The Common Types of Solar Panels: A Detailed Guide

Wondering about the different types of solar panels? For instance, how many types are there?

Which are the most efficient? And which are the cheapest?

If you’ve got questions like these, then we’ve got the answers you’ve been looking for. Below, we compare the 3 main types of solar panels on the market today plus one that’s still in development. In addition, we’ll tell you about the varying styles of solar panel placement and the difference between grid-connected and off-grid systems.

It’s all right here in the ultimate solar energy system guide. Read on to learn more.

1. Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline solar panels have been around longer than any other type. Thus, they’re the most common panels used in residential solar panel systems.

This also means that their technology has advanced a lot since their creation and they’ve become very efficient. They convert about 20% of the solar energy they capture into useable electricity.

However, being common doesn’t mean they’re cheap. Because they’re so efficient, they can be one of the more expensive options on the market.

The panels themselves are comprised of cells made of silicon. The silicon has been sliced into extremely thin wafers using what’s known as the Czochralski method.

2. Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline solar panels are a newer type of silicon-based panel that’s significantly cheaper than monocrystalline. There are two reasons for this.

One is that polycrystalline panels are a little less efficient than monocrystalline panels. Their efficiency rate is only about 15%.

Secondly, polycrystalline panels are easier to make since the creation process is not as delicate as the Czochralski method. Specifically, for polycrystalline panels, the silicon crystal doesn’t have to stay intact before being sliced. It’s allowed to fragment before slicing.

Also, polycrystalline panels aren’t as long-lasting as monocrystalline. Additionally, very hot weather will cause them to degrade faster.

The bottom line is, you’ll pay less upfront for these panels but more in the long run. Besides having to replace them more often, they don’t save you as much off of your electricity bills.

3. Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are not exclusively made from silicon. They can be made from several different materials. The most common is cadmium telluride (CdTe).

These are often the cheapest type of solar panels you can buy. However, they’re not as efficient as the aforementioned types.

And, their efficiency is difficult to “guess” when buying them because they’re not all made from the same material. To put an average range on it though, you’ll get about 7-10% efficiency out of your thin-film solar panels.

However, these panels aren’t very durable and will wear out more quickly than the others. Still, you can get a reliable warranty for these panels from certain solar panel installation companies. So, if you are considering these panels, check with the installation company about the warranty first.

4. Future Types of Solar Panels

The three categories mentioned above are the main types of solar panels in use today. But there is a lot of research that’s still being conducted in the field of solar technology.

One of the most promising new developments is the biohybrid solar cell. This technology hopes to mimic the photosynthetic process that plants use to convert sunlight into energy.

While these are not yet ready to market, they have the potential to become the most efficient solar energy converter ever invented. And this is just one example of future solar tech that could revolutionize the energy industry altogether. What’s certain is that we will definitely see some big change on this front in the near future.

5. Grid-Connected vs Off-Grid Solar Panel Systems

Most solar panel systems are not sufficient enough to power an entire building on their own. Usually, they work with the existing electrical grid that powers the building. These are called grid-connected systems.

They reduce energy consumption, reducing the strain put on the electrical grid. Thus, there is more energy to go around among everyone else who shares the grid.

Alternatively, there are off-grid solar panel systems. In these systems, solar panels work together with batteries to provide enough energy to power a building independent of the electrical grid. The result is a self-sustained building that’s powered by 100% clean energy.

6. Solar Panel Placement

The last thing we’ll compare is how solar panels are placed. Obviously, you’re aware of the use of roof solar panels.

These are the most common placement of solar panels for residences and commercial buildings. That’s because they’re inconspicuous up there and out-of-reach so they’re unlikely to be vandalized. Also, most roofs are the ideal place for the panels to soak up the sunlight.

However, that’s not true of every roof. Some roofs, for example, are obscured by a canopy of treetops that block out the light. In situations like this, it’s better to place the panels on the ground/on stilts in a sunnier area of the property.

Lastly, there are even portable solar panels that can go where you go. Install these wherever you can and use them like a portable generator.

Which Type of Solar Panels Is Best For Your Needs?

So, which one will you choose? Will you go with the cheapest option? Or are you looking for something a little more efficient and long-lasting?

Whatever your solar energy needs are, the information above can help. Bookmark this guide and use it to determine which types of solar panels are right for you.

Now, do you want to learn about home automation or how to solve common home appliance problems? Find these and other great tips on our Home Improvement blog. Or, use the search bar to find the specific topic of your choice.

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