We all have that image of solar panels stuck up on a roof, as an addition to an existing roof. However, in new buildings, a lot of people ask themselves, can solar panels be used as a roof so I don’t need to purchase two materials?
Solar panels can be used as a roof, but the exact build up will depend on the specific product you choose. With solar panels getting cheaper every year, it is now the same price or even cheaper to install solar panels as roof than to add solar panels to a standard roof.
During the rest of the article, we will be having a look at all you need to know to use solar panels as a roof.
Solar Panels as a Roof – What You Need to Know
Solar panels need an area that gets a lot of sunlight, and also unused space. A roof has both of those options, so it is only normal that solar panels have been used in roofs since the beginning.
In order to understand if the roof of your home or business is suitable for a solar roof, there are a few important factors that need to be considered:
- Position of the roof: ensuring that it has the right position is crucial because it allows your panels to operate at full capacity. The orientation of the roof and its incline will have an impact on the efficiency of the panels. If you are aiming for generating all your power with the solar roof, you will need to know how efficient your panels will be so you can install the necessary amount of panels.
- Type of panels you’ll use: different panels from different manufacturers will have different performances. The specific type of technology or materials they use will have an impact on how much energy each panel can generate. Another important factor is the color of the panel. There is now an almost limitless range of colors, but using certain colors will hinder the performance of your solar roof.
- The amount of energy you need: before you start switching to solar energy, you need to conduct an energy audit and identify the areas where you can trim your consumption down. It’s easy to overspend or underspend on solar panels, but both of these will be very costly for you. Try to minimize your energy usage before converting your roof into solar panels.
- The budget you have: this is another significant factor that you need to consider. Sure, it’ll help you save a lot on your energy consumption, and there are many financial benefits that you can get from using renewable energy, but it’s not cheap either. Check your wallet and make careful considerations before you even start looking at your options. In most cases, it is better to invest in energy efficiency by insulating better your home than to invest in solar panels.
- Location of your house: not only the orientation of your house is important. The specific location will also determine the number of solar panels you need. As we saw in our article “Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail?“, it is not a matter of extreme weather conditions. It is more about the amount of sunlight that your house gets on a daily basis. More sunlight means that the panels are more efficient, so you will need fewer panels to produce the same energy.
The Benefits of Using Solar Panels as a Roof
Aside from the obvious benefit of getting the maximum exposure to sunlight without taking too much space, there are many other perks that you can get from using solar panels as a roof. Here are two of the most significant ones that can persuade you to switch to renewable energy:
Better Home Protection
If you use solar panels as your roof, you’ll have better protection against the harmful rays of the sun. These panels can harvest solar energy, rays that would otherwise go directly to your normal roof and would heat it up.
A study conducted by the University of California – San Diego revealed that homes with solar panels on their roof reduced the overall indoor temperature by 35%! So aside from spending less on utility bills, they also drastically reduced their need for cooling systems. While a different system than using the solar panels as a roof, the benefits are bound to be similar with a solar roof.
Similar Price to a Normal Roof With a Solar Panel Addition
One of the main advantages of a solar roof or using solar panels as roof is that you don’t need to have two elements, a roof and the solar panels, but you can just have one. At the point of writing, the solar roofs are already equal or even cheaper than having solar panels on a roof and one can expect that the trend will continue so that it will be a no-brainer to use solar roofs always.
Solar Roofs Look Much Better Than Solar Panel Additions
The last benefit is an aesthetic one. While not as important as money, beauty is still important, so having a solar roof will look much much better than just adding solar panels to your standard roof.
You can have your solar roof looking like traditional tiles if you are going for a more traditional look, or looking very sleek and modern if that is what you like. With the advance of this technology, the options are currently almost limitless.
The Pitfalls of Using Solar Panels as a Roof
There’s no doubt that using solar panels is an excellent investment, but it doesn’t automatically justify the use of panels as a roof. Aside from the factors that you need to consider, there are also some pitfalls that you need to know.
The hard truth is that even though using solar panels as a roof offers positive environmental and economic impacts, it’s still not ideal for some people. Here are two pitfalls that you need to know before you decide to convert your roof into solar panels:
Solar Panels Improve Faster Than Ever
The market has not yet reached a maturity point where prices are stable, so please bear in mind that when deciding to go for a solar roof. This is more the case where you already have a building and you are considering changing the roof to a solar roof. In that case, it might be wise to hold on for a couple of years to see the prices drop even further.
