Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: A Comparison Guide

Making the decision to install a solar energy system for your home is a big first step on the road to residential energy independence. By creating energy for your own home using the sun’s rays, you’re protecting the environment while also saving lots of money compared to buying electricity from the utility company.

That said, there are other important decisions to make in this process as well. For instance, you’ll need to choose between thermal and photovoltaic solar cells, and you’ll also need to decide whether you want monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels.

There is a crucial difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, and it’s not always easy to understand. That’s why we put together this guide that breaks down the monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar debate into simple terms. Which is the better option for your residential solar energy array?

The Two Types of Solar Panels: Thermal and Photovoltaic

Before we dig into the competition of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels, we first need to discuss the differences between thermal and photovoltaic panels. Thermal solar panels were invented first, and they remain an efficient energy source. A thermal solar panel concentrates the sun’s rays to create energy in the form of heat. Inside the solar panel, fluid flows through tubes.

When sunlight hits the panel, the fluid warms up, and the thermal energy can be used to heat water in a boiler. You can also use thermal solar panels to heat your home through the usage of radiant floor heaters or those in the walls, ceilings, or roof. The typical home with thermal solar energy will have storage tanks for any extra hot water.

While thermal solar panels only produce heat, photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity. PV solar panels don’t require large holding tanks for excess hot water. Instead, these solar panels harness the sun’s energy to produce electricity. Then, your solar inverter will convert that raw energy into a form of electricity your home can use. Any excess energy can be sold back to the grid or stored in a solar battery.

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Next, it’s important to learn the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar. Every individual cell within a monocrystalline solar panel consists of one silicon crystal. On the other hand, each cell within a polycrystalline solar panel consists of many fragments of these crystals, forged together during the panel’s manufacturing process.

It’s not always easy to determine which side wins in the monocrystalline solar panels vs. polycrystalline solar panels debate, so let’s break down the differences.

Monocrystalline Solar Panel Advantages

The biggest advantage of a monocrystalline solar panel is its efficiency. Monocrystalline panels usually have efficiency ratings of around 15-20%, but some newer panels are producing even more energy than this. In fact, some experimental models are showing the capability to exceed 40% efficiency!

Another significant advantage for the monocrystalline side of the monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar debate is the fact that these panels are much smaller than polycrystalline panels. That means it’s easier to mount them on your rooftop. You won’t need as many of them, and smaller panels often have fewer maintenance needs as well.

Finally, monocrystalline panels tolerate heat better than polycrystalline panels. Therefore, if you’re installing a residential solar energy array in an area that regularly experiences extreme heat — such as the American Southwest — monocrystalline solar panels may be a superior option.

Polycrystalline Solar Panel Advantages

That said, polycrystalline panels have plenty of their own advantages, and there’s a reason these solar panels are still so popular. The most important advantage for many homeowners is the affordability of polycrystalline panels, and it can be a make-or-break aspect of the monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar debate.

A typical monocrystalline solar panel costs 20% more than a polycrystalline panel. For some homeowners, that alone is enough to tip the scales in favor of polycrystalline solar panels. Another significant aspect of the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar is how polycrystalline panels have a similar lifespan to monocrystalline panels, despite costing much less.

Even if we disregard aspects like efficiency, size, and heat sensitivity, the polycrystalline panel’s cheaper price point and comparable lifespan make it the preferred choice of many homeowners. Which side of the monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels debate are you on?

The Best Uses for Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

To begin this section, let’s take a look at some applications in which monocrystalline solar panels are the better option. If you only have a small amount of space to work with, monocrystalline panels are a far superior choice due to their energy efficiency.

In addition, monocrystalline panels are better in two crucial geographical areas: those with less daily sunlight and those with extremely harsh sunlight. The increased efficiency of a monocrystalline panel means it can produce more energy in areas like the Pacific Northwest that don’t receive much direct sunlight. They’re also much better in desert settings, such as Arizona, due to their superior resistance to heat.

On the other side of the monocrystalline solar panels vs. polycrystalline solar panels debate, we prefer polycrystalline panels if saving money is your top priority. This is especially true when you consider that there is no meaningful difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels regarding lifespan.

In Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this discussion of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels, and it wouldn’t surprise us at all if you still have some questions. If so, reach out to LGCY Power at 855.546.0851 at your convenience.

Our representatives are true experts when it comes to the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, and they can help you determine which option is the best choice for your application. We can even send one of our reputable local installers to your home to perform an in-person assessment.

The monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar debate may never be truly settled, as both sides have their advantages and disadvantages. By properly analyzing which type of solar panel is best suited for your home, you can set up the residential solar power system of your dreams and end your reliance on traditional utility companies!

