If you’re looking to make the switch to solar energy, then you’re probably interested to know what types of solar panels are out there. There are three main types of solar panels – monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each type has its own pros and cons and the best one for you depends on the features you’re looking for. If you want to learn more about these three solar panel types and their associated costs, then read on.
The three major solar panel types, explained
Aside from their prices, there are other key differences between the three major types of solar panels. Let’s take a look at these differences before we dive into the costs.
#1 – Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Solar panels made of monocrystalline are the most widely used in Australia, thanks to both its aesthetics and efficiency.
‘Mono’ means one and ‘crystalline’ pertains to a structure made of crystal. The process of creating a monocrystalline solar panel involves the use of a crystal ingot made of pure, molten silicon. This ingot forms a bar of single crystal silicon, which is then turned into 0.1mm- to 0.3mm–thick wafers via a process known as the Czochralski process.
A monocrystalline solar panel has a matte black colour that many Australian homeowners have come to know and love. The solar cells of a monocrystalline panel have rounded edges. Monocrystalline panels are also by far the most efficient type of solar panel. Since they use a highly pure silicon composition, electrons move more freely within their solar cell, making the panel more efficient. Solar panels like these usually have panel efficiencies higher than 19%.
#2 – Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline panels, also called multi-crystalline panels, are cheaper than monocrystalline panels. However, they’re also less efficient because of how they were created.
Polycrystalline panels are made with fragments of silicon that are melted together before being shaved down into thin wafers. This means that there is always more than one crystal silicone in a multi-crystalline panel. Because of this, electrons within the solar cell move less freely, hence why polycrystalline panels are less efficient than their single crystal counterpart. This process is much faster and cheaper though.
Unlike the consistent black, rounded edges of a polycrystalline solar cell, multi-crystalline solar cells are usually square and inconsistently blue in colour. Solar panels like these only have panel efficiencies between 15% and 17%. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels have average lifespans of about 25 to 30 years.
Torn between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels? Send us a message or ring us up to learn which one is right for you!
#3 – Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing semi-conductors on a thin sheet of glass, metal, or plastic. Thin-film solar panels are quite innovative. They’re so much thinner and lighter than crystalline panels, they don’t need mounting, they’re extremely cheap, they’re not as affected by heat and high temperatures, and they’re highly flexible. Compared to other types of solar panels, thin-film panels also leave a significantly smaller carbon footprint during production.
However, thin-film panels aren’t that efficient, with commercially-available panels having efficiencies of just about 10% to 13%. With efficiency ratings this low, you’re going to have to roll out more thin-film panels to generate the same amount of electricity than if you’ve used crystalline panels.
Of course, your needs should dictate which type of panel to get. Some businesses use thin-film panels and install them on building windows. Because they’re cheap, readily available, more flexible, and easier to install, thin-film panels are also usually used alongside the other types of panels. And when other panels cannot be installed on a property because of certain requirements, thin-film panels usually can.
How much do solar panels cost?
Now that you know the differences between the three major types of solar panels, it’s time to learn how different they are in terms of costs.
Solar installations are encouraged by the Australian government, so much so that it has offered installation rebates for residential and commercial property owners since 2010. The solar rebates come in the form of STCs (small-scale technology certificates), and your total solar rebate or discount depends on the amount of STCs that you’re eligible for and the dollar value of STCs.
You can gauge the number of STCs using this calculator designed by the Australian REC Registry.
Overview and factors that affect solar installation costs
Solar panel prices aren’t just about the costs of the panels themselves. Knowing what goes into the costs of solar installations and the benefits of having solar systems installed can help you understand and justify the higher upfront prices.
#1 – System size
With solar rebates, you can have a complete 6.6kW solar PV system installed for around $6,000 to $9,000. An average residential property needs at least a 5kW solar system but you can always justify a larger system size. It doesn’t make sense to install smaller systems nowadays since the costs of solar panels have already gone down dramatically during the past few years. If you have the budget, experts even recommend mounting as many solar panels as your roof can handle.
#2 – Efficiency
Efficiency and cost of solar panels typically have a direct relationship. The more efficient a system is, the higher its cost would be. You would need to install a greater number of less efficient solar panels to be able to generate the same amount of power that a fewer number of more efficient solar panels can.
This is why you first need to determine your desired power output before you choose a type of solar panel to have installed. This is also why it’s not recommended to choose a solar panel solely based on price per panel. It would take us or any other solar installer a lot more time installing more of the less efficient panels, and this would come at an additional cost to you. It is also quite common for companies to advertise solar panel prices with the labour costs already included.
