Follow the sun.

The United States has more than 77 gigawatts of solar power capability. That’s enough to power the homes of more than 30 million Americans. 

But not all panels come alike. Manufacturers have created several different types of panels in order to increase our production of renewable energy. 

What are these solar panels? How can we distinguish amongst them? Here is a quick guide. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels contain silicon cells. Manufacturers shave silicon crystals thin, producing small wafers. They then arrange these wafers into grids and frame them together. 

Monocrystalline panels use wafers from one crystal only. This allows electrons to flow through the cells with ease. 

When the sun strikes the panels, light particles knock electrons free from atoms. The motion of electrons creates electricity. By providing smooth pathways for electron motion, monocrystalline panels have very high energy efficiency. 

Monocrystalline cells appear black, though manufacturers produce frames and designs with different colors. Cells are square-shaped with rounded corners, creating small gaps between cells. 

Polycrystalline Panels

Polycrystalline panels are very similar to monocrystalline ones. They use silicon wafers that manufacturers frame in grids.

But polycrystalline panels use wafers from multiple crystals. Manufacturers melt the crystals down, then allow them to cool. They then create the wafers. 

This means that polycrystalline panels have weaker electron pathways, decreasing the panels’ energy efficiency. But polycrystalline is cheaper to make, reducing upfront costs for purchase and installation. 

Polycrystalline panels appear blue. Cells are square-shaped, but they maintain their corners. Cells are packed closely together to facilitate electron interactions.

Thin-Film Panels 

Thin-film panels are the newest panels on the market. Most thin-film panels are made of silicon, though rarer kinds of panels use cadmium or copper.

These panels place thin layers of silicon in between sheets of conductive material. Manufacturers place a sheet of glass over top to hold the layers together

Sunlight passes through the glass into the conductors. The conductors heat the silicon up, prompting electrons to move and generate electricity. 

Thin-film panels come in thin and flexible sheets. They have low efficiency, but they are the most customizable kind of solar panel. They are also the cheapest panels on the market. 

Installation may be difficult because thin-film panels are so thin. Call your local installation company and get an estimate for thin-film panels. Compare their costs to the costs of competing companies in your area. 

The Three Different Types of Solar Panels

Not all solar panels come alike. If you want to get the most out of your solar energy system, learn about the three main kinds of solar panels. 

All three kinds of panels produce green energy. If you want the most energy possible, you should purchase monocrystalline. But keep in mind that monocrystalline is expensive. 

If you want to save money upfront, buy thin-film panels. Thin-film panels are hard to notice. Some people prefer blue to black, which makes polycrystalline panels more desirable. 

Empower yourself with the right information. Follow our coverage for more home improvement and home energy guides. 

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