Which solar panel type best suits your needs – monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous thin film?

by Solar Choice Staff on January 29, 2009

in Installation advice,Solar Panels/Modules,Solar System Products,What are the right solar PV cells for you?

While there are numerous brands on the market, there are essentially just three types of technologies involved in making a solar panel – monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film amorphous. The following descriptions set out the relative advantages or disadvantages of each of these three types.

Remember: the best solar panels may be different depending on your needs and location!

Many Solar Choice customers are initially uncertain which solar panel type best suits their individual needs. Every household has different energy needs, and each state has different solar incentive policies. Solar Choice helps make the decision easier by providing free solar power installation quote comparisons Australia-wide, offering discounted rates that are better than going to the installer direct. This enables us to best help you make the right decision about your solar power system.


– Good power-to-size ratio: efficiency typically within the range of 135-170 Watts per m2 (13-17%, with notable exceptions).

– Outstanding performance in cooler conditions.

– Some leading units now have over 18% conversion efficiency.

– Previously the most commonly used technology in the world, with over 50 years of technological development.

– Excellent life span / longevity. Usually come with a 25yr warranty.


– Good efficiency: typically 120-150 Watts per m2 (12-15%, with notable exceptions).

– Generally speaking, marginally less expensive to produce than monocrystalline.

– Slightly better performance in hotter conditions (lower heat derating coefficient)

– Excellent life span / longevity. Usually come with 25yr warranty.

NB: Monocrystalline solar panels are not necessarily ‘better ‘ or more efficienct than polycrystalline, as many in Australia believe. Read more: Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline silicon solar cells – Busting some myths.

Amorphous Thin Film

– Low conversion efficiency: typically 60-80 Watts/m2 (6-8%, with notable exceptions).

– Expected lifespan is less than crystalline panels.

– Optimal efficiency in hot weather, less effective in cooler conditions.

– 3-6 month ‘breaking in’ period where long term output is exceeded.

– Requires 2-3 times more panels and surface area for same output as crystalline.

– Ideal for example for inland Australia, where conditions are hot and vacant space abounds. (More about thin-film solar cell technology.)

How important is panel efficiency in your system?

Remember that, especially if you have a large roof, panel efficiency may not be the most important thing for you to worry about. It is more important to consider your system as a whole. The ultimate cost and performance of your system will depend not only on the panels you use, but also your solar inverter, your installer’s labour costs, and the orientation of your home’s roof and tilt angle of your panels.

Further reading:

Read about some major solar power panel brands and technologies

Read about what questions to ask when considering buying a solar power system

Read about one way to compare solar panels

Read more about monocrystalline vs polycrystalline panels

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

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