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Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Similarities & Differences

February 21, 2024 | Reading Time: 7 minutes

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon are the two most common materials used in residential and commercial solar panels.

The main difference between the two resides in their structural makeup. Monocrystalline panels are made from single-crystal silicon while polycrystalline panels are made from multiple silicon crystals melted together.

Monocrystalline panels are newer technology and are used in most solar installations. Of course, there are some projects where polycrystalline cells are better suited. Other differences in addition to their structure contribute to deciding which panel is your best option.

Efficiency

Monocrystalline structure is more efficient than polycrystalline due to discrepancies in purity, electron flow, light absorption, temperature, and necessary space.

Purity

The single silicon structure of monocrystalline panels makes them more pure in their conductive material and as a result, their ability to convert sunlight to electricity is higher.

In polycrystalline cells, the grain boundaries between the crystals created in the melting process can impede electron movement and make them less efficient.

Electron Flow

The direct path for electrons provided by monocrystalline panels is easy for electrons to flow through. In contrast, grain boundaries in polycrystalline panels create a more complex path for electrons to pass through. This can result in some energy getting lost and transforming to heat instead of flowing into the electrical current.

Light Absorption

Monocrystalline panels are better at absorbing light due to their black hue. Polycrystalline panels are more of a bluish color, which isn’t as efficient in light absorption.

Temperature

While it’s true that solar panels function best in cooler temperature, monocrystalline panels are slightly better at maintaining their efficiency as temperatures increase in comparison to polycrystalline panels.

Space

Due to their higher efficiency, monocrystalline panels can produce the same amount of power in less space than polycrystalline panels.

Lifespan

Both panels have similar lifespan ranges25 to 30 years. Many manufacturers also equip their panels with a product and performance warranty that guarantees functionality for a certain amount of time.

Cost

Solar panels are generally sold based on a price per watt. Monocrystalline panels are usually more expensive than polycrystalline panels because they are more efficient and the newer technology of the two.

Wattage rates for monocrystalline panels range from $1.00 to $1.50 per watt while polycrystalline panels cost between $0.90 and $1.00 per watt. An average, 400-watt monocrystalline panel will total anywhere between $400 and $600 while a 400-watt polycrystalline panel costs between $360 and $400.

Appearance

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels boast slightly different appearances based on color.

Monocrystalline panels are a deep black and bear a matte finish. They are sleek, modern, smooth, and uniformly shaped.

Polycrystalline panels can be a light to dark blue color. Since multiple silicon crystals are melted together, a patchwork, “mosaic-like” surface is created that is grainy and less consistent looking.

Choosing Between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline

Your decision to install monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels will depend on your aesthetic preferences, budget, available space, and specific energy needs.

Isaksen’s Choice

At Isaksen Solar, we prioritize efficiency, aesthetics, innovation, and budgeting. Therefore, we install monocrystalline panels on all our residential and commercial projects.

We’re here to help you maximize your solar investment. Paying a higher upfront cost for better quality panels, with a higher efficiency, and enhanced appearance is worth it to us.

If your priorities align, we encourage you to reach out to us with any questions. We’d love to guide you through the solar transition process and get you started on your independent energy generation journey. Give us a call, (508) 717-3820, or get started on your free quote.