Different Types of Solar Panels

Are you ready to go solar? Congrats! Going solar is a big decision, with many aspects to consider, such as what type of solar panel to go with. The type of solar panel you need will depend on several factors, such as your budget and roof space of your home.

In this blog, Atlasta Solar Center examines different solar panels, to help you better understand how each works.

What Is A Solar Panel?

A quick refresher: a solar panel is technically known as a photovoltaic (PV) panel. A PV panel absorbs, collects, and converts sunlight into an electric current (energy.) This process is known as the photovoltaic effect. Basically, this is when electrons within the solar panel’s solar cells are knocked loose, creating electricity.

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, also called PV cells. These absorb and convert sunlight into energy. These cells are made of silicon, a shiny dark gray to black crystal. Why silicon? All PV panels require a semiconductor, a material that conducts electricity only when energy is provided (such as sunlight.) In fact, silicon is the semiconductor in most electronics.

Solar panels vary in the cell structure, or how the silicon wafers are arranged. Solar panels are available in 3 different types, or cell structures: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous.


Monocrystalline panels are composed of a single large silicon crystal. These panels are the most common solar panel type for homes.

Appearance: Black to dark gray.

Efficiency: 20% and up

Pros: Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient in generating energy. They also require the least amount of roof space. So, if you have limited roof space, monocrystalline panels are ideal.

Cons: Monocrystalline panels are usually the most expensive panel. These panels can be slightly less efficient in cooler weather.

There two types of monocrystalline panels:

  • Bifacial panels: These panels can absorb light on both sides and are typically used for ground-mounted solar systems. Bifacial panels can also be sued on canopies and canopies.
  • Passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) panels: These panels contain an extra conductive layer on the backside, to increase the amount of energy absorbed. PERC panels are mostly used for rooftop installations.

The easy way to remember monocrystalline structure is that mono is Latin for “one.” Therefore, one crystal for one panel.


These panels are made of several smaller silicon crystals melted together. These panels are an earlier solar technology and produce about 1% less power than monocrystalline panels. However, polycrystalline panels are still a reliable panel and the most common type of solar panel.

Appearance: Polycrystalline panels have a marbled blue hue.

Efficiency: 15-17%

Pros: More affordable than monocrystalline panels. These panels also produce less waste during the manufacturing process. If you’re looking for more affordable yet reliable option for panels, polycrystalline panels are ideal.

Cons: Slightly less efficient than monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels also have a lower heat tolerance. This means these panels will not perform as efficiently in hotter environments.

The easy way to remember polycrystalline structure is that poly is Latin for “many.” Therefore, many crystals for one panel.

Thin Film

These panels are made from materials that are not crystalline in structure. These panels are manufactured into a fine layer, hence the name thin film.

Appearance: Sleek, all-black design.

Efficiency: About 12%

Pros: These panels are inexpensive to manufacture, the easiest to install, and are usually the cheapest option. With their all-black, sleek design, these panels are considered the most attractive solar panel. If you’re looking for the most affordable panel option, and/ or prefer the look of thin film, then consider thin film panels.

Cons: Thin film panels have the lowest power yield of the three solar panel types. As a result, you’ll need far more thin panels to generate enough power for your home.

There are three types of thin film panel types:

  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si): These panels are composed of non-crystalline amorphous silicon. In simple terms this silicon is formless and shapeless. Less silicon is needed to produce amorphous panels, which allows them to have a lower cost.
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe): These cells are affordable. However, cadmium is toxic and is expensive to recycle.
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS): CIGS use a thin layer of each of these elements, which are deposited on plastic or glass backing. These panels are the most energy-efficient of the thin panel types, though not as efficient as crystalline panels.

Factors To Consider When Selecting Solar Panels

Each panel type has pros and cons. Here’s what to consider when looking at panel types.

Roof Space

Do you have a large roof? Or do you have limited roof space? If you have little roof space, monocrystalline panels are a good option.


Where you live can affect the performance of your panels. As mentioned above, polycrystalline panels are sensitive to higher temperatures, so you may want to consider monocrystalline panels. If you live in a colder environment, then you may want to consider polycrystalline panels.


Your budget may determine which panel type you select.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panel Types

Here are FAQs about the different solar panel types:

Can solar panels withstand hail? If so, which kind(s) of panel?

Crystalline panels are thicker and can withstand hail speeds of 50 miles per hour. Thin film panels are more vulnerable to hail strikes.

How long do solar panels last?

Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels typically last about 25 years, while thin film panels last about 20 years.

Can I mix different solar panels in a solar array?

Mixing different solar panel types is not recommended. Why? Each panel type has different electrical characteristics. Wiring two different panel types can result in decreased performance.

Time To Go Solar? Contact Atlasta Solar Center

As always, Atlasta Solar Center is here to answer your questions! Our highly experienced team will consider all the logistics of your property and energy needs to determine the best solar solution for you. We are proud to use the most innovative technologies and the best manufacturers, for both residential, commercial, and off-grid properties. If you’re ready to go solar, contact us at 970.248.0057 for more information or for a complimentary solar site analysis.