A guide to all-black solar panels
The classic solar panel look is shiny blue, but in recent years this has started to change. You may have noticed that newly installed solar panels are often mostly black these days and, in some cases, completely black. In this guide, we’ll explore why and look at the different types of black solar panels.
What’s the difference between blue and black solar panels?
Blue solar panels are polycrystalline panels. This means they’re made from multiple silicon crystals which have been melted together. They cost less to make than black solar panels do, but are less efficient and take up more space.
Black solar panels are monocrystalline panels. This means they’re made from a single silicon crystal, which is cut into wafers. They take up less room than blue, polycrystalline solar panels, but are more energy efficient and therefore have a higher output in the same amount of space. They cost more to make and so cost more for the consumer.
The difference in colour is simply caused by the manufacturing process. A blue, anti-reflective coating is added to polycrystalline solar panels so more sunlight can be absorbed, whereas monocrystalline panels are already very absorbent.
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Types of black solar panels
There are three parts of a solar panel that can be a different colour:
- Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells. This is the part made from silicon and is what converts sunlight into electrical energy.
- Frame, which holds the different components together and protects them from outside elements, increasing the lifespan of the solar panel. Many frames are silver, but in all-black solar panels the frame is black.
- Backing sheet, the outermost layer of the solar panel. It protects the inner components against things like dust and sand, wind, humidity, UV radiation and scratches, which can all degrade solar panels faster.
With this in mind, let’s look at the different appearances black solar panels can have.
- All black. As the name suggests, all the key components are black, blending in to create a sleek and elegant solar panel.
- Black frame with white backing sheet. The addition of a black frame can tone down the appearance of solar panels, although slivers of the backing sheet will still be seen between the solar cells. However, a white backing sheet can reflect and trap more light than a black one, increasing efficiency.
- Silver frame with black backing sheet. From a distance, a solar panel with a black backing sheet will appear completely dark (you can see the wires up close, but no one will be that near unless they’re the installer).
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Advantages of black solar panels
- Their sleek aesthetic looks more elegant compared to blue solar panels.
- They’re better at blending into existing roof tiles, especially if the roof tiles are darker in colour.
- Black monocrystalline panels are more efficient than blue polycrystalline panels, which means they use more of the sunlight that reaches them. In turn, this means you need fewer panels to get the amount of power needed to run your home.
- Monocrystalline panels have a longer lifespan (30+ years, compared to around 20 for polycrystalline panels).
Disadvantages of black solar panels
- Solar panels with a black frame and backing will absorb more heat compared to those with a white frame. This warms up the panels and can reduce efficiency, though monocrystalline panels are still more efficient than polycrystalline panels. Manufacturers will often take steps to boost efficiency. For example, LONGi’s all-black solar panel still runs at 84.8% efficiency after 25 years, compared to the standard 80%.
- They’re more expensive than polycrystalline panels. However, the difference in price may even out long term, as it takes less time to make a return on your investment.
- They tend to be most effective in high temperatures, compared to polycrystalline panels, so they may be less efficient in cooler parts of the world.
With all-black solar panels gaining popularity, it’s important to do your research before committing to an installation. At Otovo, we run a network of reliable, local installers, all of whom are certified by consumer protection organisations and regularly audited to ensure consistent quality. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.