Solar panel technology has dramatically improved over the years, and a range of innovative solar panels are now being introduced in the market. However, when you evaluate your solar panel choices for your PV system, you will come across two major categories of panels: monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels. Both these are conventional options that have been in use for decades. Both types of panels harness sun’s energy, but you must consider the differences between monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels objectively before making your buying decision.

What are monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels?

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

The Illustration of Monocrystalline Solar Panel by Solar Magazine

When you look for monocrystalline panels for sale, you will find them positioned as a relatively premium solar product. Monocrystalline solar panel manufacturers highlight the superior aesthetics as well as efficiency of this panel to convince customers. SunPower monocrystalline panels and LG monocrystalline panels are two of the popular models in this category.

Solar cells for monocrystalline panels are produced with silicon wafers (the silicon is first formed into bars and then it is sliced into thin wafers). The panel derives its name “mono” because it uses single-crystal silicon. As the cell is constituted of a single crystal, it provides the electrons more space to move for a better electricity flow. This is the reason behind the higher efficiency of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

The Illustration of Polycrystalline Solar Panel by Solar Magazine

The efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels is somewhat lower, but the benefit for customers is that this option is more affordable. In addition, when you seek polycrystalline solar panels for sale, the sellers may highlight the blue hue of these panels compared to the monocrystalline panels’ black hue.

Although polycrystalline solar panels are also composed of silicon, it does not involve the use of single-crystal silicon. Polycrystalline solar panel manufacturers melt multiple silicon fragments together to produce the wafers for these panels. For this reason, they are called “poly” or multi crystalline. The electrons in each cell will have less space to move because of many crystals in a cell. Therefore, the efficiency ratings of polycrystalline solar panels are relatively lower.

Comparison chart: Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline solar panels

ParametersMonocrystallinePolycrystalline
CostHighLow
EfficiencyHighLow
AppearanceBlack color panelsBluish color panels
LifespanMinimum 25 yearsUp to 25 years
Temperature Coeff.HighLow
Key ManufacturersSunPower, LGSolarWorld, Trina

To choose between the best monocrystalline solar panels and best polycrystalline solar panels, you should evaluate them on the following parameters:

Price

Monocrystalline solar panels for sale will be relatively more costly compared to polycrystalline solar panels for sale. You should draw a careful cost-benefit analysis and determine your budget in order to make the right choice for you.

Efficiency

Among the key advantages of monocrystalline solar panels is their high-efficiency rate. These products are made from superior grade silicone, which has a single-crystal structure. Therefore, electricity flow has minimal resistance in these cells. On the other hand, although one of the advantages of polycrystalline solar panels is their lower price, but their efficiency is also lower (between 14 and 16 percent) due to their reduced silicon purity.

Lifespan

When you compare the initial installation costs between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels, you should also look at the average lifespan of each. Monocrystalline solar panel manufacturers will usually offer a 25-year warranty because of the longer lifespan of the product. On this parameter of lifespan, polycrystalline solar panels are not very different, but the warranty period offered by the manufacturers may vary.

Temperature Coefficient

In warm weather, monocrystalline solar panels can deliver higher efficiency because of their higher temperature coefficient. The output degradation in monocrystalline panels is lower as the temperature rises. If you are living in a region where the summers are longer and warmer, you should carefully consider the temperature coefficient of the solar panels you are choosing.

Aesthetics

Attractive physical appearance of the solar panels depends on an individual’s personal sense of aesthetics. But many users find that the speckled blue hue of polycrystalline silicon is not too easy on the eyes. Therefore, they may prefer monocrystalline solar panels as they find them more uniform in appearance, and thus more aesthetically desirable.

Monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels: Which one is right for you?

Once you have considered the pros of monocrystalline solar panels versus the pros of polycrystalline solar panels, it gets easier to make your decision. But don’t focus only on the pros, and also dispassionately evaluate the cons of monocrystalline solar panels versus the cons of polycrystalline solar panels. In addition, the following considerations should help you determine which one is the right choice for you:

Individual Preferences

If the color of your solar roof matters to you, you should know that monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels will appear somewhat differently in terms of color. The typical polycrystalline panel will have a bluer shade, while the monocrystalline panel will be darker (black) in color.

If you have a personal preference for a particular solar panel manufacturer, you should consider whether they are more popularly known for their poly or mono solar panels.

Space Limitations

If the available space on your roof is limited but you have a need for more solar output, you may consider monocrystalline solar panels because of their higher efficiency. It is worth paying the additional cost for these panels in your situation because you can maximize your power output even within your space constraints to accommodate a PV system.

Consider Space Limitations When Choose Between Mono- and Poly-Crystalline Solar Panels

On the other hand, if you have plenty of free space available on your roof, or you plan to install a ground-mounted PV system, you may consider the more economical choice of polycrystalline solar panels.

