Understanding the Different Types of Panels

Adrienne SorensenSeptember 11, 20185150

Understanding the Different Types of Panels

Although there are hundreds of different solar panels they all basically break down into three types of solar panels available on the market today. These are monocrystallinepolycrystalline, and thin film amorphous.


Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline are both types of solar cells that are made of crystalline silicon. These two types of panels account for more than 90 percent of residential solar installations, and up until a few years ago most solar panels were monocrystalline, but in the last three years, polycrystalline solar panels have overtaken them as the most commonly used panel.


Thin film solar panels are new and created from a totally different technology. The process is less efficient and therefore the panels use much more roof space. They do, however, perform better in low light conditions like partial shading or extreme heat. Because these panels are created from a new technology and new materials, it is expected to vastly improve its efficiency. Perhaps one day they will overtake all panels as the most efficient, and not just in specialized conditions.



These are the oldest form of solar panels and they are made from a single crystal structure. And they appear to have a single flat color. Basically, they use molten silicon to create one solid crystal that is then sliced into silicon wafers that are made into solar cells. Although this process is the oldest, much of the crystal is lost in the fabrication as waste. 


Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency rates since they are made out of the highest-grade silicon. Monocrystalline silicon solar panels are space-efficient. Since these solar panels yield the highest power outputs, they also require the least amount of space, although the amount is becoming marginal. 


Monocrystalline panels have a long lifespan. Most manufacturers put a 25-year warranty on their monocrystalline solar panels. Because both types of crystalline solar panels are made from crystalline silicon, a really stable material,  it is likely they will last much longer than their 25-year warranty life. Monocrystalline solar panels tend to be more efficient in warm weather. With all solar cells, electricity production falls as temperature goes up. However, this degradation of output is less severe in monocrystalline panels than polycrystalline solar panels. Again the difference is very small.



This is a newer technology, but basically the poly panels are also made of sliced silicon wafers, it’s just the process is a little cheaper. It was once thought that this process was inefficient, but because of vast improvements in their efficiency and because they cost less to construct, these panels are the dominant style of solar panels.


The process used to make polycrystalline silicon is simpler and costs less. The amount of waste is also less.


Thin Film

A panel is solid black and the panels may, or may not have a frame. The panels are made by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto a surface like glass. The substances are Amorphous Silicon, Cadmium Telluride, Copper Indium Gallium Selenide, and Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells. Technically these are all slightly different types of solar panels, but they all fall under the umbrella of thin film panels. The panels have the reputation of being the least efficient, but because they are the cheapest to produce, while at the same time, the technology is vastly improving, these solar panels have lots of potential.

Their homogeneous appearance makes them look more appealing. They can be made flexible, which opens up many new potential applications. High temperatures and shading have less impact on these solar panels.


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