With so many different technologies around, it might be challenging to get a clear picture of all the different kinds of solar panels. But if we cut the details, it gets much easier. The information below can help you make the first step on your way to buying the right kind of panels for your situation.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Among different types of solar panels monocrystalline ones stand out as the most efficient, often exceeding a 20% mark. But the manufacturing process is slow and costly: their price per Watt is usually about 5 cents higher compared to the polycrystalline modules. The higher initial investment will pay off if you have limited space on your roof. Monocrystalline cells make even powerful 400W solar panels relatively compact and easy to handle.
In addition to better performance and durability, this cell type has aesthetics on its side. The modules often come with a modern looking all-black exterior – backsheet, frame and the solar cells. Having little to no space between its constituent elements, these modules look very attractive and add style to the house.
The main disadvantage of monocrystalline panels is the price. Superior efficiency doesn’t always accelerate the return on investment, that’s why less efficient polycrystalline panels are still quite popular among generating facilities.
Polycrystalline solar panels
Mono and polycrystalline cells are different on a very fundamental level: the former are manufactured using silicon blocks consisting of many small crystals, while the latter are made from a single crystal.
Compared to monocrystalline modules, polycrystalline solar panels are 20-25% cheaper. But they have a couple of cons to balance it out. First of all, they are less efficient, rarely more than 20% and often as little as 15%. It means that typically you will need more of them, which is a serious issue when you have limited space.
The aesthetics come next. Compared to their monocrystalline counterparts that often feature stylish all-black designs, polycrystalline panels are usually blue with silver or white frames. In terms of durability they are on par with the other types. It makes them ideal when space and aesthetics are not a major concern. If you are looking for the shortest payback time, polycrystalline modules might be a good option.
Thin-Film solar panels
This type of solar panel is different from the previous two in that its manufacturing process doesn’t involve crystalline silicon. Instead, various other materials are used, such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) and amorphous thin-film silicon. Depending on the technology, the modules may be blue or black in appearance.
Among the three main types of solar panels, thin-film modules are the least expensive. This is their main advantage, but the lower price comes at a cost. They are the least efficient, only about 10-13%, and their lifespan is the shortest, rarely surpassing 20 years.
However, it is also extremely easy to install them, and some can be quite flexible. Mostly it depends on the kind of substrate layer used. If PV material is deposited on plastic or similar surfaces, this results in increased flexibility. This feature allows the installation of thin-film solar panels on uneven or curved surfaces, which makes them a good choice for boats.
This type of PV modules is not only popular where flexibility is required. They are also very light-weight – a perfect fit for large scale projects, where ease of installation and price are the main considerations and space isn’t much of a concern.
Making the final decision
To sum it up, all the three types of solar panels have their advantages and disadvantages, which should be carefully considered before making a purchase. Take into account the available space and budget, decide how important the payback period, aesthetics and durability are. If you manage to identify two most important qualities your future panels must possess, it will make the process much easier.