With so many people concerned about our impact on planet Earth, it’s no wonder that renewable energy has become so popular. One way that you can do your bit for the environment is to have solar panels fitted to your roof which then take the energy from the sun so that you can use it in your home to either replace or supplement the electricity you take from the main grid. Although you probably already know of the existence of solar panels, you may never have heard of solar roofing shingles.
Basically it’s a roofing material made from solar shingles and can be used for commercial as well as residential properties. If you have a conventional roof covered in slates or wood etc, then you might even feel you want to replace it with solar roof shingles when your current roof has come to the end of its life. Some people might even argue that you’ll recoup the expense when you go to sell your home as this is the sort of thing more and more people are interested in having due to environmental concerns.
Both solar panels and solar shingles are referred to as “building integrated photovoltaic” (BIPV). Basically this means that the panels are integrated into the building during construction. However, in saying that, they can be added to the building at any other point. By having solar shingles or panels on your roof it means that they are an unobtrusive form of renewable energy, especially compared to wind turbines. If they have been designed into the roof then it will have the appearance of belonging. In other words, it looks as if it should always have been there. With wind turbines for instance, they can be very noticeable and aesthetically unpleasing especially if you live in a traditional home where a great big turbine on your roof or in your garden would look very out of place. MP David Cameron even had a turbine installed on his home and many of his neighbours complained because they felt it looked ugly in a conservation area.
Solar roof shingles are designed so that they look very similar to other types of roofing material and come is a dark purple/blue color. You may or may not think they look good on a roof but many people really like them and feel they work very well aesthetically speaking. If you want solar roofing shingles that are black in color have a look at the shingles provided by SunPower as they blend very well into S-Tile and Flat roofs.
Luckily in a number of parts of the world there are number of government grants available for solar technology. This used to be something that you couldn’t get so you had to pay the full amount yourself but this has changed now. Because of new thin film solar technology processing it has become a whole lot easier to produce and work with plus they are much more attractive in appearance. If you have a pitched roof then opting for small tiles or shingles is a good idea. For those with a flat roof you can have either large integrated panels or you can go for one huge layer of solar film.
How you want to use your solar panels depends on how much power you can generate from them. They can either be “on grid” or “off grid”. On grid basically means that your home will still be connected to the national grid and if you’re lucky enough to produce more electricity than you need, that excess can be sold to the grid. If however you don’t get enough sunlight to cater for all your energy needs, you can still use the electric grid for power. The panels would therefore be seen as a supplement to your regular electricity supply.
Off grid essentially means that you are not connected at all to the grid. This means you don’t receive electricity and you don’t sell electricity to the grid. This system would be better suited to home that is very rural and doesn’t have access to power lines and you get enough sunlight to fulfil all your energy needs. If you don’t get enough sunlight then it’s advisable to find another source of renewable energy to compliment you solar panels. Geothermal and wind turbines are two examples of renewable energy you should investigate. Generating enough energy from solar panels alone is very difficult so is not something most people do.
For some people having solar roof shingles and panels installed, the environmental benefits are all they really care about. However for many others, they are concerned about cost of purchase, installation and reducing their energy bills. Therefore people are asking “how long does it take to recoup my investment?” This is a very difficult question to answer simply because there are so many factors involved. Such factors include, amount of sunlight, positioning of solar panels and energy consumption of your household. However as a general rule, you can expect to see a return on your investment after 10 years due to saved energy costs. However the number of years could actually drop if energy costs continue to rise and the cost of solar panels become more affordable.
Before you consider buying solar roof shingles or panels, there are some pointers you should think about, these include:-
- How much sun do you get each year? If you live far away from the equator you will have a lot less sun than if you live somewhere like Florida or Malaysia and you will find that the solar panels are considerably more efficient than if you live in Toronto or London.
- What direction does your roof face and are there any surrounding buildings or trees that could block out light? The more light your solar shingles get exposed to, the more electricity you can generate.
- How much is your electricity costing you just now and is it likely to increase?
- If you are thinking of selling your home in the near future, you need to think about whether potential buyers will appreciate solar panels on the roof.
If you have decided to go ahead and have solar shingles installed you should always get a licensed and qualified dealer to do the work for you. You will find local dealers by searching the internet or looking in the phone book. While your’e at it, you might want to as about solar roof fans for your attic.
The more solar shingles you have installed, the more electricity you’ll be able to generate. However you don’t necessarily have to cover your whole roof in them. If you don’t have enough money to completely cover your roof you can opt to have sections instead. Also, some parts of your roof might be in shade which means you wouldn’t be getting efficiency levels anyway. Just put the shingles on the part of the roof that gets the most sun.
If you are worried about the durability of these solar shingles, don’t worry. They are designed to withstand wind, rain and snow just as well as any other roofing material. Make sure you compare all the different features for the different manufacturers. Companies such as Uni-Solar offer a 20-year power output and 5-year system warranty. Also find out if you need any ventilation system in place otherwise you could unwittingly make your guarantee void.
Being environmentally friendly no longer has to be expensive or difficult. More and more technology is being produced and governments all over the world are encouraging us to embrace renewable technology by offering grants. Solar powered roof shingles are also so flat and unobtrusive plus they’re just as effective as a roofing material as any other.