The most common solar panel you will encounter is the monocrystalline and polycrystalline varieties. Today, we will precisely explain the differences and if you can mix them in one solar array.
While combining multiple solar panels is not encouraged, it is not prohibited as long as the electrical specifications of each panel’s voltage, wattage, and amps are evaluated appropriately. In addition, mono and poly solar panels should be linked in separate strings for optimal output.
The key takeaways from this article
- You indeed can combine mono and poly solar panels under certain conditions
- Monocrystalline is the best solar panels
- When panels are mixed, the system is brought down to the specifications of the weakest panel
- You can incorporate household (12V) and industrial (24V) panels, but considerations are needed
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the considerations you should make while combining various panels.
The Difference Between Mono And Polycrystalline Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are distinguished by their rounded corners and black PV cells. PV cells in polycrystalline solar panels have a blueish hue and have straight edges.
The arrangement of the silicon is the distinction between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells.
Below we created a table to compare monocrystalline to polycrystalline panels.
Which Solar Panels Are Better, Mono Or Poly?
Among all solar panels, crystalline panels have the best efficiency. Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient crystalline panels, averaging 20 percent efficiency and taking up less space to produce more electricity.
In contrast, the efficiency of polycrystalline panels ranges from 15 to 17 percent, but they are cheaper to produce and therefore cost less than mono panels.
For example, standard residential solar panels are 65 inches by 39 inches, or 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet, covering a 15-square-foot area. Therefore, if you placed 20 panels in an array, 20 mono solar panels would produce more power than 20 poly panels.
Pro-tip: A $100 high-quality polycrystalline panel is a better investment than a $100 midrange monocrystalline panel.
The 4 Types Of Solar Panels
Today’s four main solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, PERC, and thin-film panels. Below we will look into the differences between these solar panel types.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
The word mono means one or single, and therefore, mono-crystal panels, as the name implies, are produced from a single unpolluted silicon crystal that gets sliced into many wafers. You can easily distinguish them by their dark black hue, which indicates that they are pure silicon.
Monocrystalline panels take up less space and last longer than other solar panels, but this efficiency comes at a higher cost.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
The word poly means many or more than one, and therefore poly-crystal panels are made from different silicon crystals. This fragmentation makes polycrystalline cells more inexpensive since there is less waste, and it also gives them their distinctive square form.
However, the downside is that they are less efficient and cannot tolerate high temperatures.
PERC Solar Panels
Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) is a method that increases the efficiency of solar cells by catching as many additional photons as possible without affecting the way they operate fundamentally.
PERC cells have an extra layer on the back of regular solar cells, making them more efficient than normal cells, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed and converted into power.
However, PERC modules can also reduce back recombination and prevent longer wavelengths from converting to heat, which would degrade the cell’s performance. Light-Induced Degradation (LID) is an issue that affects all silicon solar cells but is most noticeable in PERC cells.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
A thin-film solar cell uses micron-thick photon-absorbing material layers placed on a flexible substrate to convert light into electrical energy via the photovoltaic effect. They are, however, less efficient than standard silicon solar panels.
Thin-film solar panels, unlike crystalline panels, are manufactured of a variety of materials such as:
- Cadmium telluride (CdTe): CdTe solar panels have the same low-cost advantage as polycrystalline cells but have the smallest carbon footprint. However, cadmium is more expensive to recycle than other materials because of its toxicity.
- Amorphous silicon (a-Si): Amorphous silicon panels (A-Si) are unlike mono- and polycrystalline solar cells in shape. Non-molecularly structured silicon uses a fraction of the silicon used in traditional silicon cells, which can be manufactured at a lower cost without compromising efficiency. As a result, a-Si panels are ideal for low-power devices like pocket calculators.
- Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS): A thin coating of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium gets put on a glass or plastic backing in CIGS panels. Although not as effective as crystalline silicon panels, the combination of these components yields the best efficiency among thin-panel varieties.
Can You Mix Different Varieties Of Solar Panels?
Yes, you indeed can, but it is not recommended since you will lose capacity.
The weakest link theory applies here; the weakest panel will drag the whole system down, whether connected in series or parallel. If you need to connect different panels, try to separate string outputs to separate charge controllers and inverters. This separation will cost more but will be the most efficient overall.
When connecting solar panels, you’ll usually do it in strings. Each string should be linked to a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) for output monitoring and should have numerous solar panels feeding it.
Due to electrical characteristic variations, when mono and poly are combined in the same string, the output is likely to be lower than the inverter’s operational range, resulting in no power.
Combining monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels (each kind in its own string) allows you to keep track of the output rating and ensures that variations are minimal. In this situation, the inverter will perform as expected, and your system will provide the electricity you require and be more efficient.
These two kinds of solar panels work well together. For example, when there isn’t enough sun, mono solar panels will raise the system’s output, whereas poly solar panels will boost production when there is plenty of light.
Can You Mix 12V And 24V Solar Panels?
It is possible to use a 12V and 24V solar panel together; however, it is not recommended. The battery’s rating determines the choice of a solar panel.
For example, a 12V solar panel should typically be used with a 12V battery, whereas a 24V panel should be used with a 24V battery.
There are, however, no 24V solar batteries; therefore, you may manufacture one by uniting two 12V or four 6V batteries in a series connection. A 24v solar system, like a 12v solar system, may be utilized in various locations; however, the voltage generated by a 24v solar system is substantially higher.
The 12V systems are more for household applications, whereas the 24V systems are more for industrial and commercial use.
If you wish to blend these two-panel voltages, consider the inverter, batteries, and charge controller compatibility.