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The 4 Types Of Solar Panels: Discover The Pros And Cons

What You Should Know About The 4 Different Types Of Solar Panels

If you’ve thought about generating your own solar energy, you’ll probably have already come across the various types of solar panels and wondered which one to choose.

In this article, we’re going to check each one and help take the worry away from deciding which solar panel type is right for you.

In Part 1, we’ll compare each one across 6 different factors::

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Life Expectancy
  • Ease Of Installation
  • Roof Space Required
  • Quality Of Materials
  • Cost

Then in Part 2, we’ll summarize the findings of each type of solar panels and look at, 

  • The advantages of each type of solar panels
  • The disadvantages of each type of solar panels

What Are The 4 Types Of Solar Panels?

Although there are a number of experimental types of solar panels for the home, such as Biohybrid Solar Cell, we’re going to focus on the 4 main types of solar panels in the market today. They are:

  •  Thin Film Types Of Solar Panels
  •  Polycrystalline Types Of Solar Panels
  • Monocrystalline Types Of Solar Panels
  • Solar Shingles

So let’s dive in and examine each solar panel type before we look at a like for like comparison. As you’ll see, they’re certainly not all created equal.


Thin Film Solar Panels

These are the easiest to manufacture and also the cheapest of all the types of solar panels. As the name implies, light films of photovoltaic semiconductor elements are arranged in layers. are fused onto a board or substrate.

  • Energy Efficiency: They have the lowest efficiency of all solar panels.The film cells deliver on average about 7% solar panel efficiency.However, the higher quality Thin Film Solar Panels will give you an extra few per cent.
  • Life Expectancy: According to The American Solar Energy Society the average life span is between 10-20 years. As payback for the setup is around 8 years, they’re still a viable option for most homeowners.
  • Ease Of Installation: They are thin and flexible and are the simplest to fit.
  • Roof Space Required: Because of their poor energy efficiency, you
    would need more space and panels, compared to other solar panel
    types, to produce enough electricity for your needs.
  • Quality Of Materials: Made from, amorphous silicon, gallium selenide, cadmium telluride, and copper indium, these are cheaper to produce in comparison to other solar panels.
  • Cost: They represent the cheapest of all solar panels. Compare costs here.

Although they aren’t used as much on home installations as the other solar panel types, they represent a cost-effective alternative to costlier solar panels.


Polycrystalline Solar Panels

This is the next level when looking at types of solar panels in terms of price and efficiency. They are made by combining different types of silicon into a mold that forms a crystalline structure.

  • Energy Efficiency: Because of the impurities in the crystals formed during the manufacturing process the energy efficiency is low at 13-16%
  • Life Expectancy: Depending on the quality of production, it’s about 15-20 years.
  • Ease Of Installation: It’s relatively straightforward and depends on how and what mounting structure you are using (typically this is made of aluminium). Check out the articles below for more information on
    mounting solar panels).
  • Roof Space Required: As with Thin Film Solar Panels, you will need more roof space to produce the same amount of electricity in comparison with the higher efficient solar panel types.
  • Quality Of Materials: Made by melting different types of raw silicon, the quality is midrange.
  • Cost: As with quality they represent the midrange in terms of price per panel.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Other than Concentrated PV (which are not usually used domestically), this has the highest energy efficiency of all the types of solar panels.

  • Energy Efficiency: They perform well with low sunlight and have an efficiency rating of between 15-20%
  • Life Expectancy: Manufacturers on average guarantee them for 25 years plus. However, that can change depending on the quality of production.
  • Ease Of Installation: They are just as easy to install as the Polycrystalline Solar Panels we mentioned above.
  • Roof Space Required: As you can produce more electricity in the same space as other panels, they represent the most space-efficient option.
  • Quality Of Materials: Unlike Polycrystalline Solar Panels, which are made from various crystals, these are made from slices of a pure ingot of monocrystalline silicon. This provides high performance in relation to energy efficiency.
  • Cost: As the manufacturing costs are high in producing a solar panel of this quality, this is reflected in the price making them the second most expensive of all the household panels.

Solar shingles however are costlier and are the final solar panel type.


Solar Shingles

These are the New Kids on the Block, and the most innovative of the types of solar panels. Most notably created by Elon Musk and Tesla. They mimic normal roof shingles and are in fact more durable. So if you also need a new roof you are getting 2 for the price of one.

  • Energy Efficiency: Typically, you are looking at 8-20% efficiency depending on the quality of the manufacturer.
  • Life Expectancy: Most suppliers come with extended warranties. For example, Tesla has a 25-year warranty. This means that after your installation payback of 8 years, you are producing free energy and
  • Ease Of Installation: Compared to the other solar panel types this is the most complicated as you are not simply fitting a mounting structure but an entire roof.
  • Roof Space Required: Space-saving and efficient, they are as good as Monocrystalline Solar Panels.
  • Quality Of Materials: Depending on the manufacturers they can be made from silicon solar cells, or with Tesla’s solar roof they’re created with two types of textured glass tile shingles.
  • Cost: These are the most costly of all the household solar panel types. In fact, they can be 2-3 times more expensive. However, if you also need a new roof, then this balances some of the cost out. Compare prices here.

How Do The 4 Types Of Solar Panels Compare To Each Other?

Let’s summarize the findings. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of solar panel?

Which Type Of Solar Panels Is Right For You?

Depending on your circumstances, it’s always a tradeoff between cost and quality. This guide has broken down the key factors you need to take into consideration to give you peace of mind when choosing the right solar panel type.

If you would like to see how the leading suppliers of the types of solar panels we’ve discussed compare against each other and even more discover how much you can dsave … click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Answer a few questions to find the best solar deal in your area.

Benefits of Solar

Lower average monthly electric bills

Fixed electricity rate for 20+ years

Unused electricity sold back to the grid

Federal, State and local incentives

Increase home value and faster home sales

Learn More

The 4 Types Of Solar Panels: Discover The Pros And Cons
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