If you are building your new house, though, it doesn’t make sense to wait. Just get it now.
Your Solar Roof Might Look a bit Outdated in a Few Years
As we just mentioned, the solar roof market has not yet reached a maturity point. Therefore solar roofs will most likely develop a lot in the next years. Just remember when printers first came to the market. The pace of the change in the first years was extremely high and they became outdated very fast. Now, it does not happen at all. Because the market has reached its maturity, the speed of change is much lower, so printers are “up to date” for longer.
The same is likely to happen with solar roofs. In the next few years, a lot of advancements will happen and roofs will improve really fast until the market reaches maturity. So, if you install your roof now, it might feel a bit outdated in a few years.
What Types of Solar Panels Can Be Used as Roofs?
Now that we know a bit more about solar panels as roofs, their benefits, and drawbacks, let’s dive a bit deeper into the solar panels themselves. As we said in the introduction, the built-up you need to use to install your solar panel as a roof depends on the type of solar panel you are installing.
The easiest way is to use what are called building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). These are solar panels that have been designed to substitute an specific building component. This can be either roof or facade elements, but in our case we will talk about only about roof products.
Solar Shingles or Tiles – Generating energy while keeping a traditional look
Solar shingle is one of the most interesting options out there. Basically, these are solar panels that are almost indistinguishable from regular roof tiles that we use. They use the same sizes and the same type of layout as a normal traditional roof.
These alternative is great for people looking to keep a traditional look in their house while still becoming sustainable by using renewable energy through solar power.
One of the best options out there is the Solar Roof from Tesla. This option looks great and comes from a manufacturer that is differentiating itself thanks to continuous innovation.
According to Tesla, using their solar roof is currently the same price as adding solar panels on top of a traditional roof.
You can find a bit more about the product in the video below.
Building-integrated Solar Panels – Another option for a more modern look
Apart from the solar shingles, you can also find building-integrated solar panels. These can, usually, be used both in the facade and the roof and they have a similar dimension to the normal solar panels on the market. The similarities with the traditional solar panel end up there, though.
Building-integrated solar panels can be usually made in many different colors, even in white, such as the Solaxess Solar Panels. This gives extreme freedom in the design of the house. There are also many products where hidden fixings can be used. This gives the building a much more beautiful appearance.
Can You Step on Solar Panels?
Many homeowners who are planning to use solar panels as a roof have this question in mind. And it makes total sense. If you want to use the solar panels as a roof, just like a regular roof, there are times when you’ll need to walk on it to fix something. So, can you step on them?
This will depend on the specific product you are intending to use, but, in general, you should be able to step on them. Solar panels are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions as we showed in our post “Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail?“. So, a person stepping on it shouldn’t be a problem.
Another great example are durability tests on the Solar Roof from Tesla. As you can see in them (one example below), these tiles are much more durable to impact than traditional roof tiles. By this logic, if you can step on traditional roof tiles, there shouldn’t be a problem in stepping on solar panels.
Solar panels can be used as a roof. The wisest move if you are planning on doing that, is using one of the many products on the market that are already intended on that. There are many alternatives, both for a more traditional look and for a more modern look.
One of the most well-known options is the Solar Roof from Tesla, but there are many other alternatives on the market that can suit your specific needs much better.
Overall, if you are building a new home or office, using solar panels as a roof is one of the smartest decisions you can take. It will cost a bit more money upfront than having only a traditional roof, but you will save a lot of money down the line and you will help save the planet.
- Solarimon: Solar Panels and Roofs: What Type of Roof Is Best for Solar Panels?
- Quora: Is It Possible to Use a Solar Panel for Roofing?
- Solar Power World Online: The Latest on Solar Shingles, Solar Roofs and Solar Tiles
- Simple Ray: Do Solar Panels Protect Your Roof?
- Phys.com: Solar Panels Keep Buildings Cool
- Paradise Solar Energy: How Solar Panels are Attached to Your Roof
- Fast Company: Forget Installing Solar Panels, Make Roofs Out Of Solar Panels Instead
- News Wise: Doe Science News Source
- TD World: 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Solar Panels on My Roof…Yet
- Electric Choice: 15 Things to Consider Before Installing Solar Panels