There are three primary types of solar panels, which vary in terms of space needed and cost. Some solar panel types have a higher return electricity rate – the amount of sunlight that is converted to electricity – whereas others are less expensive but require more roof space. Below is a brief description of the different types of solar panels:
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Panels
Also known as single-crystal silicon solar panels, monocrystalline panels are the most expensive but efficient solar panel. Monocrystalline solar cells are rounded and cut from one crystal of silicone, creating panels that are uniform in color (usually dark blue or black).
- lasts 25+ years
- return electricity rate of 15-17%
- best option for limited roof space
Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Panels
Also known as multi-crystal silicon solar panels, polycrystalline panels are made by fusing cells from multiple silicon crystals and then pouring the hot silicon into a mold. The square solar cells take up less space than the rounded single-crystal cells on the panel itself, but they are less efficient than the monocrystalline panels.
- lasts 25+ years
- return electricity rate of 12-14%
- less expensive than monocrystalline
Thin Film Solar
Thin film solar is cheaper than solar cells because they are made by coating a piece of glass or steel with a thin layer of amorphous (non-crystalline) silicon, cadmium telluride, copper indium, or diselenide . But since thin film solar is less efficient, more are needed to produce the same amount of electricity as a crystalline panel.
- return electricity rate of 9-13%
- panels are lighter, more flexible and versatile but less durable
- requires more surface area than crystalline panels
Not everyone pays the same price for solar. The people who get the best deals have done their homework and know the right questions to ask. Read SolarTribune’s step-by-step guide to getting the best possible deal on solar.