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels Side by Side Infographics

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How Passive Solar Home Designs Can Help Create the Home of the Future

Installing a rooftop solar energy array for an existing home is a great way to save money and protect the environment. That said, energy-efficient home designs can help minimize how much electricity the home needs while integrating efficient appliances, insulation, lighting, HVAC systems, windows, doors, and more!

We’re huge fans of passive solar home designs and other forms of energy-efficient new-home construction projects, as they can maximize a solar energy system’s output by integrating solar features throughout the home. Let’s discuss the various aspects of solar energy design for home construction and renovation. How can these passive solar home design plans save you money while generating eco-friendly energy?

Home Energy Assessments

Home energy assessments are a great way to analyze an existing home’s potential for energy efficiency. If you’re considering installing a rooftop solar energy array, you should first perform a home energy assessment. While you can DIY this assessment, we always prefer hiring a professional.

In your home energy assessment, your chosen assessor will examine each room in your home, using tools like infrared cameras, smoke pens, moisture meters, blower doors, gas leak detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors to identify any “soft spots” in its energy efficiency. Identifying these problem areas can help you make energy-saving renovations to your home.

Smart Design for Energy-Efficient Homes

For new construction, energy efficiency begins with smart design. When planning and integrating solar energy design for home construction, everyone needs to be on the same page. This means that the architects, builders, construction crew, and homebuyers all need to understand their role in creating an energy-efficient home.

Regular communication between all parties is vital when implementing energy-efficient home designs. For instance, if your architect changes their plans, they need to immediately inform the homeowner, builder, and subcontractors to ensure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities at all times.

What Are Passive Solar Home Designs and How Do They Work?

Passive solar home design plans have become increasingly popular over the years. The most basic definition of passive solar is that, as the home soaks up direct sunlight through south-facing windows, various elements of the home trap and retain that heat, significantly reducing the amount of energy required to heat the home. There are four key elements of passive solar home designs that we will briefly outline before moving on.

Window Orientation

The most important element of passive solar home designs is window orientation. You should integrate as many south-facing windows as possible in the design, and you should ensure that these windows are not shaded during peak sunlight hours. However, it’s also important to install shades and curtains that can block out as much of this sunlight as possible in the summer, when heat becomes an efficient home’s enemy rather than its friend.

Thermal Mass Materials

Passive solar home design plans also include materials that can store heat. In the winter, these materials can trap heat from sunlight within the home, while in the summer, they can cool the air by absorbing heat. Structural materials that have strong thermal mass ratings include concrete, stone, and brick, while decorative elements like tiling and even landscaping can also have an impact.

Distribution Mechanisms

The next aspect is to include elements into the energy-efficient home designs that can spread the solar heat around the house. The means to distribute this heat are conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction refers to heat transfer between two items that touch each other, while convection is the transfer of heat through liquid or air.

Finally, radiation is the distribution of heat from a nearby source. It’s important for your home’s architect to incorporate elements for all three types of heat distribution in order to achieve success with your passive solar home design plans.

Control Elements

Control elements are the other vital aspect of passive solar home designs. This term refers to things like roof overhangs and awnings for shade in the summer, differential thermostats to control airflow throughout the home, and various elements like vents, dampers, shutters, blinds, and more.

What Is an Ultra-Efficient Home?

The pinnacle of energy-efficient home designs is the ultra-efficient home. This type of home incorporates efficient construction materials and home appliances with a renewable energy system like a rooftop solar array. An ultra-efficient home can even include energy-efficient landscaping and air-tight structural elements. The ultimate in ultra-efficient homes is the Passive House, a certification given only to homes that pass the Passive House Alliance’s stringent requirements for passive solar home designs.

Direct Gain vs. Indirect Gain vs. Isolated Gain

There are three different types of strategies for implementation of passive solar home design plans: direct gain, indirect gain, and isolated gain. Direct gain refers to the living space itself and includes elements like south-facing windows, floors and walls made with masonry, water elements to store heat, and more.

Meanwhile, indirect gain refers to the thermal mass that exists in between the sun’s rays and the home’s living space. A good example of indirect gain is a Trombe wall, a masonry wall usually about a foot thick that sits directly behind the home’s south-facing windows. When the sun’s rays pass through the windows, their energy is absorbed by the Trombe wall and radiated into the home.

Finally, isolated gain is the process of absorbing solar radiation to generate heat. Isolated gain involves a collector mechanism to absorb the radiation, a storage element, and a distribution mechanism.

Other Elements of Energy-Efficient Home Designs

There are other factors in solar energy design for home applications, such as sunrooms made of glass to refract and absorb heat. In addition, energy-efficient window coverings (like blackout curtains or external shutters) can make any home far more efficient in the hot summer months.

If you need any assistance or advice throughout the passive solar home design process, you can reach out to LGCY Power. Our experienced representatives and reputable local solar installers can help turn your energy-efficient home designs into the passive solar home of your dreams!