Buying Guide

Types of Solar Panels

Main Components of Solar Power Systems
A home with solar panels installed on the roof.

There are three main components in a solar power system: solar panels, solar power inverters and mounting racks.

Solar Panels:
The main role of a solar panel is to generate electrons when exposed to sunlight, which then helps produce a flow of electricity for your home or office. Solar panels don’t release fumes and don’t have greenhouse gases or carbon emissions. 

The amount of electricity solar panels produce from sunlight is referred to as solar efficiency. The average efficiency rating is between 15 percent and 17 percent, but high-end models can reach above 20 percent.

Standard home appliances use alternating current (AC) electricity to operate. Inverters take the direct current (DC) electricity produced by solar panels and convert it into AC electricity. 

There are two types of inverters: string inverters and microinverters. A string inverter is attached to a wall, and all the solar panels connect to it. A microinverter is attached behind each solar panel. Microinverters offer more energy production, but they cost more than string inverters. Most solar panel kits feature one of these two inverters, as well as essential solar power accessories such as batteries, charge controllers and cables.

Mounting Racks:
The roof is the most common place to install your solar panels, and mounting racks help you secure them. Consider mounting racks that can be adjusted for height and angle. This helps you get the most out your solar panels as the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. 

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline vs. Amorphous
Solar panels on the roof of a home.

Most solar panels are constructed from one of three types of solar cells: monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous silicon. Silicon is used for solar panels because it’s a durable material that’s highly efficient and easily accessible. 

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most common and efficient types of solar panels available. Due to the silicon’s high purity, these panels excel at producing electricity and boast some of the highest efficiency ratings on the market.

Monocrystalline panels also take up less space, handle high temperatures well and have an impressive lifespan, with many manufacturers offering a 25-year warranty on the panels. These benefits come at a high price point, so consider how much you’re willing to spend if you’re interested in monocrystalline solar panels. 

Polycrystalline solar panels are much more efficient and faster to manufacture. A streamlined manufacturing process ultimately makes these panels less expensive than monocrystalline solar panels. 

While polycrystalline solar panels are more affordable, they don’t generate as much power as monocrystalline solar panels do. Additionally, polycrystalline solar panels tend to be larger and have a slightly shorter lifespan than their monocrystalline counterparts. They’re also not as effective in high-temperature or low-light situations.

: Amorphous solar panels are made from a thin layer of silicon, which allows them to be more flexible and lightweight than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Another benefit is that they perform well in high temperatures. They’re also one of the best solar panels for low-light conditions because they can absorb a wider range of the light spectrum.

Amorphous solar panels, however, are the least efficient since they take up twice as much space to deliver the same amount of power as monocrystalline panels. Their lifespan is also shorter than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

Professional vs. Do-It-Yourself Solar Installation
Two professional installers adding solar panels to a roof.

If you’re interested in installing solar panels by yourself, it’s important to consider a few factors before starting. While DIY installation can save you upfront costs and allow you to set up your panels on your own time, the whole process is complex, especially if you don’t have firsthand experience. This can lead to errors and even electrical shocks if you’re not careful. 

You also have to obtain permits and ensure your installation is up to code, which requires an inspection from a professional. Plus, most DIY solar panel kits are designed for off-grid use, so your setup may not generate enough energy to power your home or business. 

With professional installation, you not only get better quality panels but also peace of mind knowing that your solar panel system is properly set up. The Home Depot offers local solar power installation by experts who are licensed, insured and background checked. 

The price of installation relies on various factors including where you live, the area’s number of peak sun hours, a system’s size and your current energy consumption. Depending on your situation, you may end up saving more time and money choosing a professional rather than opting for DIY installation.