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Pros and Cons of the Three Different Types of Solar Panels

Jason RothmanApril 26, 201813640

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 monocrystalline, polycrystalline, 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.

Both styles are so popular they are simply known as simply mono or poly panels. Basically, mono panels are a little more efficient and poly panels are a little less expensive, although both types solar cells are very similar in performance.

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.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

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. 

Advantages of Mono Solar Panels

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.

Disadvantages of Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are generally more expensive. 

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

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.

Advantages of Polycrystalline Solar Panels

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

Disadvantages of Polycrystalline Solar Panels

The efficiency of polycrystalline-based solar panels is a little less because of lower silicon purity. 
You generally need to cover a larger area to output the same electrical power as you would with mono panels. However, this does not mean every mono solar panel will perform better than poly panels.

Thin Film Solar Panels

A thin film panel is solid black in appearance and the panels may, or may not have a frame. Basically, thin film panels are made by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto a solid smooth surface like glass. The four main 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. Currently, these panels have the reputation of being the least efficient, but again, because they are becoming the cheapest to produce, while at the same time, the technology is vastly improving, these solar panels have lots of potential.

Advantages of Thin Film Solar Panels

Mass production is simple and this makes them potentially cheaper to manufacture than crystalline-based solar cells.
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.

Disadvantages of Thin Film Solar Panels

They also require a lot of space. Low space-efficiency also means that the costs of support structures and cables will increase.
Thin-film solar panels tend to degrade faster than mono and poly solar panels, which is why they typically come with a shorter warranty.

So there you have it. Yes, there are some differences between the three types of solar panels, but basically, because they are becoming more efficient, these panels have fewer differences and more similarities all the time. Your unique solar needs will dictate the type of panels you need and your certified installer can also help you with the right decision.

You can also visit HahaSmart and see the different choices for yourself. Visit our price checker, or try out our DIY design tool and design the right solar system for your home. We also have plenty of certified installers who can answer your questions and can help you create the perfect solar installation.

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