Solar panels are an important way to help reduce your carbon footprint, and save money on monthly energy bills. There are two main types of solar panel products - monocrystalline and polycrystalline. But what's the difference between mono and poly solar panels?

We want to help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of each type so that you can make an informed decision before deciding between monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels.

In this article, we'll take a look at what each type is, how they work, and which one will be better for your home.

Why Are There Different Types Of Solar Panels?

There are two different types of solar energies (photovoltaic and thermal) that can be produced from solar panels. The contrast between photovoltaic and thermal technology is that they use different parts of sunlight to power your home. These come from the different types of panels that can be installed.

When it comes to creating the solar energy, there are two types of panels that you can install on your home. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells use the sun's power in different ways, but each has their advantages over one another. 

Polycrystalline is what you'll typically find on residential roofs while monocrystalline ones can be seen more often at big installations like schools or factories.

Below we have outlined monocrystalline vs polycrystalline - how the panels differ, including factors such as their cost, performance and size.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels 

Monocrystalline solar panels are a single-crystal form of silicon and can be identified by their black color.

They're made from high purity ingot crystals that have been extracted, purified, crushed to powder size, melted into molten metal, then cast onto glass or stainless steel sheets for processing.

A monocrystalline solar panel will typically perform better in low-light and cloudy weather conditions than polycrystalline cells do. That's why these panels are typically only used in applications where high performance is necessary.

Photo of monocrystalline solar panels

Advantages

  • Monocrystalline panels are often the most efficient of all photovoltaic technologies, they convert as much as 15-22% of sunlight that falls on their surface into electricity.
  • The space requirements of monocrystalline solar cells are much smaller than the other types, making them a good option for those with limited roof or yard space.
  • The life expectancy of monocrystalline solar panels is also considerably long, they have proven to have great durability and longevity.
  • Installing monocrystalline solar cells on your home will allow you to reduce the amount of electricity that comes from a fossil-fueled grid, and in turn help our environment by taking away some demand for those energy sources.

Disadvantages

  • Monocrystalline solar panel prices are costly, but they outperform other types of solar cells in efficiency and durability!
  • The downside to a monocrystalline solar panel is the performance variation between mono panels and poly panels, meaning you need to produce more electricity with monocrystalline panels to offset their higher cost.
  • As all solar panels, mono panels can be fragile, especially if they are installed in areas surrounded by trees that will accumulate a lot of debris, or will encourage birds. You can protect your solar cells using bird guards, or other protection kits.

Due to how efficient monocrystalline panels are for generating power, these expensive pieces make up for their price tag by not needing replacement as often as cheaper options do. They are an excellent investment for anyone looking to save money in the long run.

Price Of Monocrystalline Cells

Monocrystalline panels and polycrystalline solar panels can both be expensive systems to purchase, however a mono silicon solar cell will cost considerably more money upfront.

This is due to installation purposes; mono solar cell will require a more rigid and stable foundation to be set up on, which is why they can't be easily moved from one location to another.

A monocrystalline solar cell can cost around $0.60-$0.90 per watt and some can go up to $1-$1.50 per watt.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of multiple different silicon crystals in each cell, when compared with monocrystalline panels.

These particular solar cells are cheaper than mono panels and tend to be less efficient in generating power. This is due to the lack of movement for the electrons within the cells.

The overall process of manufacturing polycrystalline solar panels is a lot simpler, which enables the cost to be a lot lower than mono panels.

Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels

Advantages

  • Despite being slightly less efficient to its counterpart, a polycrystalline solar cell can be considered as the superior option, particularly for residential solar panel installations due to their cheaper price.
  • The process of applying silicon to panels is a significant advantage for those considering a poly panel purchase, as it saves on resources. This environmental benefit means more materials can be used and less waste created in the manufacturing process 

Disadvantages

  • The opposite to monocrystalline solar cells, poly solar cells actually take up a considerable amount of space once installed. You will need to cover a larger area with solar panels to create the same electrical output as mono panels.
  • Polycrystalline panels convert around 13-16% sunlight energy, which means you get less power out for every square meter compared to other types of solar panel.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are more likely to stand out than pricier mono panels, as manufacturers use different silicon crystals which make the cells a blue color which gives them a glimmering look.

Price Of Polycrystalline Cells

Polycrystalline solar panel systems are typically cheaper than a monocrystalline solar panel system, as poly panels can be between 5-10% less efficient.

However, in the long term you will see a difference in your investment with polycrystalline solar panels due to their lower up-front cost and with the efficiency rates steadily increasing.

Polycrystalline panels' average cost in 2020 was between $0.40-$0.60 per watt.

Difference Between Mono And Poly Solar Panels?

Photo of workers installing monocrystalline solar panels

The raw material is the same, meaning the difference between mono and poly solar panels is the way that they are made.

Monocrystalline panels are created by slicing a large crystal into very thin silicon wafers - hence their name "monocrystalline". Polycrystalline cells are formed when molten silicon is poured onto rods or cast into ingots. Crystals grow on the outside of these pieces, and then they are sliced up to create cells.

What both have in common is a material called silicon, as well as sunlight striking them at high angles. Monocrystalline tend to be more efficient than polycrystalline solar cells, due to its higher light absorption rate per square inch.

Which Is Better Monocrystalline Or Polycrystalline Solar Panels? 

Both these solar cell technologies are pretty much the same and both have pros and cons, so this depends entirely what roof type you have and how much energy you are wanting to produce.

Mono panels are better for generating a large amount of energy from your solar panels, but poly solar cells will be more suited to those who don't need as much power.

When comparing monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels, mono often comes out on top due to having one less layer which means you can install them faster and cheaper!

Whilst, polycrystalline's biggest advantage over its counterpart is that these PV cells are more affordable, and can still be almost as efficient!

But Are There Any Other Types Of Solar Panels?

The final type of solar cell is thin-film, which is mostly used for photovoltaic solar power.

With solar panel technology thin film panels were created using photovoltaic materials such as copper, cadmium, amorphous silicon or gallium, instead of the typical silicon fragments. Thin films have a variety of useful properties which make them an attractive alternative to traditional solar cells.

Thin film solar panels are not as efficient as traditional silicon wafer based ones, but they have many advantages that make them attractive for certain applications.

Due to their lower efficiency rate of 7-10% and how they are easily produced, thin-film solar cells are often relatively low-cost.

Solar panel manufacturers recommend using mono or poly silicon cells for residential housing, as thin-film panels have a lower power output that will need more roof space to make up for the electricity lost in comparison with silicon panels.

Photo of thin film solar panels

Fieldsken Ken Fields, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0