Solar Power for Homes: PV Solar Panels vs. BiPV Solar Shingles in 2021

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 net metering rules to buy your excess electricity at pre-set rates.

You can also qualify for the 26% federal tax rebate at the end of the year for the installation of a PV solar power system. Be sure to check your state and federal rebates and talk to your tax accountant to see if this might be a worthwhile pursuit for you.

Tip: Learn more about the Pros and Cons of Solar Energy here.

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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PV Solar Panels

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. — Interestingly, their prices per installed watt had little 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).

Did you know? The company was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was acquired by Tesla and has shrunk in size quite a bit since the acquisition took place).

Other residential solar players in the space include SunGevity (now merged with Horizon Solar Power), SunPower, Vivint Solar (acquired by SunRun), and many other regional and local solar installers.

Fun fact: In the northern hemisphere, PV solar panels normally get installed on the south-facing side of the roof for optimum exposure to the sun.

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels for Homes

PV Panels are based on solar cells made from silicone and placed inside a panel designed to contain many individual solar cells. Monocrystalline PV panels are more energy efficient (15% to 22%) and cost more than polycrystalline panels. High-efficiency monocrystalline solar panels for homes will typically range between 300 watts and 400 watts and cost between $250 and $550 per panel, depending on the manufacturer.

Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient (13% to 16% on average) will typically range between 200 and 300 watts, costing between $150 and $300 per panel, depending on the specific model of the panel and its manufacturer.

Solar ROI is known as Pay-Back Period:

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. Most PV solar panel systems pay for themselves in 8 to 10 years.

PV Solar Panels System Components, Costs, and Tax Credits:

Today, most solar installations consist of PV solar panels, an inverter, and a connection to your electric meter or electric grid. At an average cost of about $2.96 per watt installed, a 6kW solar panel system will cost approximately $18,000 before the 26% federal solar investment tax credits (ITC) that are in effect through the end of 2022, after recently being extended by congress.

These ITC credits will be reduced to 22% in 2023, which is the final year to take advantage of the federal ITC credits for installing a PV solar power system.

Solar leasing options are also available, but you must be careful about the terms and the actual 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 be mounted on any style of a roofing surface including low-slope roofs?

The answer is yes, as long as the roof surface itself does not have any protrusions or obstacles like chimneys, dormers, or skylights.

However, the roof frame needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the roof covering, plus the weight of solar modules. The roofing system protecting the house must be designed and engineered to last 25+ years to match the typical lifespan of modern solar panels.

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

Building-Integrated PV solar shingles are designed to integrate seamlessly with the roof! Unlike the traditional solar panels, BiPV solar roof 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 due to a significantly higher cost per installed watt vs PV panels.

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.

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

Thin-film photovoltaics are designed specifically for energy-efficient and long-lasting standing seam metal roofs.

Installation: 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 onto 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 the roof surface, is their main selling point.

However, 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 Standing Seam Panels

To really get the benefit from this innovative product, you would 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: Fabral (OmniMax) in partnership with MiaSole offers Flex 02NS (PDF) – Thin-Film PV Solar Laminates (MiaSole) (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 also opt for a bracket-mounted traditional PV panels system attached by means of special metal clamps to the raised seams of a metal roof.

Consider investing in high-efficiency panels from a proven manufacturer like SunPower, known for high efficiency and longevity of its solar panels.

As far as longevity and watertightness of the roof is concerned, the use of special brackets designed specifically for standing seam panels means that you will not have to poke any holes in your expensive metal roof! 🙂

Standing Seam Roof integrated with PV Solar Panels

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