The distinguishing feature of Monocrystalline Vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels is conversion efficiency (the amount of sunlight hitting a solar panel converted into solar energy).
Of the two, monocrystalline panels have the highest efficiency, reaching up to 22.6% and an average of 20%. Polycrystalline panels have a maximum efficiency of 20% and an average of 17%. Generally, the differences in efficiency make monocrystalline solar panels expensive than poly solar panels.
However, as technology is advancing, the difference in efficiency and price between these two panels is no longer a matter of the cell type but manufacturers’ techniques to produce them.
What Is Monocrystalline Solar Panel?
Ever seen a solar panel with black or dark blue cells and cut edges? Yeah? That’s probably a monocrystalline silicon solar panel.
Their solar cells are black because the silicon used is highly purified and melted into a uniform pattern, say, like transparent glass.
The uniform pattern allows monocrystalline panels to have high efficiencies, like the Sunpower Maxeon 3 with 22.8%, and solar panels like LG Neon R and Renogy peaking at 22.0% efficiency.
Monocrystalline panels are top of the list for a longer lifespan, resistance to extreme temperatures, and conversion efficiency. Top companies with these panels are SunPower, LG, and Panasonic.
Pros of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
- Their efficiency is high than most solar panels; between 17% and 23% as of 2021.
- Temperature coefficient, High temperatures do not destroy them in the long run, unlike polycrystalline solar cell.
- Better performance in cloudy areas where sunlight is minimal.
- Space-efficient and ideal for small roofs due to their high efficiency per square meter.
- Sturdy and have a longer lifespan; a minimum of 25 years, as per most warranties.
- Low maintenance cost.
Cons of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
- Expensively priced due to their high efficiency, durability, and a long lifespan
- A lot of molten silicon wastage in the manufacture of solar cells when they are cut into wafer
- The complex manufacturing process is expensive, time, and energy-consuming compared to the manufacture of polycrystalline silicon cells.
What Is Polycrystalline Solar Panel?
Polycrystalline solar panels are known to be light blue solar panels. Silicon used for cells is melted together in an ununiform pattern. The cells have edges and are arranged closely to each other on a panel console.
Their price and efficiency are lower (an average of 15-17%); the ununiform arrangement of silicon crystals lowers the free movement of electricity in the cells.
However, reviews have been positive on these panels like SunGoldPower and HQST 100W, claiming fair prices and high conversion efficiency to live off the grid.
Top companies with these types of panels are Suntech Power, Sharp, and TrinaSolar.
Pros of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
- They are less expensive compared to monocrystalline solar cell, and this makes poly solar panel affordable to the mass people.
- A simple manufacturing process that saves on costs and energy consumption.
- Less usage of silicon during manufacture, as there are no wastages.
Cons of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
- Low heat efficiency.
- Occupies more space.
- They have a lower silicon percentage
Monocrystalline Vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Once you have decided to go solar, swiping through numerous brands and manufacturers can be exhausting.
Before making any investment decision, this post will help you have a clear picture and make a well informed decision on which solar panel will suit your needs.
|Features||Monocrystalline Solar Panels||Polycrystalline Solar Panels||Thin Film Solar Cells (TFSC)||Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe)||Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)||Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si)|
|Key Characteristics|| |
|Popularity||36.0%||54.9%||2.0%||5.1%||Less than 0.2%||2.0%|
|Efficiency Rate (2021)||Up to 22.6%||15% to 20%||Up to 18.7%||15.3%||Up to 41%||7%|
|Cost per watt||$0.60 to $0.90||$0.40 to $0.60||Below $0.75||Below $2||About $3||$2 to $4|
|Lifespan||25 to 40 years||25 to 35 years||20 years||25 to 30 years||35 years||15 years|
|Ease of Use||Easy installation and maintenance||Easy installation and maintenance||Easy installation and maintenance||Requires extra caution while handling||Requires professional installation and maintenance||Requires professional installation but easy maintenance|
|Best Uses||Households||Households||Space Satellites||LCDs like Pocket Calculators|
|Top Manufacturers|| |
Materials and Constructions
Materials used to make solar panels are essential in discovering the efficiency, lifespan, price, and general quality of a solar panel to satisfy you.
Monocrystalline solar panels have pure silicon cells made through processes that ensure uniformity in their structure. That is why you will find mono silicon cells are plain black or dark blue. The cells allow for less resistance of electricity to flow, increasing efficiency averaging at 20%.
On the other hand, polycrystalline solar panels have cells made from pure silicon with many fragmented crystals. These fragmented crystals give the cells a ‘broken’ and blue appearance. The ununiform pattern of crystals reduces efficiency as fragments reduce the free movement of electricity-the efficiency of these panels averages 17%.
