SOLAR PANEL AESTHETICS
Hey Good Looking! Solar panels are no longer the ugly duckling of renewable energy.
The most common objection to Solar PV is that people don’t like the look of the panels. In fact, many in the industry believe that aesthetics have been one of the biggest reasons more people haven’t taken up what is so obviously a good deal: make money, reduce your bills, go greener. It’s a win-win-win, so what’s stopping you? Well, in the past it might have been the Henry Ford approach to choice: ‘You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black’. But no more. The options available on the market today mean you no longer have to juggle between efficiency and looks.
Whether you’re the proud owner of a Georgian manor, building your own modern masterpiece or simply want something on your roof that doesn’t look like a helipad for aliens, our guide can help you generate your own energy, reduce your CO2e and still bling your roof.
STANDARD SOLAR PV
Aesthetics do often come at a premium, but even with standard panels, the choice now is greater than ever.
Silver Frame, White Backing, Wires
Normally cheapest in a manufacturer’s range. The aluminium frame is silver coloured and the backing sheet, also visible between the cells, is white. The white backing sheet and silver frame reflects more heat, keeping the panel slightly cooler, increasing efficiency. Because they’re quite industrial looking, these basic panels are very popular in inner-city settings, fitting in well with the current ‘industrial chic’ trend. They look particularly good on metal roofs in high-density urban landscapes, 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 a direct response to requests from the consumer. 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 the look compared to silver-framed panels.
Black Frame, White Backing, No Wires
Don’t like that griddy look? With Sunpower’s Maxeon technology, all the bus bars (wires) are at the back of the cells. This improves both performance and aesthetics. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, it’s patented technology and it costs more to produce, which means these panels are more expensive than your average. But, they more than repay you over their lifetime, and in many cases end up being less expensive in the long term, 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 frame array, 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, like this stylish product from LG, pictured above. But the flip side is it can affect performance due to increased operating temperatures.
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 in to the roof though, close up, the pinstripe of the bus bars is still visible.
All Black, No Wires
For a truly all black panel the Sunpower Maxeon technology allows black backing without too much loss of performance. A great solution for modern slate roofs as they blend in so well, looking very much like a Velux window.
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.
NON-STANDARD SOLAR PV
Who said you had to put panels on your roof?
In-Roof Solar PV mounting
You can choose to set your PV panels flush with the roof, using them to actually replace sections of your roof fabric. In-roof or integrated systems typically add around 10% to the overall installation costs. These costs can be offset against the reduced need for roof fabric. Performance is typically lower by around 5% due to the reduced ventilation of an in-roof system. (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 will be able to accurately calculate the reduction in performance on your roof compared to other systems.
In-Roof Solar PV is becoming increasing popular across the board. It can look very discreet and the efficiency loss compared to standard Solar PV is much smaller than it used to be and improving all the time. But if you’re planning a new build, it really should be one of the first options you consider. In Roof Solar Panels can actually reduce the cost of roofers and slates/tiles while looking like they were meant to be there all along. And with this new heat recover technology on the market, they can also help to reduce your heating bills. See the video here.
So why not go the whole hog? Do away with traditional roofing fabrics and just have the top of your house built entirely out of PV material. This has only very recently become realistically 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 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, these systems really do look fantastic and, in some cases, even un-noticeable. If you’re in a conservation area, or changing the look of your property is your top concern, this approach 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 about which system is best for you.
The Ultimate Solar Roof Slate
You may have seen the launch of the Tesla roof tile in October 2016. A leap forwards in Solar PV aesthetics. Expected to roll off the production line in mid 2017, we will keep you updated regarding prices and performance through our newsletters and keep this page updated too. Potentially, exciting times ahead.