#3 – Warranty
Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years and there are two types of warranties offered by solar panel product manufacturers. First is the performance warranty. For the first 10 years, solar panels are usually guaranteed to perform at 90% of its capacity and at 80% for the next 15 years. Next is the product or equipment warranty. Equipment warranties typically guarantee that the product will need no major repairs for the first 10 years, depending on the manufacturer.
Average starting prices for solar installations
Here are the starting prices for 6.6kW solar installations in some Australian cities. This table assumes that your roof is at the best location possible without shading, daytime electric usage is 40%, and your average bill per month is $200. Notice that the sunnier the location, the more power that can be generated per day. Also noteworthy is the fact that all Australian cities can cover daytime electrical usage which is on average only 20kWh.
|City||Average Power Generated per Day||Payback Period||Starting Price|
These prices are average starting prices with 2021 rebates already applied. Upgrades like solar battery storage and many other factors can drive these prices up. Feed-in tariffs are not calculated in this table because different energy providers have different prices.
Are solar panels worth it?
If there’s one thing that every Australian state has in common, it’s sunshine. Most Australian cities are warmed (or, in some places, scorched) by the sun for more than 200 days every year.
Many places in Queensland and New South Wales get more than 230 days of sun annually. Even the least sunny city of Melbourne in Victoria gets 185 sunny days each year. All of these only mean that wherever you are in Australia, you can enjoy all the benefits of installing solar panels.
#1 – Solar panels help you save thousands every year
Yes, installations may cost thousands of dollars upfront, but government-issued STCs can slash off a significant amount of that initial cost. And yes, solar panels manufacturing companies will continue to put lower price tags on solar products as years go by, but why not start saving on your bills as early as now?
For example, let’s take the data for Sydney solar installations costs above. With a 40% daytime electric usage, an average bill of $200, and a 6.6kW solar system, your annual savings can go as high as $1,496. This is why the $6,987 solar installation will take less than 5 years to pay for itself, and this doesn’t even take into consideration the money you can make for selling your surplus energy. This can also immediately slash your electricity bills down to about $75 per month.
Over the span of its lifetime, the same solar panel system can help you save up to $68,555. Solar panel systems are quite low-maintenance too. You can DIY the cleaning or leave it to the experts. Considering annual maintenance costs of just about $150 to $300, you’re still left with around $61,055 to $64,805 in savings. Meanwhile, equipment and product warranties can help you save on repairs and replacements.
#2 – Solar panels increase the value of your property
Selling your home may be the farthest thing from your mind today, but who’s to say you’re going to feel the same way in the years to come? If you’re having second thoughts about solar installations because you’re planning to move, know that having a solar panel system installed intrinsically increases the value of your property. Since solar panels are investments that can pay for themselves in a few years and can basically help you out for the next two to three decades, it only makes sense to add these costs into your property value.
Solar installations also improve the public’s perception of a business, meaning that you can save on your business utility costs and attract more customers at the same time.
#3 – Solar panels use the cleanest form of energy
The future looks bright for solar technology and experts believe that solar energy can completely replace fossil fuel energy by 2030. As fossil fuel sources dwindle, the sun will continue shining for millions of human generations from now. It’s a virtually unlimited and inexhaustible energy source, and solar power is the cleanest form of energy in the world.
Again, using the Sydney data, a 6.6kw solar panel installation can provide you with more than enough energy you need during the day. Over the course of 25 years, you’d have saved the Earth from 195.4 tonnes of carbon emissions. This is the amount of carbon emissions that you would’ve helped produce if your home was powered with energy from fossil fuels and coal plants instead.
Thinking of investing in solar panels in Australia?
The three types of solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Monocrystalline panels are expensive yet efficient. Polycrystalline panels are cheaper but less efficient than the monocrystalline. Thin-film panels are lightweight and portable but are the least efficient out of the bunch.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what kind of solar panel you choose to use. All that matters is that you choose the right type of solar panel for your budget and energy and savings goals.
Are you thinking about installing solar panels for your home or your business? You might want to put that cable cutter down and leave it to the pros. We, at Nationwide Solar Solutions, are experts in solar installations. We not only provide installation and product warranties, but also repair or replacement insurance.
If you aren’t sure about which type of solar panel to get, give us a call at 1300 800 991 and let us help you out. Get a free solar quote and find out just how much you can save when you switch to solar! With partners from all over Australia, we can provide you with high-quality, discounted panels and set you up with an approved local installer in your area.