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Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

When researching different types of solar panels, you will often come across three different technologies. These are; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film solar cells – but what’s the difference and which is best?

Most professionals recommend crystalline solar cells over thin film alternatives. This article takes a look at the two different types of crystalline solar cells; monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels.

Monocrystalline Solar Cells

Solar cells using monocrystalline technology are often found on high-end solar panels. This is because they can offer more power output for the space they utilize. Higher efficiencies make mono panels more suitable for commercial installations. This might include large office blocks, factories, and solar farms.

A selection of monocrystalline solar panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels feature a distinct diamond shape between the cells.

The manufacturing process of monocrystalline cells is more laborious than polycrystalline. It requires individual wafers to be cut from a large block of silicon. This process can make monocrystalline solar panels more expensive to buy than polycrystalline panels with the same power output.

Due to how they are cut, monocrystalline cells form a distinct pattern of small diamonds when put together. They are also darker in appearance than polycrystalline cells. Both of these factors can be aesthetically pleasing to some people.

Monocrystalline panels offer slightly better heat tolerance than polycrystalline alternatives. They can also offer slightly better performance in shaded areas with low sunlight.

Polycrystalline Solar Cells

Polycrystalline solar cells are more common than monocrystalline, mainly due to the cost. Solar PV systems using polycrystalline cells are more affordable for the average homeowner. They do, however, require more space for the same power output as monocrystalline solar panels.

A selection of polycrystalline solar panels.
Polycrystalline solar panels are more uniform in appearance.

The manufacturing of polycrystalline solar cells involves the use of molten silicon. This approach is far more cost-effective than the technique used in the manufacture of monocrystalline cells. It does, however, result in a uniform look and feel which some people find unattractive.

Poly panels have a slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline alternatives. They also suffer from reduced performance in low sunlight.

Which is Best? Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline

Whether to choose monocrystalline over polycrystalline depends on which technology is the best fit for your own needs. The following sections sum up some key areas you might like to consider.

Cost Factors

As with most things in life, money is likely to be the deciding factor in choosing one technology over the other. Whilst monocrystalline can offer more power for the same space, it often costs more than polycrystalline.

Space Requirements

Both technologies can offer the same power output, but monocrystalline is likely to require the least space to achieve this. If you have limited roof space then monocrystalline solar panels might be the best choice. They are, however, likely to be more expensive. If you have ample space and would like to save some money, polycrystalline solar panels may be the best choice.

The large footprint of solar panels is one of the key drawbacks of solar energy.

Heat Tolerance

Generally speaking, both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells will suffer from excessive heat. Monocrystalline cells can, however, offer slightly better heat tolerance than polycrystalline. Heat tolerance can vary between manufacturer and model though, so always check this point with your chosen supplier.

Aesthetics

You would be forgiven for thinking all solar panels look the same, which to some extent they do. There are however two distinct features of monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells; shape and color.

As mentioned previously, monocrystalline cells feature a diamond shape between the panels. This is due to how the silicon wafers are grown and then cut. Many people prefer this over the uniform appearance of polycrystalline panels.

Color might also play a part in helping you choose one technology over the other. Monocrystalline cells are often darker in appearance than cells made from polycrystalline. Therefore, they can blend better with traditional slate roof tiles.

What About Thin Film Solar?

Thin film solar technology is less common than crystalline silicon. Whilst they are often cheaper, they generally offer lower performance than crystalline alternatives.

If your power requirements are low then you may want to consider thin film solar cells. They can also be a great choice where you might benefit from the flexible nature of thin film technology. This type of solar cell can also provide better durability.

Conclusion

We can conclude that monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Whether you choose mono or poly is likely to be affected by different aspects. Your finances, available roof space, and/or aesthetics of the panels can all play a part in this.

Regardless of which type you choose, both panels produce a source of free electricity for your home or business. This helps to reduce your energy bills and can offer a return on investment (ROI). The monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels debate does, however, show that poly panels are cheaper. Therefore, they can offer a faster ROI.

Choosing silicon solar panels can also help to reduce your carbon footprint. By generating solar power, you can reduce the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere. This is vital in helping to curb the effects of global warming. It can also help to reduce air pollution, thus improving our health.