Over 2,000,000 households in Australia had solar panels installed on their property by the end of 2019.
One in five households in the country now saves money on their home electricity bills by producing solar energy on their own property.
Placing a solar panel on your home these days need not be complicated. However, it is important to understand the different types of solar panels that you can install.
There are three main kinds of solar panels that can be used in residential housing. They are:
- Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-Si)
- Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-Si)
- Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
Each of the solar panel types has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s breakdown the differences and see what would be best for you.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-Si)
These are the most popular type of solar panels amongst homeowners, mostly due to their aesthetically pleasing color and high efficiency. Colorwise they are solid black, which gives them the appearance of tile when installed on a roof.
The cell shape easily identifies the monocrystalline solar panel. It stands out with its rounded corners and spacing between the cells.
Monocrystalline cells have the highest efficiency of all solar panel types. The newest kinds of panels reaching efficiencies of up to 22%. This is due to the number of cells on the panel, up to 72 cells.
The monocrystalline structure (with only one silicon crystal) needs less space to reach its power capacity. This makes them great if you are working with a limited roof space and need to maximize your efficiency.
Monocrystalline solar panels come with between 300 and 400 wattage modules, the highest of all types.
Also, they are less affected by higher temperatures than other types of solar panels and can operate more efficiently on hotter days.
Like all technology, heat will have an impact on how well a solar panel operates. If you live in a very hot climate, you may want to consider monocrystalline solar panels for your solar panel installation.
Monocrystalline panels can also be used in bifacial installations where both sides of the panel are exposed to the sun for maximum efficiency. This will increase the power output, but the upright position will reduce the aesthetics.
The downside of monocrystalline panels is that their structure also makes them the most expensive variety of solar panels. You have to pay for the greater efficiency capabilities of the panel.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-Si)
These panels are very easily visually distinguished from other panel types by their blue, speckled appearance. The cells are not cut and remain square and closely aligned together.
The manufacturing process is much quicker and easier with polycrystalline solar panels. They are a great solar panel for a homeowner on a budget.
Like their monocrystalline siblings, they have up to 72 cells per sheet – but they are not as efficient due to their quicker manufacturing process. Polycrystalline solar panels tend to reach a maximum efficiency level of 17% as it is more difficult for electrons to flow effectively around the structure.
Newer generations of this technology are starting to creep closer in efficiency levels to the Mono-Si panel types. They now come with up to 300W of power capacity.
Polycrystalline solar panels also have shorter life spans than Mono-Si panels as they are much more affected by hotter temperatures.
Their look is also considered less aesthetically pleasing as the blue color of the panels is more noticeable when installed on a roof than a black-style cell.
They are a cheaper option than Mono-Si panels, so they work best if you are trying to fill a larger roof space on a budget. Although, the price difference is not that much, and technology changes are reducing this further.
Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
Thin-film solar cells are a second-generation solar panel technology and are manufactured in a completely different way from the crystalline style panel.
They are black or blue in color (depending on the material) and are made of one continuous cell shape. You can not see the outline of the cells on the surface of the panel. They are also extremely flexible and light, and easier to install.
They are created from a photovoltaic substance such as Amorphous Silicon or Cadmium Telluride poured onto a solid surface. This process makes them very malleable and flexible but also greatly reduces their efficiency.
Out of all the solar panel types, thin-film solar cells are the least efficient and least suitable for residential solar panels. Not that long ago, their efficiencies were closer to 5%. Now commercial panels have been reaching around 11% efficiency.
They are not created in uniform sizes. To ensure that the power capacity is passed from cell to cell, you will need to match your thin-film panels’ sizes.
Though research into this technology looks promising in terms of efficiency, thin-film solar cells generally rate worse than all mono or polycrystalline-style panels.
Thin-film panels usually lie as close to the roof surface as is possible. This can cost durability. Although some do come with thicker frames for installation.
Thin-film panels are the cheapest option of the three solar panel types but also have the shortest life span and lowest efficiency.
They are best suited to an installation on an RV or boat than on a residential property. They tend to be used in extensive installations on industrial sites as their efficiency over a small area is so low.
What Are the Best Types of Solar Panels for Your Home?
It should be clear that thin-film technology is not a great choice for a home installation. You should definitely be considering the mono or polycrystalline types of solar panels.
Your installer will be able to advise you on what efficiency levels will work best for your property and what types will look aesthetically the best. Speak to your local solar energy installer to get advice on the best brands of solar panels to buy.
If you found this article interesting, then please take a look at our blog, where you can find more helpful energy-saving advice.