4 Types of Solar Panels

If you’re thinking about investing in solar panels for the next step to your energy independence, all the different types of solar panels can seem overwhelming, and you want to understand them in order to make a well-informed decision. Here’s an overview of the different solar panel types to help you narrow down which might be the best for you. The more you know...

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Monocrystalline silicon

Silicon, both monocrystalline and polycrystalline, is one of the most popular types of solar panels because of the efficiency it brings to the game. Most experts consider monocrystalline silicon to be the most efficient solar panel available at this time. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good fit for you, because as the most efficient, it’s also the most expensive. Because of its crystalline structure combined with metal strips, monocrystalline silicon solar panels are ideal for roofs.  

Pros

  • Utilize the most efficient material
  • Need fewer panels than other types of solar panels for the same amount of power
  • Last a long time; most manufacturers have 25- or 30-year warranties attached 
  • Don’t take up much space with fewer panels

Cons

  • Maintain best efficiency in warm weather
  • Don’t work well if covered in snow or shade 
  • Cost more than other solar panels

Polycrystalline silicon

Polycrystalline silicon is similar to its cousin, monocrystalline silicon. But as you may have guessed from its name, where monocrystalline panels have only one sheet of silicon covering the solar cell, polycrystalline panels have several. Polycrystalline silicon is a cheaper alternative than its cousin, but is less efficient in converting electricity. Polycrystalline silicon is also good for roofs and residential uses. 

Pros

  • Withstand extreme temperatures well with strong construction design
  • Cost less than monocrystalline silicon

Cons

  • Use less silicon for less efficiency
  • Need larger surface than its monocrystalline counterpart
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Thin film

Thin film is a popular solar panel option, because of its cheap cost. While thin film panels still use silicon, the silicon does not have a crystalline composition and is instead applied as a thin layer of film on either glass or metal. As a result, thin film solar panels are much less efficient and require more panels in order to produce the desired electricity. You’ll see thin film panels used in big solar farm projects or places where a lot of land is available. These are not good for residential applications or roofs due to their inefficiency and the high number required.

Pros

  • Are inexpensive due to their mass production
  • Withstand heat and shade well
  • Applicable in different situations due to their flexibility

Cons

  • Produce four times less electricity than monocrystalline silicon
  • Require a higher number of panels to produce enough power to make them worthwhile
  • Don’t last long--come with a short manufacturer’s warranty

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)

BIPV panels look like real roofing tiles or solar shingles. You’ll see these most often at commercial properties due to their high costs. Although pleasing to look at, BIPV panels are the most expensive option of all four.

Pros

  • Look great
  • Perfect for design/architecture or businesses that want to be visually appealing while still utilizing solar power

Cons

  • Cost more than most solar panels due to their good looks
  • Are less efficient than silicon-based panels
  • Are not as durable as silicon-based panels

Of course we take all these factors into account when we recommend solar panels for you, setting you up for success in your solar power endeavors. If you have questions about which types of solar panels would be a good fit for you and your needs, feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help and to answer questions that help you gain true energy independence

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