Archive for July, 2009

Solar Shingles: What Every Home Owner Needs to Know

July 21st, 2009 | admin

Harnessing the power of the sun is a clean and efficient way to power your home and to cut costs on your monthly electric bill. However, through the years, one of the primary problems and a huge objection to using solar power were the unsightly solar panels that are installed on the rooftops of residential homes. These panels were huge and covered the entire rooftop. All that is changing though, as the emergence of a new technology has created a practically invisible solar energy system.

Solar Shingles Roof Top

Solar Shingles Roof Top

These new invisible solar energy systems are called solar shingles, and they blend seamlessly on to your roof. That’s because these “building integrated photovoltaics” can combine solar power with typical roofing materials such as slate, fiber-cement, asphalt, and metal. These solar shingles have a laminated semiconductor layer made of crystalline silicon that generates electricity when the sun hits the shingle. What that basically means is that the shingles have a transparent layer added to them that converts the sunlight into solar energy[1].

There are significant advantages to using this kind of solar energy conductor.

  1. Solar Shingles Are Practically Invisible. Obviously one of the biggest advantages is that it’s practically invisible, so you won’t have to worry about bulky black panels the size of your dining room table attached to your roof that can be damaged pretty easily through the years. This eliminates any neighborhood complaints from your homeowners association or community and creates pleasant view of your home.

    solar Panels Covering a Roof

    solar Panels Covering a Roof

  2. They Provide Clean Energy. Solar shingles provide the same clean energy that solar panels do. And, since the sun is a renewable resource, it’s an energy source that will never be depleted. Solar shingles are simply wired directly into your electrical system and can power your entire house for years.
  3. You Can Sell Unused Energy. In more than 39 states across the country, if you have your solar energy system attached to the power grid, you can sell any unused power to your electric company. This makes your meter spin backwards. If, at the end of the year, your home has provided more energy to the grid, than it has used, you will receive a check from your power company.
  4. You Can Qualify for Huge Tax Incentives. You can receive a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the installation of your solar shingles. This tax credit is currently available for consumers through 2016 for new and existing homes.
  5. Increase the Value of Your Home. Having a solar energy system installed in your home is a great way to increase the value of your home. Especially when green and emission free energy is in such high demand.

    Installing Solar Shingles

    Installing Solar Shingles

  6. Can Withstand More Abuse. Solar panels are prone to damage and can easily break or rust from wet climates. That’s because they are mounted on thick metal frames and are made of rigid glass. In areas such as Florida, which can have hurricane force winds during the summer months, solar panels can be easily ripped off the roofs and even cause damage to the roof itself. Solar shingles can withstand up to 80 mile per hour winds. They are as durable as the building materials they are adhered to.
  7. Make Use of Wasted Space. According to Science Daily, if we begin to incorporate these solar shingles into the construction of new commercial buildings and residential homes, we can eliminate the amount of wasted roof space and optimize the solar shingles performance.

For an example of how easy it is to install solar shingles on your roof, take a look at this YouTube video. It goes into great practical detail about solar shingles and shows how the photovoltaic films bond to typical roofing materials like metal. It also demonstrates how the panels are installed and how the electric terminals can be directly fed into your home’s power system.

Although solar shingles are a great renewable energy alternative and have many advantages over the traditional solar power panels, there are still some disadvantages you need to keep in mind when considering installation of these systems.

  1. Cost of Installation and Product. This is one of the major disadvantages of solar shingles. The cost of installing them can be steep. They are even more expensive than the traditional panels so make sure you keep this in mind. If you were already planning on installing a new roof, however, this might not be that much more of an added expense to incorporate the solar shingles.
  2. No energy storage. If you live in an area prone to rainy days, solar power might not be the best option for you. Because solar power is only effective as long as the sun is shining, you won’t get as much power from your solar shingles. There is no energy storage on these systems, and you will have to rely on the power grid during storms or at night.

    PV Solar Rediation Map

    PV Solar Rediation Map

  3. Your roof has to be at a certain angle to catch the sun. For the solar shingles to catch the sun’s rays enough to generate electricity, your roof has to be at the right angle with enough surface area to power your electric. If your home has steep roof angles, or is under a lot of shade, you may not be the best candidate for solar power.
  4. You have to Install Solar Shingles during New Roof Installation. Unlike solar panels that are just installed on top of your existing roof, solar shingles need to be incorporated into the installation of a new roof.
  5. Still Visible. Although they are pretty seamlessly incorporated into the building materials, solar shingles are still visible.

If you’re considering solar shingles for your new roof, there are several places where you can purchase these materials. Although the demand has not yet reached some consumer markets and may not be available in certain areas.

Here are three manufacturers that offer solar shingles. These sites can offer you names of roofing specialists who are trained to install solar shingles.

1.      Kyocera Solar Inc. www.kyocerasolar.com

2.      Atlantis Energy Systems. www.atlantisenergy.org

3.      PowerLight Corporation. www.powerlight.com

4.      United Solar Ovonic. www.uni-solar.com

[1] Solar Shingles. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,1205726,00.html