Types of Solar Panels Explained – Must Read Before Buying

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate we earn advertising fees from qualifying purchases. learn more.

Are you looking to have a solar panel system installed? The use of sunlight energy has grown significantly around the globe because it saves on electricity bills in homes and businesses. There are different factors to consider when choosing a solar panel, including the type, cost, performance, and location, but what types of solar panels are available?

What are the different types of Solar Panels?

There are three solar panels: Monocrystalline, Thin Film, and Polycrystalline solar panels.  All these Solar panels are readily available in today’s market. Each of them has different characteristics that can help you decide the most suitable choice for your needs. You must know all details about different Solar Panels so that you can choose the right solar panel for your home or Vehicle or an outdoor camp.

The rest of this article will focus on helping you to buy the right solar panel. We will discuss differentiating between polycrystalline, Thin film, and monocrystalline solar panels. We will compare their performance, cost, and efficiency.

Types of Solar Panels
What are the Types of Solar Panels?

#1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels

These are the oldest type of solar panels and are commonly installed in residences. They are flat, dark in color with rounded edges, and made of monocrystalline silicon. Many people tend to pick monocrystalline solar panels because of how they look. Monocrystalline solar panels can easily be recognized by the shape of silicon wafers, shaped like cubes with detached corners.


They are made from between 60 and 72 pure silicon solar cells depending on the solar panel size. Every crystal is placed in molten silicon at a high temperature during the Czochralski manufacturing process. Once the silicon crystal is pulled out of the vat, it forms a solid shell called an ingot, which is sliced into thin wafers. These wafers, when assembled, form the solar panel.


Out of all kinds of solar panels, monocrystalline solar panels have the highest power capacity and efficiency. The purity of silicon and its dark color contribute to the high-efficiency rates that are above 20%. These solar panels are durable even in high temperatures because of the silicon.

The high efficiency and durability mean you need fewer solar panels that occupy a small amount of space. They are, therefore, ideal for people with minimal roofing space.


Monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive compared to others because of their power output and high-efficiency ratings. Some of them include:

#2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

They are sometimes called multi-crystalline solar panels. They are easy to distinguish because of their blue color, speckled look, square shape, and uncut edges. This type of solar panel is less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels.


They are made through the same process as monocrystalline solar panels, only that it is cheaper and faster. The raw silicon is melted; however, the silicon’s whole vat is left to cool instead of being pulled out. Multiple crystals are formed, causing the marbled, blue look.


The multiple silicon crystals cause polycrystalline solar panels to have lower efficiency ratings of between 15 and 17%. They are affected by high temperatures and have lower space efficiency, making them less durable than monocrystalline solar panels.

Recent technology has reduced the differences between polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels. Hence, Your choice will depend on your particular situation.


With the low manufacturing cost of polycrystalline, they are affordable and preferred by homeowners looking for installations on a budget. However, the price difference between them and monocrystalline solar panels is not that significant. Some solar panels include:

#3. Thin Film Solar Panels

They are entirely different from polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels. They have a solid, black color without silicon cell frameworks. Usually, these solar panels are flexible, lightweight, and easy to install. Their low-efficiency ratings make them suitable for large scale use like in industrial and utility solar installations.


These solar panels are manufactured by setting down a thin layer of Dye-sensitized solar cells, Cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium selenide, or any other photovoltaic substances onto a solid surface. The manufacturing process makes the panels flexible, lightweight, and less efficient compared to crystalline solar panels.


Commercially available thin film solar panels have the lowest efficiency of about 10 to 13%. To achieve a high power output and efficiency, you will have to install several thin film solar panels. For this reason, they are more suitable for industrial use as opposed to residential installations. Also, you have to replace them regularly because of their short lifespans.


Out of the three types of solar panels, thin films are the most affordable due to their low efficiency. They have a simple installation process that contributes to the low price and makes them suitable for large scale operations. However, a larger and less efficient, thin film solar panel system will cost you almost the same amount as an efficient and more powerful polycrystalline or monocrystalline.

Some thin film solar panels include:

Benefits of Installing a Solar Panel System

The sun is the most powerful source of energy; the amount of energy it produces in a day for an hour can be used globally for a year. Collecting it is difficult but harnessing it through a solar power system can bring significant benefits to the planet. Some of these benefits are:

Lowers Electricity Bills

Solar energy will help you meet some of the needs that would otherwise require you to use electricity. This will, in turn, drop your electricity bills. However, the amount you save will depend on the size of your solar panel system, heat, and electricity usage.

Various Application Purposes

You can generate heat or electricity through solar energy. In areas without access to electricity or clean water, solar energy is a good option for electricity and water distillation. A solar system can be integrated easily into building materials like windows.

Low Cost of Maintenance

The only maintenance required for a solar panel is cleaning it a few times per year. Solar panel manufacturers offer long term warranties, but you can also rely on cleaning companies specializing in solar systems.

Also, solar panels do not experience wear and tear because there are no moving parts; the inverter is the only part you will replace every 5 to 10 years. The cables also require maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency.

Source of Renewable Energy

Solar energy can never run out, making it a reliable source of energy worldwide compared to other sources. As long as sunlight is available, people can harness it every day. Solar power lessens the reliance on natural gas, coal, and oil for the production of electricity.

Factors to Consider Before Having a Solar Panel Installed

Before making a decision, you should do a lot of planning and consider certain factors. Installing solar panels is a large investment that requires accurate calculations.

i). Length of Stay in Your Home

For your solar system investment to pay off, you will have to wait for at least six years. Although solar energy will reduce your electricity cost, the installation process is costly, making the entire cost high. If you plan on staying in your house for a long-term period, solar panels are a great option. However, if you plan on moving houses, look for other methods to decrease your energy use.

ii). The shape of Your Roof

There are different sizes and shapes of roofs. Make sure that there is enough space for solar panels on your roof before you start any installations. If the roof space is too small for the solar panels, the chances are that you will not get the return you anticipated on your investment.

iii). Length of Project

Signing a contract can take months before the actual installation commences. Although the process of wiring and installation and wiring only takes a few days, it will require that you free up some time from your busy schedule. Additionally, never sign a contract that you are not comfortable with.

iV). Amount of Energy Your House Needs to Be Powered

The amount of energy your house requires to be fully powered depends on the number of people living there and the number of electric devices you have. A lower energy level requires few panels, while a higher amount of energy requires multiple Solar panels with high efficiency and power output.

Below is a YouTube video guide for beginners on home solar installation:

Bottom Line

There are three major types of solar panels: thin film, monocrystalline, and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline has a high-efficiency rating, is sleek, and more expensive. Polycrystalline panels have a low-efficiency rate but are cheaper compared to monocrystalline solar panels. Thin film solar panels are more suited for industrial use because they require a lot of space, have the lowest efficiency rates, and are the cheapest.

  • Best Flexible Panels for RV

Solar panels have incredible benefits like reliability and cutting on electricity bills, but there are also several factors that should be carefully considered before installing a solar panel system, such as which company to work with.


Leave a Comment