When most people set out to buy their first set of solar panels they are thinking about getting free energy from the sun and have very little or no understanding of how solar panels actually work or the different types of panels available and what the characteristics of each are.
Basically, there are 3 different types of solar panels available for the homeowner, today; Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous.
- Monocrystalline; These panels are made from slices of one large silicon crystal and connected together to gain the voltage desired. Monocrystalline solar panels are the oldest type of panel and have been made for many years (they were developed in 1955). They are the most efficient panels available and are smaller than the other types for the same wattage. They are durable and long lived. These are the panels used when a high reliability is required as in satellites and telecommunications applications and can last for 50 years or more. Monocrystalline solar panels cost slightly more than the others due to being more difficult to manufacture.
- Polycrystalline; these panels are made of slices of many smaller silicon crystals connected together. They are 14 to 23 per cent less efficient (depending upon the quality of materials used) than monocrystalline solar panels therefore making it necessary to have a larger panel to produce the same wattage. Polycrystalline solar panels cost less than the other types and are more common. They also degrade faster than the monocrystalline solar panels and will have to be replaced sooner. Another drawback is the larger size.
- Amorphous; amorphous or thin film solar panels are relative new on the market. They were developed in 1976. They consist of a thin film applied to a substrate which can be glass, plastic, or a flexible material. These are the panels you typically see on solar calculators and other small solar powered devices. An important thing to remember about the amorphous solar panels is that they are going to lose 10 to30 per cent of their efficiency in the first 6 months due to the Staebler-Wronski effect (depending upon the quality of materials used). Another important factor is that the amorphous solar panels have about 50% less efficiency than monocrystalline solar panels. This means that amorphous solar panels will require twice as much space as monocrystalline solar panels to produce the same amount of energy. Amorphous solar panels are currently the most expensive panels you can buy.
There are other types of panels currently being developed but they are not commercially available at this time and will be expensive when they do become available.
Now that you have read this you know more than most of the people that are going to try to sell you solar panels. My first array of panels are polycrystalline and they have done a good job for 15 years but are now starting to degrade and produce less power than they did when they were new. If I had gotten monocrystalline solar panels for a few dollars more, I wouldn’t be adding more panels to make up the difference (you get what you pay for). You can be sure that the solar panels I’m adding to my array are monocrystalline.
Here is a link to the panels we are now using here on Lee’s Ridge. After much research we have found the best panels at the best price and they come with free shipping and a 25 year guarantee;