So you have decided to free yourself from your conventional electric bill, increase your eco-friendliness, and invest in some sun with solar panels. As an alternative to fossil fuels, solar panels are emission-free and can help you effortlessly reduce your carbon footprint. Even better, solar panels can save you heaps of money over the next few decades, and the solar initiatives and tax credits can offer discounts on the price of installation. Thinking about selling some time in the future? Solar energy is also a big plus for prospective buyers.
As a new solar panel shopper, you may be a bit unsure about the many options available on the market, their applications, and the unique advantages of each type. Let’s take a look at what crystalline silicon is along with the two basic types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.
What Is Crystalline Silicon?
Crystalline silicon is the substance that almost all photovoltaics are made from. This crystalline silicon comes in different levels of purity, measured by how well aligned the silicon molecules are. The more properly aligned, the better they convert sunlight into electricity. The purer a solar panel is, the more efficient it becomes. Most solar panels have trade-offs between price, efficiency, and space. These trade-offs are determined by the purity of silicon used to create the panels.
Monocrystalline cells are cut from pure crystalline silicon bars, and appear black in color and diamond shaped. Aligned parallel to one another, they soak up the sun from a specific angle. These work the best in bright, consistently sunny environments. These panels become less efficient than polycrystalline if they are in a shady area, or covered in snow or debris.
Monocrystalline solar panels tend to have the highest efficiency because they are created out of an extremely pure grade of silicon. This also allows them to take up less space, and they are often placed under a 25-year warranty, as they generally outlive other types of panels. Because they are the most efficient, this also means that they tend to be more costly up-front for the consumer.
Polycrystalline panels are made up of several pieces of pure crystalline silicon blocks. These crystals are not aligned in parallel and therefore they are not as intensely efficient under bright light. Alternatively these cells pick up additional light at alternate angles, low light environments, and drab conditions. Polycrystalline panels appear as a speckled blue when reflecting light. Although they are more uniform, homeowners may prefer the sheer black appearance of monocrystalline panels to polycrystalline, but this is merely a matter of personal preference.
Polycrystalline panels cost less to manufacture than monocrystalline, and less material is wasted during the process. These panels are slightly less heat tolerant and therefore do not perform as well in high temperature environments. Polycrystalline panels are five to ten percent less efficient than monocrystalline panels, and tend to require a larger space in order to achieve the same efficiency as monocrystalline.
Overall, monocrystalline solar panels can be a bit pricier and are not quite as efficient under low light conditions, but encompass less area and are more heat tolerant. Polycrystalline panels can be a bit cheaper and more efficient in settings where light is diffused, but take up more space to achieve the same efficiency and are less efficient under high temperatures.
When shopping for solar panels, take into consideration the trade-offs of efficiency, price, and longevity. Different panels will be ideal for different homeowners and one is not necessarily better than the other, as both types have their advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes to selecting your source of electricity, solar panels are a clear winner.