Amount of Dust, Snow, and Shade

According to some industry experts, monocrystalline solar panel systems have been known to break down if they are only marginally covered in snow or dust or a part of the panel becomes shaded. Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are somewhat more resilient in these conditions.

Therefore, if your roof is partially shady, or you live in a region where the climate is snowy or dusty, you might find polycrystalline solar panels to be a more suitable option. If you have a strong preference for monocrystalline solar panels even in this situation, you may consider installing a micro-inverter to counter these issues. However, that will mean an additional investment on hardware.

Climate

As discussed in the earlier sections, the heat tolerance of a monocrystalline solar panel is higher than that of a polycrystalline panel. If you reside in a region that has a hotter climate for better part of the year, this could effectively reduce the lifespan of your panels if you choose the polycrystalline option.

But industry observers tend to agree that the effect would only be minor in the long run, unless you are living in a desert climate. It is best to discuss this issue with your installation company who can guide you better according to the local climate-related facts and data in your region.

Solar Financing

How you plan to finance your PV system might also have a role to place in determining your choice of a solar panel. For instance, if you go for a PPA (power purchase agreement), you will be paying per KWH for the amount of electricity generated by the system.

This would mean that above the type of your PV equipment, your savings will be determined by your monthly payments. On the other hand, if you are purchasing your own PV system, investing in monocrystalline solar panels for their superior efficiency could lead to better returns on your investment.

Overview: Other advanced conventional solar panels and new solar panel technologies

A number of cutting-edge solar panel technologies have been introduced into the market, which are worth considering. You should have a fair understand of these innovative options in order to make the right decision for your solar power system.

Flexible Solar Panels

Although most of the solar panels today are produced from mono or poly solar cells, there is another solar technology known as flexible solar panels. These panels can be produced both as crystalline flexible solar panels and “thin-film” solar panels. Thin-film solar panels are produced by depositing a very thin layer of conductive material over a plastic or glass-based backing plate.

Most of the flexible solar panel technology today is affordable, but less efficient. You may not prefer it for your home if you have space constraints. But where space is not a limitation, flexible solar panels can be a cost-effective option in some cases. These flexible panels are particularly suited for mobile use such as RVs as well as boats when you may not have flat surface available to mount the panel.

PERC Cells

Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology is another unique option that is gaining acceptance. PERC cells are differentiated by an additional layer of material (the passivation layer) on the solar panel’s backside. Consider this passivation layer as a sort of mirror. It will reflect light that skips through the panel, allowing it a second opportunity to get absorbed by the PV cell.

The higher absorption of radiation results in greater efficiency of the panel. The advantage here is that adding a passivation layer will not significantly increase the cost, and the benefits of efficiency will exceed the additional cost.

Compare Different Types of Solar Panels to Pick the Right Investment

Half-Cut Cells

Just as the name suggests, half-cut cells are PV cells cut in half. Compared to the traditional solar cells, the smaller size of these half-cut PV cells provides an advantage in terms of increased efficiency. As the size of these cells is half the size of a conventional solar cell, it will produce about half the electrical current. Reduced current between PV cells means reduced resistance. This is what makes the half-cut cells more efficient.

Half-cut cells also have a relatively higher shade-tolerance. Shade falling on a PV cell not just compromises the cell’s efficiency, but also affects all other cells connected in that series. Based on this you could lose a considerable part of your solar panel’s production. But half-cut cells are wired differently and the production loss because of shading gets minimized.

Bifacial Solar Panels

These are solar panels which contain conductive material on both faces (both sides) of the panel. The aim is to maximize the benefit of reflected sunshine that hits the panel’s backside. The challenge with bifacial solar panels is that the system must be mounted in a raised position to achieve clearance under the array.

The roofing below the array should also have the appropriate reflective material (such as white rocks). For these reasons, the installation of bifacial panels becomes more expensive, and may not justify the gains in efficiency. However, as the technology improves over time, this could change.

Transparent Solar Panels

This is a futuristic solar panel technology that aims to produce solar power from glass windows in homes and offices. To achieve success with this technology, scientists have created the transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC) which can practically transform any glass window into a solar panel.

The technology has still not reached a commercial stage, but researchers believe that in future these transparent solar panels will be installed in homes and buildings with large glass windows. Once the conventional glass window is replaced with a transparent solar panel, it can potentially transform every building into a solar power generator without affecting the aesthetics.

PV Shingles

Photovoltaic shingles or solar power shingles are among the most pragmatic and successful innovations that are rapidly gaining in popularity. These solar panels will clone the function and looks of traditional roofing materials, such as asphalt and slate, so you don’t have to compromise on the aesthetics for the sake of generating solar power.

Creative solar roofing options such as solar shingles could significantly increase the value of your home, while delivering you excellent solar output just like the traditional solar roof panels.

Final Word

Your home deserves the best that solar technology offers today at an affordable cost. You can achieve that if you are willing to consider the unique features, suitability and pros and cons of various solar panel options available to you. Draw your own comparison between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels as well as other choices to make the right decision for your home. comment

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