10 Solar Panel Connector Types Ranked, When to Use Each (And When Not To)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Man looking at a solar panel and a connector wonders about various solar panel connector types and if the different types of solar panel connectors types and best type of solar panel could be explained.

Many homeowners are switching to solar energy to lower their carbon footprint, but with so many types of solar panels and solar panel connector types in the market, choosing the right one for your home can be challenging.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Solar panel connector types vary in small differences, but they all do basically the same thing…connect solar powers to allow the energy current to flow to a specific destination.

This complete guide explains the different solar panel connectors types, inverter types and options, solar panel types, and solar cell types to help you choose the right solar system for your home.

10 Solar Panel Connectors Types

Solar panel connectors are special fasteners that allow the energy current being generated by a solar panel to travel to a specific target

The following solar panel connector types are ranked by their use.

MC4 has become the standard for most systems, but other options include:

  1. MC4: The most commonly used type of solar panel connector, featuring a snap-in locking mechanism and waterproof design.
  2. MC3 are similar to MC4 connectors but have a different locking mechanism and lower current carrying capacity.
  3. Tyco Solarlok is a weather-resistant connector with a twist-lock design that can handle high currents.
  4. Amphenol H4 is a high-quality connector with a durable design and high current rating.
  5. Sunclix is a waterproof connector with a snap-lock design that is easy to install.
  6. Soladeck is a roof-mounted connector that integrates into the solar panel installation system.
  7. Anderson Powerpole is a modular connector for solar panels and other DC applications.
  8. Tigo is a smart connector that monitors and optimizes individual solar panels’ performance.
  9. Helios H4 are high-quality connectors with a locking mechanism that prevents accidental disconnection.
  10. MC5 is a variant of MC4 connectors designed for higher current applications.

Why Is MC4 Preferred Over Other Solar Panel Connector Types?

Because modern solar modules use MC4 connectors. They make wiring super easy and faster.

They also have an IP67 rating meaning they are waterproof and dust-proof.

What Is a Solar Panel Connector Types and How Does It Work?

A solar panel collects sunlight and converts it into electrical energy. A solar panel is made up of multiple photovoltaic cells that are connected to form a panel.

Photovoltaic cells are made of silicon, a semiconductor material. The solar panels are connected together using special electrical connection fasteners, that are waterproof.

The connector allows more than one solar panel to channel energy toward a single target location (such as to an inverter so that the current can be inverted for immediate use, or back to the power grid).

So, how does solar panel work?1

When sunlight hits the surface of the cells, it knocks some of the electrons in the silicon atoms loose, creating a flow of electrons.

The electrons flow through the cells and into wires connected to the panel, generating an electrical current.

A solar panel technician wearing a blue hard hat uses a tester on solar panel to measure its current.

(Image: 85106706)

The electrical energy generated by a solar panel is direct current (DC) electricity.

But because most homes use alternating current (AC) electricity, the DC electricity is converted into AC electricity using an inverter.

How Many Types of Solar Inverters Are Available in the Market?

There are three types of solar panel inverters, they include:

  1. String Inverters: These inverters are the most common type used in residential and small commercial solar power systems. They are designed to handle multiple solar panels connected in series, and they convert the DC electricity the panels produce into AC electricity sent to the electrical grid.
  2. Microinverters: These inverters are small devices attached to each solar panel in a solar power system. They are designed to convert the DC electricity produced by each panel into AC electricity sent to the electrical grid.
  3. Power Optimizers: These devices are similar to microinverters in that they are attached to each solar panel in a solar power system. However, they are designed to maximize the performance of each panel by regulating the DC voltage and current produced by the panels before it is sent to the string inverter.
  4. Hybrid inverters: These inverters allow solar energy systems to distribute the power generated at different times and to different targets. For example, hybrid invertes are often used when the solar energy excess is sold back to the power grid.

The amount of electricity generated by a solar panel depends on several factors, including the size and efficiency of the panel, the amount of sunlight it receives, and the temperature. Solar panels are most effective when installed on a south-facing roof with no shading from trees or other structures.

They also work best in cool temperatures, as high temperatures reduce their efficiency. Solar panels have become increasingly popular in generating clean, renewable energy in recent years.

Types of Solar Panels

Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film are the three main types of solar panels available for individual use.

