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When considering solar energy, you must choose between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single, fine, high-quality silicon crystal, while polycrystalline panels are made from multiple fragments of silicon melted together. Both types have their unique advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficiency, cost, and performance, which can impact the overall effectiveness of your solar energy system.
Highlights & Key Takeaways
- The primary difference between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels is that mono panels are made from a single silicon crystal and are more efficient but more expensive. Conversely, poly panels are made from multiple silicon crystals and are less efficient but more affordable.
- Monocrystalline solar panels typically cost between $0.32 to $1.50 per watt, while polycrystalline panels range from $0.70 to $1 per watt.
- If you have limited space, monocrystalline solar panels are an excellent choice as they produce more electricity per square foot than polycrystalline panels
- Ultimately, the decision between mono or poly solar panels should be based on factors such as available space, budget, and energy needs.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Key Differences
This chart provides an easy way to compare the critical differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. It will help to quickly identify the attributes of each panel type and make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
|Attribute||Monocrystalline Panels||Polycrystalline Panels|
|Cost||Typically more expensive, ranging from $200 to $315 per panel||Slightly less expensive|
|Efficiency||Efficiency ratings between 15% and 25%||Efficiency ratings between 14% and 17%.|
|Roof Space||Better if roof space is limited.||May be more cost-effective if roof space is not a concern.|
|Lifespan||30 to 40 years||25 to 35 years|
|Material||Solar cells made from a single silicon crystal||Solar cells made from multiple fragments of silicon crystals melted together|
|Temperature Coefficient||Lower temperature coefficient, more efficient in heat||Higher temperature coefficient, less efficient in heat|
|Cost per Watt||$.32 to $1.50 per watt||$0.70 to $1.00 per watt|
|Key Manufacturers||SunPower, LG||SolarWorld, Trina|
|Recyclability||95% of the glass and 85% of the silicon wafers used in mono solar panels are recyclable||90% of all their materials are suitable for recycling|
Cost per Watt
The number of solar panels needed for your installation depends on your average energy use, the panels' output, and the amount of sunshine at your home. Monocrystalline solar panels typically cost between $0.32 to $1.50 per watt, while polycrystalline panels range from $0.70 to $1 per watt.
For example, a standard 250-watt monocrystalline panel may cost between $80 to $375, resulting in an average cost of $1,920 to $9,000 for an entire system, not including installation costs. On the other hand, a 250-watt polycrystalline panel can cost between $175 to $250, leading to an average system cost of $4,200 to $6,000.
Most homes require between 17 and 21 solar panels, and costs after credits and incentives, the installed system can range from $16,870 to $23,170. Many homeowners seek the best solar panel loans to help them afford their solar energy investment.
Measuring the amount of captured sunshine that gets converted into electricity helps determine the efficiency of solar panels, with higher numbers indicating better efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels typically have an efficiency range of 15% to 25%, while polycrystalline panels have an efficiency range of 14% to 17%.
Monocrystalline solar panels feature square wafers with rounded corners, resulting in a small gap between cells and a darker appearance due to the high purity of the silicon used. In contrast, polycrystalline solar panels have square cells without rounded edges and take on a blue hue because sunlight interacts with the multiple crystals within them.
The average size of a solar panel cell measures 6” by 6” square. And the average size of a solar panel, regardless of monocrystalline and polycrystalline, is as follows:
- 60-cell solar panel: 39” W x 66” L
- 72-cell solar panel: 39” W x 77” L
- 96-cell solar panel: 41.5” W x 62.6” L
If the space on your roof or in your application is limited, higher-efficiency solar panels are generally the better choice. This is especially true for smaller systems such as RVs or devices with low energy requirements. In these cases, investing in more efficient monocrystalline panels can be a worthwhile long-term investment to maximize electricity production. On the other hand, if you have ample roof space or are putting in a ground-mounted solar, lower-efficiency polycrystalline panel may be a more cost-effective option.
Over time, solar panel efficiency decreases, which affects their lifespan. Monocrystalline solar panels experience an annual degradation rate of 0.3% to 0.5%, and while manufacturers often provide 25 to 30-year warranties with an estimated 0.8% degradation rate, these panels can last up to 40 years. Polycrystalline solar panels have a slightly worse degradation rate of 0.3% to 1%, resulting in an expected lifespan of around 35 years. For determining a payback period or return on investment (ROI) for solar panels, a lifespan of 25 years is suitable.
