Solar cell roof – energy producing tiles that look like a normal roof
Solar cell roofs, made from solar tiles or solar panels, are increasingly being incorporated into the construction of new residential and commercial buildings. In many areas, people choose to replace their conventional roof with a solar roof when it comes time for maintenance. And most of those people would tell you that the long-term value or the short-term increase is the resale interest makes it worthwhile.
A solar cell roof is called “building integrated”, also known by the more complete name “building integrated photovoltaic” (BIPV). BIPV assumes that you will need this part of the structure anyway and you have chosen to use a material that will also serve to generate power through solar energy. The first advantage of solar cell roof tiles or panels is obvious: part of the initial cost is paid for by reducing the overall cost of materials and labor involved in construction. The second advantage is that the BIPV does not stand out – it is a normal and expected part of the design and construction of the building. These two advantages often make bipv solar roofs the clear choice over rooftop wind turbines, raised solar panels, and backyard windmills, which are both superior and cost much more to build and install.
In some parts of the world, often due to government subsidies, many new houses are built with solar roofs. Until recently, this was not the case in the US, UK and much of Europe because the cost remained prohibitive. However, with the invention of what is called “thin-film solar technology,” solar roof tiles, panels, and shingles have become easier to manufacture and operate, and are much more aesthetically pleasing. This technology is best for pitched roofs where shingles or small shingles are the norm. Large flat roofs, such as the tops of many commercial buildings, can have one giant layer of solar film or large integrated panels.
Solar cell roofs can be connected in two ways – on and off grid. Off-grid solar means that you will use the energy you get from the solar panels and either not be connected to the power company at all, or connected in a way that is completely parallel and unconnected. Off-grid applications may be suitable for houses that are far from power lines but receive enough sunlight to be fully solar, houses with combined systems with other renewable energy systems, or houses in locations that receive little sun so it is unlikely that the solar Generated energy will always be more than the house needs. Grid systems are connected to your conventional electrical supply, and when the solar power system generates more electricity than you need, it actually sells it back to the power company. Your meter literally goes backwards and you can get a zero bill or even a check in the mail instead of a bill.
There is some debate among real estate developers, but the general rule of thumb is that any renewable energy source for the home pays for itself if it returns your initial installation investment in ten years or less through energy savings. The invention and refinement of integrated thin film solar roofs has us rapidly approaching this return, and possibly even surpassing it depending on where you live.
There are four things to consider when considering a solar cell roof:
1. How much sun does your area get each year, regardless of outside temperature?
2. Where does your roof face – ideally it will face east/west if it is a pitched roof?
3. What is the current price and estimated cost of electricity where you are?
4. What is the general attitude of home buyers in your area towards renewable energy sources (especially if you might sell your home within 10 years)?
If you choose a solar cell roof for your home or business, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by the efficiency, cost and savings associated with BIPV.
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