Which Type Of Solar Panel Is Best For You?

types of solar panels

Solar panels have been a leading source of renewable energy for years. However, due to the various options available, it can be difficult to determine the best type for your home. This guide aims to clarify different types of solar panels and their functions, allowing you to make an informed decision.

What Is A Solar Panel?

AA solar panel, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) panel, is a device that directly converts sunlight into electricity. The panels contain individual cells made from semiconductors like silicon. When sunlight hits the cells, they generate an electric current that can be used to power homes, businesses, and other applications. There are primarily three types of photovoltaic panels.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels generate electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. 

  1. Absorbing Sunlight:
    • Solar panels are made up of many solar cells. When sunlight hits these cells, it is composed of tiny particles of light energy called photons, which the solar cells absorb.
  2. Freeing Electrons:
    • The energy from the absorbed photons causes electrons in the solar cells to become excited and break free from their atoms.
  3. Creating Electric Current:
    • These free electrons start moving, and the solar cells are designed with an electric field that directs the flow of these electrons, creating an electric current.
  4. Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC):
    • The electric current generated by the solar cells is direct current (DC). However, household appliances and the electrical grid use alternating current (AC). Therefore, an inverter is used to convert DC electricity into AC electricity.

What Are The Primary Types Of Solar Panels?

There are three primary types of solar panels. 

  1. Monocrystalline solar panels
  2. Polycrystalline solar panels
  3. Thin-film solar panels

Hence, every type reveals peculiarities, favorable factors, and negative aspects.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

The oldest and most developed solar panel technology, the monocrystalline type, is built from a single, pure crystal structure. It has a characteristic appearance of a dark, melted look with rounded edges.


  • High Efficiency: For applications with minimum consumption expected from the maximum output, they usually work in a range of 15-20%.
  • Long Lifespan: These mostly come with a 25-year warranty to reflect durability and long-term outcomes.
  • Space efficiency: Thanks to their high efficiency, fewer panels are needed to produce the same power level, saving valuable space.


  • Higher Cost: This is usually the most costly, as this process is highly complex.
  • Performance in High Temperatures: Efficiency may degrade over time, but the impact is much less than that of other factors.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline panels are made up of several melted silicon crystals. They have a striking blue hue and square edges.


  • Lower Cost: They are cheaper to make, which, in turn, makes them more affordable.
  • Manufacture Simplicity: The fabrication procedure of thin film is simpler and less wasteful than that of monocrystalline, which lowers the price of this product.


  • Lower efficiency: The ratios are between 13 and 16, with the same energy for more space.
  • Slightly Shorter Lifespan: They are still tough, although they will do so for a little shorter duration than monocrystalline panels.  

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film modules, produced by layering photovoltaic elements on a durable substrate, are lightweight and flexible, making them portable and simple to install.


  • Flexibility: Such materials have a feature that allows them to respond to different demands, and their light weight makes them have many functions.
  • Aesthetics: A simple, uniform external outlook that some residences insist on for their neighbors’ architectural harmony.
  • High-Temperature Performance: Contrary to the crystalline panel, they are efficient at high temperatures and low-light conditions.


  • Lower Efficiency: They are generally more efficient than fossil-based energy sources, whose efficiencies range between 10 and 12 percent, and therefore require more space to generate the same energy.
  • Lifespan: Generally, their lives are shorter; therefore, warranties may be shorter, too.

Thin-Film Solar Panel Variations 

Depending on the material, there are several types of thin-film solar panels:

  1. Amorphous Silicon (a-Si): This material type provides higher flexibility and is based on a-Si, also known as non-crystalline silicon.
  2. Cadmium telluride (CdTe): Priced reasonably, you get one that optimally works at higher temperatures.
  3. Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS): Provides the highest efficiency among thin-film materials but remains the most expensive.

Every one of these variants has its own way of efficacy and range of usage, making them best suited for specific cases.

Solar Panel Types by Efficiency 

Efficiency is the key feature of such installations with a small footprint.

