Home & Design

The Different Types of Solar Panels and Why It Matters

Less than ten years ago, Burlington, VT became the first city to source 100% of its power from renewables. Solar energy is the future, and more homeowners want to know how it all works.

As technology evolves, three main types of solar panels have come to dominate the market. And those are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels.

Knowing the differences in solar panels can help you choose the right ones for your home. If you’ve been at a loss for how to choose solar panels, keep reading for a breakdown of the three most common types.

Monocrystalline Panels

Most solar panels we see today have been around since the 1950s, and they use silicon crystals. In the case of monocrystalline panels, they’re cut from a single crystal. This gives them a sheer, uniform, dark look.

Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient out of the three. This is because the sun’s photons don’t have to travel as far in a monocrystalline panel. The highest-quality panels can convert up to 20% of the sun’s energy and make it usable for homes.

The downside is that they’re the most expensive option. Creating a single silicon crystal is complex, and this gets passed down to the panel’s price.

Polycrystalline Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels came around shortly after monocrystalline panels did.

To make these, manufacturers first melt silicon crystals together. Then, they cut panels from the mix. The result is a blue-colored panel with flecks of crystal visible throughout.

Polycrystalline panels are less efficient than monocrystalline, but more than thin-film panels. Because they use more than one crystal, it takes longer for photons to travel and create energy.

How producers make them is both a benefit and a disadvantage. Despite being less efficient than monocrystalline, polycrystalline panels are far less expensive.

Thin Film Panels

Thin-film panels are the latest in the bunch, coming around in the 1970s. They tend not to use silicon crystals like the previous two. Instead, these kinds of solar panels use materials such as amorphous silicon.

Solar panels have come a long way with the introduction of thin-film to the market. If you click here, you can learn how solar technology grew by leaps and bounds in the 2010s.

Despite coming to market later, thin-film panels are the least efficient in the group. But their primary benefit is that they’re the least-expensive option.

Thin-film panels get their name from their physical flexibility. You can place them in more places than you can the other two. They work better on odd-shaped roofs and even see use in cars.

The Three Main Types of Solar Panels: Which Is Best?

Are some solar panels better than others? It depends on your home’s specific needs and energy consumption. A good solar company will help you choose between the best types of solar panels for your home.

Do you have more solar-related questions, like, “Are there different solar panels?” Check out the rest of our home and design blog for more!

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