Solar Power for Homes: PV Solar Panels vs. Solar Shingles

How Does PV Solar Power Work?

How PV solar power system works

All photovoltaic solar power systems, whether you go with the traditional PV panels, BIPV solar shingles and tiles, or thin-film solar laminates, are installed to face the sun, and then connected to an inverter by a licensed electrician during the installation, so the Direct Current (DC) electricity generated by the photo-voltaic cells can be converted to the Alternating Current (AC) to be used domestically or sold back to the local power grid.

Did you know? You can sell excess solar-generated electricity back to the grid.

Did you know? Many local electric utilities are often required by local laws to buy your excess electricity at pre-set rates.

You might also qualify for tax credit benefits at the end of the year for the installation of a PV solar power system. Be sure to check your state’s and federal rebates and talk to your tax accountant to see if this might be a worthwhile pursuit for you.

Solar power systems use photovoltaic cells to generate clean, renewable electricity from the abundant solar rays. — Currently, there are three main types of PV solar systems available to homeowners.

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Crystalline PV Solar Panels are based on solar cells made from silicone and placed inside a panel designed to contain many individual solar cells.

PV panels are the most common and recognizable type of solar power systems installed on the residential roofs today by companies in the likes of Tesla Solar (Formerly, SolarCity, which was the most well-known and priciest of all the solar power providers. — Notably, the price had nothing to do with the quality of the product or service, but rather it was the result of the aggressive approach to sales — knocking on doors and using high-pressure sales tactics to get you to sing the contract. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was acquired by Tesla and has shrunk in size quite a bit since acquisition), SunGevity, SunPower Vivint Solar, and many other large and small players. In the northern hemisphere, PV solar panels normally get installed on the south-facing side of the roof for optimum exposure to the sun.

Did you know?

The ROI for a solar power system can be very significant and net-positive, with a short pay-back period, provided your roof surface has sufficient space and exposure.

Did you know? Today, most solar installations consist of PV solar panels, an inverter, and a connection to your electric meter. At an average cost of $3 per watt, a 6 kW solar system will cost about $18,000.

Solar leasing options are also available, but you have to be careful about the terms and cost per watt based on the entire system. The larger the system, the smaller your cost per watt should be.

Roof Slope Concerns?

Can solar panels can be mounted on any style of roof surface including flat roofs?

The answer is pretty much yes, as long as the roof surface itself does not have any obstacles such as dormers.

What about BIPV Solar Shingles and Their Integration with the Roof?

Building-Integrated PV solar shingles are designed to integrate seamlessly with the roof! Solar Shingles don’t need to be bolted onto the roof, because they are part of the roof itself! BIPV solar shingles are not currently widespread, at least not yet, although Elon Musk will be challenging the status quo, soon.

Currently though, solar shingles are quite costly compared to the traditional solar panels, and their electrical output is not nearly as good.

Thus, your total cost per kilowatt of electricity generated will be higher with solar shingles compared to traditional bolt-on PV solar panels. — That is the main reason why Dow’s chemical PowerHouse Solar Shingles manufacturing and sales division has recently closed its doors and ceased the sales of their products.

This is exactly where Elon Musk is coming in with his version of the “Solar Roof” — to fill the vacuum created by Dow exiting the market due to its inability to compete with the mainstream solar products.

Did you know?

At present, there is another BIPV solar shingles alternative called Appolo Tile 2 available from CertainTeed.

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PV Solar Panels on Metal Roof

Thin-film PV Solar Laminates are designed specifically for energy-efficient and long-lasting standing seam metal roofs. Thin film laminates are designed to stick onto the 16 inch-wide standing seam metal panels — By removing the peel, and sticking the laminates coated in adhesive over the metal panel in between the seams.

Thin-film laminates come in rolls available in several different sizes designed to work with a few common widths of the standing seam metal panels. On a per square foot basis, thin-film solar laminates are less-costly than the conventional PV solar panels. The ease of installation, which does not require any penetrations made to your roof, is their main selling point.

But, thin-film laminates are less-efficient than the traditional crystalline solar panels, as they don’t have the same energy production density as their bulkier counterparts. — That is yet another reason why they are currently hard to find and buy.

Thin-Film Solar Laminates Require a Standing Seam Metal Roof

To really get the benefit from this innovative product, you would also need to replace your current roof with standing seam, first. Provided your roof has sufficient exposure to the sun, you can get a “panel free” solar roofing system designed to last for many decades.

If you are intrigued by the idea of the thin-film photovoltaics and would like to learn more about the current solar laminate options available for metal roofs, then you need to know that Uni-Solar, the biggest residential thin-film PV solar laminates manufacturer in the US, has closed its doors in 2012 because it could not compete with traditional crystalline PV solar panels on price, largely due to the falling prices of crystalline solar modules.

You can still buy Uni-Solar Thin Film Laminates, but there are now some Commercial Solar Laminate options, which gives us a sense of hope!

Today, there are still some small companies selling Uni-solar laminate rolls on Amazon, but the product is no longer being manufactured.

However, not all is so grim in the thin film PV solar laminate products market. In fact, there is a company called SoloPower providing thin-film laminates optimized for the sixteen-inch wide standing-seam metal roofing panels integration.

SoloPower are currently in business of serving commercial, government, and municipal roofing clients, only. They don’t currently offer any residential solar laminates.

Important Update: May, 2018: Fabral now offers Flex 02NS (PDF) – Thin-Film PV Solar Laminates (Factory Pre-Installed) combined with Standing Seam Metal Roofing Panels suitable for residential installations.

You can always go with a standing seam metal roof, but instead of getting the thin-film solar laminates attached to your metal roof, you can opt for a bracket-mounted traditional system attached by special metal clamps to the seams of your metal roof.

Consider getting a solar powered system from a manufacturer such as SunPower, known for the efficiency and longevity of its panels. Once again, as far as longevity and water-tightness of your roof is concerned, the use of special brackets designed for standing seam panels means that you will not have to poke any holes in your expensive metal roof! πŸ™‚

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