Aside from cells, other materials used to make these panels are similar. For example, both the HQST 100W 12V polycrystalline panel and the HQST 100W 12V monocrystalline panel have a similar design: corrosion-resistant aluminum frame, antireflective tampered glass, water, and low pressure-resistant junction box, and multilayered encapsulation sheet lamination.
Manufacturers may add other features, but there’s nothing to worry about because they will include both panels’ characteristics; the difference may only be the cells.
Efficiency helps you know the amount of electricity generated given the amount of sunlight in your area. It is thus crucial that you look at a panel’s efficiency before getting one to meet your home’s energy consumption.
Efficiency is the amount of sunlight converted into electricity when it falls on a cell or a panel; simply, the power output ratio to power input, multiplied by 100%. To calculate efficiency:
- First, know the solar panel dimensions from edge to edge and find its area in square meters.
- Use the Standard test conditions rating of your panel at 1000W per square meter irradiance (the amount of solar energy that will hit one square meter of a solar panel). Most solar panels have a rating (nameplate power rating) of 250 to 400watts.
- To get the efficiency, divide the nameplate rating with the dimension of your solar panel. For example, with a rating of 250W/m2 and panel area of 1.67m2, efficiency will be 250/1.67 = 14.9% efficiency.
Generally, mono solar panels have a higher efficiency than polycrystalline panels. Monocrystalline panels have an efficiency of between 17% and 22%, while poly solar panels of 15% to 20%. Mono solar panels have uniform silicon crystal cells that allow for less resistance to electricity.
Per year, you could save more than $1,000 on energy consumption. It means that in a lifespan of 30 years, you will have saved more than $30,000 for mono panels and more than $25,000 for polycrystalline with a lifespan of 25 years.
Monocrystalline solar panels can last between 25 and 30 years and even more if well maintained. Manufacturers offer 10- and 25-years warranty for mono solar panel.
Polycrystalline solar panels have a lower lifespan than mono solar panels, as they are affected by high temperatures. However, many manufacturers offer a similar warranty to mono solar panels, speculating that technology has improved polycrystalline cells’ durability and efficient lifespan.
The lifespan difference between mono and poly solar panels is insignificant today. This factor alone is not enough for you to decide which solar panels to install.
The lifespan difference between monocrystalline cell and polycrystalline cell is insignificant today. This factor alone is not enough for you to decide which solar panels to install.
The solar installation will have cost you not more than $14,000 for an average home.
Solar electricity produced is estimated to lower by 0.5% each year. However, this is a shallow degradation rate, and in 20 years, solar panels will produce 10% less electricity.
The solar market is expanding fast. So, choose your manufacturer carefully for quality assurance and long-term benefits like the 25-year warranty.
Generally, Monocrystalline panels are expensive than poly solar panels because of their high efficiency. Polycrystalline solar panels are about 10% cheaper for the same output capacity. For example, the HQST 100W 12V polycrystalline solar panel single pack cost is about $10 less than the HQST 100W 12V monocrystalline panel for the same output capacity.
The overall cost of going solar will differ between regions, additional features, panel consoles and, manufacturing techniques.
The general panel’s average cost (including installation and permit costs) is $3.3/watt, $2.7/watt on the low-end, and $4.0/watt on the high-end. The average cost will differ between regions. You will take this price per watt and multiply it with the wattage your home needs.
Let’s take your home requires a 6kW solar panel (6,000watts), with an average solar panel price of $2. It will cost you around $8,000 and about 15,000, including installation and permit costs. This price could be lower if your region has solar incentives.
Installation and maintenance costs for both panels are usually similar. For detailed cost differences between brands, regions, and wattage, check out my blog on solar panel costs.
Read my guide on how much do solar panels cost for a 1,500 square foot house here.
Solar energy is one of the cleanest renewable sources of energy. So, don’t worry about your solar panels emitting harmful substances as fossil fuels do. However, the only use of non-renewable sources and pollution comes from manufacturing, silicon mining, and disposal.
Suspended Particulate Matter from mining silicon used in solar cells could cause respiratory diseases to human beings and animals and affect plants’ photosynthesis. Open pits are left behind, which causes land degradation and displacement of settlers.
Between Mono and Polycrystalline solar panels, the former has a higher negative environmental impact, as manufacturing processes are energy-consuming. There is also a lot of silicon wastage (40-50%) when monocrystalline cells are cut from cylindrical silicon ingot.
Monocrystalline panels are space-efficient. Therefore, they are ideal for use than poly solar panels if your land or roof space is limited.
