Types of Solar Panels
If you’re looking at solar, one of the first things you probably started researching in addition to cost, is the different solar panel options. When it comes to the top solar panel brands, there are many options to choose from. But did you know that there are actually different types of solar panels? What makes up these differences has to do with the solar panel cells and how they’re created.
Approximately 95% of solar panels sold on the market today are made up of silicon cells. Silicon is an abundant and natural material and luckily makes a great semiconductor. The two types of silicon solar cells are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. They follow a similar manufacturing process: melting quartz sand to form ingots before adding boron to produce a positive electrical polarity.
Monocrystalline solar panels are a popular option for many solar customers because they are not only powerful but look great on top of your home. The term mono, meaning “one”, was chosen because these cells are created from a single silicon crystal. Because of the way they are produced, they appear dark blue or black when light hits the panels,
- Efficient and Powerful
- High Quality
Monocrystalline panels are considered the more attractive option for rooftop installation because they blend in more easily with composition shingles. Solar panels weren’t as common on residential properties up until about a decade ago. Homeowners used to be worried their home’s aesthetic would be negatively affected by the appearance of solar panels. Alternative solar installation locations, like ground mounts and solar carports, can be good options for those who are still concerned about installing panels on their home.
The main difference between the two types of silicon solar panels is how they undergo the manufacturing process. Unlike monocrystalline, polycrystalline cells are composed of multiple silicon cells being melted together. This gives them their reflective blue tint, which can be seen in most of the panels sold on the market today. The manufacturing process also uses a lot less energy and produces less waste overall.
Because most solar shoppers are more concerned with price and affordability rather than how good their panels will look on their roof, many still opt for polycrystalline panels. There are many positives to choosing these panels for your solar project, including high overall value.
Although they aren’t currently used in residential installation, let’s quickly cover thin-film solar cells. They were first invented in the 1970’s, nearly two decades after silicon cells. And they are commonly referred to as “second-generation” solar. Thin-film solar is mostly used in commercial applications and EV chargers. It was estimated that thin-film solar panels would dominate the market after they were first invented. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many technological advancements that have driven significant cost or efficiency improvements. Consequently, the thin-film market share has steadily been declining in the past decade.
Solar Panel Efficiency
Solar efficiency is the panel’s ability to minimize loss while converting the sun’s energy into electricity. It is synonymous with panel quality and can play a huge factor in price. It is measured through a percentage called an efficiency rating. Efficiency ratings are defined as “the ratio of energy output from the solar cell to input energy from the sun” (Solar Cell Efficiency | PVEducation).
The reason efficiency is such an important factor when choosing the right panel is because the higher the efficiency, the more money you can save with solar. The more electricity your solar system produces to power your home, the lower your electric bills will be.
Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency ratings of any solar panel type. Their high performance makes them a fantastic choice for any solar shopper to consider for their home installation.
The most well-known brand of monocrystalline solar panels is Sunpower. Their efficiency ratings are top of the market, averaging between 20 and 22 percent. Solar shoppers often include Sunpower panels in their options when getting quotes. However, because they are considered one of the best panels on the market, they come at a high cost.
The process of creating solar cells from one large piece of silicon is much more involved, leading to higher production costs. Because of this, most solar companies sold strictly polysilicon panels until the early 2000s. However, due to advances in technology, the cost of solar panels has come down nearly 80% in the last 20 years.
If you’re interested in value over quality, you may opt for polycrystalline solar panels. Even though they are not as efficient as monocrystalline panels, poly panels offer tremendous cost-savings.
Depending on your energy-saving goals, you may have decided on a particular type of solar panel already. However, if you’d like to get pricing to compare these panel options yourself, contact our team for a free solar quote. Solar Negotiators has the most panel choices, so you don’t have to limit your options.