Types of Solar Panels

Shanika Wickramasinghe
8 min readJun 2, 2023

If you’re considering installing solar panels on your home, you’ve certainly thought about the money and energy you could save. The potential savings are essential, but this is not the only factor when deciding to switch. Likewise, you need to identify the type of panels that are best for you. This article will explain a variety of solar panels (TO DO — ADD LINK) on the market today, their advantages and disadvantages, and which are most suited for particular scenarios.

Types of solar panels. Which are worth choosing?

There are mainly three different types of solar panels available today — monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline), and thin-film. These solar modules essentially differ from others in features, such as appearance, performance, cost, and materials used during production.

What is a solar panel?

View of a Solar Panel

Image source (VectorStock.com)

A solar panel is a pack of solar cells (photovoltaic cells) that generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. These cells organize in a grid-like structure on the solar panel texture. They are available in several rectangular shapes and are configured to generate electricity. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics, capture energy from the sun in the form of sunlight and convert it into electricity that can utilize in homes or businesses.

In addition, these panels can supplement building electricity or in distant locations when power is unavailable. Their effectiveness decreases by barely one to two percent over a year. Moreover, it comes in a rigid manner that cannot be deflated in any way.

Photovoltaic panels

Photovoltaic panel

Image source (https://energyresearch.ucf.edu/)

Solar panels consist of small PV cells interconnected. Photovoltaic panels come in variants of shapes and sizes that can be attached to the top of an existing roof. The PV cells are made from silicon, a commonly used semiconducting material. Generally, PV cells are tiny but very efficient when combined to form solar panels and arrays. When cells gain exposure

to the sun, they produce an electric field.

When the sunlight increases, the electrical energy will also start generating more electricity. However, the battery can produce electricity on a cloudy day. PV devices can power anything from small electronics such as calculators and traffic lights to homes and large commercial businesses. Research reveals that if you mix 1% boron with silicon-based semiconductors composition, the absorber can absorb up to 10 times more light than before.

Thermal solar panels

Thermal solar panel

Image source (https://nakedsolar.co.uk/solar-pv-solar-thermal/)

Solar thermal panels or solar collectors are devices installed on the conservatory roof that absorbs the sun’s energy and convert it to heat resources. It can then be transferred into your home or business heating system, which is mostly utilized for hot water and space heating.

It is also a popular solution for heating swimming pools. These panels are more efficient than PV panels, as heat carries more energy than sunlight, and there is no provision for power conversion. Solar thermal panels are cheaper and thus have a degradation lifespan than PV panels. It is most suited to incorporating energy storage systems in cold climate countries.

Hybrid solar panels

Hybrid Solar Panel

Image source (http://dansolar.dk/en/hybrid-solar-panel/)

It is also called PVT, or photovoltaic thermal panels, which are somewhat photonics that combines two solar power principles into a single unit. A solar hybrid PVT panel transforms sunlight into electricity and heat in the form of hot water. These solar panels are increasingly in demand in all sectors and all locale due to their versatility, and numerous advantages. In comparison to conventional technology, it allows electricity, sanitary hot water, and even heating (preferably underfloor surface heating and low-temperature emitters) in just one panel.

The main types of solar panels due to their technology

The solar panels can be divided into four main categories.


Monocrystalline solar panels

Image source (https://news.energysage.com/monocrystalline-vs-polycrystalline-solar/)

Monocrystalline panels are made from a highly purified form of silicon. You can easily recognize it from the exterior design through a uniform dark look and rounded edges. They offer the highest efficiency range between 15% and 20%. The temperature coefficient is 0.35 to 0.40%/°C. They have high power output, occupy less area, and are long-lasting and perfectly fitting for homes. Mono-SI tends to be the most expensive of all solar panel types due to the manufacturing process. These panels are a better choice if you live in an area that is cloudy, windy, and prone to hail most of the time.


Polycrystalline solar panels

Image source (https://news.energysage.com/monocrystalline-vs-polycrystalline-solar/)

Polycrystalline solar panels are made from molten silicon crystals. These panels are easily recognizable from the outer body, which is blue in color and raw silicon. They are cheaper than monocrystalline panels and slightly efficient by about 15%, although their power output is similar.

The temperature coefficient is 0.39 to 0.43 % /°C. They take up more area and are more sensitive to high temperatures. Therefore, it is not recommended for tropical climates. These panels are more economical because the manufacturing process is a bit simpler and wastes less silicon during the whole process.

Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact Cells (PERC)

PERC Solar Panel

Image source (https://www.spvtoday.com/mono-perc-passivated-emitter-and-rear-cell-solar-cells/)

It is also known as the ‘rear cell’. PERC solar panels are manufactured using advanced technology that includes the addition of a passivation layer on the back of the solar cells. Traditional solar panels only partially absorb sunlight, with some light passing directly through them. The bifacial solar feature of PERC panels, however, allows for the absorption of sunlight on the back side of the panel, which is then re-absorbed. This makes these panels more efficient.

