Monocrystalline versus Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Which is better?

Written by Saltanat Berdikeeva

Edited by Lisa lscrupe

Last updated 08/30/2022

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Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels

Installing solar panels on your property is an excellent way to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint. But when planning your home solar panel system, you’ll have some decisions, including what type of solar panels to use. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are two of the most common types of solar panels. Both capture solar energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, but they have some different features you need to know.

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are made of solar cells produced with silicon cut into bars to create thin wafers. The single-crystal silicon is what gives monocrystalline panels their name. The single crystal allows a more efficient movement of electrons to generate electricity. As a result, monocrystalline solar panels are considered better quality and are generally more expensive than other types of panels. Visually, these panels have a black hue.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar panels have a similar composition that includes silicon. However, polycrystalline panels are made of multiple silicon fragments, not a single cell. Electrons move less efficiently because there are more crystals in the cell, resulting in a slightly lower quality. Unlike the monocrystalline panels with a black hue, polycrystalline panels have a blue tint.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panel price

One of the differences you’ll notice between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is the price. Making monocrystalline solar panels is more in-depth and results in a more efficient product. Polycrystalline panels are considered less efficient and are also less expensive to make. As a result, you can expect to pay more for monocrystalline panels when planning your residential solar panel system

It’s important to note that you are getting an increased quality for the price. So while monocrystalline panels are more expensive to install in your home, they are also more efficient and are likely to result in a better return on your investment.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tracking the Sun report estimates the total cost of installing a residential solar system in the U.S. ranges between $12,286 and $45,013. The exact cost will depend on the system size suitable for your home and pricing in your area. The higher the quality of solar panels, the more you can expect to pay. If you own an RV, you can also purchase solar panels for RV, which are less expensive. 

Whether you choose monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels, you will still be eligible for the federal Residential Clean Energy Credit (formerly known as the Investment Tax Credit) as long as you purchase your panels. The federal tax credit offers a 30% tax credit on solar systems purchased through 2032. The credit can be retroactively applied to systems bought in 2022. The tax credit will go down to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034 and expire in 2035.

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Do monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels matter if I’m leasing or using a PPA to get solar panels?

Rather than buying your solar panels, you can either lease them or enter a solar power purchase agreement (PPA). In both cases, you rent the solar panels for a specified period. When you lease solar panels, you pay a fixed monthly cost. But, in the case of a solar PPA, your monthly rate is based on your electricity generation.

You will still notice a price difference if you lease or use a PPA rather than purchase solar panels. If a company that provides your lease or PPA uses monocrystalline panels, the system cost the company more than if it paid for polycrystalline panels. The reason is monocrystalline panels are higher-quality products than polycrystalline ones. As a result, your lease or PPA costs are likely higher due to the type of panels.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panel efficiency

The critical difference between the performance of monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is their efficiency. The single crystal structure of monocrystalline panels gives the electrons that generate electricity more room to move around. The multiple silicon fragments in polycrystalline panels give them less room to move around. As a result, monocrystalline panels are considered the best solar panels because they are the most efficient type of panels and provide a better return on your investment.

A solar battery is another way to increase the efficiency of your renewable solar energy system. Although a solar battery is not a necessary part of your solar panel system, it will allow you to continue to power critical elements in your home during a short-term power outage.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panel lifespan

Most solar panels, whether monocrystalline or polycrystalline, are very durable and can last 25-30 years.

The lifespan of solar panels depends on their degradation, meaning their reduced output over time. The degradation levels between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are similar. More important factors include the climate in which you live, how well the panels were installed, how well they’re maintained, and the quality of the materials.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panel appearance

You’ll likely notice a difference in the appearance of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels. A monocrystalline solar panel’s single silicon crystal makeup gives it a black hue. The multiple separate silicon fragments in a polycrystalline panel can give it a blue tint. Most people consider the black shade of monocrystalline panels more aesthetically pleasing since they have a cleaner, more polished look. Panels can also be purchased as solar roof shingles, which closely resemble traditional asphalt shingles.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels FAQs

  • When deciding which type of solar panel to buy, you’ll have to consider your budget and the quality you want. While monocrystalline panels are more efficient, they are also more expensive.

  • Monocrystalline solar panels are more efficient and, therefore, can provide a greater return on your investment. As a result, they are typically considered the best solar panel choice. They are the best choice for a surface with a limited room because they produce more electricity in a smaller space than polycrystalline panels.

  • The main difference is that monocrystalline solar cells are made with single-crystal silicon, while polycrystalline panels are composed of multiple silicon fragments. The cell structure makes monocrystalline panels more efficient than polycrystalline types.  

  • Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the most popular options. But they aren’t the only ones. Thin-film panels are another option. Made of glass, metal, or plastic, thin-film panels are typically lighter and more malleable. But they are much less efficient than crystalline silicon solar cells, which means you’d need more thin-film panels to reach the energy production level of silicon-based panels.

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