What are black solar panels?

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brick house with black solar panels on the roof

Black solar panels aren’t just visually appealing — they often perform better than other solar panels. But are they worth the cost?

We’ll break down everything you need to know about black solar panels to help you decide whether they’re right for you.

Key insights

  • Solar panels usually have either a black or blue color.
  • Black solar panels generally use monocrystalline silicon, while blue solar panels use polycrystalline silicon.
  • Black (monocrystalline) solar panels tend to be more efficient than blue solar panels, but they also tend to be more expensive.
  • A solar energy company can help you decide which type of solar panel is right for your home.

Black solar panels explained

Black solar panels are simply a type of solar panel with a black appearance due to the kind of silicon they use and their method of construction. These panels, often referred to as monocrystalline panels, are made from single-crystal solar cells, which are cut from a pure silicon crystal “boule.” The single-crystal structure of these solar cells allows for the free movement of electrons, providing a higher efficiency rate than other types of solar panels.

» LEARN: How are solar panels made?

The space between these solar cells is often black, giving the entire panel a uniform, sleek appearance. As a result, many people find these panels more aesthetically appealing, which is why they’re usually preferred in residential settings.

One note — some black solar panels come with white backsheets that can give them a gridlike appearance. If an all-black appearance is important to you, confirm that detail with your solar company before you buy and get their answer in writing. We’ve heard complaints from multiple consumers who didn’t get the curb appeal they were looking for.

Daniel, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from California, told us: “We were extremely disappointed to find that after spending $50K on solar, SunPower initially did NOT deliver the all black panels that [they] show in all [their] ads. Instead, [they] delivered newer, slightly more efficient panels, with a white grid, that do not have the black, clean look of what [they] show in almost 100% of [their] marketing and advertising.”

Black vs. blue solar panels

The other most common color for solar panels is blue, but the differences between black and blue solar panels go deeper than just appearance.

  • Black (monocrystalline) solar panels are typically more efficient than other solar panels. (Most people also prefer the way they look.) However, they may perform slightly worse in high temperatures compared with other types of panels.
  • Blue solar panels are typically made with polycrystalline silicon that’s created by melting multiple silicon fragments together. This process is less energy-intensive than making monocrystalline silicon, but it creates a panel with multiple crystal structures, reducing efficiency. (The blue color comes from an anti-reflective coating that improves absorption and gives the panels a speckled appearance.)

» MORE: Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels

Black solar panel prices

As a general rule, monocrystalline (black) solar panels tend to be more expensive than polycrystalline (blue) panels due to their higher efficiency and the more complex manufacturing process.

Solar panel prices are actually a fairly small part of the overall cost of a solar energy system.

Exactly how much more black solar panels cost will depend on which products you’re choosing between. HomeAdvisor estimates that black panels cost $1 to $1.50 per watt, while blue panels cost 90 cents to $1 per watt. Those numbers don’t sound too far off to us if they only include the price of the panels themselves, but we’d talk to an installer or shop around for ourselves before we make any big decisions based on price alone.

It's also important to note that while monocrystalline panels might have a higher upfront cost, they can provide significantly more savings over time due to their higher efficiency, especially if space is a constraint. Therefore, when comparing costs, it's worth weighing the initial purchase price versus the potential return on investment over the lifetime of the system.

» MORE: Are solar panels worth it?

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    Are black solar panels better?

    It’s hard to say that either type of solar panel is universally better than the other. For example, while black (monocrystalline) solar panels tend to be more efficient and aesthetically pleasing, blue (polycrystalline) panels can be a more cost-effective choice. The right option for you depends on your specific needs, including your budget, energy requirements and aesthetic preferences.

    Here are some guidelines to help you decide between black and blue solar panels:

    1. Assess your budget: Monocrystalline (black) panels typically have a higher upfront cost compared with polycrystalline (blue) panels due to their higher efficiency and costlier manufacturing process. However, the overall price gap has been decreasing over time.
    2. Evaluate your available space: If space is a constraint, you may want to opt for monocrystalline panels. They are more efficient, meaning they can theoretically generate more power in a given area. (In practice, you’ll want to compare the wattages of similar-size panels, though. The technology used to achieve that number doesn’t matter as much as the end result.)
    3. Consider aesthetics: If the look of your panels is a priority, you might prefer monocrystalline panels. Their uniform black color often blends well with rooftops and is generally considered more visually pleasing. (The appearance of your panels can also impact your home’s value.)
    4. Analyze local environmental conditions: In hot weather, monocrystalline panels may have slightly worse performance. However, this difference is typically minimal and may not significantly impact overall system performance. Conversely, if your area experiences significant amounts of snow, dust or shade, monocrystalline panels can perform better under these conditions due to their increased efficiency.

    Ultimately, the choice between black and blue solar panels is just one aspect of a solar installation. You also need to consider the impact of your other components, like your inverter, and whether you want to invest in new technology, like bifacial solar panels, to make sure you wind up with a robust and durable solar power system.

    The good news is that working with a reputable solar installer can make these decisions simpler, and we’ve done some of the legwork of finding one for you by identifying the best solar energy companies.

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