In recent times, PERC technology has often been paired with monocrystalline cells to produce highly efficient mono-PERC panels. These panels have the highest power ratings and absorb more sunlight than conventional solar panels.


Thin-film solar panel

Image source (https://www.ecowatch.com/solar/types-of-solar-panels)

The materials used to create these solar panels include amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or gallium with photovoltaic characteristics. Additionally, it too contains small amounts of silicon. These solar panels are less effective than conventional panels in terms of efficiency. It is between 7% and 10% less. They are, however, more economical and are employed in larger installations such as industries or public facilities. These solar cells are simpler to install since they are more flexible and lighter than traditional silicon panels.

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)

Cadmium Telluride solar panel

Image source (https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/graphic_cdte.jpg)

CdTe solar panels have the lowest carbon footprint. However, the toxicity of cadmium leads to environmental damage as it is difficult to recycle.

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)

Amorphous Silicon

Image source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorphous_silicon)

a-Si solar panels are often shapeless and have unstructured silicon at the molecular level.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)

CIGS cell

Image source (https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/materials/exploring-a-better-way-to-make-cigs-solar-cells/)

CIGS is made using a thin layer of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium on a sheet of glass or plastic. This CIGS is the most effective thin-film panel due to its strong absorption capabilities.

The costs of each type of solar panel

Monocrystalline solar panels, while being the most efficient, are also the most expensive type of solar panel, costing an average of $1 to $1.50 per watt. The next most expensive ones are polycrystalline panels, with prices ranging from $0.70 to $1 per watt. Among thin-film panels, prices vary: CIGS panels cost $0.60 to $0.70 per watt, CdTe panels range from $0.50 to $0.60 per watt, and the least expensive ones are a-Si panels, which cost $0.43 to $0.50 per watt.

Panel (Module) type

Average Cost per Watt




$1 — $1.50


$0.70 — $1

Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)

$0.60 — $0.70

Cadmium telluride (CdTe)

$0.50 — $0.60

Amorphous silicon (a-Si)

$0.43 — $0.50

Take note that installer and labor construction costs are excluded from these figures. The total can reflect $2.50 to $3.50 per watt including labor and other overhead factors.

Power capacity of each type of panel

Monocrystalline cells have the highest power capacity in the smaller possible package due to their single-crystal structure. Most monocrystalline panels can produce up to 300w of power capacity.

On the other hand, a standard 60-cell polycrystalline panel has a generating capacity of 240–300w. Nevertheless, monocrystalline panels are sustainable to outperform polycrystalline in terms of power capacity per cell.

As thin-film panels don’t come in a single uniform size, there is no conventional way to determine power generation efficiency. Depending on its physical size, the capacity may vary from one to the next. Conventional crystalline panels still generate more electricity than thin-film panels, even if we assume the same physical footprint.

What type of solar panels works best?

As each solar panel has its own nature and differences. The choice of the solar panel is ultimately defined by the homeowner’s property, their situation settings, and budget

  • Limited Space: monocrystalline & PERC Panel

These panels are a good choice for those living in a limited space with slight roofs. Moreover, if they have money to spare should opt for monocrystalline modules. If budget is an issue, choosing PERC panels can result in cheaper energy expenses over time.

  • Large Space: Polycrystalline solar panels

These panels are a popular choice for commercial buildings, solar farms, and those with large properties. In these panels, the initial cost of solar panels will be modest, but with time, it will increase. Low cost is more crucial in this application than efficiency rating. If cost and efficiency aren’t your top considerations, polycrystalline solar panels are a better choice.

  • Compact Space: Thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar is often the most attractive and best suited for locations when heavy and labor-intensive crystalline silicon installation is not feasible. It is configured when TVs or rooftops cannot handle the weight of other solar panels. Those locations may include commercial buildings or compact areas with constrained space or thin roofs. It is ideal for hot climates as they perform well in heat tolerance.

What do the different types of panels look like?

  • Most appealing: Thin-film panels

The look of the thin-film panel is thick, clean, and all-black. Due to its slender shape, it fits smoothly and allows it to lie flat against rooftops. Additionally, They often contain less wiring and busbars, which leaves less white space.

  • Average appearance: Monocrystalline panels

The look of the monocrystalline panel has a solid black appearance. The design of monocrystalline solar cells causes a white space to appear on the panel.

  • Worst appearance: Polycrystalline panels

The design of polycrystalline solar panels gives the cells a blue, marble-like appearance. It means each polycrystalline panel differs significantly from one to the next in appearance. The looks of polycrystalline panels are not particularly appealing to most homeowners.


The installation of solar panels is intended to last for a considerable amount of time, up to 25 years. Furthermore, solar energy is renewable, as the sun always produces power, so we should opt for solar panels (TO DO — ADD LINK), which will not only save our bills but is a great compaction on our environment. In the marketplace, many leading manufacturers of solar panels are available. Do your research before selecting a company and ensure that the type you choose best suits your needs and home.



Shanika Wickramasinghe

Senior Software Engineer and Freelance Technical Writer. I write about any Computer Science related topic. https://www.linkedin.com/in/shanikawickramasinghe