Energy/Water Nexus

Is solar roofing feasible?

genie mayer
Started by genie mayer on
03 Jan 2015 at 08:53
Know-how: Communication & Promotion

Is solar roofing feasible?

As solar panel technology advances, it’s becoming more practical and more affordable for homeowners to have solar panels installed on their roofs. Chances are there are at least a few homes in your neighborhood that already have solar panels. You may be wondering if it’s really a feasible option. Here are some things you will need to consider before investing in solar panels for your roof.

Are the circumstances ideal?

Solar roofs aren’t for everybody. Some homes are better suited for solar panels than others.  The most important determining factor is how much sunlight your roof actually gets. Roofs that face south receive the most sunlight. The more south facing your roof is, the more benefit you’ll get out of solar panels. You will have to have sufficient space on your roof in order to have enough panels to make it cost efficient. Some roofs that are more complex in their design don’t have the adequate space for panels. Finally, other factors such as the amount of shade your home gets and your area’s climate can determine whether a solar roof is a good idea for your home. Climates that are overcast more often than not are ill suited for solar roofs. If your home is in the shade of a mountain or if there are many large trees that hang over your roof, you may not get enough sunlight to make solar panels cost efficient.

What are your needs?

Assuming that your roof is an ideal candidate for solar roofing, you will next need to consider your energy needs. You will need to do an in depth analysis to determine how much energy your home typically uses in a given year. When you know how much energy you’re using, you’ll know how many panels you will need to produce enough energy. You will also want to have a shade analysis performed. You will need to know the percentage of the day that sunlight will be shining on your panels. By taking all of these factors into consideration, you will know approximately how many panels to have installed. Finally, you will need to determine what your budget is. Solar panels are a major investment. Though they will eventually pay for themselves, you do need a substantial budget to begin with.

Other considerations

Keep in mind that solar roofing saves you money in more ways than one. Of course, the energy created from your solar panels saves you money on your energy bills each month. But in many cases, your solar panels will produce more energy than your home needs. If your solar system isn’t self-contained, this extra energy goes into the grid and you receive a credit for that energy. Some states also offer rebates on solar panels so that you get some of your investment back immediately. Finally, solar panels are tax deductible so it saves you money when it comes time to file your taxes.

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Industry Tags: 
  • WaterEnergySolar Energy
  • Green TechnologyRenewable EnergySolar Power


Tom Mallard
For an off-grid tiny home the panels take up most of the roof, so, instead of roofing that area it's being used for air heating-cooling by using them like greenhouse panes sealed for weather over a 3/4" gap to heat quickly, it's an active system with a blower to run when conditions allow and a thermal-mass is used to store it in the crawl space. The cost of the roofing pays for the box & much of the duct work.

The site is cold and windy, 6,600-deg-days a year and 15kn average windspeed so having this setup can heat the home with few conditions not allowing it, uses a small electric heater as backup that's installed to heat the main room if you want.

For existing homes with a good section of roof it's a different game but can then recommend altering the roof pitch to maximum gain as most won't be steep enough in the USA. As a carpenter I've done this on framed roofs, it's not too bad a job, usually two days to reframe it; it's an option to only do part of a roof this way adding gable walls. Doing this improves output and gives the chance to collect the air under the panels.

For crawl space thermal-mass, it's a stack, you dig 18" of dirt & layer 2" soil-contact foam dirt goes back, leveled, radiant-vapor barrier, 1/2" of sand to set concrete blocks on their side to use as ducting, manifolds for that into ducting, then a fabric water tank for the main mass, these come in any size and volume so it's simple to engineer the stack for capacity against heat loss for the daily cycle. For where there's no way to add this build a separate one, it could be done as a deck.

Looks able to keep the temps comfy without much input, with so much wind it's all electric, with the thermal mass it's a warm floor on a cold winter day.

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