All across the globe, companies, governments, and individuals are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints and slow climate change. While solar panels are no miracle solution, many environmentalists would argue that they work better than most other alternatives on the market. The key is choosing the right solar panel for your needs. So, what are the main differences between a polycrystalline vs monocrystalline solar panel?
The reason so much debate exists around monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels is that they are the two most commonly used types. They are separated by differences in the crystalline silicon and the manufacturing process. These factors also affect the way they function. However, there is a third contender worth mentioning.
What Are Monocrystalline Solar Panels?
When reviewing the main types of solar panels, these are known for their black appearance. They are made from single-crystal silicon and feature more rounded edges. These are also called monocrystalline solar cells.
Despite being one of the most expensive options, the monocrystalline solar panel is a common choice in commercial, residential, and DIY solar installations.
What Are Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
When shopping for solar system parts, you likely noticed a massive cost discount for choosing a polycrystalline solar panel. These solar panels are made from straight-edged PV cells that feature a blue color. This type is also referred to as a poly solar panel or a multi-crystalline panel.
What Is a Thin Film Solar Panel?
If you have seen either stick-on solar panels or flexible solar panels before, then you have encountered thin-film solar panels. These solar panel options are becoming increasingly popular for mobile applications where weight is a concern.
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Polycrystalline Versus Monocrystalline Solar Panels: Manufacturing Process
The primary difference comes down to the foundational components.
When creating a monocrystalline solar panel, the manufacturer forms the silicon into bars and then cuts them into wafers. When creating a polycrystal solar panel, the manufacturer melts fragments of silicon together to form wafers.
The poly crystalline solar panel might seem like a more complicated product, but it’s actually easier for panels manufacturers to make. This is the main reason why it costs so much less.
Difference Between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Cells: Efficiency Rates
The manufacturing differences also create variations in efficiency. According to the American Solar Energy Society, monocrystalline solar cells are known for high efficiency ratings in the 15% to 20% range. In contrast, polycrystalline solar cells have efficiency ratings in the 13% to 16% range.
The difference in how much each type of panel produces is caused by the electrons not having as much room to move around in a polycrystalline solar cell. This stems from the presence of too many crystals.
Mono vs Poly Solar Panel: Temperature Coefficient
When comparing polycrystalline versus monocrystalline solar panels, it’s also important to determine how well each panel works in high temperatures. Believe it or not, even though panels need the sun to function, high temperatures can reduce power output.
Despite its darker color, mono panels produce higher efficiency rates in high temperatures. They lose only 0.3% to 0.5% efficiency for each additional 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is superior to polycrystalline solar panels.
Difference Between Mono and Poly Solar Panels: Lifespan
Physically, solar panels have the ability to outlive the people who install them. So, when experts consider the degradation of solar panels for mono vs polo, the real question is continued efficiency.
Monocrystalline panels lose only 0.3% to 0.8% of efficiency each year. This means that a decade from now, your monocrystalline solar panel will still operate at 95% efficiency. In 20 years, it will still operate at 90%. Consequently, experts recommend changing them out in 40 years. Polycrystalline panels degrade faster, but still have an expected lifespan of 20 to 35 years.
Mono vs Poly Solar Panels: Recyclability
Even though solar panels are not biodegradable, people can make conscious decisions to recycle them. All the metal parts, 95% of the glass and 85% of the silicon wafers used in mono solar panels are recyclable. Poly solar panels also have high recyclability; 90% of all their materials are suitable for recycling.
Experts believe that, by 2030, recycled materials will create 45 million new modules.
Solar Panels Mono vs Poly: Cost
Before determining whether the cost savings are worth the lower performance, you first need to measure the difference.
According to CNET, you can expect to pay $1 to $1.50 per watt for mono panels. In contrast, poly panels cost only $0.90 to $1 per watt. This means that a mono installation for 5,000 watts could total as much as $7,500. Meanwhile, a poly install for $5,000 usually costs no more than $5,000.
Note that this is a general price comparison. There are other factors that could affect the cost of purchase and installation:
- Material and labor shortages
- Placement choices
- Economies of scale
- Additional components
- Complexity of full installation
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What Type of Panel Should You Get for Your Solar Panel System?
Now that you have a good idea of how solar panels work, it’s time to connect the dots to your specific needs. Use these three main factors as your starting point.
What is the main goal of your solar installation? Do you want to reduce your dependence on the grid, lower your energy bills or completely eliminate grid dependence? When making a decision, you will also need to consider local laws, such as whether off-grid living is permitted or whether your energy company will buy your excess solar during daylight hours.
2. Solar Size
The fewer panels you intend to install in your solar setup, the more important it is to choose the more efficient option. Otherwise, you could risk being underpowered. There is an especially high risk of being underpowered if your property will be 100% off-grid. When determining the solar installation size you need, start with the expected power consumption of your premises.
3. Battery Bank
Not all customers include batteries in their setups, but if you plan to be 100% off-grid, batteries are necessary. Lithium batteries are the best because they can handle lower and more frequent discharge rates compared to all alternatives. Consequently, you may get away with fewer panels without risking battery health on cloudy days. Similarly, if you have fewer batteries, you might need more panels to offset lower storage.
Difference Between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Panels: The Bottom Line
When comparing mono vs poly solar panels, you will find that both panels bring unique strengths and weaknesses to your solar installation. However, monocrystalline panels outperform polycrystalline solar panels at almost every turn. So, are poly panels worth the cost savings for your needs?
At Aris Solutions, we understand that solar installation is a big investment in your home or business. This puts additional pressure on you to make the right choices for your solar panel system. Our team is standing by to review the details of your solar installation and help you make the best possible decision. Contact us to get started.