- Monocrystalline Solar Panels
- Polycrystalline Solar Panels
- Thin-Film Solar Panels
- PERC Solar Panels
What Are Solar Panels?
Before we get into the different types of solar panels, we need to define exactly what solar panels are. Solar panels absorb energy from the sun and convert it into energy to create electricity.
Solar panels are a renewable source of energy that can reduce electricity bills. Depending on the type of solar panel installed, they can last up to 25 years. Additionally, the maintenance cost of solar panels is low.
As with any material, solar panels aren’t perfect. Some factors can reduce a solar panel’s lifespan, including:
- Extreme weather
- UV exposure
- Defects in manufacturing
- Lack of upkeep
- Substandard installation
Not only can renewable energy bring down consumer costs, but it’s also a cleaner and more sustainable way to generate energy. Solar energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect and preserve the earth’s valuable natural resources.
Now that we know the basics about renewable energy, what a solar panel is, and how it works, let’s look at the different types of solar panels you can install.
Monocrystalline solar panels are made up of monocrystalline silicon (single-crystal silicon). This solar panel design can last 25–50 years if properly cared for.
The crystal material’s continuous structure reduces the potential for panel vulnerability, contributing to its potentially long lifespan. These panels are the most efficient of the different solar panel types at about 15–20% efficiency.
These solar panels tend to operate better than their counterparts, even in high temperatures and shade.
The downside to installing these panels is the cost. Monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive to manufacture and cost more to install.
Polycrystalline solar panels are similar to monocrystalline solar panels, but the silicon structure is different and cheaper to produce.
Rather than being a single silicon source like monocrystalline, polycrystalline is a blend of several silicon sources. This blend makes polycrystalline solar panels slightly less energy efficient, with an estimated 13–16% efficiency. These solar panel options can last up to 25 years with the proper care.
Polycrystalline solar panels don’t fare as well as monocrystalline solar panels in hotter temperatures and low-light situations.
Because of the cheaper production cost and decreased efficiency, these solar panel types are more affordable than monocrystalline panels.
Thin-film panels are made from several materials like cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, or amorphous silicon.
Thin-film solar panels are the easiest to manipulate of the different solar panel designs. They’re lightweight and flexible, making them easier to install and a good fit for many projects.
Thin-film panels are especially popular for commercial roofs that can’t sustain a heavier crystal solar panel.
These panels are even less efficient than polycrystalline panels, with an estimated 11% efficiency. Thin-film solar panels are the cheapest available solar panel but also the least efficient.
PERC Solar PanelsPERC solar panels, which stands for Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell panels, have an additional panel layer that gives the sun’s rays another chance to convert into energy. This added layer makes these types of solar panels more efficient, at about 23% efficiency. PERC solar panels tend to be more expensive than monocrystalline solar panels.
Works well in the shade, can withstand high temperatures, can last 25–50 years
Can last up to 25 years, more affordable than monocrystalline
Lightweight, flexible, easy to install, most affordable choice
Most energy-efficient option
High initial cost, attractive look
Lower efficiency, less attractive look
Highest initial cost