There are a number of variables that come into play when building your home solar system. One of those variables is the different types of solar panels that you can use. So, how do you know which are the best solar panels for your home? Let’s compare a few of the most common ones to find out.
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Silicon is used in over 90% of today’s solar panels. It can take many forms, but its defining characteristic is its purity. Purity refers to the molecular alignment of the silicon. It affects the efficiency with which solar energy is converted into electricity. Based on this criteria, you have two types of solar cells: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.
Monocrystalline cells are the purest of the two types. These cells are cut into thin wafers from cylindrical silicon ingots. They are the most efficient solar cells because of the high-grade silicon, with an efficiency rating of about 15-20%. To optimize performance and lower costs, the corners are removed, which gives them an easily recognizable shape. Unfortunately, this also creates waste.
This conversion efficiency also translates into spatial efficiency. Monocrystalline panels deliver the most power for the least amount of occupied space. In fact, monocrystalline panels produce as much as four times the amount of power as thin film panels occupying the same space. These panels also have the most longevity of the three types in our comparison. Most manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty.
Low-light conditions don’t affect the efficiency much but dirt, snow or shade can interrupt the circuit, even if the panels are only partially covered. To counter this, you can invest in a series of micro-inverters, which would still allow the system to function.
The main downside of monocrystalline panels is the price. They are the most expensive of the three we are comparing. Even considering the price, some people still think monocrystalline are the best solar panels to use.
Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Polycrystalline solar cells are not produced using the same method as monocrystalline cells. Instead of cutting two pieces off each end of a cylinder of silicon, polycrystalline cells are made from melted raw silicon which is poured into a rectangular mold. This production process makes polycrystalline silicon panels cheaper and generates less waste. However, due to their structure, they do not operate as well as monocrystalline panels in hot climates.
In terms of efficiency, polycrystalline panels hover around 13-16%. This also means that you will need more panels to output the same amount of power of the monocrystalline panels.
Thin Film Solar Cells
Thin film solar cells are manufactured by placing one or more thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate. There are four different types of material used: amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide and organic photovoltaic material.
There are several advantages to thin film solar cells. They are easy to mass produce and not as affected by shading and high temperatures. They also have a uniform appearance, which gives them an appealing look suitable for many different uses. Their appearance and flexibility open the door to many uses, including shingles, roof tiles, building facades, and glazing for skylights. Depending on the technology and materials used, thin film solar cells have an efficiency range from 7 to 13%. The efficiency of these cells is expected to continually improve.
Thin film panels may not be the best solar panels because they require more space than the other types. In fact, to generate the same amount of electricity as a monocrystalline panel, a thin film solar panel would take four times the space. Thin film cells also degrade faster than mono- and polycrystalline panels, which is why they come with a shorter warranty.
Which Solar Panel is Best for You?
While thin-film solar cells show a lot of potential, they still may not be efficient enough for residential purposes. This leaves most homeowners with two options: monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. To find the best solar panels for your situation, contact an expert to help you decide. Whichever panels you choose, don’t forget about the solar rebates and incentives you may qualify for.