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 are choosing to replace their conventional roof with a sunroof when it comes time for maintenance. And most of these people would tell you that the long-term value, or the short-term increase in resale interest, made it worthwhile.
A solar cell roof is called an “integrated building”, also known by the more comprehensive name “integrated photovoltaic building” (BIPV). BIPV suggests that it would have needed to build that part of the structure anyway, and has chosen to use material that will also serve to generate energy through solar energy. The first advantage of roof tiles or solar cell panels is obvious: Part of the initial cost is paid for by reducing the overall material and labor costs 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 structure of the building. These two advantages often make bipv sunroofs the clear choice over rooftop wind turbines, elevated solar panels, and backyard windmills, which stand out and cost a lot more to build and install.
In some parts of the world, often due to government subsidies, many new homes are built with sunroofs. Until recently, this was not the case in the US, UK, and much of Europe because the cost was still prohibitive. However, with the invention of what is called “thin film solar technology”, solar roof tiles, panels and tiles have become easier to manufacture and work with and are much more aesthetically pleasing. This technology is best for pitched roofs where shingles or small tiles are the norm. Large flat roofs, like the tops of many commercial buildings, can have a giant layer of solar film or large integrated panels.
Solar cell roofs can be connected in two ways: on and off the grid. Off-grid solar energy means that you will be using the energy you get from solar panels and will not be connected to the power company at all or connected in a completely parallel and unrelated way. Off-grid applications may be appropriate for homes that are far from power lines but receive enough sunlight to be fully solar, homes with systems combined with other renewable energy systems, or homes in locations that receive little sunlight, So it would be unlikely that the solar energy generated would ever be more than what the house requires. The grid systems are connected to your conventional electricity supply, and when the solar power system generates more electricity than it needs, it actually sells it to the power company. Your meter literally spins upside down and you may receive 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 source of renewable energy for the home is worth it if you pay back your original investment in the installation in ten years or less through energy savings. The invention and perfection of integrated thin-film sunroofs has led us to rapidly approach that return, and possibly even surpass it depending on where you live.
There are four things to consider when looking inside a solar cell roof:
1. How much sun does your area get each year, regardless of the outside temperature?
2. Where is your ceiling facing? Ideally it would face east / west if it is a sloped roof?
3. What is the cost now and the projected cost of electricity where it is located?
4. What is the general attitude of homebuyers in your area toward renewable energy (especially if you could sell your home 10 years from now)?
If you choose solar cell roofs for your home or business, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the efficiency, cost, and savings associated with BIPV.