There’s never been a better time than now to invest in a sustainable, clean, and private energy supply that will reduce your bills, and tide you over emergencies.
We aim to empower you with the information you need to make the right solar panel purchases for your family or business. By the time you finish reading, you will no longer be a stranger to solar panels.
Who knows, maybe you might even point your friends in the right direction – Renogy’s solar panels.
In this article, we will talk about the different types of solar panels. We will compare the panels’ materials, construction, cost, efficiency, performance, and more. We will also look at how to choose the right solar panels for your home or RV camping.
Let’s get started.
Table of contents:
- Different Types of Solar Panels
- How to Choose the Right Types of Solar Panels for Your Needs?
- What Type of Solar Panel is Best for Home?
- What Type of Solar Panel is Best for RV Camping?
Different Types of Solar Panels
There are many different types of solar panels on the market right now. From rigid monocrystalline panels, flexible monocrystalline panels, flexible cadmium telluride panels to polycrystalline solar panels.
Solar panels can be divided into three broad categories, which are:
●Monocrystalline Solar Panels
●Polycrystalline Solar Panels
●Flexible Solar Panels
These three broad categories are not as clear-cut as you might expect. Instead, we have panels like the Flexible, Monocrystalline solar panels that fall somewhere in between two of the above categories.
That being said, monocrystalline or polycrystalline usually come as rigid panels that are thicker and heavier
Let’s explore the three types of panels together.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (what is it, materials, efficiency, performance, etc.)
A monocrystalline solar panel, sometimes referred to as a mono solar panel, is the most efficient type of solar panel on the market. Its efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity is currently capped at around 23%, a step ahead of polycrystalline panels.
The name 'monocrystalline' comes from the composition of the silicon wafers in the solar panel that are cut from a conical piece of pure silicon. In other words, the cells are made using one type of silicon. This pure silicon is grown using a seed crystal in a similar manner used for hand-dipped candles.
Now that’s all well and good, but how do you tell apart a monocrystalline panel from a polycrystalline panel or other types of panels?
Simple, there are three tell-tale signs that distinguish monocrystalline solar panels from other panel types:
● Firstly, a monocrystalline panel has an unmistakable black or a very dark blue color.
● Secondly, the shape of monocrystalline solar cells is usually octagonal to maximize and reduce the wastage of the raw silicon cone or cylinder.
● Lastly, they usually have silver diamonds at the corners of each cell.
So if you see a solar panel with the above characteristics, you are likely looking at a monocrystalline solar panel.
In summary monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar panels, meaning they give out the most wattage of any panel of the same size. So if you are building a high-output or large-scale solar installation, monocrystalline panels are just what you need.
For homes and small businesses, we recommend investing in monocrystalline solar panels that combine high-efficiency PERC and half-cell technology to maximize your power output.
The biggest drawback of monocrystalline panels is that they are not the most affordable panels due to their high cost of production. The good news, however, is the cost continues to fall, becoming more affordable as we speak.
Check out our range of top-quality and reasonably priced rigid monocrystalline solar panels here.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels (poly panels) are second only to monocrystalline panels in terms of performance, durability and efficiency. Their efficiency maxes out at around 20%.
So the efficiency and wattage of poly panels are slightly less than that of a similarly sized monocrystalline panel. At the same size, a monocrystalline panel might output 270W while its polycrystalline equivalent will produce 260W.
Comparing them individually, it’s not a world of difference. But the difference starts to add up if you are buying several panels, which is usually the case for most people. Have a look at the Difference Between Monocrystalline And Polycrystalline Panels for more information.
Another big difference between monocrystalline cells and polycrystalline cells is how they are made.
While monocrystalline solar cells are cut from pure silicon, polycrystalline cells are made from mixed silicon that’s melted and set in a mold. The manufacturing process is easier, cheaper, and less wasteful than that of monocrystalline solar cells. The process is kind of similar to pouring melted chocolate into a mold. For more information, you can check out What Are Solar Panels Made Out Of And How They Are Made.
So how do you identify a polycrystalline solar panel from other types of panels:
Polycrystalline solar panels also have three distinguishing features that you can use to identify them:
●Firstly, poly panels have a light blue color with speckles of different shades of blue when looked at closely.
●Secondly, the solar cells have a neat square or rectangular shape that's different from mono cells' octagonal shape.
●Lastly, thanks to their reduced efficiency, polycrystalline solar panels are either bigger or have a smaller wattage than a similarly sized monocrystalline panel.
Polycrystalline panels are much cheaper than their monocrystalline counterparts due to their reduced cost and ease of production. So they might be a wise choice for you if you fit one or more of the following descriptions:
●If you have a large space available for installation.
●If you are looking for affordable panels that are still decently powerful and durable.
●If you don’t care about getting the best-performing panels.
In short, you can try out polycrystalline solar panels if you don’t mind their lower power output, reduced performance, bigger size, and heavier weight. The biggest selling point of polycrystalline panels is that they are more affordable; they have little else to offer performance-wise.
Note: Renogy no longer offers polycrystalline panels. We only sell monocrystalline panels that are slightly more expensive but offer even better performance and durability.
Flexible Solar Panels
Unlike monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels that are only made using silicon. Flexible solar panels are made in a number of ways using a variety of materials.
