Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels: A Quick Overview
As you shop for solar panels, you may notice that most are categorized as either monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. These terms refer to the manufacturing process used to create the solar cells in the panel.
In this article, we’ll outline the main differences between mono vs. poly solar panels to help you decide which is right for your project.
Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels: what’s the difference?
Monocrystalline solar panels contain solar cells which are cut from a single source of silicon.
Polycrystalline solar panels are created by melting smaller silicon fragments and blending them to create the solar cells.
Poly solar panels are a way to make use of the “leftover” bits of silicon from the mono panel manufacturing process. Once mono cells are cut, the silicon scraps are salvaged by melting them down and turning them into poly cells.
As you may have guessed, mono solar panels are more efficient than poly panels, because the single-crystal silicon cells allow electrons to flow freely through the cell.
As a result, the majority of mass-produced solar panels for residential and commercial projects are monocrystalline panels. A report from Solar Business Hub estimates mono panels represented 75% of the market share in 2020.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are the dominant technology on the market, as manufacturers have set up their factories mass-produce mono cut cells.
While mono panels originally emerged as a premium option that used to carry a higher price tag, that is no longer the case in 2021. As companies have geared their production lines to focus on mono panels, more efficient manufacturing processes have brought the cost of mono and poly panels right in line with each other.
In terms of performance, mono panels are more efficient than poly panels, meaning that you can fit more solar into a smaller space. This is especially useful for rooftop arrays where you may have limited space to build your system.
More efficient panels also means that you can buy fewer panels to meet your target output, and fewer panels translates to lower installation costs. With fewer panels to install, you’ll spend less money on racking materials and labor for installation.
There are also aesthetic differences. Mono solar panels have a sleek black look that feels more stylish on a modern home, while poly panels come in more of a blue tint. Of course, that comes down to personal preference ‒ you may decide you like the look of blue poly panels better.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
After manufacturers have produced their run of mono panels, the leftover silicon scraps are melted and blended to create poly solar panels. These panels are less efficient due to the imperfections from the blended nature of the solar cells.
We should also point out that supply of polycrystalline solar panels is limited because they are a byproduct of a solar panel manufacturer’s primary production run of mono panels. The limited amount of poly cells is often reserved to produce smaller solar panels that are suited for RVs and boats, which makes sense because space efficiency isn’t a huge concern in portable solar applications.
While you can still find full-sized poly solar panels, they are becoming less common as the industry trends toward more up-to-date monocrystalline technology. Even if you can find them, it may be challenging to source replacements if a panel fails down the road, as mono panels represent the lion’s share of the market while poly panels are becoming obsolete.
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Quick Comparison
A quick summary of the differences between mono and poly solar panels:
Mono solar panels
- More efficient
- Better long-term value
- Mass-produced and widely available
- Black tint
- Ideal for residential & commercial solar projects
Poly Solar Panels
- Less efficient
- Less long-term value
- Limited availability
- Blue tint
- Ideal for portable solar applications (RVs, boats, etc.)
Should I Choose Mono or Poly Panels For My Solar Project?
We recommend mono solar panels for home solar use. They are more efficient, represent a better value over the life of the system, and are much more widely available on the market.
Poly solar panels are more suited for small-scale use cases, like a camper with 1 or 2 panels to power essential electronics on the road.
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