Solar Panel TypeEfficiency Range
Thin-Film (CIGS)12-14%
Thin-Film (CdTe)9-11%
Thin-Film (a-Si)6-8%

Microcrystalline modules, due to their high productivity, can be utilized in space-constrained areas. Thin-film panels, on the other hand, are better suited for large areas, especially in case-by-case situations.

Solar Panel Types by Power Capacity 

The panel power rating defines the amount of current it can generate.

Solar Panel TypeAverage Power Output (per panel)
Monocrystalline250-400 W
Polycrystalline240-300 W
Thin-Film100-200 W

You can cover more energy needs with fewer panels by choosing high-output panels.

Solar Panel Types by Cost

Cost is a major criterion that, in almost all cases, determines the type of solar panels. 

Solar Panel TypeCost per Watt (USD)
Monocrystalline$1 – $1.50
Polycrystalline$0.90 – $1.20
Thin-Film$0.70 – $1.00

Due to their higher efficiency and long life, monocrystalline panels receive the highest cost rating. Polycrystalline panels provide a good combination of cost and efficiency, while thin-film panels are the most budget-friendly.

Which Type Of Panel Is Best For Your Installation?

One issue is the type of solar panel that is worth using in the installation. The solar panel type that best suits your installation depends on several aspects, namely the budget, availability of space, and your special energy requirements.

Monocrystalline Panels

Best For:

  • Chalets with smaller roof areas.
  • Investing at the beginning for a higher long-term payoff is their desire
  • Large-scale installations because of their great shelf life and durability

Polycrystalline Panels

Best For: 

  • When space is again not a limiting factor, larger shops can be established.
  • Budget-conscious projects
  • In this model, those who search for good value and effectiveness can get both of them.

Thin-Film Panels

Best For:

  • Programs that have foldable or very light panels.
  • In such soaring or likewise desert locations, a 50° rotating solar tracker is far more efficient. It can provide almost 45% more energy than a regular solar panel in such soaring or desert locations.
  • Individuals who want a neat, uniform look

What Type Of Panel Is Best For Your Installation?

When deciding on the best solar panel type for your needs, consider the following factors:

  • Budget: Decide how much you are willing to spend. The more efficient panels definitely come at a higher price tag, but they may save you money in the long term.
  • Space Availability: The space required for installation. Higher-efficiency panels save space.
  • Efficiency Needs: If you’re shooting for output maximization, the choice is between the power output of the panel with higher efficiency and the lower-efficiency panel, should you be shooting for output maximization.
  • Climate: Remember that weather patterns are common. Thin-film panels perform better when exposed to direct sunlight and low temperatures.
  • Lifespan and Warranty: To meet their requirements, long-term installations should look for panels with a longer warranty and high durability.
  • Aesthetic preferences: Consider how the panels will look on the property. Thin-film panels provide a slick, stylish look.


Q1: Which are the three kinds of solar panels?

A1: The three main solar panel panels that are widely used are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film.

Q2: Among all the varieties of solar panel types, which one is the most cost-effective?

A2: Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient, with efficiency rates up to 20 percent, which is around twice the efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels.

Q3: Are the thin-film solar panels acceptable for houses?

A3: Those thin-film solar panels are a suitable option in housing; accordingly, they consider design and visual aesthetics as factors.

Q4: Which home solar panels are the best?

A4: The finest residential panels are usually monocrystalline, which means they boast the highest efficiency and longest service life in the market.

Q5: What is the cost of the solar panel?

A5: The thin-film types are the least expensive, while the mono- and polycrystalline ones are the most expensive.


Selecting the correct type of solar panel means considering several factors, including effectiveness and energy output, cost and affordability, required space, and uniqueness to the specific purposes, depending on the users. 

Monocrystalline cells are more efficient and durable; thus, they are most preferred for homes with less space and a higher budget. Through their multifaceted properties of financial savings and performance at challenging locations with different conditions, thin film panels and polycrystalline panels provide ergonomics for larger installations and multi-functional properties, respectively. 

Considering these factors, you can opt for the best solar panel type for your installation and generally make your investment in renewable energy work to its full extent.

If you want to learn more about solar panels or solar energy, Understand Solar can help! 

  • by Understand Solar
  • |
  • June 3, 2024