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Types of Solar Panels: Polycrystalline vs Monocrystalline vs Thin Film

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Nearly all photovoltaics installed are made up of some kind of silicon; however, solar panels can be made up of a wide range of silicon variations, from monocrystalline to polycrystalline. Why does this matter? Depending on how pure the silicon is, solar cells can better convert sunlight into electricity. Obviously, this means that panels that are considered the most efficient will likely be made up of the purest types of silicon. This also means higher price tags – which is why efficiency isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to selecting the right type of solar panel for your property. Factors such as cost, amount of space needed, and actual energy needs can also help determine the best option.

We are going to compare three of the most common solar panel types below. Keep reading to get informed before going solar.

Polycrystalline Solar Cells

First introduced in the 1980s, polycrystalline silicon solar panels are made by melting raw silicone and pouring that melted material into molds. Once cooled, they are cut into square wafers, making it a much simpler process compared to other solar panel types, especially monocrystalline. This also means that polycrystalline panels tend to be more affordable as well. However, they typically have less tolerance towards heat than monocrystalline panels. While this could mean a greater wear and tear over time, the amount is so small it usually isn’t even taken into account by buyers. These panels have an efficiency of 13-16% on average, which is lower than monocrystalline solar panels since they are not as high in purity levels. That also means you need to cover more space to get equivalent energy generation.

Monocrystalline Solar Cells

Known to be some of the purest silicon-based solar panels, monocrystalline boast a uniform appearance and coloring. This is because of the high-purity silicon they are made from. The design is made to not only lower costs of a single solar cell, but also maximize the space, making it as efficient as possible. Efficiency ratings tend to range from 15 to 20%, putting them above polycrystalline solar panels.

SunPower, our trusted solar panel provider, is known to produce the highest efficiency monocrystalline solar panels available on the market, reaching a record-breaking efficiency rate of 22.8%. These panels are also very space-efficient and durable, taking up the least amount of space while yielding high outputs of power. All these advantages do come at a cost, making monocrystalline panels the most expensive investment.

Thin-Film Solar Cells

This option is a little different than the former two, made by layering thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate. Materials used to make these solar cells can range from amorphous silicon to copper indium gallium selenide. Maximum efficiency for thin-film panels caps out around an optimistic 13%. Improving modules are expected to reach as much as 10 to 16% over time.

While the mass production of these types of solar panels is easier and possibly more affordable than crystalline competitors, efficiency levels don’t compare just yet. Also, they are typically more flexible and aren’t as impacted by shading, high temperatures, and other factors like crystalline-based panels are. Unfortunately, these panels are not yet ideal for residential spaces, as they tend to take up a significant amount of space. While the panels are more affordable, due to the lack of efficiency, supporting materials tend to add a significant amount to the total cost.

Get Expert Advice on Solar Panel Selection

Think it’s time to call in the experts? Semper Solaris is a veteran-owned and operated company that cares about our customers. We want to make sure you get the right solar panel type for your specific property and budget. Talk to us today about how going solar could work for you!

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