Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels – Which Are Best For Your Home?
5 - Minute Read
Aug 15, 2022
When homeowners start researching solar panels for their home, they’re likely to run straight into the “polycrystalline versus monocrystalline solar panels” question. These two types of panels have stood the test of time and will likely remain relevant for some time, even as new technology develops.
What are the differences between polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Let’s dive in to see which option might be right for your situation.
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How Are Different Types Of Solar Panels Made?
Both mono and poly solar panels are made from silicone. The type of silicon is what sets mono and poly solar panels apart. You can often tell them apart based on shape and color. Typically, monocrystalline cells have a black color composed of octagons. Polycrystalline cells are likely to carry a blue hue composed of squares. Let’s look at the way polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels are made.
How Monocrystalline Solar Cells Are Made
A monocrystalline photovoltaic (PV) panel begins as molten semiconductor-grade silicon. From there, the molten silicon is formed into a bar known as an ingot. An ingot can be more than 6 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds.
Then, the silicon ingots get sliced into wafers that can be as thin as 200 microns – that’s about two-tenths of a millimeter.
Because the ingots are circular, so are the silicon wafers. Cutting them into octagons allows solar panel manufacturers to pack more of them into the same amount of space, improving solar panel efficiency.
How Polycrystalline Solar Cells Are Made
Like monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline PV cells are made from wafers produced from long ingots of silicon. The grade of the silicon is the difference.
Polycrystalline wafers come from silicon fragments melted together, as opposed to a single silicon crystal. As with the monocrystalline ingot, the poly ingot is then sliced to produce ultra-thin square wafers.
Considerations To Help You Choose Between Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are manufactured differently. But does that ultimately mean anything to homeowners eager to produce renewable energy from the sun? The manufacturing process is just one of several factors impacting the cost and efficiency of these different PV types.
If you want to save money on your solar energy system, polycrystalline panels can be a good choice. They cost 40 to 50 cents per watt, compared to 50 to 80 cents per watt for monocrystalline solar panels. Keep in mind that the total cost of a solar panel is the silicon cells plus other components including racking and inverters.
Choosing polycrystalline solar panels over mono could save you up to $2,400 on a 6-kilowatt solar panel system – which is considered an average size in the U.S.
The differences in manufacturing processes result in different efficiency ratings for monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
Mono solar panel wafers are made from a single crystal, where poly panel wafers are made from crystal fragments. The single crystal allows electrons to move more efficiently, creating more electrical current. With the crystal fragments, electrons move less efficiently.
The efficiency rating of a solar panel reflects the percentage of the amount of solar energy it captures that is converted into electrical current. Monocrystalline panels have efficiency ratings that are typically 16% – 24%, while polycrystalline panels are typically in the 14% – 20% range.
You might think that solar panels perform best when the sun is beating down on them for hours and hours. Certainly, solar panels maximize efficiency in direct sunlight. But like nearly any type of electronic equipment, they become slightly less efficient as the temperatures rises – by as much as 10%.
Monocrystalline solar panels have shown to be slightly more efficient as the temperature rises than polycrystalline. This may weigh more heavily as a consideration for those choosing solar in Tucson, Arizona, than it would for someone in Fargo, North Dakota.
Best Arguments For Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Cells
It’s clear that monocrystalline panels are more expensive, but also more efficient, than polycrystalline cells. So, based on just some of the common variables homeowners will confront, what are the best arguments for each?
Limited Roof Space And Hot Climate – Advantage, Monocrystalline Cells
If you have limited roof space, the improved efficiency of polycrystalline panels might be your best bet. You’ll get more energy out of less space, which can be worth the higher price. And monocrystalline panels are more efficient in extremely high temperatures.
Plenty Of Space And Cool Climate – Advantage, Polycrystalline Cells
If you have a large roof that gets plenty of sunlight and you live in a cool climate, you might do well with lower cost polycrystalline solar panels. They can also be the right choice for a ground-mounted solar panel system if you have available land around your home.
Warranty And Lifespan – Advantage, Monocrystalline Cells
As more data accumulates for the American home solar power industry, the lifespans for both mono and poly systems are proving to be very robust. There are many home solar arrays from the 1980s and 90s that are still operating at peak efficiencies. As the panels of today are borne of much more sophisticated materials and technology, we can expect them to perform far better. We may not know how long today’s panels will last until the end of this century.
And while the lifespans of the two today are expected to be fairly similar, how companies choose to warranty their products is telling. Typically, solar power experts expect monocrystalline solar panels to last a minimum of 25 years. The expected lifespan of polycrystalline panels, though, is often projected as up to 25 years.
The warranty terms for both types of panels will vary by manufacturer.
What's The Forecast?
What Is The Future Of Solar Panel Technology?
Poly and mono solar panels have track records going back decades. Is another type of technology waiting in the wings? Here’s what future PV technology might look like.
Thin-Film Or Amorphous Solar Panels Have Their Place
Thin-film solar panels are made from sheets of silicon attached to metal, plastic or glass. In some cases, you can even roll them up like a rug – and this, combined with their light weight, makes them handy for applications such as camping or RVs. They’re rated for 6% – 7% efficiency, however, less than half that of other major types of solar panels.
Perovskite Solar Panels Aim For Efficiency Records
Current solar panel researchers are constantly pushing for higher efficiency in solar panels. One promising development has occurred with the advancement of perovskite solar panels. Halide perovskites are a family of materials that have shown potential for high performance and low production costs in solar cells. Progress has been dramatic, with perovskites advancing from 3% efficiency in 2009 to 25% today.
Ongoing development should push perovskite solar panels even higher while also making them more durable, easier to manufacture and more affordable. Still, it’s difficult to know when perovskite technology will reach the scale necessary to be readily available to homeowners.
The Bottom Line: Consider Your Situation When Selecting Monocrystalline Or Polycrystalline Solar Panels
It’s rare for any one solution to be a one-size-fits-all answer for every homeowner. In some situations, the lower cost and lower efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels might be best. On the other hand, homeowners in hot climates or with limited roof space could find that the higher efficiency of monocrystalline solar panels is right for them.
Ready to start planning your solar panel system? Let’s talk about the components needed for your home so you can reduce or eliminate your utility bills. Talk with a Solar Advisor.