difference monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels

Ever wondered about the difference between monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels? When you evaluate solar panels for your photovoltaic (PV) system, you will encounter two main categories of panel options: monocrystalline solar panels (mono) and polycrystalline solar panels (poly). Both types of panels produce energy from the sun, but there are some key differences monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels.

monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels

monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels: it’s all about the cells

Both monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels serve the same function in the overall solar PV system: they capture energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. They are also both made from silicon, which is used for solar panels because it is an abundant, very durable element. Many solar panel manufacturers produce both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

Both monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels can be good choices for your home, but there are key differences between the two types of technology that you should understand before making your final solar purchase decision. The main difference between the two technologies is the type of silicon solar cell they use: monocrystalline solar panels have solar cells made from a single crystal of silicon, while polycrystalline solar panels have solar cells made from many silicon fragments melted together.

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are generally thought of as a premium solar product. The main advantages of moncrystalline panels are higher efficiencies and sleeker aesthetics.

To make solar cells for monocrystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars and cut into wafers. These types of panels are called “monocrystalline” to indicate that the silicon used is single-crystal silicon. Because the cell is composed of a single crystal, the electrons that generate a flow of electricity have more room to move. As a result, monocrystalline panels are more efficient than their polycrystalline counterparts.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar panels generally have lower efficiencies than monocrystalline options, but their advantage is a lower price point. In addition, polycrystalline solar panels tend to have a blue hue instead of the black hue of monocrystalline panels.

Polycrystalline solar panels are also made from silicon. However, instead of using a single crystal of silicon, manufacturers melt many fragments of silicon together to form the wafers for the panel. Polycrystalline solar panels are also referred to as “multi-crystalline,” or many-crystal silicon. Because there are many crystals in each cell, there is to less freedom for the electrons to move. As a result, polycrystalline solar panels have lower efficiency ratings than monocrystalline panels.

How do monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels compare on key metrics?

Monocrystalline solar panelsPolycrystalline solar panels
CostExpensiveCheaper
EfficiencyMore efficientLess efficient
AestheticsSolar cells are a black hueSolar cells have a blue-ish hue
Longevity25+ years25+ years

Thin Film Solar Panels

The majority of solar panels deployed today are made from either monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar cells.

There is a third type of solar technology, called thin film panels, which are usually deployed for large-scale utility projects and some specialty applications. Thin film panels are created by depositing a thin layer of conductive material onto a backing plate made of glass or plastic.

Thin film panels typically don’t see use in residential installs because they’re much less efficient than mono or poly panels. With roof space at a premium, residential customers go with more traditional crystalline silicon panels to maximize production from the space available to them.

However, thin film technology is less expensive to manufacture, and it becomes a more cost-effective option at a larger scale. For commercial and industrial projects without any space restrictions, the lower efficiency of thin film technology doesn’t really matter. Thin film panels often end up being the most cost-effective option in these situations.

In addition, if you’ve ever seen flexible solar panels on an RV or boat, thin film technology is what makes those possible. 

Because they are (as the name implies) much thinner than a traditional silicon wafer, the thin film can be deposited onto plastic to create flexible solar panels. These panels are especially nice for RVs and mobile use when you might not have a flat surface to mount the panel.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels: which are right for you?

Saving money is one of the best reasons to solar, and whether you choose mono or poly solar panels, you’ll be decreasing your electricity bills. The option you choose comes down to your personal preferences, space constraints, and the financing option you choose.

  • Personal preferences: If the color of your solar panels is important to you, remember that monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels tend to appear differently on your roof. The typical monocrystalline panel will tend to have a darker black color, while the typical polycrystalline panel will tend to have a bluer color. If where your panels were manufactured is important to you, then ensure you know enough about company that made your mono or poly solar panels.
  • Space constraints: You should prefer higher-efficiency solar panels if your PV system size is limited by the amount of space available on your roof. Because of this, paying the extra cost for more efficient monocrystalline panels that can help you maximize your electricity production will make more sense in these scenarios. Alternatively, if you have a lot of roof space or are installing ground-mounted solar, then lower-efficiency polycrystalline can be a more economic option.
  • Solar financing: How you finance your system can also play a part in determining which type of panel you choose. For example, if you choose a power purchase agreement (PPA), you pay per kilowatt-hour for the electricity produced by the system. This means that, above any type of equipment you’re being offered, your monthly payments will determine your savings. By contrast, if you are buying your system, paying more for high-efficiency monocrystalline panels can result in higher returns on your solar investment.

What other solar cell technologies are there?

Although they make up a significantly smaller percentage of the solar panel market (residential and commercial panels in particular), there are other solar panel options available besides moncrystalline and polycrystalline. One technology you may have heard of is thin-film solar, which includes panels made from a variety of materials that tend to be more lightweight and flexibe than typical silicon panels. However, thin-film technology lags behind crystalline silicon technology in terms of efficiency and performance.

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Prostar monocrystalline solar panels 350w for solar systemProstar 275w polycrystalline solar panels for your homeProstar high energy efficiency monocrystalline solar panel 300w
Prostar monocrystalline solar panels 350w for solar systemProstar 275w polycrystalline solar panels for your homeProstar high energy efficiency monocrystalline solar panel 300w

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