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Black vs Blue Solar Panels: What’s the Difference?

November 10, 2021
A black monocrystalline solar panel on the left, and a blue polycrystalline solar panel on the right, separated by VS on a green sunburst.

When it comes to choosing the right solar panels for your home, you may have seen homes with different colored panels. Why are some black while others are blue? Are black solar panels better? Should you know about the difference when making choices for your home?

This article will help you learn how the two types of solar panels are made, understand why they are different, the pros and cons of each option, and determine which one is best for your home.

Is There a Difference Between Black and Blue Solar Panels?

Yes, there is a difference between black and blue solar panels and it depends on how they are made. Modern photovoltaic (PV) panels use silicon, one of the most effective semiconductor elements that can absorb sunlight and convert it into an electric charge.

There are two types of solar panels that exist in the market:

  • Monocrystalline (aka single-crystal silicon, mono c-Si, or mono-Si)
  • Polycrystalline (aka semi-crystalline silicon, polysilicon, poly-Si, or simply "poly")

The color of the panel you see depends on how the manufacturer used silicon in the manufacturing process, and how that particular type of panel reacts to light.

Some panels also appear blue because the manufacturer applied an anti-reflective coating to improve how well they absorb light and generate electricity. Just keep in mind that the color is the natural result of the way that the panels are manufactured, and they’re not just painted or dyed a specific color. (For other color options, check out Colored Solar Panels: Are Black and Blue the Only Options?)

Black Backsheets vs White Backsheets

Once the silicon crystals are manufactured, they are adhered to a backsheet that arranges them into a grid pattern. This backsheet can be seen through the gaps between the cells, and impacts the overall appearance of the panel.

Black backsheets create a more uniform look to the solar panel, which helps it blend in with darker roof materials. However, the black color does hold some heat, so black backsheets may get hotter than traditional white backsheets. That said, the tradeoff in efficiency may be worth it for a more visually appealing solar installation.

Monocrystalline Silicon Makes Solar Panels Black

Why are solar panels black? Manufacturers use high-quality silicon crystals to create monocrystalline solar cells. During the production process, the silicon arranges itself in a single direction to form one large crystal. Because of this arrangement, the light interacting with the monocrystalline cells appears black to the human eye.

Two production factors make black monocrystalline panels more expensive than polycrystalline panels:

  1. Forming a single large crystal uses more energy than creating the polycrystalline version.
  2. The process wastes silicon as the large crystal is sliced wafer-thin to get the right size and shape for the PV panel.

However, the increased costs are worth it to many people, because monocrystalline solar cell panels are more efficient at creating electricity than polycrystalline solar cell panels.

Polycrystalline Silicon Makes Solar Panels Blue

Why are solar panels blue? In the polycrystalline production process, silicon crystals are melted down, poured into a square mold, and then cooled in that mold to form polycrystalline solar cells. This process creates many, separate crystals, which produces a speckled, shimmering appearance that appears blue to the human eye.

The multiple crystals in the formation process create less silicon waste and require less energy than the monocrystalline process. It makes the blue-colored solar panels less expensive, but it also means blue panels are less efficient.

Which Color is Better for My Home Solar Power System?

Now that you understand the basic differences between black and blue solar panels, you probably want to know if black panels are better than blue panels for home solar installations.

Because of their monocrystalline structure, black solar panels absorb light and generate electricity more efficiently than polycrystalline blue solar panels. Since you need fewer of them to generate the same amount of electricity, black panels are usually less expensive in the long run, and use less roof space.

When determining how many photovoltaic panels you will need for your home, you should answer the following four questions:

  • What is your household energy consumption history?
  • What are the peak sun hours in your area?
  • What is the output of each of the solar panels you are considering?
  • What are your solar energy goals?

The latest generation of monocrystalline solar panels lasts longer than previous models. They also perform better in warmer temperatures and in low light conditions than blue panels do. Even as electricity generation slowly deteriorates over time, the panels will still generate enough energy to meet your home's electricity needs for their 25-year average lifetime, and usually even longer.

If you have a limited budget, you might want to opt for blue solar panels, as they are less expensive to buy compared to black solar panels. After all, blue panels may be less efficient, but they are efficient enough for home use and some commercial applications. Then again, advances in photovoltaic technology promise both higher efficiency levels and lower costs for the black panels.

Can I Choose Which Color Solar Panel To Use?

Usually customers can’t choose the type of panel that a solar company installs on their home. Solar companies typically work with preferred PV panel vendors to ensure quality, efficiency, workmanship, and supply, so they offer a limited selection of panel options to their customers.

Customers can research the panel they think is best for their homes and then determine which solar installer uses that panel, but it’s usually best to just work with an installer that you trust and go with their preferred panel, whether it’s blue or black.

Why Black & Blue Solar Panels Are Different

As you embark on your solar journey, remember the following information when comparing blue vs black solar panels:

  • The color of a solar panel depends on the type of silicon used during the manufacturing process.
  • Black solar panels are more efficient because monocrystalline silicon captures sunlight more effectively than the polycrystalline variety.
  • Blue solar panels are usually less expensive than black solar panels because the production process for polycrystalline silicon is less wasteful, but the lifetime savings may be lower.

The type of panel you choose for your home PV system depends on a range of essential factors:

  • Your solar energy goals
  • Your budget
  • The shape of your roof
  • The preferences of the leading solar installers in your area

If you’re thinking about going solar, we invite you to use our Estimate Your Savings tool to learn how solar energy can help you power your home more efficiently and affordably.

Then contact Palmetto to schedule a consultation and discuss your options, so we can help you get the right solar power system that meets your home energy needs.

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