With a saturated solar panel market, it can be difficult to sift through endless solar panel options for your home. From choosing between solar panel companies, types of solar panels, and even monitoring systems, it can be a daunting process. Not to mention there are endless online libraries to sort through on the topic of solar panels whenever you try to find answers.
As a homeowner, you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of solar technology to make a decision for your home; that’s where we come in to help.
We’ve looked through thousands of solar companies, solar equipment, and solar resources to refine the most relevant information for homeowners. Let’s break down some general terminology and dive into the different types of solar panels you can use to power your home.
There are three main types of solar panels that can be used to power a home. The most common and durable are monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. However, there is also a third type of solar panel called thin-film, which is both less durable and less expensive.
Each type of solar panel varies by appearance, efficiency, cost, and durability. Let’s dive into the major differences between each type of solar panel to help you decide which is best for you.
Monocrystalline solar panels are made of high-purity silicon in a single, continuous crystal structure. This makes these types of panels highly efficient and durable with a sleek black appearance.
Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient panels you can install in your home, with an efficiency rating ranging from 15 to 22%. Some designs can even go up to 25% efficiency.
These types of solar panels are also the most expensive to install. The average price per generated watt of electricity for these panels is between $0.60 and $0.90. The exact cost of installing monocrystalline solar panels depends on the size of your roof and how much energy you consume.
Monocrystalline solar panels are ideal for warmer climates, especially those with extreme heat. The higher efficiency panels make up for slower energy production in warmer climates.
Polycrystalline solar panels are built by integrating many crystals of silicon and fusing them together. This process uses silicon that’s less pure, which gives the panels a distinctive blue hue and somewhat reduced efficiency compared to monocrystalline panels.
The efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels is normally between 13% and 16%, while certain advanced designs may achieve efficiencies of approximately 18%, depending on the manufacturing method and quality.
The typical price of polycrystalline solar panels is between $0.50 and $0.80 per watt of generated electricity. Manufacturers often provide guarantees on these types of panels that are valid for 25 years or more, based on their rugged durability.
Although they cost more, monocrystalline solar panels have an efficiency rate between 15% and 22%. This is because they are made of single-crystal materials, often ultra-pure silicon. Polycrystalline panels have an efficiency between 13% and 16%, but they cost less. The best type of solar panel for you likely depends on the size of your available installation surfaces, your energy consumption, and your budget.
Another major type of solar panels for your home is thin-film. In this type, materials like cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and amorphous silicon are coated in thin layers onto a substrate like glass or metal by processes including chemical vapor deposition and sputtering to produce a thin film.
Thin-film solar panels generally have an efficiency of 10% to 12%, with some cutting-edge designs attaining efficiencies of roughly 15%.
Thin-film solar panels are also more cost-effective. Depending on panel brand, technology, and installation size, the average cost per generated watt of electricity can vary from $0.40 to $0.70.
Thin-film solar panels have a shorter lifetime, with a typical lifespan ranging from 10 to 25 years.
Thin-film solar panels are typically used to power RVs, campsites, and portable electronics.
Deciding which type of solar panel is best for your home depends on your desired budget, aesthetic, and energy consumption. Polycrystalline solar panels strike the best compromise between cost and efficiency. However, you may want to spend the extra money to get solar panels that are slightly more efficient and have a bit of a more sleek appearance.
Now that we’ve explained what the different types of panels are, you’re better equipped to make a decision for your home. The next step is to see if your home is best suited for solar panels. Take our quick quiz to find out if your home qualifies for solar panels and get an idea of how much solar may cost you.