A guide to the different types of solar panels

Our guide helps you to understand the different types of solar panels to help you understand what type might be best for you. 

If you’re considering solar panels, there’s a lot to take in and it can be tricky to work out what’s right for your home or business. To help you navigate your options, we take a look at the different types of solar panels on the market so that you can make an informed decision.  

What are the different types of solar panel? 

There are broadly four main types of solar panel in use today, but technology means the number of options is increasing all the time. In the UK, your choices include: 

Monocrystalline solar panels 

As the name suggests, these solar panels are made from a single type of crystal, in this instance, silicon. These panels are what most of us will visualise when we think of solar panels. They’re typically very uniform, black in colour, and look smart against almost all types of roofs.  

These are some of the most expensive solar panels available, but they’re also very efficient because they are made of just one type of crystal. They are also considered the most long-lasting so although they’re pricey, their efficiency and longevity does offer value for money. The downside is that because it’s made from just one type of material, there is considerable wastage. 

 Polycrystalline solar panels  

Unlike monocrystalline solar panels which are made from just silicon, these are made up of lots of different types of crystal and create an almost mosaic effect. They cost less to buy and because they use different crystals, there’s less waste in manufacturing.  

The downside is that they’re not as efficient as monocrystalline panels, they’re also usually blue which can mean they stand out.  

Thin-film solar panels 

These types of solar panels are made up of thin sheets of photovoltaic material rather than crystals (photovoltaic simply describes the process of turning light into electricity). If you want thin-film panels, there are three versions to choose from:

  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) – these are the most efficient type of thin-film solar panel.  
  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si) – these are the cheapest type of panel available, but they don’t generate as much energy and are really only useful for powering very small items. 
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe) – these have the lowest carbon footprint of all the thin-film panels, but they are the most expensive to recycle.  

Thin-film panels aren’t as efficient as crystalline panels but one of the big benefits is that they’re extremely flexible. They can also be cut to size, making them a good option for small or awkward spaces.  

Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) panels  

These types of solar panel are relatively new, but they are considered slightly more efficient than even monocrystalline solar panels. The disadvantage is that it means they can cost more to install. 

Do solar panels need to conform to regulations? 

Solar panels installed by a professional should conform to national standards and meet structural and electrical safety guidelines. If you’re worried about safety, check your installer has MCS certification. 

MCS stands for microgeneration certification scheme and although firms don’t need to be part of it to fit solar panels, they are considered an indication of excellence. Firms that sign up to the scheme are considered to use high-quality products in their installations and work to the latest safety and industry standards.  

What type of solar panel is best for me? 

When it comes to determining the best type of solar panel for your home or business, there are several factors to consider. These include your energy needs, budget, and the size and type of your roof. If you have a flat roof, it’s important to choose a panel that is suitable for this type of roof.

The Solar Trade Association and The Energy Saving Trust are both excellent resources for additional information on solar panels. The Solar Trade Association is a professional body that represents companies and organisations involved in the solar industry.

In short there’s no simple answer to choosing the panel for your home as it depends on a number of factors, for instance: 

  • How much energy you want to generate 
  • What your budget is 
  • The size of your roof and the type of roof you have (pitched or flat) 
  • How you want the panels to look (if you’re concerned about the aesthetics of your home) 

Depending on what you need, you’ll have to weigh up each type of solar panels pros and cons including the cost of installation, efficiency, and appearance. Here’s a quick summary: 

Type of solar panel Expense Efficiency Appearance 
Monocrystalline Very expensive Most efficient Very smart 
Polycrystalline Cheaper Efficient Not as smart 
Thin-film Cheapest Not very efficient Depends on material used 
PERC panels Most expensive More efficient Very smart 


If you’d like more information about the types of solar panels available, we can help. A survey will give you a better idea of the type of panels that are most suited to your roof and the number of panels you may need. We can also take you through battery options if you’d like to store the excess energy you generate. You can call us on 01953 882 787 or send us an email at info@spartek.co.uk. 

For more information about how we can help with your solar panels choices and installations, contact us today on 01953 882 787, or use our quick contact form to find out how we can help you.