When it comes to choosing solar panels for your off-grid home, there are basically two types to choose from: polycrystalline or monocrystalline. When you first notice this, you’ll likely wonder: What’s the difference? Which one is better? The simple answer to these questions is: Monocrystalline are better because they’re more efficient. However, polycrystalline panels perform almost as well, and depending on your location and needs, you might not want to spend the extra money on a monocrystalline panel when you can get the same amount of wattage from a polycrystalline for less.
Let’s take a look at all the differences between these two panels and determine which one is right for you…
How Polycrstalline and Monocrystalline Solar Panels Are Made
First, let’s talk about how these solar panels are made so we can understand the fundamental difference between the two. Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a series of single – mono – crystalline-silicon photovoltaic – PV – cells, sometimes also referred to as wafers. Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are made from fragments of PV cells that are bonded together to form a complete solar cell. This is why if you look closely at a polycrystalline panel, you’ll noticed a “shattered” look to the cells; something many owners appreciate for the aesthetic beauty.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Efficiency
How the two different panels are made is what fundamentally and eponymously sets them apart, but there are other, more important, differences consumers should be aware of. For the end-user, efficiency is the biggest difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
Simply put, a monocrystalline panel will produce more watts per hour using less materials, and thus less space. In other words, a 2’x3′ monocrystalline panel might produce as many watts as a slightly larger 2’x3.5′ polycrystalline panel. This is because monocrystalline cells can make use of roughly 15 to 20 percent of the light they receive – some newer models get close to 25 percent efficiency. Polycrystalline cells can only make use of about 13 to 16 percent of the light they receive, so it takes more of them for one panel to capture the same amount of energy.
Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are typically well-constructed and durable. They are usually housed in a sturdy aluminum frame and covered with protective glass. They are rugged and can withstand the elements, barring certain extreme weather conditions.
There is a not a huge difference in price between mono and polycrystalline panels, but it can start to add up quickly if you’re buying lots of them.
On average, you can find 100W polycrystalline panels for as low as $100 to $120 – click here to check the current price on Amazon.
Monocrystalline panels tend to start at around $140 for 100W, but can be found for as little as $120 or less if you shop around or wait for them to go on sale – click here to check the current price on Amazon.
Important Variables to Consider
Now that you know the main differences between mono and polycrystalline panels, let’s talk about the important variables you should take into consideration when choosing which one is best for you. Though monocrystalline panels are superior overall, your specific application may not warrant the additional cost. You might be better off saving some money by going with polycrystalline instead.
Polycrystalline panels perform well in bright light. If you live in a location with lots of available sunlight and a moderate to cool climate, polycrystalline might be the best choice for you. On the other hand, monocrystalline panels are ideal for areas with low or obscured sunlight due to their higher efficiency.
Climate and Temperature
Polycrystalline panels tend to get hotter than monocrystalline and are therefor not the best choice for extremely hot climates. For example, if you live in Phoenix, AZ, where temperatures reach up to 120º F during the summer, your polycrystalline panels might overheat.
Number of Panels Needed
If you plan on using lots of solar panels for your system, you might be better off going with polycrystalline since the cost savings will start to significantly add up. For example, if you’re planning an 8-panel setup, and the cost difference is $20 per panel, you’ll save $160 – more than the cost of an extra panel. You also won’t need to worry about the reduced efficiency as much because the size of your setup will more than compensate for it. Conversely, if you only need or have space for a few panels, or that’s all your solar generator can handle, you’ll want the high efficiency monocrystalline offers. When you only have two or three panels to collect all the energy you need for the day, you want to make the most out of every ray of sunshine, especially on cloudy days.
Solar panels typically last a pretty long time – there are still solar panels from the 1970s being used in outer space today – but like everything else, they will eventually wear down and need to be replaced. Monocrystalline solar panels use a higher quality silicon and run cooler and more efficiently than polycrystalline, which means they will usually last longer and perform slightly better over their lifespan. If you’re building “the one and only” solar system you ever plan on having in life, you should probably go ahead and invest the extra money in mono.
Want to Learn Even More About Different Types of Solar Panels?
Solar panels come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and materials… If you found this content interesting and you would like to learn even more, check out this video from Youtuber and solar expert, Solarcabin: