Which Type Of Solar Panel 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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Doing the right thing can be difficult. 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. You couldn’t be blamed for putting up a white flag and going back to traditional energy providers, rather than struggling with renewable energy. That’s why we’re here to give you a solar panel types comparison, so you can find the best type of solar panel for you.

solar panels on white roofs at dusk

If you already know what type of solar panel is best for you, perhaps it’s time you start comparing quotes. All you need to do is pop your details in here, and our reliable, local installers will get in touch.

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. These are:

• Monocrystalline

• Polycrystalline

• Thin film panels

These all come with their own pros and cons that we’ve simplified and visualised for you.

Type of panel
Affordability
Efficiency
Appearance
Lifespan
Monocrystalline
Polycrystalline
Thin film

Information last updated in May 2019.

If this table has helped you make your mind up about what kind of panel you might be interested in, use the form above to get a free solar panel quote.

However, if you’re interested in learning more about these stats and how each panel has earned its stars, continue reading to see more in-depth breakdowns of each panel.

 


How much does each panel type cost?

One of the biggest barriers of entry to solar panels is the pricing. You can find out more in our complete guide to solar panel costs, but we’ll give you an estimated summary of costs behind each kind of panel here as well.

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

Information last updated in May 2019.

As you can see, 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.

 


Efficiency

The true measure of a solar panel’s quality is how well it can convert sunlight into energy. This is the easiest comparison point to make, as we can just find a generally accepted average for each kind of panel. For a more specific look at different solar panel models, take a look at the most efficient solar panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels
Thin film solar panels
Energy efficiency
19-22%
15-16%
10-11%

Information last updated in May 2019.

Energy efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight hitting a solar panel that is successfully converted into electricity for your house.

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. This makes them ideal for roomier houses, but maybe not the best option for a house with less roof space.

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.

Did You Know?

Most solar panels are with you for the long haul, typically lasting between 40-50 years. To get your hands on some, just pop your details in here to receive free solar panel quotes.


Presentation is everything

While it’s definitely the most subjective aspect of solar panels, aesthetic is a crucial element of deciding whether to install a solar panel. If these things are going to be sitting on your roof for all to see, you’ll want it to look presentable. That’s why we’ve tried to assess how visually pleasing these three kinds of panels are.

Firstly, let’s look at monocrystalline panels. These might be what you visualize when you think of solar panels, with uniform navy blue octagons covering a white background. The contrast of the dark blue and white can look a bit jarring, and might not look great on a darker roof.

The difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels is that rather than being cut into octagons, these cells are cut into squares. This leaves less room for the white to show through, giving a more solid appearance. They generally have a more blue sheen to them, however, which is worth considering.

Finally: thin film solar panels. In an era when sleek, thin, and black is the route that all of our technology seems to be taking, thin film solar panels are following suit. They are slim bendable 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.

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. This style is space efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

 


Last panel standing

Finally, how long do each of these things last? This statistic is the hardest to measure, as there are all sorts of variables that dictate how long a solar panel will last (weather, heat, overall usage, etc.)

For our final table, we’ll look at the average lifespan of each kind of solar panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels
Thin film solar panels
Lifespan
40-50 years
40-50 years
25 years

Information last updated in May 2019.

A few things to 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 they can survive for 50 years, after around 25 years, their performance can drop to about 80% as their life goes on, due to dust buildup and other general decay

 


A new player emerges

As mentioned earlier, a new kind of solar panel is expected to join the fray sometime in the next few years. Known as a hybrid panel, this new form of solar panel turns its biggest weakness into its greatest strength.

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 (or hybrid) 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 optimizing a solar panel system for your house.

 


So what’s the best?

It was American basketball coach Pat Riley who once said: “Look for your choices, pick the best one, then go with it.”

As simple as this sounds, that’s really what this decision really boils down to. After seeing our star-based chart and reading through all our reasonings, which one do you think fits your lifestyle the best? Only you know your budget, aesthetic tastes, and energy needs.

If you’d like to find out how much solar panels will cost you, fill in this short form, and our professional installers will be in touch. If you’d like to know more when discussing this topic with a supplier, it might be worth brushing up on the best solar panel manufacturers and what they offer.

Duncan Lambden Editor

Duncan’s world-saving style comes in the form of energy conservation. Whether it’s solar panels or energy efficient bulbs, Duncan knows how to save energy.