Different Types of Solar Panels Explained

Different Types of Solar Panels
Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Solar panels are an excellent investment that could save you money on your monthly energy bill or even make extra cash by selling power back to the local utility company.

However, with so many different types of solar panels available, it can be challenging to determine which different types of panels are best for your needs.

Solar panels are becoming popular as an alternative energy source. Still, there are many different types of solar panels today with varying benefits and drawbacks.

This article will discuss the different types of solar panels and help you decide which type is right for you.

What Are Solar Panels?

Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun using ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaic systems, solar thermal energy, solar architecture, and artificial photosynthesis.

Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active depending on how they capture, convert and distribute sunlight to valuable outputs.

Active solar techniques include photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness the energy. 

Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to receive maximum sunlight, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.

The large magnitude of solar energy available makes it a highly appealing source of electricity.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar energy may be abundant, but harnessing it is not as simple as throwing a panel up on your roof. Solar panels work by absorbing light and converting it into usable energy.

Some solar cells are silicon-based, while others can use less common materials like copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) or cadmium telluride (CdTe).

Each has its drawbacks—silicon-based cells require direct sunlight to generate power, while CIGS and CdTe are better at converting low-intensity light into electricity—but they all serve to convert sunlight into electrons that will ultimately power your home or office.

The electricity created from solar panels feeds directly into your electrical grid for immediate use.

If you’re considering installing a system, choose from many options when deciding what type of panel works best for you.

Keep in mind that all panels have their pros and cons, so before investing in any one type, take some time to research how each cell works and weigh those differences against your budget and location.

Different Types of Solar Panels 

These are the most common different types of solar panels, known as monocrystalline solar panels.

This kind of panel comprises numerous smaller silicon cells attached in series.

However, they can convert about 15% more energy than a standard polycrystalline cell and degrade much less over time. 

Monocrystalline panels tend to cost a bit more. However, overall they’re still one of the most affordable options for homeowners looking to save on their energy bills by using solar power. Another type of solar panel is called thin film.

These panels use cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) instead of silicon cells.

These lightweight and flexible panels are ideal for mobile applications like backpacks or laptop cases.

They also hold up better under extreme weather conditions like snow or rain, making them great if you live in harsh winters where snow accumulation can block sunlight from reaching your roof and decrease efficiency.

1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels
by sridgway is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What to expect from monocrystalline-based solar power? Compared with multi-crystalline panels, these have higher efficiency, and they are better at absorbing light and generating energy.

Monocrystalline silicon has fewer imperfections than multi-crystalline silicon, so its performance can be significantly better than its competitors.

Monocrystalline silicon is a material that consists of little crystals (single crystallization) arranged in parallel rows and stacked together in tight layers.

These cells provide slightly more punch in temperatures than multi-crystal modules.

The weight of monocrystalline panels is around 40% greater than their polycrystalline counterparts, making them less portable and harder to install.

The weight of monocrystalline panels is around 40% greater than their polycrystalline counterparts, making them less portable and harder to install.

Reliability will typically last longer than other kinds; most people would agree with mono-based technology!

Their life expectancy stands at 25 years before any degradation in power production, proving why they’re one of the best options today!

2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Image by depositphotos.com

Polycrystalline panels account for about 65% of global PV installations.

While these are much cheaper than monocrystalline, there is less efficiency—15 to 18 percent versus 20 to 22 percent for monocrystalline.

Polycrystalline have a rougher surface (meaning there’s more silicon exposed), and they’re usually dark blue or black.

The roughness also means they absorb more light, so they are slightly heavier than monocrystalline, i.e., they weigh 25 pounds per square foot compared with 23 pounds per square foot for mono cells.

They also don’t perform as well in high temperatures as monocrystalline do.

Polycrystalline modules can be made from multi-crystalline ingots that have been sawed into smaller pieces or from pure multi-crystalline ingots that haven’t been sawed.

