To build solar panels, you will certainly need to know the type of solar panels you actually want to power your home. As the technology is persistently improving and many new types of solar cells are invented, it is essential to understand the main difference between them.
# 1. Mono crystalline (known as Single Crystalline)
Mono crystalline solar panels are basically considered as the most efficient ones. The main difference from other solar panels is that these are made from one large chunk of silicon crystal. They are among the oldest and most reliable silicon cell technologies.
The process of making these large silicon crystals is a very energy demanding process, which adds up to the final solar system cost. Certainly, they are considered the most efficient, capable to produce electricity at 15-18% efficiency, but not necessarily the best opportunity for home owners.
One of the arguments, why people should purchase mono crystalline solar panels is because there is not a large or, in fact, a small space on the roof to install them. With mono crystalline solar panels you can be sure, that you use the available space on the roof in the most efficient way possible.
The main difference in appearance is that they are black in color and they are rounded in form (cells).
Also these panels can last from 25 to 50 years on maximum, so they are a good long-term investment.
However, they are also fragile, so that some care is necessary. Therefore, a rigid frame is more than exclusive.
In short, mono crystalline panels are best for efficiency, performance and longevity. The negative – more costly than other types of solar panels.
# 2. Polycrystalline
Polycrystalline solar cells, as the name indicates, are made up of multiple silicon crystals, not like mono crystalline cells. Usually, they look somewhat similar to a mosaic. In color, they are dark ocean blue.
In general, polycrystalline solar panels are among the cheapest and most widely found panels on the market today.
At slightly lower efficiency rates than mono crystalline solar panels, they still are able to produce electricity at about 12-14% efficiency. Moreover, they are produced with less energy wasted. That's why this technology is constantly evolving today.
Polycrystalline cells are a great alternative to mono crystalline cells, because they offer a slightly better cost-per-watt efficiency. Thus, many people prefer this type of solar technology today.
One thing must be remembered though – they are designed to work best at reliably cooler temperatures. It is beneficial to know that temperatures starting from 60 ° C and up can decrease the sunlight-electric conversion ratio by more than 20 percent at these temperatures.
Ever wondered, why sand in the beach feels warmer than air on sunny days? Well, that is because sand is a better conductor than air. And the same principles apply to silicon cells, as sand contains silicon. So you need to watch the temperatures and control them for maximum electricity generation.
Neverheless, polycrystalline solar cells are usually the best opportunity for a DIY home solar panels project.
# 3. Amorphous (thin-film)
Amorphous solar cells are one of the newest types of solar cells. These are very versatile, as they can be used to produce electricity in ways crystalline technology would not be able to. Basically, the silicon atoms are not ordered in a crystal lattice like in crystalline cells.
With this technology, they are not growing; crystals, but the silicon is deposited in a very thin layer onto a backing substrate. Although the production process is complicated, they manage to produce amorphous cells with less energy. These panels are less time-consuming and expensive to make, so that they can be produced with better efficiency.
Another great advantage for amorphous cells is the ability to be flexible. This is possible because of the thin layers of silicon, that are applied. Today, there are already many creative uses of flexible amorphous cells available for different uses. For example, attachable to handbags, e-readers, clothes, etc.
However, amorphous panels have many drawbacks, especially in efficiency. They are only 5-6% efficient, which is not much for a potential solar system installation for your home. Likewise, the high impurity levels can cause drops in sunlight-electricity conversion ratio, when the solar panels begin to generate electricity.
Remember, these are the most common types of solar cell technologies, which have proven their reliability along the way, so they are a very good start to look into more depth, when considering to build your own solar panels. There are a lot of other emerging solar cell technologies, but have to be developed and put to test.
To name a few, there are group III-V technologies (used in aerospace) which are very expensive; string ribbon photovoltaic cells, which are evolving, offering, in some instances, higher efficiency levels than poly silicon and are also cheaper to make; BIVP – serving as both an electricity producing and building construction material; concentrator systems, which use lenses to gather sunlight into a concentrated form to increase solar cell efficiency; multijunction devices and others.
Plenty of great technologies to choose from, but the decision, which type of solar panels to go for, is all yours to make.