In 2021, I don’t blame you for thinking about making the switch to a monocrystalline solar panel.
Although there’s nothing entirely wrong with polycrystalline solar panels, compared to mono solar panels, their efficiency is somewhat lacking.
This article aims to teach you all there is to know about these more efficient solar panels and why they’re the smarter choice for your green future.
What is a monocrystalline solar panel?
Commonly viewed as a premium solar product, a monocrystalline solar panel is a panel consisting of smaller monocrystalline solar cells.
Their superior aesthetics and efficiency make them the preferred choice for smart solar thinkers investing for the long term.
How are monocrystalline solar panels made?
Each solar cell is made from a single silicon ingot, grown from some of the purist’s silicon.
These solar cells appear smooth and even as each silicon ingot is sliced into thin wafer formats to fit into the panel perfectly.
To make the ingot, the silicon rock is melted at 2500 °F (1371 °C), then a seed crystal is lowered into the melted silicon mush and slowly pulled up while rotating.
You could compare this process to making a hand dipped candle, but instead of melting wax, you’re melting rocks (at a much higher temperature).
Because the silicon ingots have a rounded shape , a lot of material is lost when cutting it into the thinner required squared shape.
That is why most monocrystalline solar panels have rounded corners, to assist in minifying the overall silicon waste.
If you look at older mono solar panels, you’ll actually notice that they made them from round solar cells.
How do monocrystalline solar panels work?
Solar panels are an amazing technology, I mean how do they even work?
When the silicon rocks are a melted, a little bit of a positive chemical element, such as boron is added. This additive makes sure that the resulting silicon ingot has a positive potential.
Once the silicon ingot has cooled for days and sliced into thin wafers, it is then coated on one side with a negatively charged element such as phosphorus.
The combination of positive infused silicon one side and negative infused silicon on the other, creates what’s known as a positive and negative junction (PN junction).
This is where the magic photovoltaic effect happens happens!
Thin wires are painted onto the silicon wafers, providing a way to harness the flow of passing electricity.
At this point you may be asking yourself well that’s great and all, but how is the electricity generated in the first place?
When sun shines down on the negative side of the monocrystalline solar panel, some of the negatively charged electrons are knocked loose from their atoms.
From here they travel across the PN junction to the positive side of the solar panel, where there are holes available for them to fit into.
This process results in a direct current (DC) being generated, where it travels through the wiring system of the panel and into an appliance or most of the times into a storage device, such as a lithium battery.
Why is monocrystalline more efficient than polycrystalline?
To begin lets understand the maximum theoretical performance of each solar panel.
- Polycrystalline solar panels have an average efficiency of 23%, this means 23% of the sun hitting the panel is converted into electricity.
- Monocrystalline solar panels average efficiency is always higher of up to 28%.
Additionally, monocrystalline solar panels have a slight advantage (2%) over polycrystalline panels when it comes to low irradiance performance.
The reason for this is that monocrystalline is less susceptible to changes in output as the cell temperature changes (due to hotter days), and typically the mono cells voltage output is a little bit higher than the polys.
How long do monocrystalline solar panels last?
- You can expect your monocrystalline solar panel to have an average lifespan of between 25 to 30 years.
However, at the end of this time span, it doesn’t mean that your panels will stop producing electricity altogether.
It rather means that the solar panels electricity production/efficiency has declined to what the manufacturers consider to be a large amount.
How long does it take for mono crystalline solar panel to pay for itself?
The amount of time it takes for your solar panel to pay for itself depends on the size, cost and location of the panel.
- A 400 watt solar panel located in California for example, would pay for itself within 2 years.
In California, the electricity costs 0.208 USD per kWh, as one 400w panel is expected to produce 730 kWh per year, you will save: 151 USD every year.
Your average 400 watt monocrystalline solar panel costs roughly 300 USD.
Taking in to consideration the average life span of a solar panel being 25-30 years, you could expect to save about 3700 USD.
Do monocrystalline solar panels need maintenance?
Like all solar panels, monocrystalline panels need very little maintenance.
Because there are no moving parts involved, where and tear is kept down to a minimum.
What we recommend is the following:
- Every 3 years you do a visual inspection of your solar panels mounting rails.
- Every few months give your monocrystalline solar panel a wipe down. Clear it from any debris such as fallen leaves or dust build up.
That’s about it, solar panels require very little maintenance!
What are the best monocrystalline solar panels?
Deciding on the best monocrystalline solar panel for your campervan or household all comes down to your total energy requirements.
As a base I will list the 5 best monocrystalline solar panels in the 10 to 320 watt 12 volt category.
Read more: Setting up a solar system
1. Renogy Eclipse 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
The Eclipse is one of my favorite 100 watt solar panels on the market, and many van life travelers opt for them.
It’s made from the highest efficiency solar cells Renogy has to offer while weighing in at a mere 15 pounds (6 kg).
The solar cells are encased in a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame, people living close to the beach, here’s your answer.
2. ECO-WORTHY 120W Foldable Solar Panel
The 120 Watt monocrystalline solar panel from ECO-WORTHY is perfect portable device for your camping trips.
This panel is able to generate about 500 Watt hours a day under 4 hours of full sunlight.
This is enough energy to recharge your smartphone about 40 times, GoPro 50 times, laptop 4 times and your drone 30 times.
Combining this with a portable solar generator is no doubt the best digital nomad solution.
3. TP-solar 20W Solar Panel
Lightweight and affordable.
The perfect monocrystalline solar panel if you are looking to power small appliances such as courtyard lighting, solar gate openers or water pumps in the backyard.
4. Goal Zero Nomad 10 Watt Foldable Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Weighs only 1.2lbs and fits almost anywhere.
Take it with you hiking, fishing, camping or whatever adventure you feel it would come in handy.
The monocrystalline solar panel will charge phones, power banks, headlamps, fitness trackers and lighthouse lanterns.
5. Renogy 320 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
This solar panel is primarily used for residential and commercial purposes.
Rooftop solar systems are the ideal way to decrease your overall electric bill.
This particular panel from Renogy is capable of withstanding high winds, up to 2400 Pa, and snow loads of 5400 Pa