All You Need to Know About 4 Types of Solar Panels


The availability of different options does not necessarily make switching easy. Learning about the several types of solar panels and their detailed features might make it possible.

Solar or PV panels convert sunlight into electricity and play an important role in harnessing abundant energy from the sun. Power generated from panels are used for various purposes. If you are considering to make the switch from traditional to renewable resources understanding about types of solar panel is important. Let us discover their efficiency, output, and learn which one them is suitable for residential and office applications.

All You Need to Know About 4 Types of Solar Panels

All You Need to Know About 4 Types of Solar PanelA device that converts photons viz light from the sun into electric energy is known as a solar panel or photovoltaic panel. Solar panels are used for a variety of purposes. Other than powering commercial and residential solar power systems, solar panels power remote power systems for telecommunication equipment, remote sensors, and cabins.

Clean energy from sunlight, is collected by solar panels, which then, is converted into electricity. The main working of solar panels is induced by the Photovoltaic Effect. Photons absorbed by solar panels initiate an electric current. This generated current knocks out the electrons from their orbits and releases them into the electrical field generated by the solar cells. These free electrons are pulled into the directional current and this overall process is known as photovoltaic current.

Based on the materials used, there are 4 types of solar panels available in the market.

1. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Different silicon crystals are used in making this solar panel. These panels are affordable as there is less to no wastage of material. Silicon is melted and poured into a square mold that gives them their shape. However, with this their silicon purity is compromised resulting in lower heat tolerance that makes them less efficient than monocrystalline. Also, in high temperatures, these panels are less efficient. Due to their shape, they occupy a large space.

2. Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from single pure silicon crystals cut into several wafers or layers. Thus, they are also known as single-crystal panels. Their dark color is evident from the material used in them, which is pure silicon. And this is what makes them the most efficient solar panels of all. Also, it is long-lasting but costly at the same time.

3. Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) Solar Panels

These are improvised versions of traditional monocrystalline cells. A passivation layer is added to the rear surface of the cell through this technology. PERC solar panels are best for small spaces. You will have to pay a lower cost per watt due to their increased efficiency. The new technology enhances the efficiency of panels in the following ways:

  • The natural tendency of electrons to recombine and inhibit the flow of electrons is reduced.
  • Greater wavelengths of light are reflected which avoid heating up the black sheet of the solar panels. In silicon wafers, light waves over 1180 nm are not absorbed and result in heating the metal frame of the panels.
  • The light is reflected into the cell thus, enabling more and more solar radiation to be absorbed.

4. Thin-Film Solar Panels

These solar panels have fine thin layers that make them flexible. Also, these panels do not require any back framing, which makes them even lighter. It is easy to install as they are also available in different sizes to suit your needs. Their efficiency is lesser than silicon solar panels among different types of solar panels. Thin film solar panels are available in the following variations depending on the material they are made from.

a) Amorphous silicon (a-Si): This silicon solar panel is not structured on a molecular level and has a shapeless nature. The amount of silicon required to make these solar panels is only a fraction of the typical solar panels. Thus, they have lower production costs. These solar panels are best suited for devices requiring less power like pocket calculators.

b) Cadmium telluride (CdTe): These solar panels have the lowest carbon footprint and water requirement. The energy payback time of these panels is also less than other solar panels. Due to their toxic material cadmium, recycling them is expensive.

c) Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS): Thin layers of indium, gallium, selenium, and copper are used in these solar panels. These elements result in higher efficiency than other thin-panel solar panels. However, thin panels are not as efficient as crystalline panels. After this let’s learn about the types of solar panel and their efficiency.

Also Read: Portable Solar Panel Stand

What are 4 Types of Solar Panels and Their Efficiency?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study in 2012. They found out that each year there is an average fall of about 0.8% in solar panel output. The rate of decline is known as the solar panel degradation rate, and it depends on the brand and manufacturer. And as for efficiency, monocrystalline & PERC solar panels are rated to be the most efficient, followed by Polycrystalline panels. Here is a table for different panels and their efficiency:

Type of Solar PanelEfficiency
Amorphous silicon (a-Si)6% – 8%
Monocrystalline20% and above
Polycrystalline15% to 17%
Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)13% to 15%
Cadmium telluride (CdTe)9% to 11%
Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) 22% – 25%

What are the Advantages of Solar Panel?

Apart from learning about the types of solar panels, you should also know about the advantages of solar panels. Solar energy is a renewable and green form of energy and thus, really good for the environment. Its efficiency depends on the type of sunlight received by the panels. Therefore, the same size solar panel may produce less on cloudy days whereas they will generate more on a sunny day. Apart from this, there are several noticeable advantages of solar panels you should know about.

  • Since the power source is pollution-free, it does not emit any greenhouse gases.
  • Dependence on foreign oil and fuels is reduced to a large extent.
  • Solar energy is available all year round irrespective of the season because your solar panel produces power even on a cloudy day.
  • Solar panels have a lifetime warranty of about 25 years, and they are likely to work for more than that if maintained properly.
  • One-time investment and return on utility bills
  • Tax incentives, rebate programs, and federal grants are available for you to help with the initial costs of installation of types of solar panels, based on your location.
  • With an inner-tied grid system, excess power generated by the solar panels can be sold back to the power company.
  • Solar panels generating enough power for the home and building there will be the least requirement of the grid system.
  • You can easily install solar panels virtually on a building or even on the roof of a vehicle.
  • Solar panels are attached to the batteries to store power generated during the day, for use at night.
  • Solar power is safer than traditional electric current.

