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Solar energy can power the entire home if you work with the right company to install the solar panels. Every home is unique in terms of its power requirement. It requires several solar panels to convert solar energy to power the house efficiently.

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, capture sunlight and convert it into electricity fed into your home’s primary power grid. 

The name photovoltaic is derived from the process that generates a voltage or electric current in a photovoltaic cell when exposed to sunlight. This effect makes solar panels worthwhile, as it is how the cells within the panel convert sunlight to electrical energy.

Most common types of Solar Panels

Solar panels differ mainly based on production methodology, appearance, performance, costs, and depending on installation type. 

According to Energy Sage, an online resource approved by the U.S. Department of Energy, the market’s three most common solar panels are monocrystalline (a.k.a. multi-crystalline), polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. 

Broad comparison between the three types:

Thin-film solar panels

How do they work? 

A solar panel is a semiconductor device composed of various solar cells/photovoltaic cells (PV). When sunlight falls on the panel, the electrons get excited and flow through the panel junction, generating a large current. This current can then be directly sent to a building to power various appliances, or it can be stored in batteries to be used when required. In the case of thin-film solar panels, materials such as Copper, Indium Gallium Selenide, Cadmium Telluride, Amorphous Silicon, or Gallium Arsenide are used instead of silicon. 

Key features 

  • Flexible and lightweight. 
  • The installation process is much easier and less labor-intensive than traditional silicon panels.
  • Low emission during production due to significantly less quantity of silicon.
  • Suitable for large rooftops or wide-open spaces. 

Applications of Thin-Film Solar Panels 

  • Require a considerable area, hence suitable for institutional and commercial buildings with large rooftops/open spaces. 
  • In forest and solar farms. 
  • They are also used for street lights, bus rooftops, or power small appliances like modems, fans, etc.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

In the case of monocrystalline solar panels, each solar PV cell is made of a single silicon crystal, referred to as “mono solar panels.”

They are characterized basis their black PV cells with rounded edges. These panels produce more electricity due to their higher conversion efficiency than polycrystalline panels. For limited space, monocrystalline panels will be more productive per square foot. Despite being the most efficient solar panels, they’re also the most expensive since the manufacturing process is relatively more complex.

Key features 

  • Pyramid pattern cells in the panel offer a larger surface area to collect more energy from sunlight.
  • Cells are quoted with silicon nitride, which helps reduce reflection and thereby increase absorption.
  • Metal conductors printed onto the cells are used to collect electricity.

Applications of monocrystalline panels 

  • More efficient, produce more electricity for the same area – hence popular among solar rooftops in urban and rural areas.
  • It is highly recommended for large-scale applications on vast, uncultivable land.
  • Useful in lighting up gardens, perfect for street lighting as standalone panels.
  • They can form an array and are used to power rural homes.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline panels are blue-hued PV cells with straight edges. These panels have lower efficiency than monocrystalline cells, meaning more polycrystalline panels are required to get the same power output. However, due to the simple manufacturing process, polycrystalline panels have a lower price. They are durable but tend to last slightly less than monocrystalline panels. Also, they are affected more by high temperatures, which reduces their productivity on the hottest days.

Key features 

  • Significantly less waste is produced and hence more eco-friendly than monocrystalline solar panels.
  • Have lower efficiency at high temperatures.
  • These panels have a high power density.
  • They come with a structural frame of their own, making mounting cheaper and more straightforward.

Applications of polycrystalline panels 

  • Suitable for roof-mounted arrays.
  • Best preferred for Large solar farms.
  • Used in standalone or self-powered devices such as traffic lights in remote areas, off-grid households, etc.

All three types of solar panels are high-quality panels. You can get great results with polycrystalline and thin-film panels with enough space. In general, monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are the best technology for efficiency, as measured by power output related to panel size. The difference in cost is due to the manufacturing process.

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