Solar panels contain other substances like lead and boron to solar panels to improve quality. If disposed of poorly in landfills, they could leak. Authorities like the US Department of Energy proposed a new facility at the Oak Ridge Reservation for onsite disposal of wastes, including solar panels and recycling programs.
Pollution of solar panels is insignificant today (20 times less than fossil fuels) but increasing as more panels are made.
Mono solar panels work well in higher temperatures compared to polycrystalline ones. High temperatures do not quickly destroy them, making them durable and has a longer lifespan than the latter. On average, monocrystalline solar panels will still function well between 60 °C and 80 °C.
However, when temperatures rise above 50 °C, efficiency may start to drop. Polycrystal solar cells’ efficiency will drop by a considerable margin because resistance will increase in the ununiformly arranged crystals of silicon, affecting electrons’ free movement.
Generally, polycrystalline cells work best under temperature ranges of between 32 °C and 50 °C. As a rule of thumb, solar cells with lower voltages are impacted by high temperatures. They tend to perform better when temperatures are low.
Mono solar panels do well than polycrystalline ones in cloudy weather. Their cell structure allows for less solar energy for them to generate electricity.
In polycrystalline cells, silicon crystals’ arrangement creates a higher resistance that requires more sunlight to break this barrier. Polycrystalline solar panels are not ideal for cloudy areas.
Both of these solar panels have their efficiencies affected by dirt. Consider cleaning your panels once in a while.
Monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive, making them less attractive to people who live below the poverty line; not suited for many rural areas. Their only option is other solar panels like polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels, which are affordable.
However, due to their high efficiency, monocrystalline solar panels are ideal for off-the-grid-living, where traditional electricity lines have not been installed. Their slightly higher durability and performance in cloudy weather make them resistant to harsh weather conditions and dependable in cloudy areas, respectively.
Polycrystalline solar panels are not ideal in extreme temperature regions. High temperatures will destroy them, reducing their lifespan.
In the US, monocrystalline panels are commonly used. A more significant percentage of poly solar panels were installed for residential homes due to their affordability and a longer lifespan, and sustaining efficiencies.
Both mono and polycrystalline solar panels have similar purposes in different applications. However, each is well suited for particular uses.
Monocrystalline solar panels are well suited for large-scale electricity production and commercial setups because of their high efficiency, strong form, and long lifespan. These solar panels are used in space satellites.
Monocrystalline solar panels are suitable for small roofs; since the output per square meter is higher than in poly solar panels.
These solar panels are the oldest technology on solar panels, more evolved than other technologies; this makes them have a high market price. Their cost ranges between $0.60 and $0.90 per watt, which is not very suited for an average home.
Polycrystalline solar panels are cheap, and this makes them have a huge demand. They are beginning to be widely used by households than monocrystalline solar panels, as technological advancements have increased their efficiency.
Other Promising Solar Panel Technologies
PERC Solar Cells
Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) is an additional feature in solar panels at the back of cells that reflects sunlight not absorbed and reduces heat absorption, hence preserving hot weather efficiency. Both mono and poly solar panels can be modified with this feature.
Monocrystalline PERC panels have efficiencies of up to 24% and Poly PERC panels up to 20.5%. With increased efficiency, PERC modules are starting to gain attention.
Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
Thin film solar cells are made by depositing layers of photovoltaic material on a substrate. They are very cheap. Some are flexible, offering multiple applications, like installing complex roofs and portable devices like cars and clothes. As of 2020, their efficiency is low and thus not widely used in residential homes.
Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe)
This solar technology is based on Cadmium Telluride, the only technology with lower costs than other crystalline silicon solar cells. They are the most commonly used after the two crystalline solar panels. They have an efficiency of up to 18%, making them ideal for commercial and residential setups (5% popularity).
Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)
In Concentrated PV Cells, lenses or curves are used to focus sunlight onto small, highly efficient, and multi-junction solar cells. They use cooling systems to increase their efficiency even in high temperatures. Their module efficiency reaches up to 41% and 30% for panel systems, making them the top option for efficiency. They have a limited market and cannot be installed on most roofs, making them unsuitable for residentials.
Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si)
Amorphous silicon is made of non-crystalline silicon used in solar cells and thin-film transistors in LCDs. Amorphous silicon solar cells have the lowest efficiency, not ideal for residential or commercial use. However, they have flexibility in applications like electronics. They perform well in low temperatures. They rank the top in environmental friendliness, as they do not contain any harmful materials.
With the above facts on monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels, you now know what type of solar panel you want considering your region, energy consumption, budget constraints and, personal preferences.
Always remember to go for quality solar panels, those verified and approved by authorities. When you plan to live off the grid entirely, consider getting solar batteries and inverters to store excess solar energy.