Below we’ll discuss their unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

#1 Monocrystalline Solar Panels

The oldest and most commonly used types of solar panels for homes, these are crafted from a single silicon crystal.

The reason is that they work very well and are very durable.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Has a higher efficiency rate (between 18% – 24%).
  • Long lifespan of up to 30 years.
  • They have greater heat resistance.
  • They can generate 300-400 watts of power.
  • Expensive compared to other types of solar panels.
  • Mining, production, and disposal is energy-intensive, which creates high emissions.

#2 Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Poly panels have blue-colored cells with multiple silicon crystals that restrict movement between atomic particles.

This decreases efficiency. However, the production process is less complex, making them more affordable than monocrystalline panels.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • More affordable than monocrystalline solar panels.
  • More resistant to shading.
  • They are more eco-friendly than mono solar panels.
  • Lower efficiency rate than monocrystalline solar panels.
  • It may have a shorter lifespan than monocrystalline solar panels.

#3 Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels, as opposed to crystalline solar panels, are constructed from one or more layers of thin-film materials like amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium selenide, or cadmium telluride.

A man installing a thin and flexible solar panels on the roof of a residential house.

(Image: Fieldsken Ken Fields7)

This unique ‘thin’ feature is designed to make them weigh less, for situations where mobility or ease of use is required.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Lightweight and flexible.
  • They can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • More affordable than monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.
  • Lower efficiency rate than monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.
  • Not as durable, shorter lifespan.

Comparison Between Different Types of Solar Panels

Type of Panels Efficiency Rate Cost Lifespan (Years)
Mono panels 18 – 25% Expensive 25 – 30
Poly panels 15 – 18% Less expensive +25
Thin-film 6 – 13% Cheaper 10 -20

Which Is One of the Best Type of Solar Panels?

If you’re considering solar energy upgrades, choose based on your personal needs. Below are factors to consider when choosing a solar panel.

1. Cost

Cost can fluctuate based on size, efficiency and other factors. But, remember, you get what you pay for.

Compare the cost of different solar panels, search reviews, and do your research. It’s also a great idea to ask other people in your area about their experience with a particular type.

2. Efficiency

The efficiency of a solar panel is equivalent to the power it can generate, which is the main goal.

3. Durability

When properly installed, solar panels do not need a lot of maintenance. But because they are out in the open, choosing a tough panel that can endure harsh weather conditions is crucial.

Some panels are built to be more robust and last longer, so you should evaluate the material used to make them and their resistance to corrosion, hail, wind, and other weather factors. Panels with a more extended warranty are also a plus because the warranty reflects the manufacturers’ confidence in their products.

4. Type of Solar Panel

There are three different types of solar panels. They include monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film.

The panels differ in efficiency and subsequent cost.

Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient but expensive, while polycrystalline panels are more affordable but less efficient. On the other hand, thin-film panels are the least efficient and are cheaper but need a lot of space.

Consider your budget, energy needs, and available space to determine the best type of solar panel for your home.

5. Brand Reputation

Over the years, numerous brands of solar panels have emerged. Therefore, brand reputation and track record in the industry should also be essential factors.

Areal shot of EV charging station situated next to a highway.

(Image: Kindel Media8)

A reputable brand with a long history of producing high-quality panels will likely offer a reliable product and excellent customer service. You can ask friends or family with similar brands or industry experts.

Here is a solar panel size chart, together with the dimensions.

Solar panel design Typical Depth (inches) Typical Width (inches) Typical Height (inches)
60 cell 1.3 – 1.6 39 66
72 cell 1.3 – 1.6 39 77
96 cell 1.38 41.5 62.6

17 Types of Solar Cells: Which Type of Solar Cells Are Best for Your Solar System?

Solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, are semiconductors that convert sunlight into electricity. A typical solar panel has 60, 72, or 96 solar cells.2,3

