Solar Panel Types: Which One Do You Need?

Solar Panel Types: Which One Do You Need?

When it comes to putting solar panels on your roof, the most obvious factors to consider are price, appearance, and energy efficiency. While these are important elements, there is one factor that will influence all three: the types of solar panels you select. 

The different types of solar panels available today will have an impact on how much installation and manufacturing expenses you pay as well as how good your roof looks when equipped with these solar panel systems. It’s one of the most crucial aspects to think about while purchasing solar panels.

Solar panels are available in three distinct varieties, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The best types of solar panels for you will be determined by your unique circumstances and what you want solar panels to accomplish. 

We’ll go over the many types of solar panels, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to pick the best type that will suit your specific needs.

What are the three different types of solar panels?

There are three types of solar panels that you’ll find in the market today. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but one type will ultimately suit your needs more than the others. They are:

  1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels
  2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels
  3. Thin Film Solar Panels

Let’s take a closer look at each design so you can determine which type makes the most sense for your home or business:

Monocrystalline solar panels

The original technology, monocrystalline cells are typically made from a continuous cast of silicon. This results in an ultra-pure material with minimal gaps, allowing virtually all photons to be converted into solar energy using this design. 

Like all other types of solar cells, monocrystalline solar cells are composed of positive and negative sides. The difference is that both the top and bottom of the cell are coated with silicon, doubling the amount of surface area in contact with the sun’s energy. This design allows for a superior conversion rate and ultimately more efficiency than polycrystalline and thin-film panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels have been used in space since the 1970s and continue to be used today on satellites and other spacecraft due to their sturdy manufacturing process. For this reason, it is also one of the most expensive types of solar panels available on today’s market. 

Furthermore, they typically range from 18-20 percent efficiency which doesn’t seem like much compared to recent advancements in polycrystalline and thin-film technologies. 

However, the difference is that monocrystalline cells can achieve such high efficiencies even at relatively small sizes. This results in a smaller overall system which will save you money on installation and materials costs.

Monocrystalline solar panels (also known as single crystal) feature a uniform look due to their 100 percent silicon composition and dark blue/black appearance when installed. 

The best applications for this type of panel are those where the price isn’t as much of an issue as well as installations where space is limited. They’re also great as accent pieces around the home (on gates, mailboxes, fencing) or in office buildings with low ceilings.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels 

Polycrystalline solar panels offer the second-highest performance of all three types with efficiencies typically ranging from 15-17 percent. This type of solar panel also features a uniform look due to its blue/black appearance, but the main difference is that they are made up of multiple silicon crystals rather than one large piece. 

As a result, there are some gaps where light can become lost which reduces the overall efficiency of this design. While this may not be an issue in areas with high direct sunlight, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering a polycrystalline system for your home or business.

Polycrystalline panels have a lower upfront price tag compared to monocrystalline cells and work well for smaller homes or businesses with limited roof space as well as commercial applications.

Thin Film Solar Panels

This type of solar panel uses ultra-thin film solar cells to convert sunlight into energy. Years ago, they were used primarily in calculators and watches due to their lightweight nature (less than one gram). 

Today, thin-film solar panels can be found across residential rooftops with high-efficiency rates ranging from 9 percent to 17 percent which is comparable to polycrystalline solar cells. The biggest benefit of using thin-film solar panels for your residential installation is that the panels are typically easier to install as well as up to 30 percent cheaper compared to other types of solar panels.

Thin-film solar panels also require a less drastic change aesthetically since the material used varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally remains thin and flexible. 

While they do generate less power than other types of solar panels, the thin-film solar panel can be a great choice for homeowners who want to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources such as coal, natural gas, and oil without having to make drastic changes to their overall look and feel outside.

Why do you have to know the types of solar panels?

It is important to know the different types of solar panel systems in order to find out what is best for your energy needs. For example, if you are looking for low maintenance and aesthetics are not a factor, then Monocrystalline may be the right choice for you. 

On the other hand, if you live in an area where space is limited or there is a high risk of theft, thin-film solar cell units might work better since they are lighter and easier to install.

However, when it comes down to performance (efficiency), Monocrystalline panels tend to be more efficient than polycrystalline and thin-film due to their design which allows them to operate at higher temperatures with lower rates of efficiency loss over time. 

If money is no object and you want the highest levels of efficiency, then monocrystalline solar panels may be a better choice for you.

What are solar panels made of?

Solar panels consist of one or more solar cells made from a semiconducting material such as silicon. Solar cells are generally no larger than a clenched fist and often look like long dark glass rectangles with many legs. When exposed to sunlight, solar cells absorb the light and produce electricity. 

Many solar panels feature bypass diodes which prevent current from flowing backward and damaging the cells when shade is cast over part of the panel. Solar arrays use either monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells which refers to what shape the silicon is in before it is cut into individual cells.

