Thursday, June 25, 2009

Solar Roofs

The New Solar Roof

Not just a roof, but a powerhouse

solar-shingle-roofStreets paved with recycled concrete. Eco-friendly siding on suburban homes. Hybrid and electric cars parked in every driveway. Sounds like a perfect eco-friendly neighborhood. What’s missing? The perfect eco-roof.

An ideal roof serves as an efficient barrier between the elements and the interior, is well insulated, and may even have solar modules. If you are looking for an elegant, simple, solar, and space-conscious solution, invest in solar shingles. This new solar product is a great esthetic alternative to photovoltaic (PV) panels. If you’re an environmentally-aware homeowner who is searching to lower utility bills in a tasteful manner, solar shingles are for you.

Green with style

Solar shingles are cleverly designed to blend in with regular shingles; thus a full roof makeover is unnecessary. If you are really looking to benefit the environment, while being the envy of your neighborhood, you may want to install building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) along the entire surface of your roof. When properly applied, they overlap and provide weather protection like regular shingles. Hidden underneath the overlap are the wires, which run through the roof deck to a solar inverter or storage battery. BIPVs appear as conventional roofing shingles, except for their slightly shiny appearance and electricity generating abilities. These shingles easily merge in with other roofing materials which makes them virtually undetectable and much more appealing than traditional roof solar panels.

Watch your electric meter spin backwards

You can install enough BIPVs to sell electricity back to the local power company (where this option is available). At least 39 states allow you to sell unused wattage to the local power company; however, there are certain locations that limit the amount of solar electricity produced. For example, it can be difficult to produce all the energy necessary to power a Boston home during a cloudy day, so you may end up tapping into local power for service on rainy days. In California or Nevada solar energy is abundant and can potentially take a home powered by solar shingles off the main grid.

For example, Sheri Gage of California was recently featured on This Old House. She and her husband invested $15,000 on the BIPV system integrated into their existing cement-tile roof. Since the install, her last electrical bill was a mere $3.85. Gage says, “I am now a firm believer in the power of the sun.”


Although some may think that a solar-shingled roof requires more work, it really demands the same maintenance as an average roof. The shingles must be monitored for leaks and hail damage. It is recommended that your solar roof is added to your homeowner’s insurance policy. On occasion, it may be necessary to test the efficiency of your BIVPs to identify damaged or malfunctioning shingles. It is recommended that you occasionally hose off your solar shingles to maintain the constant supply of energy and remove debris.

Fortunately, with proper maintenance the average lifetime of solar shingles (depending on location and company) is approximately 20 – 25 years.

Incentive & Cost

Going green doesn’t have to mean huge costs. Solar shingles may be a pricier investment, but the government is helping out with incentives. The 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for both residential and commercial solar installation has been extended through December 2016. To determine your local and state solar tax incentive visit DSIRE USA.


… to your wallet

A solar-shingled roof provides many economic benefits, despite its initial costs. Upon installation, prepare to be astonished by much lower utility bills and in many cases, your meter spinning backwards. Sell power back to the local electric company and/or cut back on power bills.

… to the Earth

Harvesting sunlight as energy is an excellent way to be green. Reduce your dependence on the local electric company and give your checking account a break. Solar energy is renewable, clean and can be harvested without exhausting fossil fuels or causing pollution. When you save on energy it means you are reducing toxic emissions: sulfur dioxide, nitric oxides, VOCs, toxic metals, and others. The sun will continue to shine whether we use its rays to generate electricity or not, so be energy-independent and earth-friendly by using a clean source of energy.

Solar Energy: Learn More

Solar Savings Calculator

Solar Myths

Why Go Solar?

Solar Heating for Pools and Spas

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