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The popularity of solar power continues to rise, with a 34% increase in residential solar panel installation projects from 2020 to 2021. Are you thinking about scheduling a solar installation for yourself? Before you do, it’s important to learn more about the different types of solar panels so you can choose the best option for your home. 

As one of the leading Charlotte solar companies, SHS Pros is here to help you learn everything you need to know as you make your decision. By reading this guide, you’ll learn more about the different types of solar panels, how they work, and how they compare to each other. We hope this will make your decision an easier one!

The Three Types of Solar Panels

The three most popular types of residential solar panels are monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels, and thin-film solar panels. They’re all unique in their own way and have their own pros and cons. 

Let’s take a closer look at the types of solar panels. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Generally recognized as the most popular residential types solar panels, these are also called single-crystal panels. During the manufacturing process, the solar cells in these panels are made using a process called the Czochralski method. 

This means that a single silicon crystal is placed into a molten vat of pure silicon at a very high temperature. After that, the crystal is removed carefully and slowly, so the molten silicon can harden into an ingot, which is a crystal shell. 

From there, the ingot is cut into thin wafers, which are turned into solar cells. These cells are then put together to form your solar panel. Once they’re fully formed, the monocrystalline cells look like squares without corners and there is a small gap between the cells. 

Through this manufacturing process, there is an excess amount of wasted silicon created to produce one cell, which results in a higher manufacturing cost.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Another popular option with homeowners is polycrystalline solar panels. Like monocrystalline panels, they are made from silicon. However, the manufacturing process is different. To make polycrystalline solar panels, small fragments of a silicon crystal are melted together. 

That is then placed in a vat of molten silicon, where it’s left to fragment and cool, instead of being removed like it is in the monocrystalline manufacturing process. After it cools in the mold, the silicon is cut into wafers, which are then placed to create a panel. 

These panels are also shaped like a square, however, there are no small gaps between them. The polycrystalline manufacturing process is more cost-effective, as there is less waste compared to the monocrystalline manufacturing process. 

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are a newer panel on the market and a versatile option for homeowners. Unlike monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, thin-film panels can be made from a variety of materials instead of just silicon. These alternate materials include:

  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe)

During the manufacturing process, the material of choice is set between thin pieces of conductive material, protected by a top layer of glass. When making a-Si panels, non-crystalline silicon is topped with glass. 

As their name suggests, these types of solar panels are thin and lightweight as a result. 

Comparing the Costs of the Three Panel Types

Now that you know more about each type of panel and how they’re made, let’s take a closer look at how they compare to each other. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels: Highest Cost

When budgeting for your solar panel installation project, keep in mind that monocrystalline panels are generally the most expensive. This is because of the manufacturing process and the fact that monocrystalline panels tend to offer the best performance. 

Fortunately, the manufacturing process is continuing to improve, so these panels aren’t as expensive compared to the other options as they used to be. 

Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Mid-Range Cost

Polycrystalline panels are kind of like a “goldilocks” option. They are less expensive than monocrystalline panels, but they still offer a great level of performance. This is why they have been a consistently popular option with homeowners. 

However, now that the gap is smaller between the cost of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, more homeowners are willing to pay a bit more for a monocrystalline system. 

Thin-Film Solar Panels: Lowest Cost

Thanks to the cost-efficient manufacturing process, thin-film solar panels are the least expensive option. Unfortunately, they also have the lowest performance of the three types of solar panels. As a result, you’ll need more of them to generate enough power for your home, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as you budget for your project. 

Beyond that, thin-film panels tend not to last as long as the other types of panels, so you’ll have to budget for replacement costs as well. 

Comparing the Appearance of the Three Panel Types

What your solar panels look like will largely depend on the type of panel you choose. Here’s a quick rundown of what each panel type looks like once installed on your home. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels: Sleek and Black

Thanks to the manufacturing process, monocrystalline panels are consistently black, offering a cohesive and subtle look. However, due to the shape of the panel, there is noticeable white space between the panels, which doesn’t always appeal to homeowners. Some solar manufacturers use black packaging to help minimize the white space. 

Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Inconsistent and Blue

By and large, polycrystalline panels tend to be the least aesthetically pleasing panels. As a result of their manufacturing process, they end up looking blue, and the shade of that blue can vary from panel to panel, leading to a more inconsistent look. 

Thin-Film Solar Panels: Seamless and Thin

Thin-film solar panels are largely considered to be the most attractive option. Since they’re so thin, they can lie flat against your roof, for a seamless look that blends in, rather than sticks out. Like monocrystalline panels, thin-film panels are also black, giving you a sleek look. 

Comparing the Efficiency of the Three Panel Types

Finally, it’s important to compare the most crucial aspect of each panel type: how they perform. Each type of solar panel has an efficiency rating; the higher the rating, the better you can expect the performance to be. 

Let’s dive into the rating and efficiency of each option. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels: Most Efficient

Thanks to the fact that monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal of silicon, electrons can easily flow through the cell, making them a very efficient panel. This makes them a great option for homes that don’t have a lot of roof space because you won’t need as many panels to get the performance you need. 

Beyond their efficiency, monocrystalline panels also tend to have the highest power capacity ratings, so you won’t have to worry about producing enough energy to power your home.

Average efficiency rating: 17% to 22%

Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Mid-Range Performance

Since polycrystalline panels have multiple silicon cells, it’s harder for electrons to flow through them, making them less efficient than monocrystalline panels. They also tend to have a lower power output, so you might need more panels to get the performance you need. 

However, as with these types of solar panels, as new technology has been discovered and the polycrystalline manufacturing process has gotten more efficient, these panels have become more efficient than they used to be in the past and that should hopefully continue in the future.

Average efficiency rating: 15% to 17%

Thin-Film Solar Panels: Least Efficient

Thin-film solar panels have the lowest level of performance of our recommended types of solar panels, so you’ll need to install more panels to get the same output that you would from monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels. If you have limited roof space, these would likely not be a good option to give you the power you need for your home. 

However, if space is not a concern and you want to save on your solar installation company, thin-film panels could be a great option for you. 

Average efficiency rating: 10% to 13%

Why Choose SHS Pros for Your Solar Panel Installation?

The next step in the solar panel planning process is to choose the best installer for your project. One search of the terms “solar installers near me” or “solar companies near me” will yield tons of results, which can make the prospect of narrowing down your choices feel daunting. 

As the top solar company in the area and expert on types of solar panels, the SHS Pros team is here for you. When you hire our highly-rated team of installers, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that we have your back. We know all the ins and outs of the different solar panel types so we can make the best recommendation for your home and your family’s energy needs. 

As a result, you’ll have a smooth, low-stress solar installation project so you can start using the sun to power your home with ease. 

Schedule a Consultation With Our Team

After reading through this guide bout the different types of solar panels, we hope you feel more informed about solar panels in general. The next step is to schedule an initial consultation about your solar panel installation with our team so we can learn more about your electricity needs and evaluate your home to make the best recommendations for your system. 

Reach out to us when you’re ready to get started.