Put a Charge in Your New Roof - Using Solar Roof Shingles

By The Old House Web

New Alternatives to Solar Panels

In one sense, your rotting old roof could be a blessing. You might be able to charge the new one.

But instead of putting it on plastic, give your old roof a solar electrical charge with photovoltaic roof shingles that will lower or even eliminate your electrical costs. You might even generate a surplus and put power back into the electrical grid.

And for the green at heart, you would be reducing the carbon spewed into the air by a coal-fired power plant somewhere in the United States.

The photovoltaic technology is based on the photoelectric effect, first described in 1839 when Edmund Bequerel noted that certain materials produced a slight electrical current when exposed to light. Bell Laboratories first developed the photovoltaic module in 1954, building on the 1905 Nobel Prize work of Albert Einstein. Research for NASA the 1960s put the photovoltaic cells into orbit.

But until recently, a solar panel was large, obtrusive and downright ugly. And, it was very expensive. A lot of the expense is still there, but now the technology has advanced enough to accommodate photovoltaic shingles that blend in with composition shingles. Depending on the manufacturer, a shingled solar array can often be 10% cheaper than a comparable solar panel array.

What to Consider Before You Buy

Lightweight photovoltaic shingles can be used in new construction, a replacement roof, or even inserted into an existing roof. Even better, your local municipality or electricity provider may offer rebates or tax credits, and there also would be a federal tax credit for installing photovoltaic roof shingles.

But before you dash out and buy a roof's worth of photovoltaic shingles, you should consult local experts about several considerations. They can crunch the numbers for your power usage, the square footage available for solar roof shingles, and the cost of electricity, and come up with your savings and the number of years it would take to pay for the system. And don't be shocked--the payoff could be a couple of decades away.

It helps to live in a sunny climate--the closer to the equator the better--though they can be used in the north. A southern roof exposure is best, though east and west exposures will give you about 90 percent of the power the southern exposure provides; you don't want trees or structures casting shadows on the array.

For the DIYer, solar shingle installation should be easy. It's similar to putting up composite roof shingles. Depending on your comfort level with wiring, you might want an electrician to hook up the solar power to your house's electrical system.

Take a look at the pros and cons of photovoltaic shingles. When your spouse worries about how you are going to pay for your new roof, it would be fun to just shrug your shoulders and say: "We'll charge it."

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