The majority of residential solar modules consist of PV cells made from either crystalline silicon cells or thin-film semiconductor material.  Crystalline silicon cells are further categorized as either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. The monocrystalline cells provides high efficiencies (13–19%) but are more expensive and difficult to manufacture. Polycrystalline (also called multi-crystalline) silicon cells that have lower efficiencies (9–14%) but are less expensive and easier to manufacture.

Soar panel brands and professional installation also major factors that affect the overall efficiency of the solar system. Below are the three types of technologies used for residential solar panels.

1. Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells

Monocrystalline silicon solar cells are made from a very pure type of silicon which makes them most unique. They are most efficient in their output so they are also most space efficient. This is understandable as fewer cells would be required to produce the electrical output of one unit. The edges of cells in monocrystalline solar panel are cut off to increase efficiency level and reduce maintenance. Monocrystalline Solar Panel have blackish color on its surface. The solar panels which contains monocrystalline solar cells are expensive compared to other types of solar panels.

2. Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells

Unlike monocrystalline cells, polycrystalline cells do not go through the process monocrystalline goes through. As an alternative, the silicon is emptied into a four-sided mold after being melted this gives the square shape to polycrystalline. Characteristically, polycrystalline solar Photovoltaic system operates at efficiency of 13-16%. This is due to lower purity of the material. Because they are less efficient, these types of solar cells are also less space efficient so they require a lot of panels for small electrical power. Another disadvantage of these solar cells is that it tolerates less heat than monocrystalline, this means they are not as efficient in high temperatures and do not perform efficiently.

The price gap between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels is narrowing. Now, more homeowners are willing to pay a slightly higher price to get significantly better efficiency and power ratings from monocrystalline panels.

3. Thin Film Solar Cells

They are another type of solar cells. They exist in many types but their efficiencies lie from 7 to 13%. Many experts say that their efficiencies will climb up to 16% in future models due to the research and advancement being. They are made by coating numerous types of semi conducting materials with silicon. In some of the cases they are coated on top of each other to make a sequence of thin films. The production of these solar cells on a very large scale is easy when we compare them to monocrystalline and polycrystalline based modules. This decreases their price of production. There are two disadvantage for thin film solar panels. First disadvantage is, more rooftop space is required because of less efficiency. Second disadvantage is durability. It is not durable compared to silicon solar cells.  Thin film solar cell based solar panels are mainly using for commercial solar systems and solar farms projects.

Other type of solar Cells used for commercial solar system and solar farm projects

Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells

Thin film solar cells which are made up of amorphous silicon are utilized in smaller applications like handheld calculators, lights used while traveling and picnic camps used in far areas. Due to forming multiple layers of this material which is a new process the efficiency for these technologies have been recorded up to 8%

Cadmium Telluride Solar Cells (CdTe)

The lone thin film material which has given competition to the crystalline in terms of cost is this type. It has efficiency in the range of 9-11%.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Solar Cells

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Solar Cells are the only type of thin film technology which has efficiency compared to crystalline technologies, i.e. 10-12%

Key Points

  • There are three mainly three types of technology used in solar panels:  monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film.
  • Monocrystalline solar panels are highly efficient and comes with latest design, it is expensive compare to polycrystalline and thin film.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper than monocrystalline panels, however, they are less efficient. Required more roof space and appearance is not good as monocrystalline. 
  • Thin film solar panels are the cheapest, but have the lowest efficiency rating and require a lot of space to meet your energy needs.

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