Costs of rooftop solar panels have gone down by as much as 70% in some areas over the last decade. More businesses and individuals have started buying solar panels, and innovation and demand have driven costs down.

Different areas and implementations have different needs, though. Some solar panel installation locations need to last longer or stand up to the elements better. For that reason, engineers have designed different types of solar panels.

Do you know what you’d need to have a solar system in your home or business? Have you started wondering what the best solar panels for your situation would be?

We’ll unpack all these mysteries and help you sort through your solar panel options.

What Are the Types of Solar Panels?

Solar panels come in three types, each of which has different use cases. While variations exist within these types, panels fall into one of three categories. Home solar panels can be any of these types.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels come from a single large crystal of silicon. This composition gives them some unique advantages over other types of panels.


Monocrystalline solar panels stand head and shoulders above other types when it comes to converting sunlight into usable energy. A monocrystalline panel can break 20% efficiency.


Monocrystalline panels also beat the competition on wattage. The typical monocrystalline solar panel has a wattage exceeding 300, with a few breaking the 400 mark.


This quality comes at a cost, however. The process of making monocrystalline panels costs more than other types. Manufacturers have to make single crystals of silicon.

This process also wastes some silicon. Fortunately, manufacturers can use the waste to make other types of solar panels.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels also use silicon. This silicon gets melted together in a mold first. This allows manufacturers to use waste silicon from other processes to make the new panel.


Polycrystalline panels hover around 16% efficiency. Compared to monocrystalline panels, they don’t measure up.


With a wattage between 250 and 300, polycrystalline solar panels don’t quite match their single-crystal counterparts. Some more recent polycrystalline panels get close, though.


The upside enters here. Polycrystalline solar panels come with a significant price reduction relative to other types. Using these can chop down the price of your new installation by as much as a third.

If the price has felt like an option to owning your system, look at polycrystalline panels.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

A thin-film solar panel can use many types of materials. Their primary advantage comes from their thin construction. They can be as little as 2% of the thickness of another solar panel type, and as a result, can be lighter.


Thin-film panels lag behind in overall efficiency. They vary with material, but most don’t exceed 12%.


Too many things change between types of thin-film panels to provide a reliable wattage number. They offer less than their silicon counterparts, though.


As with polycrystalline panels, you can get more square feet for less money with thin-film panels. If you have a thinner roof, these panels will make an installation easier, which can also save you money on labor.

Balance Cost and Efficiency With Solar

Different types of solar panels come with tradeoffs in cost, efficiency, and power. Some also stand out for their compatibility with many types of roofs. Choosing the right panel for you will involve a hard look at your property and your budget.

Thinking of getting solar as part of a bigger renovation? Check out our home improvement section for other things you might want to change.