How do you choose solar panels?

Researching solar panels on the market is the first thing that you should do. If money is no object and you want the highest levels of efficiency, then monocrystalline solar panels may be a better choice for you. However, when it comes down to performance (efficiency) monocrystalline panels tend to be more efficient than polycrystalline and thin-film due to their design which allows them to operate at higher temperatures with lower rates of efficiency loss over time. 

Finally, if space and aesthetics are not an issue, then polycrystalline solar panels or thin-film panels might work best. In both cases, it’s important that you consult a professional installer who will advise you about the types of solar panels and brands that suit your needs best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of solar panel is best?

When it comes down to it, all solar panel types currently on the market represent the most efficient and cost-effective choices for homeowners looking to invest in clean energy. 

It should be noted that no other form of power generation can compete with solar because there are no fuel costs, exhaust emissions, or moving parts that require maintenance. Solar panels are also easy to install and maintain so if you want flexibility when designing your home’s electrical system, then opt for a model that will give you more options as your needs change over time.

How can I determine if my solar panel is original?

There are several steps you can take to determine if your solar panel units were made by one of the legitimate manufacturers:

  1. Compare your monocrystalline and polycrystalline make and model number to the ones on their website.

    Most reputable solar panel companies keep an up-to-date list of all products they manufacture for easy reference. If your solar panels don’t have a matching model number, it is possible that you have purchased a counterfeit. 
  1. Contact the original manufacturer & see if they’re still in business (and if they’re willing to honor any existing warranties).

    Most solar companies provide warranties on their solar-related products. It is best to know how much of the warranty they are willing to honor when you need a replacement. 
  1. Check with industry associations like The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or InterSolar North America (ISNA). These groups will be able to point you in the right direction as well as provide information about other brands and models that may not appear on a company’s official list but might work just as well for your application.
  1. Ask for references (and contact them directly) to see if anyone has had any experience with your solar panel provider and the quality of their products.
  1. Look for branding that includes specific phrases like UL, ETL, or FCC which indicate that your panels were manufactured by one of the big-name brands currently in operation.   

Keep in mind that if you ever decide to sell your house, these solar panels will need to be removed.  Therefore, it might be worth asking the current owners whether they would be interested in purchasing your roof-mounted solar array system as part of their sale package before taking out an expensive loan to cover installation costs.

Is there a major difference between black and blue solar panels?

Due to the kind of silicon (polycrystalline) used for a specific set of solar panels, solar cells are blue. The blue hue is largely due to an anti-reflective coating that boosts the absorbing capacity and efficiency of the solar cells. 

Black monocrystalline solar panels solar cells, on the other hand, are typically more efficient than black surfaces since black absorbs light more naturally.

How long does a solar panel last?

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years. 

This does not, however, imply that your rooftop solar panels will stop generating solar energy after a few decades. It simply indicates that their energy generation may fall short of the manufacturers’ stated maximum production output after that time.

What happens to solar panels after 25 years of usage?

Solar panel degradation is measured in percentage points per year. The rate at which solar panels lose efficiency over time is known as their degradation rate. 

This implies that four out of five solar panel units will still function at 75% or better efficiency after 25 years of use. It’s appropriate to assume that, long after the warranty has expired, your solar panels will continue to produce solar energy in some fashion.

What is the best way to dispose of old solar panels?

Old and damaged solar panel units are generally recycled in the United States at general-purpose glass recycling plants. This is where their heavy metals such as copper, indium, gallium, selenide are sorted out glass is reused and their metal frames are recycled. The remaining components are discarded or burned.

Do solar panels create hazardous waste?

Solar panels are made of solar cell units, which transform sunlight into solar energy. Perfectly working panels are not dangerous since they are generally out of anyone’s reach. However, improper disposal of broken solar panels is dangerous because they create environmental risks since they contain hazardous chemicals like lead that can seep out as they decompose.

Is it dangerous to reside near a solar farm?

The solar energy that is generated by a solar farm may be of great concern to many individuals. They are concerned that there is too much power and it will cause harm to their health, their electronics, the condition of their house, and so on. Living near a solar farm is not hazardous. It does not pose any kind of threat to health.


The design of the three types of solar panels may have undergone great changes over the past thirty years but they remain one of the best ways for consumers to contribute to a cleaner future by harnessing the power of the sun. The practice of converting sunlight to solar energy can sustain our way of living without damaging the environment. By choosing a solar panel that is most suitable for your needs and location, you can enjoy an almost limitless supply of clean energy at home without creating any pollution whatsoever.

However, it is important to note that even the sleekest and aesthetically pleasing thin-film solar cells, monocrystalline, and polycrystalline solar panels will only last long if it’s installed by a reputable company that has experience in commercial solar panel installations. If you want to get your money’s worth, selecting the right solar panel company should be included in your to-do list.