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Which types of solar panels are the most efficient?

There are three well known types of of solar panels: Thin Film, Polycrystalline, and Monocrystalline.

Of these, the one with the most efficiency is Monocrystalline, but read on because you may not always want the most efficient, nor necessarily the cheapest. What you want are the best one's for the price, that are still reasonably efficient.

Monocrystalline cells have a higher purity content of silicon and are made out of wafers of silicone that was cut from a silicon ingot.

Efficient Polycrystalline Solar Cells

The Most Efficient Solar Panels Are Monocrystalline

Since the Monocrystalline ones have a higher purity in silicon they have a higher efficiency than the other two types. Of course they are most efficient in warmer weather. But that applies across the board.

This higher efficiency because of purity does not mean it is always the best choice for your home. Since monocrystalline cells are more efficient they take up way less space to achieve the output of electricity you need.

When you are dealing with a limited roof space, this becomes the obvious choice. In a place where real estate is expensive and roof space may be limited monocrystalline may be the best way to go. But if you have plenty of roof space, polycrystalline cells may work just fine and be more cost efficient in your situation.

What you are really looking at here is not just output efficiency but output versus cost. And when you weigh those, the more expensive kind may not be worth it for you. It's really about which are the most affordable solar panels for your home considering cost and output.

Monocrystalline cells cost more than the polycrystalline. This is a logical condition of being superior per square inch, which again may be needed or may be overkill in your situation.

Monocrystalline panels are considered to generally last longer. Many companies give up to a twenty-five year warranty on their monocrystalline panels.

The Best Solar Panels for the Price — Polycrystalline

Overall, polycrystalline or (multi-crystalline) panels have become what many consider the best type for in home installations. Current advancements in polycrystalline cell fabrication have made them as good as many monocrystalline brands in terms of size, efficiency and output versus cost.

Although solar cells made from Polycrystalline silicon, also known as polysilicon, are not as pure as monocrystalline, they are still a very pure kind of silicon. Unlike monocrystalline silicon it is made of a bunch of smaller crystals instead of one continuous crystal. Because of their more practical cost and reasonable efficiency, polycrystalline cells are the most widely used type of solar panel. Polycrystalline cells are not uniform in color like monocrystalline cells are instead they have a metallic flake look to them.

The Cheapest Solar Panels — Thin Film

Of the three types of panels, the ones with thin film solar cells are the cheapest and least efficient. Panels made from thin-film solar cells are also known as thin-film photovoltaic cells. They are a more recent technology relatively and are fabricated by placing either one or sometimes more thin film or layers of photovoltaic substance on a substrate, for example plastic, glass or metal.

One way that thin-film solar cells get used the most is in industrial applications.

The thickness differs from a couple of nanometers up to tens of micrometers . Thin film is a lot thinner than the more traditional earlier developed crystalline cells made of silicon described above. One benefit this thinner cell has it that it permits a more flexible alternative that can be used with windows. It also weighs less than the other two types of panels.

There are also hybrid panels but these may be more expensive than what it is worth.

A knowledgeable rep should be able to help you assess your situation and see which type is best for you.

If you want to get real technical, there are a few more factors, and the following chart is a doozy:

Solar Efficiency Chart

© 2014