Easy Guide to Solar Panels

One solar panel looks pretty much like another, so what's the difference?
This easy to follow guide is designed to give you all the basic information you need and help you make an informed choice.

Solar panel diagram

What are the basics of a solar panel?


Your average panel is around 1m wide by 1.7m tall and about 4cm thick. Panels weigh about 18kg each.


Solar panels come in a few different colours. The frames are typically made from aluminium and are either metal coloured or black. The back sheets are either black or white. Some panels use the white back sheet to increase efficiency (e.g. Sunpower). Look at our Solar panel page to see the options available.

The silicon slices in the panel are usually blue or black. The colour depends on the type of technology used in making the silicon.


The fundamental difference in solar panels is whether the silicon is polycrystalline (blue) or monocrystalline (black). Polycrystalline cells comprise parts of many silicon crystals. Monocrystalline is made from a single silicon crystal.

Polycrystalline panels usually have lower efficiency but cost less. They produce less waste in the manufacturing process. Monocrystalline panels cost a little more but have higher efficiency.

Some manufacturers (e.g. Sunpower) make blue monocrystalline panels.

Panel wattage

You measure a panel's output in watts. They range from around 280 watts to 400 watts. It can be down to what technology the panel manufacturer has used or the panel may have more cells and be slightly larger.


Most panels have a 25-year output warranty and a 10-year product warranty. Tests are carried out for wind-loads and weight loads for snow and salt mist corrosion resistance for coastal properties.

Some panels on the market have an extended "useful life" of up to 40 years; this is down to using higher-quality silicon that degrades very slowly.

Anatomy of a Solar Panel

Solar panel diagram

Solar panel construction diagram

Please contact us with a question or to get a free quote for solar panels or battery installation.

We aim to get responses to you within 24 hours. If you have arrived here via a recommendation, please mention the person's name so we can get you in touch with the same consultant.

All surveys and consultations are free and there is no obligation to buy.

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We are happy to discuss your needs and answer any questions you have about solar panels or batteries.

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