If you’re considering upgrading your home with rooftop solar energy, you may have wondered why some solar power arrays are a sleek uniform shade of black, and others are a shimmery crystalized smash-up of navy blue. In this article, we’ll review each type of solar panel system and help you choose which is best for your home.
All about black solar panels
Black, or monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal of silicon. So, if sanctity and purity are important to you, it’s black solar panels all the way to the altar of your rooftop.
Black panels are typically more expensive, because they are more resource intensive to produce.
Using a process called czochralski, silicon crystal seeds are placed in a vat of superheated silicon. The crystal seed is slowly removed from the molten silicon in a solid crystal ingot. The ingot then gets cut into thin silicon wafers which are embedded into solar panels.
However, a sizable amount of pure silicon gets wasted in the manufacturing process from cutting the sides of the ingot just right.
Light is reflected and absorbed differently with a single crystal, and the resulting appearance is a more uniform black-ish appearance.
Black panels are generally more efficient (~22%) and function better in low lighting. If you have tight space to work with on your roof, black panels may be a better choice.
If you value aesthetics and are looking for more efficiency, it might be worth the price difference to invest in black panels.
All about blue solar panels
Blue polycrystalline solar panels are made up of lots of tiny silicon crystals. When produced into a solar panel, not much material is wasted, and the panel is less expensive.
Instead of dipping a monocrystalline seed into a vat of hot silicon, a whole bunch of silicon crystals are simply allowed to cool in the right structure and they do not need to be trimmed to fit solar cell molds.
This process forms unique grains and edges of many silicon cells fused together. Some of the blue color gets enhanced by a finishing anti-reflective glaze, which boosts panel efficiency. Polycrystalline panels are typically between 15-17% efficient.
To sum up, blue solar panels are made up of many silicon crystals, are generally cheaper to produce because there is less material wasted, and they are more affordable.
Solar panel aesthetics and efficiency ratings
Solar cells are usually placed on a white backsheet, which makes a familiar grid of white lines appear around them. When you take monocrystalline cells, and put them on top of a black backsheet, you can hardly make out all the individual cells anymore.
While this may seem like an aesthetic win, efficiency actually takes a small hit here because the temperature inside the panel with a black backsheet is going to be slightly higher than the one with the white backsheet.
Check out this example from LG’s NeON 2, with the same exact monocrystalline black-ish cells in the solar panels, the white backsheet performs better than the black backsheet:
If your installer gets an inkling you are a person who cares about how things look, you might not even get offered the slightly more efficient panel with a white backsheet, because it can mean the difference between moving forward and hesitating. While aesthetics have value, it’s important to also be practical.
Light, heat and performance of black vs. blue solar panels
If you’ve ever worn an all black t-shirt in the hot sun, you may know that you feel warmer than if you were to wear a lighter color. That’s because black absorbs more sunlight. The extra amount of sunlight absorbed allows black solar panels to generate slightly more electricity than polycrystalline panels.
However, with more light absorbed also comes the potential for more heat to be absorbed too. Solar panels produce the greatest amount of electricity in relatively warm, sunny weather (~77 degrees Fahrenheit). When the temperature starts to increase beyond that, electricity production starts to degrade.
This is especially the case for black panels, or those with black backsheets, as more heat is retained in them than blue panels.
It is notable that some recent advances in solar panel wiring have allowed some black panels to approach the performance of blue panels in hot weather conditions.
Are black solar panels better than blue solar panels for your roof?
Because the crystals in a monocrystalline all-black array are all lined up in the same exact direction, black panels are more energy efficient during most weather conditions, and produce more power in low light conditions.
Black panels allow you to make better space efficiency if you’re short on south facing roof exposure. Warranties for black panels also tend to span more years on average, so they may be more durable over time.
Many people also like the aesthetic appeal of an all black array, especially if paired with a sleek home and expensive car:
One the other hand, blue panels produce less waste during manufacturing, are cheaper to buy, and have a smaller ecological footprint.
No matter what type of panel you favor, connect with a solar installer we trust near you to help you make a solid renewable energy choice for your home.
Last modified: March 9, 2020