What type of solar panel is best? • Solar Electric Contractor In Seattle WA | (206) 557-4215

You’re interested in finding out what type of solar panel is best. But how do solar panels work? Let’s start at the beginning. What is a solar panel made of?


Internal Structure of Solar Panels

Let’s take a look at the typical structure of a solar panel. A solar panel usually consists of these components:

parts of a solar panel

  • Frame
  • Glass
  • Encapsulant
  • Solar Cells
  • Encapsulant
  • Backsheet
  • Junction Box

Crystalline Silicon

90% of all photovoltaics today are based on some variation of silicon. The main difference is the purity of the silicon. So what does silicon purity mean? Basically the better aligned the silicon molecules are, the better the solar cell will be at converting solar energy (sunlight) into electricity (the photoelectric effect).

Types of Silicon Solar Panels

There are 3 main types of silicon panels for household use: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Solar cells made of monocrystalline silicon also called single-crystalline silicon. Monocrystalline panels are easily recognized by an external even coloring and uniform look. This indicates high-purity silicon. This type of solar panel has four sides cut out of the cylindrical ingots.

  • Uses the highest grade solar silicon
  • Has the highest efficiency rates
  • Requires the least amount of space to install
  • Longest life: most carry a 25 year warranty
  • Performs best in low-light conditions

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline silicon panels, known as polysilicon and multi-crystalline silicon, were introduced to the market in 1981. Raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold. After that it is cooled and cut into square wafers.

  • Less commonly used now that monocrystalline solar panels are easier and less expensive to make
  • Lower silicon purity
  • Less efficient
  • Requires a larger installation area
  • Speckled blue color makes them easily identifiable

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate. There are many different categories of thin-film solar cells based on which photovoltaic material is used.

  • Easy to mass-produce for low-cost
  • Homogeneous appearance can be visually appealing
  • Less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels
  • Well-suited for large-scale industrial usage
  • Flexible material with potential for future technological applications

For more information on the solar products we carry check out our product page.

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Evan Leonard

Evan oversees all of Artisan’s solar projects and manages the solar sales, design and marketing team. Evan joined Artisan in 2010 to help expand our solar services. Before he joined Artisan, Evan spent five years living and working in Kumamoto, Japan, as an environmental educator. He also worked for nearly a decade as a professional organizer for environmental causes. Evan holds a dual B.A. degree from Wesleyan University, and an M.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Texas. He is an experienced and dynamic speaker with an intelligent and engaging style. He has been a passionate leader in raising public awareness about solar energy, energy efficiency, and global climate change.


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