The solar panels that most people use in their lives fall into three categories: polycrystalline, monocrystalline or thin-film. Because of the diversity of manufacturing methods, the appearance of solar panels is determined by their different nature. So, do you know how to distinguish these solar panels?
The different types of solar panels are actually quite easy to identify because each type has distinct characteristics. Silicon is the most common material used to make solar panels. It is mostly used in monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells. Cells used to produce thin-film solar panels are made from other materials, but they are also mostly made from silicon.
In terms of appearance, the main difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is the color and shape of the panels. Monocrystalline panels tend to be black cells with rounded or concave corners, while polycrystalline panels tend to be blue cells with square corners.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar cells are made from monocrystalline silicon. In the manufacturing process, silicon crystals are grown and then cut into individual solar cells. These cells are then assembled into solar panels.
Monocrystalline silicon has a more uniform crystal structure, so it has the highest conversion efficiency of over 20%. Monocrystalline panels are also characterized by their color - either black or a very dark blue.
Compared to other solar panels, monocrystalline panels are indeed the most efficient, but they are also expensive. However, their high efficiency allows you to get the most out of your electricity. Also, monocrystalline panels were the first type invented, so they are the most technologically advanced.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
This is the most common type. As the name implies, polycrystalline cells consist of several small silicon crystals arranged in an irregular pattern. What you need to know is that the crystal fragments produced by cutting monocrystalline cells can be recycled to produce polycrystalline cells.
These panels are manufactured by melting down multiple silicon fragments and pouring them into a mold. This process is less expensive and less efficient, with conversion rates of 15% to 20%. Therefore, if you want to use polycrystalline panels, then you need to buy solar panels with a larger area. This is the only way to convert a certain amount of sunlight into electricity.
Polycrystalline panels have the largest market share due to the lower price per watt capacity of polycrystalline cells, which is more marketable. And it is considered to be a middle ground between cost and efficiency. They are cheaper than monocrystalline panels while offering higher efficiency than thin-film. That's why most businesses recommend it - the polycrystalline material offers good efficiency at a reasonable cost.
Thin-film solar panels
This type of solar panel does not use silicon cells. Instead, the semiconductor material is simply applied as a thin layer. This manufacturing process is very inexpensive. Compared to monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, it has much lower efficiency. But that doesn't mean they are useless.
Most thin-film panels have an efficiency of slightly more than 10%. The most efficient models have efficiencies close to 15%. (Comparable to the minimum efficiency of polycrystalline panels)
Many portable solar panels are based on thin-film panels, which allow for lightweight purposes. Thin-film manufacturing methods can also be used to produce flexible solar panels. Thin-film panels have advantages in lightweight, and RV solar kits are mostly thin-film panels.
How to classify the different types of solar panels
Once you know what each type of solar panel looks like, it's easy to tell them apart. All you need to do is look at the physical characteristics and color of the panels.
If the solar panel has blue cells with straight edges, then they are polycrystalline.
If the solar panels have black or dark blue cells with round or octagonal shapes, then they are monocrystalline.
If the solar panels have a uniform surface that is not divided into individual cells, then they are thin-film panels regardless of color.
An important factor that must be considered before you buy is the longevity and quality of the solar panel. As I mentioned before, monocrystalline panels are more expensive because of their high efficiency. Typically, higher efficiency results in longer life and faster charging. Equivalently, they can convert almost four times as much power as thin-film solar panels.
By the same logic, thin-film panels are also great when you need to cover large spaces (which don't require maximum efficiency) because they can easily cover large spaces and roofs.
Consider your needs clearly so you can easily pick the best solar panel for the job!
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