Solar roofing is becoming more popular with many homeowners, as more roofing options become available. Before investing in solar roofs, there are some important details that homeowners should understand in order to choose the best solar roof. Not every residential roofing company has the experience to install a solar roof, either. By understanding some basic principles ahead of time, homeowners can understand the different types of solar roofs, and what to expect from them before investing in any solar roofing system.
Different Types of Solar Panels and Cells
There are three main types of solar cells used to make solar panels and other solar roofing that can be used on any home or building. These are standard monocrystalline cells, polycrystalline cells, and thin film cells:
- Monocrystalline - Panels are constructed with cylindrical cells cut from silicon wafers, and it is this type of panel that is known to be the most effective for generating solar power; they are also the most expensive, and the heaviest solar panels due to their construction;
- Polycrystalline - Panels are created from cells made by pouring silicon into wafer molds as opposed to cutting them from silicon sheets. Polycrystalline panels are lighter and lower priced than standard monocrystalline panels, but they are also much less efficient. Because of this, more polycrystalline panels are required to generate the same amount of energy;
- Thin Film - Thin film panels are made by layering many thin layers of silicon or other photovoltaic material together. They are very inexpensive to produce, lightweight, and can be easily installed by a knowledgeable residential roofing company. However they, like polycrystalline panels, also do not have the efficiency that monocrystalline panels do.
Different Types of Solar Roofing Systems
Besides considering the different types of solar panels and cells, there are three main types of solar roofing systems that utilize this technology in different ways. These are traditional solar panels, thin solar PV laminates, and solar shingles.
- Solar Panels - Panels can be affixed to roofs in numerous ways, positioned so they get the most sun, and generate the most energy. They are larger than other options and generate more energy overall depending on the type of PV cell used. Coincidentally, the main disadvantage to solar panels is also that they are large - and frequently much heavier than other solar roofing options;
- Thin PV Laminates - Thin laminates are very useful in that they can be readily laid on standing seam metal roofs and other flat roof types, they are very unobtrusive, and they are extremely lightweight. Like all thin film cells, however, they are not as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels;
- Solar Shingles - Solar shingles are shingles that have solar cells made into them, constructed using one of the above-mentioned processes. Since they are available in various types and shapes, weight and cost can vary greatly. They can be installed relatively quickly, and provide good roof protection just like any other shingle, but can be expensive in comparison to other solar systems. One important benefit, however, is that solar shingles can be installed over existing shingles.
When considering solar roofs, homeowners must choose the type of roofing system they desire, and then the type of solar cell. It is important to understand that options may be limited depending on the type of roof, existing roofing material and the cost of adding a solar system to the roof. To learn more about solar roofs, and how to decide on the best roofing option, homeowners should discuss their interests with a qualified residential roofing company.