Polycrystalline vs. Monocrystalline Solar Cells
What Does It Mean?
As with most things in life, there are options when it comes to solar panels, and there are many factors that can determine which type is best for your home. In this article we will look at the three most common solar cells found on the market today. If you are more interested in seeing how a solar panels work to generate electricity, click here to view this step by step explanation.
Now, back to solar cells. Monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin solar film are the most common types of solar cells, with monocrystalline and polycrystalline making up most solar systems in the United States. Monocrystalline simply means that the panel was made with a single silicon ingot, whereas polycrystalline solar panels are made up of many crystal silicon pieces. Thin film solar panels are made by depositing one or more thin layers of photovoltaic material on a material such as glass or metal.
Introduction and Appearance
Like many other products, solar panels are made in various countries, and are made with different materials that can influence their quality. As previously mentioned, there are two types of solar cells that can make up the panel. Panels can use monocrystalline solar cells or polycrystalline solar cells. The two solar cells are manufactured in different ways, and this inherently gives them different characteristics. The first difference is the appearance. Polycrystalline solar panels will have a blue appearance that can often be viewed as a “dated” look, because the first solar panels on the market were blue and bulky. Most homeowners today want to have a solar array that accents their roof and provides minimal changes to overall appearance of the house. Due to this, monocrystalline solar panels have become popular since they have a very dark blue or black appearance which has little effect on a home’s curb appeal. In fact, installing monocrystalline solar panels on a home’s roof can increase a home’s value by $24,000 on average! At American Sentry Solar, we use top-tier quality solar panels made from monocrystalline solar cells that maintain home’s curb appeal while increasing home value and lowering the homeowner’s energy bills.
Monocrystalline & Polycrystalline Efficiency Difference
Aside from looks, monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels also differ in efficiency. Solar panel efficiency is measured by calculating what percentage of solar energy hitting the panel is successfully captured and converted into electricity. The most efficient solar system will use monocrystalline solar panels. Typically, monocrystalline panels will have an efficiency of 20% or more. The next panel in terms of efficiency is polycrystalline. These panels will have less efficiency than monocrystalline at 15-17%, but they are more efficient than thin film solar panels. Thin film solar panels are the least efficient of the group with 10-13% efficiency. It is clear to see that over a course of a year the efficiency delta between panels can be very significant.
Now, because monocrystalline panels have a more involved production process and higher efficiency, they are going to be more expensive. Monocrystalline are typically the most expensive option when considering a solar system. This is for good reason, as these panels tend to be more durable, aesthetically pleasing and have a better efficiency, which means a higher ROI for the savvy homeowner. Better efficiency also means less panels for the same energy generation, which saves space!
Polycrystalline panels are not as expensive as the monocrystalline, but more expensive than thin solar film panels. This means polycrystalline panels could be a viable option for a someone on a budget that does not have high home energy needs. However, a polycrystalline system may lower a home’s curb appeal, take longer to produce energy for SRECs, and have a lower ROI over 25 years.
The cheapest solar panel is the thin film solar panel. There is also good reason they are so cheap. The manufacturing process for thin film solar panels is fast and easy, making them very cost effective for producing electricity in areas with geographic challenges. Furthermore, because of their cost, thin film solar panels can be deployed in disaster relief areas. However, the panels themselves, are not very efficient. Homeowners tend to steer clear of thin film solar panels for residential use.
The Most Important Thing When Going Solar
Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to going solar is choosing the right solar installer. You can have the best panels, but if they are not connected right, they won’t produce! Even worse, an installer that does not know what they are doing can damage your roof. While there are many options out there for solar installation, it is wise to stay away from big national installers due to the customer service aspect if something does go awry. It is like going to a big box store and expecting to receive small-town personal support. However, with American Sentry Solar’s 10+ years’ experience in the solar industry, 28+ years of roofing experience and our 25 year warranty on our work, why try anyone else? We are your local solar experts, and we’re here to help you save with solar!