There are four major types of flexible solar panels:
1.Thin-Film Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Solar Panels
2.Thin-Film Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS) Solar Panels
3.Amorphous Thin-Film Silicon (a-Si) Solar Panels
4.Thin, Bendable Crystalline Silicon Wafers on a Flexible Surface
Of the above four types of flexible solar panels, Renogy only stocks two of them, which are the Copper Indium Gallium DiSelenide (CIGS) panels and the Bendable Crystalline Wafers printed on a Flexible Surface.
Our flexible monocrystalline silicon panels share many of the perks, performance advantages, and longevity of their rigid, crystalline counterparts.
To sum up, most flexible solar panels (except the crystalline option) are less efficient and less durable than rigid solar panels. Therefore, rigid solar panels are more suited to rooftop solar installations than flexible panels.
Flexible solar panels truly shine in a situation when you need supremely light solar panels instead of a high power output. For example, if you are installing solar panels onto your RV, campervan, or electric car, the weight of the solar panels is a major concern.
How to Choose the Right Types of Solar Panels for Your Needs?
There are four factors or steps to consider when choosing the right type of solar panel for your needs:
1. Step 1: Your Electricity Consumption: Know the amount of energy you want to shift to solar. If you want to completely separate yourself from the grid supply, take your energy utility bill and find the amount of Watt-hours you use each month. Divide that amount by 30 days to find your daily power usage. To find the number of panels you need, take the result and divide it by the product of chosen panel’s wattage and your area’s peak sun hours (daily energy to solar / (panel wattage * peak sun hours)). Find your area’s peak sun hours here.
2. Step 2: Your Region’s Peak Sun Hours: This is the amount of time your solar panel has to generate power. If the peak sun hours are low, you will need a higher-wattage panel to generate the same amount of energy a lower-wattage panel generates in a high peak sun hours area. To find the number of panels you need for each panel wattage, use the formula in Step 1.
3. Step 3: The Installation Space Available: This is the area where you will mount your solar panels. Before buying, ensure that your panels can fit in the available space. To do so, measure the length of your space or rooftop and divide it by the width of each panel. The result is the number of panels that fit lengthwise. Next, measure the width of your roof or space and divide it by the length of your panels. This result represents the number of panels that fit width-wise. Multiply the two results to get the number of panels that fit in that area. If the final answer is more than the number in Step 1 or Step 2, you can proceed to the next step. Otherwise, you should find a panel with a smaller size but the same wattage or a similarly-sized panel with a higher wattage.
4. Step 4: Your Budget: This is what finally guides your purchase. Calculate the total cost of your chosen panel(s). Decide whether the result meets your budget or not. If not, continue trying out different panel wattages and sizes until you find the perfect blend of cost, size, and power generation.
What Type of Solar Panel is Best for Home?
For your home installation, we recommend installing Renogy’s rigid monocrystalline solar panels because:
●They are affordably priced.
●They use the best technology (PERC and half-cell) in the industry.
●They are high performing.
●They are durable and have a long Lifespan
●They are tolerant of shade and overcast skies
If you are investing in solar for your home, you have to buy the best products that will last for a long time and offer the best performance. Owning the best solar equipment that is relevant, compatible, and replaceable even a decade later saves you a lot of future troubles.
Suppose you buy equipment that’s already being phased out today. In that case, what will you do a decade later if a fault occurs?
That's why you need to invest in the best, high-performing solar panels today like the:
● Renogy 320W Monocrystalline Solar Panel: : This 320W can generate 1600Wh of power in a five (5) peak sun hours region. So you would need roughly 19 * 320W panels to generate 30000Wh, the daily energy used by the average US household.
● Renogy 450W Monocrystalline Solar Panels: : One of these bad boys can generate around 2250Wh of energy each day in an area that gets five peak sun hours. That's nearly 10 percent of the average home’s daily energy usage. You would need only fourteen 450W panels to free yourself from the grid supply.
● Renogy 550W Monocrystalline Solar Panel: : One 550W can generate an average of 2750Wh per day. You would need only eleven 550W solar panels to cut down your energy utility bills to nothing.
Note: When you purchase Renogy solar panels, also buy the compatible Renogy inverter charger, 12V batteries, connectors, and other gear for the best results. You can check out our pre-configured, plug-and-play Renogy solar kits that contain everything you need to power your home or RV.
What Type of Solar Panel is Best for RV Camping?
The cost of gas is rising and the load on your RV now matters more than ever. That's why when looking for RV solar panels, one of the first things you should consider is the weight of your panels.
You need small, lightweight, portable, easy-to-maneuver solar panels that are suitable for RV use.
There are two kinds of panels that satisfy these requirements, which are:
1.Flexible Solar Panels
2.Foldable Suitcase Panels
Most flexible panels are extremely lightweight and easy to install on curved RV rooftops. They also allow you to keep generating power whether you are parked or driving. For most people, the biggest drawback of mounted flexible panels is that you have to park your vehicle in direct sunlight to use them.
On the other hand, foldable panels are also extremely light and portable solar panels for RV and they don't need to be installed on your RV's rooftop. Instead, each time you set up camp, you can bring out your foldable panels and leave them in the sun while your RV or motorhome rests in the cool shade. The drawbacks of foldable suitcase panels are that you can only use them when you are parked and they take up storage space when you are on the move.
If you are interested in hooking up your RV with flexible solar panels, check out our range of highly-regarded monocrystalline flexible solar panels..
If, instead, you think foldable suitcase solar panels are what your RV or motorhome needs, check out our line of folding solar panel suitcases.
Or you can seek Solar Generators For RV Camping.