Moreover, solar panels & solar technology are improving each day with the introduction of improved aesthetics & increased durability.

Also Read: Advantages and Disadvantages of Tidal Energy

What are the Disadvantages of Solar Panel?

There are many advantages of solar panels but they also have certain shortcomings. To begin with, it has a high installation cost, which everyone is aware of. The production of solar panels is on a low scale due to the unavailability of technology and materials. This is also a major reason for them being such expensive. Additionally, they may pose the following challenges:

  • Solar panels may require more space in terms of changing their orientation to ensure maximum efficiency. With the change in the position of the sun, its intensity and inclination of rays also change. This requires adjustment in the solar panel and their positioning.
  • Solar panels need to be backed with batteries to provide power at night. Without sunlight, the panels cannot generate any power at night.
  • For some people, solar panels are an eyesore as they do not go with the exterior of the house. This is because of no color options available for the panels. But I guess it is a personal opinion and not a universal disadvantage.
  • The difference in power generation in different seasons and days is because the power generated in spring is higher than winter. Also, on a cloudy day or on a snowy day, your solar panels will not charge up the batteries to their full extent.

Solar panels power devices running on direct current DC. Such devices are expensive in comparison to the ones that run on alternating current or both. Furthermore, there can be a huge difference in the size of types of solar panels at different places for generating the same number of solar panels. This happens because insulation and light intensity differ from place to place. So, you may be paying less in Miami whereas in hilly areas you may have to pay more & get larger panels. If you are constant moving or changing houses, then solar panels aren’t suitable for you.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

All You Need to Know About 4 Types of Solar PanelSolar panels not only reduce your electricity bills, but they are here to stay for longer periods. Solar panels last for about 25 -30 years with a manufacturer warranty of about 25 years from the date of installation. Even after 30 years, solar panels will continue to work; it is just that their efficiency will gradually decline with time.

Also Read: How Many Solar Panels and Batteries to Power a House

How to Choose the Best from the Different Types of Solar Panels for Houses?

To decide which type of solar panel is best for your house, you must keep the following points in mind:

1. Applicable Fire Rating: To ensure that solar panels do not trigger fire and induce flames, these laid down fire ratings for different types of solar panels. These ratings range from Class A to Class C & you can read California Solar Storage Association guidelines here.

  • Class A – They rovide the most protection and fire flames do not expand beyond 6 feet.
  • Class B – This fire rating means the solar panels will control the spread of fire from exceeding 8 feet.
  • Class C – This fire rating ensures that the fire does not exceed 13 feet

2. HailStorms: If your region experiences heavy hail, then crystalline solar panels are better for your house. These panels can withstand hail hitting the panels at the speed of up to 50 miles per hour. Thin-film solar panels are not ideal for such areas.

3. Strong Winds & Hurricanes: Though there are no such ratings that define which type of solar panel should be used in areas with hurricanes, A solar system that uses fasteners through bolting module & 3-frame rail system  is most suitable for houses in areas with hurricanes or tropical storms or heavy rains.

4. Light-Induced Degradation (LID): A certain amount of performance loss is experienced by crystalline solar panels during the initial sunlight exposure; this is measured in terms of light-induced degradation. During this, silicon is affected when sunlight reacts with oxygen left-over from the manufacturing process.

5. Operating Temperature: The peak efficiency of monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels is between 59° Fahrenheit and 95° Fahrenheit (15° to 35° Celsius) temperatures. If your region has high summer temperatures, that can increase the internal temperature of solar panels. An increase up to 100° Fahrenheit (37.78° Celsius) will result in a reduction in the efficiency of solar panels.

Which Type of Solar Panel is Best?

Considering all factors, monocrystalline solar panels are the best type of solar panel. For residential uses, it is highly recommended. It has a subtle appearance, and you will not be sacrificing durability and performance. The overall power output ratings will provide better savings for the lifespan of solar panel systems.

However, Polycrystalline solar panels are best for a middle-sized pocket. You will get a good solar panel with average efficiency and life span. It works fine and does not cost a fortune. Also, without giving up much space your household electricity usage will be covered.

Here is a table to compare different types of solar panels that will help you determine what suits you best.

Efficiency rating24%20%19%
ColorBlackBlueDepends on material used
Lifespan25 to 40 years25 to 35 years10 to 20 years
ProsHighest power capacity and most efficientSuitable option for  middle ground areasLow heat tolerance and requires more space
ConsSuitable option for  middle ground areasPortable and most cost-effectiveShortest lifespan and least efficiency

Which type of solar panel is best? The answer to this is Monocrystalline. However, it depends on n number of factors as discussed above. After reading about different types of solar panels, we hope you have made your decision which one is best for you in terms of price, appearance, and surrounding environment. Do not forget to share your views which one best suited you. You can post your queries in the comment section below.

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