Act Now! Lower Rates Expiring Soon in CA – Submit Application by April 14th!
Get Best Utility Rate
  • days
  • Hours
  • Minutes
  • Seconds
April 7, 2021

The Three Types of Solar Panels: Which One Is Best?

  • icon SOLAR

Most solar panels on today’s market fall into three different categories—monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Each has its own characteristics and features. Depending on type, a solar panel varies in appearance, performance, and cost.

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are both made up of cells consisting of silicon wafers assembled into rows and columns. Each panel is rectangular in shape and covered in a glass sheet. Thin film panels are made from a different process and allow for more flexible installations.

Here’s a look at each and what may be best suited for your property.


The solar cell is cut from a single, pure silicone crystal. Despite being the most expensive type, a monocrystalline solar cell can reach efficiency rates of over 20%. The solar panel is uniformly dark with rounded edges. The edges are rounded because the silicone crystals are cut from cylindrical wafers. Compact, durable, and long-lasting, monocrystalline panels are often used for rooftop solar installations and can be easily identified by their square wafers. The also hold up relatively well in high temperatures.


Polycrystalline, or multi-crystalline, solar panels contain many fragments of silicone crystals. Before cut into wafers, these crystals are melted together and molded as solid blocks. When the wafers are cut, they form a more rectangular shape; each panel has 60 to 72 cells. Polycrystalline panels are lower in cost but also lower in efficiency, often in a range of 15% to 17%, because electrons don’t flow as easily across multiple silicone crystals. Also, hot temperatures can reduce life expectancy.

However, technological improvements are leading to increases in efficiency. For example, a standard 60-cell panel can output over 300 watts compared to 240 watts in the past.

Thin Film

Also known as second-generation solar panels, thin film solar cells are solid blue or black and can be made with various materials. The most common include:

  • Cadmium telluride: Is placed between two transparent conducting layers with a glass layer on top. Amorphous silicon: A non-crystalline silicon on top of plastic, glass, or metal.
  • Copper iridium gallium selenide: The material sits between two conductive layers with electrodes on the front and back.

These solar cells are the easiest to manufacture, more affordable, and lightweight. Flexibility is another advantage as thin film panels suit a diverse range of applications. However, they are only about 11% efficient. They take up a lot of space and have the shortest lifespan, so they’re not usually suited for residential use.

Which Type of Solar Panel Is Best?

Polycrystalline panels, most suited for larger homes, provide enough efficiency and power while being affordable. For smaller homes, monocrystalline panels are the best option. Both are suited for residential installations, while thin-film solar panels are ideal for commercial buildings with roofs that can’t support the weight of traditional solar panel systems. More roof coverage can make up the difference for less efficiency. Aside from type, you want to consider the brand and a high-quality solar installation company to ensure your solar panels meet your expectations.

Contact Sunworks USA

Sunworks manages solar installation projects for home builders, homeowners, and commercial, industrial, and agricultural businesses. Managing every aspect of the project, we enable customers to save on utility electricity costs and generate their own power. To learn more or obtain a free quote, contact us on the web or call 866-600-6800.

Contact Us