What Is Solar Roofing?: A Beginner’s Guide

For the first time, renewable energy surpassed coal in the U.S. In April 2019, solar and wind energy sources, among others, combined to total 23% of electricity generation with coal at 20%. Furthermore, solar energy reached a record monthly high of 7.8 million MWh in June 2018 due to the increase of more solar photovoltaics (PV) installation.

The increased interest and discussion surrounding the benefits of solar energy has caused more homeowners and businesses to stop and ask, how do solar roof panels work? This guide provides a brief overview of:

  • How sunlight is used
  • How to maximize solar roofing performance
  • What the installation process looks like
  • The main benefits of solar roofing

To start, solar roofing is broken down into three steps: 

  • Harvesting the sunlight
  • Converting sunlight to electrical energy
  • Using (or storing) solar energy

When rooftop solar panels are installed, they capture sunlight and convert it from a direct current to an alternating current that’s used as electricity. This installation requires the panels to be at the most optimal tilt and covering the span of rooftops as much as possible without being blocked from the shade.

After sunlight is harvested, solar energy is then converted through a micro-inverter system. The amount that’s converted depends on the size of the roof and the number of panels. Using top-quality micro-inverters allows for a better performing solar roofing system to reap the most benefits. 

The third step is using the converted energy as electricity to power the home as an alternative to fossil fuels. Any energy that’s not used can be stored for a later time or in some cases, is credited back to the consumer. Since California, especially San Diego, is known for its moderate weather with most days forecasted for sunshine, it makes solar roofing a positive investment to consider. 

Maximizing Solar Roofing Performance 

In order to get the maximum benefits from solar energy and transform it into electrical power for daily use, there are several factors that make a difference in solar roofing performance. One of the top questions we hear is how does a solar roof work and is my home suitable for it? 

Most roofs are suitable for solar panel installation. Solar roofing requires specific placement of solar panels tilted at the right angle to harvest the sunlight at different times throughout the day. It also is reliant on using high-quality materials and micro-inverters to optimize performance. The micro-inverters we use for solar roofing projects have built-in monitoring that displays levels of productivity. 

The first step of the process is to schedule an inspection to assess the quality of your roof before starting a design plan. Roofs that are older than 20 years or have significant damage often require repairs or replacement prior to the start of a project. This helps to protect the integrity of both the roof and the production level of the solar panels.

How Does the Installation Process Work?

At Preman Roofing, we follow a thorough process to ensure your roof is ready for installation and eligible for any state incentives. We first send out a project questionnaire followed by a phone call from a technician on our design team to talk through your requested improvements. We then schedule an onsite visit to assess the condition of your roof and confirm that it’s of sound structure to begin. 

From there, we design a customized roofing plan including full details of possible services and opportunities that may benefit your home. Once you’ve reviewed the options and have approved the plan, we move forward with the layout of your solar roofing panels by using top-tier products for the best possible performance. After framing and installation, we perform a thorough check that everything is installed and functioning properly. 

Benefits of Solar Roofing

Technology continues to make solar roofing an accessible energy source. Unlike fossil fuels, sunshine has unlimited potential as a renewable resource. Other solar roofing advantages include: 

  • Lower electricity bills
  • Eligibility for tax credits and state incentives
  • Increased property value
  • Reduced carbon footprint

Overall, the availability of solar power is becoming more widely available and used. However, although similar advantages apply across the board, the amount that each homeowner benefits factors in a roof’s current condition, geographical location, current energy usage, and the number of solar panels being used.

Lower Electricity Bills

How much does solar roofing cost? In a study distributed by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, it was found that of single-family homeowners across the country, an estimated 9.1 million live in a city where solar panels cost less than their current utility rates (if buying a PV system outright); 21 million if low-cost financing is available. Additionally, when ranking the country’s top 50 cities to invest in solar PV, five California cities, including San Diego, made it into the top 10.

When calculating a comparison of solar energy use with an energy bill that does not use solar, the study also found that San Diego was one of the top cities with the largest monthly solar panel savings – approximately $137 based on a 5kW system. This number fluctuates based on a customer’s typical energy use, the performance of the solar panels, as well as the amount of sun exposure and rooftop space. Generally speaking, the average cost of a solar PV system has declined from $12/watt in 1998 to approximately $3.70/watt by 2014.

Eligibility for Tax Credits and Incentives

Currently, there is a federal renewable energy tax credit for homeowners that’s equal to 30% of the cost of a system installed in 2019. There are also rebate programs and incentives that certain cities and energy companies offer to further reduce electricity bills or receive money back after an installation is complete.

One of the most popular resources for the state is the California Solar Initiative, which offers various levels of incentives based on a home’s solar power performance. After an energy efficiency audit is performed and sunlight solar panels are installed, an individual can apply for solar rebates once the project is complete. Additionally, through the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, applicants can check their status online and review updates with regards to available funds per program. 

Increased Property Value 

Due to both lower electricity bills and incentives for using renewable resources, the installation of sunlight solar panels can increase a home’s property value. A recent Zillow analysis shows on average, country-wide, solar panels raise a home’s value by 4.1% when comparing homes with and without solar energy systems. 

Another study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that buyers are willing to pay an estimated $15,000 more for a solar home. Again, the percentage and dollar amount varies per area but is comparable to similar housing availability that does not have solar panels installed.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Lastly, in an effort to use clean energy resources, California is aiming for 60% renewable energy to be on the power grid by 2030. In 2018, solar and wind generation accounted for more than 69% of all renewable electricity generation with solar representing the largest portion. As new technology emerges and more solar installation goes up, some studies show that building more solar panels in an oversupply may also help to keep electricity prices low. 

Regardless of the amount of supply, the generation of solar energy does not emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and can be stored for later usage or when solar power isn’t quite as high. Other states have followed California’s lead with similar initiatives that involve exploring and implementing clean energy strategies and more environmentally-friendly best practices to reduce carbon emissions. 

If you’ve ever thought, what is solar roofing and should I add it to my home, these benefits demonstrate why homeowners and businesses alike are considering it as an alternative to their current roof designs. A solar roof can last anywhere from 25-40 years with the right maintenance and care. Plus, the materials used are designed to withstand different weather conditions that can typically erode roofing over time.

Harvesting the Power of the Sun for Your Energy Use

The rise of solar power as a top renewable energy resource has given homeowners the opportunity to benefit in multiple ways. Whether you are ready to make updates to your roof and want to go solar, are interested in lowering your electricity bills, or want to increase the value of your home, it’s advantageous to take a look at what converted energy from the sun can do. 

With a climate as favorable as Southern California, it only makes sense to see how solar roofing can make a difference cost-wise in the long-term. There are still new technologies emerging that continue to make solar power more accessible for homeowners across the U.S. While this guide provides a starting point that answers the question of how do solar roof panels work and ways you can benefit, each plan is customized based on the region and characteristics of the home.

Talk with a roofing specialist in the solar industry that has the experience, training, and expertise to walk you through the complexities of solar roofing so that you can get the most value. 

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