Hey Good Looking! Solar panels are no longer the ugly duckling of renewable energy.
So, you’ve been put off by the look of solar panels on your roof? You’re not alone. About a third of people interested in solar give it as their number 1 worry. Historically, aesthetics focused consumers asked for Solar Tiles, but opinions have softened towards the new improved look of solar panels.
Whether you’ve got a Georgian manor, a modern masterpiece or just want something on your roof that doesn’t look like a helipad for aliens, our guide will help you generate your own energy, reduce your CO2e and still bling your roof…
Silver Frame, White Backing, Wires.
While these are common on older installations, it’s unusual to see them as an option on the market in more recent years. The aluminium frame stands out and the white backing sheet is visible between the cells. The set up reflects more heat, keeps the panel cooler and increases efficiency. Because they’re quite industrial looking, these basic panels are more common in manufacturers commercial ranges. They look particularly good on metal roofs, so if you’ve got a warehouse to power, these are the best of all worlds: cheap, chic and high energy.
Black Frame, White Backing, Wires.
Manufacturers have started offering black frames as standard in response to market demands. Colouring the frame black makes your panels look less conspicuous on the roof without affecting performance too much as the backing sheet is still white. For modern houses, especially in suburban areas, black frames are popular as they take the harsh edge off their appearance compared to silver-framed panel’s more industrial look.
Black Frame, White Backing, No Wires.
Don’t like that griddy look? With Sunpower’s Maxeon rear contact technology, the wires are hidden behind the silicon cells. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, it’s patented technology and the manufacturing price is higher. They do more than repay you over their lifetime, due to better build quality and exceptional power generation. Older and lighter grey slate roofs look great with Sunpower panels. When you’re stood back from the property, the white backing sheet combined with the wireless black cells gives them a complementary grey sheen.
All Black, Wires.
Replacing the white backing sheet with a black one can improve the look of the panels, making them seem less obvious. But the flip side is it can affect performance due to increased operating temperatures and more light being absorbed rather than bounced back on to the cells. Black panels with black backing are great for traditional slate roofs when you’re still working to an average budget. Viewed from a distance the panels blend into the roof, though the pinstripe of the wires (bus bars) is still visible close up.
All Black, No Wires.
For a truly all black panel the Sunpower Maxeon technology allows black backing with minimal affect on performance. A great solution for modern slate roofs as they blend in so well, looking very much like a Velux window. The creme de la creme of solar panel aesthetics, just one of the reasons Sunpower are so popular with consumers.
Coloured Solar PV.
If you really want some colour in your life, or on your roof, you can now choose Solar PV panels of almost any hue. Some people do it because they want to stand out, others do it for precisely the opposite reason – to blend in.
With a glass backsheet instead of polymer, Bi-facial panels utilise light reflected on to the back of the panel to gain a bit more energy. Therefore the gaps between the cells are transparent. The energy increase on a roof mounted system is 1-5% while up to 25% can be achieved on a ground mount that’s above light coloured ground. Our PV Sol software will provide accurate forecasts if you’re keen to explore Bi-facial panels.
In-Roof Solar PV mounting.
You can set your PV panels flush with the roof, replacing sections of your roof fabric. In-roof systems are around the same price as on-roof. There may be a saving due to the reduced need for roof fabric (slates/tiles etc). Performance is typically lower by around 2% due to reduced ventilation. (All Solar PV systems need good ventilation for optimum efficiency). Trying to work out the pros and cons of these systems can be very tricky and often puts people off. However, our specialist PV Sol software accurately calculates the performance comparing it to all other systems.
In-Roof Solar PV is becoming increasing popular. If you’re planning a new build, it really should be one of the first options you consider. In-Roof Solar Panels can reduce the cost of roofers and slates/tiles while looking like they were meant to be there all along. And with new heat recovery technology on the market, they can also help to reduce your heating bills. See the video here.
Solar PV Roofs
You can even go the whole hog? Do away with traditional roofing fabrics and just have the top of your house built entirely out of Solar PV material. This has only recently become available to the consumer, but we reckon it’s going to be a major trend over the next decade.
They look fantastic, and can be highly efficient if set up properly. New options are coming on to the market all the time, so if you’re interested, talk to us to discuss the possibilities.
Slate & Tile Solar PV
For listed buildings and traditional properties, solar-powered slate and tiles are the answer, but at the moment they still come at a price. As you’d expect, they cost considerably more, and they’re not as efficient. However, they really do look fantastic and, in some cases, even unnoticeable. If you’re in a conservation area, or changing the look of your property is a major drawback solar tiles could be for you. Again, the reduced ventilation affects performance, but our PV Sol software can give you accurate forecasts for your particular situation, so you can make a fully informed choice.
The Ultimate Solar Roof Tile?
Tesla announced the development of the Tesla Solar Roof in October 2016, a leap forwards in Solar PV aesthetics. They just look like a normal roof and they are genuinely beautiful. Given Elon Musk’s track record so far, we’d be surprised if efficiency wasn’t a high priority, but we don’t know for sure yet. And price will be a consideration. We’ll let you know, as soon as we know when they’re available, just sign up for our newsletter on the form on our home page.
The values we’ve given are an estimate only, until we know more.
Currently only available in the US, with no plans for distribution in the UK – The Tesla Solar Roof