Consumers have many choices when it comes to choosing the type of solar panels for their solar project. While all solar panels produce electricity from sunshine, they are different in the materials used, performance, look, form factor and how much they cost. The most common types of solar panels usually considered for homes are
Polycrystalline panels are made from a silicon substrate that is composed of multiple silicon crystals (hence the name polycrystalline). Due to the manufacturing process, polycrystalline panels have lower efficiency (typically 14%-17%) - meaning they convert a smaller fraction of the sunlight that falls on them to electricity.
Polycrystalline panels usually have a bluish tone and don’t have a uniform color throughout. However, advancements in processing and anti-reflective coatings are enabling polycrystalline panels to have a more uniform color. Polycrystalline panels are also sensitive to heat and at high temperatures produce less power than monocrystalline panels.
Polycrystalline panels are also cheaper to produce and this is reflected in a lower price per Watt of the panel.
Monocrystalline panels are made from single silicon crystals grown in the shape of a round pillar. Because they are made from single crystals, monocrystalline panels have higher efficiency (typically 18%-22%)- meaning they convert a higher fraction of the sunlight that falls on them to electricity.
Monocrystalline panels have a uniform look and are typically black, which enhances their aesthetic appeal. In addition, monocrystalline panels are less sensitive to heat and, at high temperatures, produce more power than polycrystalline panels which sometimes makes these panels a better choice in hot climates.
While monocrystalline panels offer more efficiency, better looks and better performance at higher temperatures, they are also more expensive to produce and are priced as such.
Tesla made an announcement recently that it plans to launch a product called solar shingles (also known as solar roofs). In this product, the solar cells are directly embedded into the shingles - therefore the roof itself generates electricity from sunshine. Solar shingles come in four styles - Tuscan, Slate, Textured and Smooth. Commercial launch is anticipated in 2018. Pricing has not been announced.
|Features||Polycrystalline Panels||Monocrystalline Panels||Solar Shingles*|
|Efficiency||Moderate (14%$-17%)||High(18%-22%)||Not mentioned|
|Looks||Averagebluish/greyish color with variances||Excellentblack with uniform color||Excellent4 options, roof doubles up as panels|
|Performance at high temperatures||Average||Excellent||Not mentioned|
|When recommended||When roof space is not limited and aesthetics are less important||When roof space is limited and/or aesthetics are important||When you ready for a new roof and price is not a factor|
* Commercial launch expected in 2018.