Some polycrystals can be made using low-cost castings instead of sewing processes.

These lower-quality crystals are used in utility-scale power plants where performance isn’t critical and cost savings matter most.

They’re not appropriate for residential applications because they’re typically quite large and heavy — you’ll rarely see them on roofs because it’s hard to get them up there!

3. Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-Film Solar Panels
by Walmart Corporate is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Thin-film photovoltaic (PV) cells, also known as thin-film solar cells, were first introduced in Japan in 1991.

However, it was only in 2000 that they developed the manufacturing process for these cells.

These cells are used in calculators and other electronic devices with low power requirements.

Thin-film PV has also been adapted for applications like building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV), which uses thin-film PV to make windows that generate electricity.

You can find these windows on residential and commercial buildings throughout California, Europe, and Japan.

The thin film is made with less material than crystalline silicon solar panels; it costs less to produce.

The technology is still in its infancy, but we could see increased use as it becomes more efficient.

The most common type of thin-film solar panel is cadmium telluride (CdTe).

CdTe panels are manufactured by depositing CdTe semiconductors onto glass or flexible substrates using chemical vapor deposition techniques.

Cadmium telluride is toxic, and cadmium must be carefully handled during manufacturing processes.

What Type of Panel Is Best for Your Installation?

There are three main kinds of residential solar panels with dozens of variations: crystalline silicon, thin-film, and concentrated photovoltaic (CPV).

You can make solar cells from semiconductor materials, such as amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride.

Crystalline silicon PV cells represent about 90 percent to 95 percent of all PV installations. 

They’re typically more efficient than thin-film systems but produce less power because they require more giant cells to absorb the same amount of sunlight.

Though you may hear someone refer to thin-film technology as the second generation or cutting edge, it’s been around for 30 years.

It works by layering two different metals on top of each other to capture light.

The first is copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), absorbing light and converts it into electricity.

Thin-film modules are cheaper than crystalline silicon models and make up about 5 percent of the market.

Concentrated photovoltaic systems use lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto small areas, typically four inches square.

How to Choose Solar Panels for a Home?

Understandably, different people have different needs when it comes to home energy.

For example, homeowners who live in sunny places may not want or need much storage capacity; they’ll mostly just be looking for a way to augment their traditional power supply.

On the other hand, homeowners in areas with generally poor sun exposure might be interested in more effective systems that store more electricity and generate more power overall.

To choose a system that suits your needs and your space as well as possible, first, familiarize yourself with your options.

Solar power is growing in popularity for residential use, but many people have no idea where to start. 

There are a variety of factors to consider, including costs and efficiency.

For example, there are three main categories: monocrystalline (also called poly), multi-crystalline (also called poly), and thin-film photovoltaic cells.

These different types of Solar panels do not vary by shape or size so much as by their materials, which have different benefits—and drawbacks.

Things to Consider When Choosing Solar Panels

It is not always easy to pick out a quality set of solar panels. You will want to consider several things to ensure that you make a good choice.

You need to know what questions you should be asking and what aspects will make or break your choice. Here are some tips on choosing great panels.

What Are Your Goals? First, think about what you hope to accomplish with these panels.

If your goal is something like emergency power, then there are other considerations than if you were trying to maximize savings over time.

Different situations call for different kinds of equipment, so first, think about how you’ll use them before making any decisions.

Once you have an idea of how you’ll use them, decide which ones best fit those needs. 


Solar power is still in its infancy, increasing, especially in developing countries.

At last count, global capacity reached 305 gigawatts (GW), enough to power all homes in South Africa and provide a hefty slice of Germany’s electricity needs.

That may not sound like much compared to our current energy infrastructure—there is about 4,500 GW worth of coal-fired power plants alone.

In choosing from any of these different types of solar panels, ensure to do your research.

Because many people choose solar panels because they heard someone say they had them and loved them.

This isn’t exactly an ideal way to choose such a significant purchase!

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