  1. Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells are made from a single silicon crystal. They are highly efficient and have a long lifespan.
    However, they are also the most expensive type of solar cell.
  2. Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells are made from multiple silicon crystals and are less expensive than monocrystalline cells but also less efficient.
  3. Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells are made from non-crystalline silicon. They are thinner and more flexible than other types of solar cells.
    However, they are also less efficient and have a shorter lifespan.
  4. Cadmium Telluride Solar Cells consist of cadmium and tellurium combined together. They are thinner and cheaper compared to silicon solar cells.
  5. Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Solar Cells (CIGS) consist of copper, indium, gallium, and selenide combined. They have an efficiency of up to 22.8%.
  6. Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells combine a photosensitive dye and a semiconductor and are highly efficient in low-light conditions. However, they are less efficient in bright sunlight.
  7. Hybrid Solar Cells consist of two or more types of solar cells. This gives them high efficiency and performance.
  8. Heterojunction Solar Cells consist of two types of semiconductor materials and are highly efficient and costly.
  9. Organic Solar Cells are made from organic polymers and do not perform as well. Organic solar cells are thin, lightweight, and flexible.
  10. Perovskite Solar Cells consist of perovskite and have high-efficiency rates. But they are less durable than other types of solar cells.
  11. Quantum Dot Solar Cells are crafted from particles called quantum. They have high-efficiency rates.
  12. Split-Cell Solar Cells have two different types of solar cells, one captures, the other converts. Split-cells are expensive and very efficient.
  13. Tandem Solar Cells have high efficiency. This is because they are made by stacking two or more types of solar cells on top of one another.
  14. Back-Contact Solar Cells have their contacts at the back. This enables improved efficiency and performance.
    However, they are also more expensive than other types of solar cells.
  15. Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact (PERC) Solar Cells have high efficiency and performance, hence lasting longer thanks to a layer of passivation material that makes them.
  16. Tunnel Junction Solar Cells have a layer of tunnel junction material that improves their efficiency and performance, particularly in low-light conditions.
  17. Wafer-Based Solar Cells are made from a silicon wafer and are the most commonly used type of solar cell. They are highly efficient and durable but also more expensive than other types of solar cells.

Switching from fossil fuels to solar energy is good for the environment and will save you money in the long run. When choosing the right solar panel for your home, consider efficiency, durability, cost, and available space.

It is also essential to learn how to test a solar panel.

Two solar panel technicians wearing protective gear are installing solar panels on roof.

(Image: Los Muertos Crew9)

Also, although you can still use other solar panel connector types, MC4 is better because all modern solar panels use it, and it has an IP67 rating meaning it is dustproof and waterproof.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panel Connector Types

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

For those wondering, how much do solar panels cost, the price of solar panels vary between $3,500 – $35000 depending on size, model, and type.

Where Are Solar Panels Most Commonly Used?

Globally, China uses the most solar power. They are currently generating up to 224GWh.

What Is the Carbon Footprint Solar Panels Emit?

The carbon footprint solar panels emit is about 50g of CO2 per kWh, but this is generally associated with the manufacturing and installation emissions.

What Are the Types of Solar Panel Charge Controllers?

There are two main types of solar charge controllers; maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and pulse-width modulation (PWM.)

What Size Solar Panel To Charge 12V Battery? How Many Panels Do I Need?

If you’re wondering, what size solar panel to charge 12V battery, a 300 watts solar panel can comfortably charge it. However, if you are still wondering, how many panels do I need, you can use three 100 watts solar panels.

What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

There are three main types of solar panels. They are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels.

How Many Solar Panel Connector Types Are Available in the Market?

There are many brands of solar panel connectors, but the types are limited.


References

1How Does Solar Work? (n.d.). Department of Energy. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/how-does-solar-work>

2Department of Energy. (2023). Solar Energy Technologies Office. Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-photovoltaic-cell-basics>

3Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics. (n.d.). Department of Energy. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from <https://www.nrel.gov/research/re-photovoltaics.html>

4MC4 connector. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MC4_connector>

5Household Carbon Footprint Calculator | US EPA. (2022, October 19). Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from: <https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/household-carbon-footprint-calculator>

6Photo by 8510670. Pixabay, Retrieved from: <https://pixabay.com/photos/technician-solar-panel-renewable-3936983/>

7Thin Film Flexible Solar PV Installation Photo by Fieldsken Ken Fields / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thin_Film_Flexible_Solar_PV_Installation_2.JPG>

8Photo by Kindel Media. Pexels, Retrieved from: <https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-footage-of-solar-panels-9799757/>

9Photo by Los Muertos Crew. Pexels, Retrieved from: <https://www.pexels.com/photo/solar-technicians-installing-solar-panels-8853536/>