Types of Solar Panels: Which Is Best For You?

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There are three main types of solar panel, each with their own advantages

We’ve compared all three based on four key factors

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In the sudden throes of environmental concern, you may have sat down and looked into the different types of solar panels, only to find yourself overwhelmed by all kinds of terms and statistics. But fear not, we’re here to simplify the whole process, so you can find the best solar panels for you. 

If you’re already familiar with which type of panels your home needs, perhaps it’s time you start comparing prices. To speed up this task, our experts can provide you with free quotes, tailored to your house. All you need to do is pop your details in here, and our reliable, local installers will get in touch.

 

What’s on this page?

solar panels on white roofs at dusk

 

What are the three types of solar panel?

When it comes to choosing solar panels for your home, there are three main types that you can find on the market:

  • Monocrystalline
  • Polycrystalline
  • Thin film panels

Each type of solar panel comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Below, we’ve ranked how each panel performs depending on its affordability, efficiency, appearance, and lifespan. 

Type of panel
Affordability
Efficiency
Appearance
Lifespan
Monocrystalline
Polycrystalline
Thin film

Ratings based on the findings below

 

How much does each panel type cost?

One of the biggest barriers to solar panels is usually the price tag. To give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend, we’ve provided an estimate of prices below, depending on the size of your home. 

If you’d like a more in-depth analysis on the cost of solar panels, head over to our complete guide to solar panel costs.

Size of property
Monocrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels
Thin film solar panels
1 bedroom
£1,500 to £3,000
£1,200 to £2,700
£1,000 to £2,200
2 bedrooms
£3,000 to £5,000
£2,800 to £4,800
£2,300 to £3,100
3 bedrooms
£5,000 to £6,000
£4,900 to £5,800
£3,200 to £4,900
4 bedrooms
£6,000 to £8,000
£5,900 to £6,600
£5,000 to £6,000

Prices based on research from various websites

If you’d like to receive tailored quotes for your home, all you have to do is answer a few short questions on our simple tool

As you can see from the table, monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive, with thin film solar panels being the kindest to your wallet. Why, then, would you ever buy monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels instead of thin film?

The answer lies in our next section.

monocrystalline solar panels

A close-up look at monocrystalline solar panels

 

Efficiency

The energy efficiency of a solar panel refers to the percentage of sunlight that is successfully converted into electricity. As with most purchases, you’ll notice that the cheaper the product, the less efficient it tends to be.

Monocrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels
Thin film solar panels
Energy efficiency
15-20%
13-16%
7-13%

Figures sourced from Energy Informative

As technology progresses, these efficiency ratings will no doubt improve for all three types of panels. There are even whisperings of a hybrid solar panel, which is reported to have around 80% efficiency but more on that later.

 

How long do different solar panels last?

There are all sorts of variables that dictate how long a solar panel will last, such as weather, heat, overall usage, and how well you look after it. Check out our table below, outlining the average lifespan of each type of solar panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels
Thin film solar panels
Lifespan
30-40 years
30-40 years
25 years

Figures sourced from Energy Informative

That’s right, your panels could live up to nearly half a decade. But there are a few extra things you should note:

  • The lifespan of thin film solar panels is an estimate, due to the fact that they are a relatively new technology, and we’ve actually never seen one reach the natural end of its life
  • Most solar panels come with a 25 year warranty
  • While solar panels can last for 40 years, after around 25 years, their performance can drop to about 80%, due to dust buildup and other general decay

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar panels soaking up the sun ontop of a roof

 

What does each type of panel look like?

If these panels are going to be sitting on your roof for all to see, you’ll want them to look presentable. That’s why we’ve assessed how visually pleasing these three kinds of panels are.

  • Monocrystalline – These are usually what most people visualise when thinking of solar panels. The uniform navy blue octagons contrasting a white background can look clean and crisp, but might not look great on a darker roof.
  • Polycrystalline – Rather than being cut into octagons, these cells are cut into squares. This leaves less room for the white background to show through, giving a more solid appearance. They generally have a more blue sheen to them, however, which is worth considering.
  • Thin film –  These slim bendable panels are sheets of sheer black. Due to their flexibility, they can be fitted around curved surfaces, and don’t show any contrasting colours, therefore standing out the least. It should also be noted that, while thin-film solar panels are flexible, they do generally require a good deal more space to fully optimize their output. 

If aesthetics are your biggest concern, you might want to consider solar roof tiles. These are usually monocrystalline panels that are layered as the roof tiles themselves. However, what these tiles gain in style, they lose in efficiency.

 

What are hybrid solar panels?

Despite doing all their work in the sun, solar panels do not work well in extreme heat. When a solar panel gets too hot, its efficiency starts to drop drastically. However, hybrid panels propose a solution.

Hybrid panels are a combination of a conventional solar panel and a solar thermal panel. In theory, hybrid panels will not only keep their efficiency under intense heat, but they will also be able to convert heat into energy. They use this heat to supply the house with hot water, saving more money on energy bills.

While hybrid panels are only just starting to roll out, they’re worth keeping an eye on if you are interested in optimising a solar panel system for your house.

flexible solar panel

A thin film solar panel absorbing sunlight in the forrest

 

Types of solar panels: What’s the verdict?

Only you can best judge your budget, aesthetic tastes, and energy needs. But ultimately, if it’s affordability you’re after, thin film solar panels are for you, whereas, if you prioritise efficiency, perhaps you should choose monocrystalline solar panels.

Ready to pick your perfect panels? You find the best deal by simply answering a few questions about your home on this short form. Once you’ve completed the form, our professional installers will be in touch. 

Beth Howell Writer

Beth is The Eco Experts’ newbie. She’s keen to use her writing skills, and passion for green living, to help the environment. Whether you’re after a new boiler, or just interested in how solar panels can improve your home, she’s got your back.