The primary distinction between the materials used for monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels lies in the crystal purity of their cells. Monocrystalline solar panels utilize cells made from a single silicon crystal, while polycrystalline solar panels incorporate cells made from multiple silicon fragments melted together. As a result, the crystalline purity of the cells in monocrystalline panels is significantly higher than that of polycrystalline panels.
The temperature coefficient is a metric to determine how well solar panels perform in hotter temperatures. For monocrystalline solar panels, this coefficient ranges from -0.3% to -0.45% on the Celsius scale, meaning that for each 1-degree C/ 32-degrees F increase in temperature, the panels' efficiency decreases by 0.3 to 0.45%. Polycrystalline solar panels have a slightly higher coefficient of -0.5%. As a result, on average, monocrystalline solar panels tend to produce approximately 20% more electricity than polycrystalline solar panels.
The top ten solar panel companies across the globe with the highest shipment capacity are, in order, LONGi Solar, Tongwei, JA Solar, Aiko Solar, Trina Solar, JinkoSolar, Canadian Solar, Zhongli, Suntech, and First Solar. Other significant energy solution companies are Panasonic, Palmetto, and Sunpro.
However, SunPower and LG lead the way in monocrystalline solar panels, whereas SolarWorld and Trina are exceptionally strong contenders in the U.S. for those wanting polycrystalline solar panels.
While solar panels are not biodegradable, they are primarily recyclable, resulting in less of an impact on our environment. Most of the components in monocrystalline solar panels, including 95% of the glass and 85% of the silicon wafers, are recyclable. Polycrystalline solar panels are also highly recyclable, with 90% of their materials suitable for recycling.
What Are Monocrystalline Solar Panels?
Monocrystalline solar panels are photovoltaic (PV) panels made from a single, pure silicon crystal. This makes electricity flow through the panel easier, resulting in higher efficiency and better performance in low-light or cloudy conditions. Monocrystalline solar panels have a distinctive pyramid-shaped cell pattern that offers a larger surface area for the absorption of sunlight, which means they can collect a more significant amount of energy from the sun's rays than other types of solar panels.
Due to their high efficiency and durability, monocrystalline solar panels are often used in residential and commercial applications and large-scale solar farms.
Pros and Cons of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Pros of monocrystalline solar panels
- High efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels have a higher efficiency rating than others, which means they can generate more electricity per square foot of space.
- Long lifespan. Known for their durability, monocrystalline solar panels can last for up to 25 to 30 years or more with proper maintenance.
- Aesthetically pleasing. Monocrystalline solar panels are uniformly black, which many homeowners find visually appealing.
Cons of monocrystalline solar panels
- Higher cost. Due to the manufacturing process, monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive than other solar panels.
- Lower temperature coefficient. This means their efficiency decreases as the temperature increases.
- Fragile. Monocrystalline solar panels are relatively fragile and can crack or break easily if not handled properly by the installer or during maintenance.
Best Applications for Monocrystalline Solar Panels
If you have limited space, monocrystalline solar panels are an excellent choice as they produce more electricity per square foot than polycrystalline panels. Moreover, they are efficient in low sunlight areas, making them a perfect option when focusing on efficiency rather than cost.
Compared to poly solar panels, monocrystalline panels have a darker color and blend better with the roof or surroundings, making them aesthetically pleasing. Another advantage of monocrystalline solar panels is their better heat tolerance than polycrystalline panels. Therefore, they suit extremely hot environments, such as desert regions.
However, monocrystalline solar panels tend to be more expensive than polycrystalline panels. Additionally, they may have a slightly higher carbon footprint during manufacturing. They are also vulnerable to shading, which can significantly reduce their efficiency.
In summary, monocrystalline solar panels are the best in these applications:
- Smaller applications
- Areas with more shade and less sunlight
- When efficiency is more important than cost
- Appearance is an issue
What Are Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
Polycrystalline solar panels are a type of photovoltaic panel made from multiple fragments of silicon that are melted together to form a single panel. This makes the manufacturing process less expensive and faster than monocrystalline panels. However, because silicon is not a single, pure crystal, it is more difficult for electricity to flow through the cells of polycrystalline solar panels, resulting in a slightly lower efficiency than monocrystalline panels.
Polycrystalline solar panels typically have a blue color due to how sunlight interacts with the multiple crystalline structures in the panel. They are a good option for those with ample roof space and looking for a more affordable option. While they are slightly less efficient than monocrystalline panels, they still offer a cost-effective way to generate clean energy.
Pros and Cons of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Pros of polycrystalline solar panels
- Cost-effective. Polycrystalline solar panels are generally less expensive than monocrystalline panels, making them a more budget-friendly option.
