple silicon fragments are melted together at a very high temperature to produce silicon wafers. This process results in more than one "poly” silicon crystal being used.

The benefit of this type of silicon production is that the manufacturing process is much simpler. As a result of that, the process can be completed faster and at a lower cost. This results in the price that solar panel installers pay being less than other forms of solar panel cells.

The drawback to polycrystalline solar panels is that they could be more efficient. Because the panels have less room on the cells for electrons to move, they do not produce the same level of efficiency, and that can ultimately impact how much energy the solar panel can produce to meet your home’s needs.

Before you choose which type of solar panel system is right for your home, be sure to turn to the U.S. Department of Energy to learn more. Let’s dive into some of the additional differences in these solar panel systems and what they can mean for you.

Which Type Of Solar Panel Is Better?

When you consider solar panels based on their function, both monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline cells do a good job of turning solar energy into usable electricity. However, there are distinctions between these solar panels and thin film solar panels, another type. Let’s take another look at the differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are types of solar energy receptors. These solar cells work because of the photovoltaic cells that are within them. They are both made of silicon. This is the same material that makes up the electronic gadget chips used so heavily.

What is different about these types of photovoltaic solar panels is the configuration of the silicon itself.

In monocrystalline panels, the solar PV cell has just a single silicon crystal. That is why they are referred to as "mono" solar panels.

The solar PV cell in polycrystalline solar panels is made up of many small pieces of silicon crystal. These fragments are melted and molded together during the manufacturing process. You may hear polycrystalline cells called multicrystalline panels or sometimes just polycrystalline panels. It all means the same thing.

Both types of solar thermal panels do the same thing. They both attract and then convert sunlight into electricity that can be used in a home to provide energy for your home’s needs. However, the crystalline silicon structure does make a difference. Specifically, it impacts the solar panel's efficiency, or the amount of energy it can produce, as well as the overall appearance of the solar panels.

Most of the time, you can tell which type of solar thermal panels are used by the shape and color of the cells.

Which type of solar panel is better, then?

When comparing options, it is important to look at more than just this. Multiple silicon crystals in polycrystalline panels make them less efficient. The single silicon crystal that is used to make the efficient monocrystalline panels on the market today makes them much more efficient. Yet, there is much more to consider about solar power than just efficiency.

For example, the silicon structure of monocrystalline silicon restricts access to these materials. That is, they are more expensive for solar manufacturers to make. That increases the cost of these photovoltaic materials and increases the cost of solar technology. If you want higher efficiency as the primary factor when choosing solar panels per square foot, then you want to choose monocrystalline solar panels.

At the same time, polycrystalline solar panels are similar in terms of efficiency, coming in around 5% less efficient. The big difference here is that polycrystalline silicon is much more affordable to purchase. That means it may be more within reach than other PV cell materials.

Here is what to keep in mind:

Monocrystalline cells offer:

  • A higher cost
  • A higher level of efficiency
  • Better power capacity
  • Better heat tolerance for higher temperature areas
  • They are the best solar panels for those who want the best efficiency
  • These solar panels also have less sustainable manufacturing processes, which impacts their environmental friendliness
  • With more efficiency comes the need for fewer solar panels to power your home

Polycrystalline solar panels tend to offer the following:

  • A lower cost overall
  • More widely available solar panel
  • Good efficiency
  • They tend to have the same lifespan as monocrystalline solar panels at a lower cost
  • The best solar panels for those who want more affordable solar energy at installation
  • These have a less sustainable production process than thin film solar panels
  • They tend to have a bluish color that stands out more on a home
  • These solar panels are less heat tolerant
Joey Cheek

Which one should you purchase?

There are other factors to keep in mind when choosing between monocrystalline and polycrystalline. For example, not all brands of single-crystal solar cells provide the same efficiency rating. That means that you will need to compare brands, not just the type of solar panel, to determine which one is best for your needs.

Also, consider that both the monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels will qualify for solar financing for those who are looking to borrow money to buy these solar panels. They also both qualify for the federal solar tax credit.

When it comes to converting sunlight, learn as much as you can about the solar panels themselves, from the brand you are selecting to the specific model they offer. The key here is to consider which product is going to fit your budget and help encourage you to make the move to solar panel technology.

Finding the Best Solar Panels for Your Needs

As you begin to work towards installing solar panels on your home, work with a solar installer that can help you compare the options available to you based on what works for your home. Things like the amount of energy you use, the location you are in, whether you have a flat roof or a roof with more peaks, and other factors can play a role in determining which type of solar panel fits your needs.

At SmartSolar, we help our clients find the best solar panel system for their needs by working with them. Contact us today or take our SmartSolar quiz to learn more.

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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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