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Did you know that there is more than one type of solar panel? The kind of solar panel that a solar home uses depends on many different factors. Here is some helpful information for consumers about the differences between the types of solar panels, and the advantages and disadvantage of each.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has a solar electricity guide for consumers who are interested in solar electricity. The guide is designed to answer some frequently asked questions about solar panels, solar power, and solar homes.

In short, solar panels are made up of many solar cells. The panels are most effective if they are placed on a south-facing roof. However, they will still function if placed over a garage or porch that is not shaded from the sun.

The solar cells convert the sun's energy into power using the photovoltaic effect. This is also called the PV effect. Sunlight hits a solar cell. This causes an electrical current to flow through the solar cell. Consumers use that electrical current to power their homes. According to the guide from the DOE, there are two conventional types of solar panels: crystalline silicon, and thin film.

Crystalline solar panels are the most commonly used type of solar panel. They are rigid panels. The solar cells on them are made of silicon. There are two types of silicon solar panels. One type is crystalline. These are made from one single large silicon crystal. The other type is polycrystalline. The word "poly" means "many". These solar cells are made up of blocks of silicon that contain many crystals.

There are some advantages to using silicon solar panels instead of the thin-film solar panels. Silicon solar panels are the most efficient. They are also the best-preforming panels in low-light conditions. The crystalline type are somewhat more efficient than the polycrystalline type (but only slightly). According to the DOE, either type averages at about a 33% efficiency. The disadvantage of using silicon solar panels is that they are the most expensive type of solar panels.

The other type of solar panels are called thin-film solar panels. These are flexible panels. The solar cells are made from either glass or ceramic. Silicon (and other solar-producing materials) is spread over the cell in a very thin layer. In other words, thin-film solar panels also use silicon, just not in crystalline form.

There are some advantages to using thin-film solar panels instead of silicon solar panels. First of all, they are less expensive than the silicon solar panels are. Their flexibility makes them an ideal building-integrated solar product. There are also some disadvantages of using thin-film solar panels. They are less efficient than silicon solar panels. The most efficient ones are made from amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium diselenide. Their total efficiency can range from between 10% and 19%.

There are some other types of solar panels, but most of them are not yet available to homeowners. Instead, solar homes will be using one of the two above types of solar panels. It is also worth knowing that solar panels will not make your home into an "eyesore". They can be placed onto your roof in an aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive way.