- High-temperature tolerance. Polycrystalline panels can handle high temperatures better than monocrystalline panels, making them suitable for hot climates.
- Less waste. Polycrystalline panels are made by melting together multiple fragments of silicon, making them more environmentally friendly than monocrystalline panels, which require a higher level of silicon purity.
Cons of polycrystalline solar panels
- Lower efficiency. Polycrystalline panels are less efficient than monocrystalline panels and produce less power per square foot of space.
- Space requirements. Due to their lower efficiency, polycrystalline panels require more space to produce the same amount of electricity as monocrystalline panels.
- Shorter lifespan. Polycrystalline panels have a slightly shorter lifespan than monocrystalline panels, typically lasting around 25 to 30 years.
Best Applications for Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are a more cost-effective choice if you are working with a tight budget. Compared to monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline units cost around $0.05 per watt less, making them a practical option if you have ample space for installation.
Furthermore, polycrystalline solar panels are more suited to areas with high levels of sunlight, as they have lower wattage output than their monocrystalline counterparts.
In summary, polycrystalline solar panels are the best in these applications:
- Larger applications
- Areas with maximum sunlight
- Cost is not a critical factor
- Aesthetics are not a priority
Which is More Effective: Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
Deciding between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is often a personal homeowner's decision based on their unique situation and priorities. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are effective but differ in efficiency and cost. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient and have a higher power output than polycrystalline panels. They are also more space-efficient, making them a better choice for homeowners with limited roof space. However, they are also more expensive than polycrystalline panels.
Polycrystalline panels are less efficient than monocrystalline panels but are also less expensive. They are a good choice for homeowners who want to balance efficiency and cost. Additionally, polycrystalline panels perform better in warmer temperatures and have a longer lifespan.
Are Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels Less Expensive?
Polycrystalline solar panels are generally less expensive than monocrystalline solar panels. The manufacturing process for polycrystalline panels is more straightforward and requires less silicon than monocrystalline panels, making them less expensive. However, the price difference between the two-panel types has decreased over time.
- Monocrystalline panels are more expensive when comparing only the cost of solar panels.
- The cost of additional components like inverters, wiring, electrical protections, racking, and labor is the same for both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panel systems.
- Due to their higher efficiency, monocrystalline panels may provide a better return on investment.
- Homeowners can claim the federal solar tax credit regardless of whether they choose monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels.
Is It Better to Buy Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
If you are looking for high power output and efficiency or prefer solar panels that are less visible on your roof, then monocrystalline panels are the ideal choice. With a higher efficiency rating, they require fewer panels to power your home, making them perfect for roofs with limited space. Though monocrystalline panels have a higher upfront cost, they generate more energy savings and may result in a shorter payback period of around six to 10 years.
On the other hand, polycrystalline panels are a more affordable option but come with lower efficiency ratings, meaning you'll need more panels to power your home, requiring more roof space. The blue color of polycrystalline panels makes them more visible on your roof. However, homeowners can still benefit from the federal solar tax credit regardless of their chosen panel type.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Which Is Best for You?
If you are seriously considering the purchase of solar panels for your home, you can anticipate that you’ll be able to save a considerable amount on your electric bill. The average homeowner can save somewhere between $20,000 and $97,000 over the lifetime of their solar energy system. And that’s some pretty big savings.
But it isn’t always obvious whether you should purchase monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. Here are some things to consider to help you make your decision easier.
- Available roof space - Polycrystalline panels require more space to generate the same amount of energy as monocrystalline panels, so homeowners with limited roof space may want to consider monocrystalline panels.
- Budget - Polycrystalline panels are generally less expensive than monocrystalline panels, making them a more attractive option for those on a tight budget.
- Efficiency - Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline panels, so you can generate more power with fewer panels. This can be important if you want to maximize your energy output.
- Aesthetics - Monocrystalline panels are often black, while polycrystalline panels are typically blue. Choosing one or the other is often an aesthetic decision based on your roof type.
- Climate - Monocrystalline panels perform better in high temperatures, while polycrystalline panels perform better in lower temperatures. If you live in a warmer climate, you may prefer monocrystalline panels.
- Longevity - Monocrystalline panels typically have a longer lifespan than polycrystalline panels.
Deciding between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels depends on your priorities. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient, have a longer lifespan, and perform better in low-light conditions. They are also more expensive upfront. On the other hand, polycrystalline panels are more affordable but have lower efficiency ratings and require more space. Ultimately, the decision should be based on available space, budget, and energy needs.