Wondering which types of solar panels are best for you? Much will depend on your price range, roof space, and access to sunlight. Let’s look at the major types of panels and what you need to know to make an educated buying decision.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of numerous miniature, single microscopic crystals indiscriminately scattered all over the body of the crystal. These small crystallites vary in orientation and size. Polycrystalline panels are ideal for installations with near-unlimited roof or ground space, and regions with lower “soft costs,” including project installation and permitting. They also make sense for owners looking to minimize upfront installation costs.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
The mono-crystalline solar panel is built out of single crystals, also referred to as single-crystalline. The panel is designed to produce some of the smallest solar cells to conserve the rooftop real estate. They are tried and tested and built with resilience for a long life of full-time service. Amazingly, some installations commissioned as early as the 1970’s are still operational even today. Due to their resistant and durable nature, the panels can survive through some of the most extreme weather conditions.
Solar Roof Tiles
Just like conventional solar panels, solar roof tiles consist of strong, shatter-resistant glass over photovoltaic cells. When the sun hits a cell, chemical reactions produce an electric current. The current from many cells is collected, run through an inverter to convert it from direct current to alternating current, and is integrated with your house’s electrical system. If the solar array produces more power than the house needs at the moment, the excess goes onto your electrical utility’s grid.
Solar roof shingles, which are tax-subsidized and easier to install than bolt-on panels, have become a viable option for homeowners looking to lower their electric bills. Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. In recent years, they have become price-competitive with bolt-on panels, and are getting much more popular as a result. Eco-conscious home and building owners might find solar shingles especially attractive when they are re-shingling anyway since the solar shingles also double as functional, protective and weatherproof roof shingles in their own right.
Flexible Solar Panels
Like conventional solar panels, flexible solar panels consist of photovoltaic cells containing materials that convert energy from the sun into electricity, a protective cover, and a backing. Rigid panels use crystalline silicon with a glass cover and metal backing. Flexible panels may have amorphous silicon, cadmium-telluride, or copper-indium-gallium-deselenide cells. A solar panel that is flexible will also have a bendable clear plastic cover and light plastic backing.
Commercial Solar Panels
Commercial solar power is similar to residential solar power in that it uses photovoltaic panels, or PV panels, to convert sunlight into solar energy. The fundamental difference is that solar panels for commercial buildings operate on a larger scaled grid-tie system. Solar panels for commercial use are one of the most cost-efficient options available to businesses today, and the number of annual PV installations has grown rapidly within the past decade.