Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: The Definitive Comparison

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On the lookout for some new panels? In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels. By the end, you’ll know which is right for you. We’ll also recommend a few picks throughout so your new array is worth the pay.

Mono vs polycrytalline panels

What are monocrystalline solar panels?

Monocrystalline solar panels – as the name suggests – have a single crystal per photovoltaic cell. This is down to a manufacturing process in which a single crystal of silicon is grown and processed into an ingot, which is then melted down, poured into a mold, and separated into wafers which form the monocrystalline modules. You can tell a monocrystalline panel by its black color, uniform texture, and rounded edges per cell.

Why is a single crystal cell design superior?

By having a single crystal per cell rather than many, monocrystalline solar panels have a few advantages. This cell design allows for a larger surface area that can capture sunlight, which means more efficiency per square meter. Pretty handy when you’re short for space. As a result of this, they also perform better in hot environments and work better in sub-optimal coverage, such as shaded areas.

In a nutshell, a single-crystal solar cell = more efficiency and less space needed.

What are polycrystalline solar panels?

Polycrystalline solar cells on the other hand are not made up of a single silicon cell, they’re made up of many, hence the name poly. Unlike monocrystalline panels, multiple crystals of silicon are melded together in the manufacturing process to form the solar cells, resulting in the end product taking up more space and sacrificing efficiency.

Do polycrystalline panels have any advantages?

The redeeming quality of the polycrystalline pick is the manufacturing costs. The process is faster and cheaper due to mega factories’ highly-efficient processes and solar farm orders allowing for economies of scale. In layman’s terms, the cost of production has plummeted. Although we can’t expect this to continue to the same degree due to diminishing returns in savings, it does mean polycrystalline panels are cheaper than ever.

polycrystalline solar panel
Polycrystalline Solar Array

What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels?

With the production methods out of the way, we can take a dive into the things that make these two types of panels different. We’ll compare efficiency, cost, portability, durability, and finally aesthetics. Everyone wants a sleek-looking array, right?

Solar Efficiency

The efficiency of a solar panel is measured by its power output per square meter, which is called its “efficiency rating”. Monocrystalline, as eluded to earlier wins out here. Polycrystalline averages roughly 13-16%, with monocrystalline panels topping out just over 20%. This means that they can produce more electricity with the same amount of sunlight.

Winner: Monocrystalline Panels

Solar Panel Cost

Due to the production methods we’ve already covered above, polycrystalline wins out on the solar panel cost. For a 200W panel, you can expect around $200-300. That being said, EcoFlow’s 160W monocrystalline model balances price and functionality, being foldable, weatherproof, and coming with a carry bag for just $349.99 while they’re on sale now.

Winner: Polycrystalline Panels

Solar Panel Portability

If you need to move your panels around a bunch, such as for camping, RV, or outdoor use, portability is king. Monocrystalline panels have a much higher efficiency per cell, which means you need fewer panels to produce the same amount of energy.

Winner: Monocrystalline Panels.

Solar Panel Durability

While both kinds are durable, it’s worth mentioning if you’re looking for a portable solar panel, it needs to be able to take a beating. EcoFlow’s are foldable solar panels, slightly flexible, and weatherproof. In fact, you can even dunk them underwater for 30 minutes and they’ll be fine. Safe to say they’re ideal for taking on trips.

110W portable solar panel close up
EcoFlow 110W Portable Solar Panel

Winner: EcoFlow Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Solar Panel Aesthetics

While this comes down to personal preference, the blue tone of polycrystalline panels and their marbled appearance make them stand out more. Monocrystalline panels are black and have a uniform texture, so they blend in better. If you’re looking for a sleek, less intrusive appearance, monocrystalline will be your go-to.

Winner: No Clear Winner

Mono vs. Poly Solar Panel Feature Comparison

EcoFlow Monocrystalline Solar PanelsStandard Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Efficiency22%13—16%
PortabilityFoldable. Comes with a carry case. Rigid, bulky
PriceHigherLower
DurabilityWaterproof, durable, slightly flexible.Tough, rigid.
AestheticsBlack, minimalisticBlue, non-uniform

Application Comparison: Which type of panel is best for me?

Best solar panels for camping & trips

If you’re heading camping, off on a road trip, or are generally using solar power on the go, a portable solar panel is essential. It means less to pack and less to carry. Your back will thank you later. Efficiency is also a key consideration since you can’t guarantee optimal sunlight or shadow conditions. Monocrystalline are lighter, can be smaller and also perform better in hot environments.

Foldable monocrystalline panels that come with a carry bag would be an excellent pick here.

solar panel carry bag
EcoFlow Portable Solar Panel Carry Bag

Best solar panels for home backup

If you have a solar generator for home backup, we’d recommend opting for a monocrystalline panel. It offers more flexibility, giving you a faster charging time with less space if the grid is down. They’re also more portable which makes your life a little easier when setting them up in your garden.

portable solar panel with RIVER solar generator
EcoFlow RIVER + Portable Solar Panel

Best solar panels for rooftops

If you’re using a more permanent setup on your roof, then portability is likely not as important to you, for that reason you might consider polycrystalline to save on costs. However, you would be sacrificing efficiency, meaning you’re getting less power from the same amount of space used. You’d also be sacrificing the clean, less intrusive appearance of monocrystalline. Small spaces might still favor monocrystalline rigid solar panels here, and looks might swing the balance. You can weigh up cost vs. efficiency and appearance to decide which type of panel you opt for.

Rooftop polycrystalline solar panels
Rooftop polycrystalline solar panels

Application solar panel comparison

Best solar panel for campingBest solar panel for home backupBest solar panel for rooftops
Monocrystalline
Polycrystalline

Wrapping things up

When comparing monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels, monocrystalline panels are superior when it comes to portability and efficiency, with polycrystalline panels winning out when it comes to cost. Perhaps an apt analogy might be wonderbread vs. buying some wholegrain from your local bakery. One is cheap, reliable, and does the job. The other delivers just what you wanted and more for just a little extra dollar.

EcoFlow’s Portable Solar Panels are all monocrystalline foldable solar panels, balancing cost, portability, and efficiency. They come in four sizes so you can pick the right wattage for your needs. Need help on how to choose a portable solar panel? Here’s an article on the topic.

Most Portable

EcoFlow 60W Solar Panel

60W

Foldable
Waterproof
8.8 lbs*
60W Input
Incl. Carry Case

Mid-Range

110W

Foldable
Waterproof
13.2 lb*
110W Input
Incl. Carry Case

Mid-Range

EcoFlow 160W Solar Panel

160W

Foldable
Waterproof
15.4 lb*
160W Input
Incl. Carry Case

Highest Input

EcoFlow 400W Solar Panel

400W

Foldable
Waterproof
35.3 lb*
400W Input
Incl. Carry Case

Kris Haagensen
Born and raised in the UK, Kris is a 4.0 International Business grad from Sheffield Business School. After working in the tech industry for half a decade in Shenzhen, China, he's now Lead Copywriter at EcoFlow. Kris is a renewable power enthusiast & uses solar generators to run his DJ gear in exotic locations.

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