Solar roofing design 101

Adrienne SorensenJuly 18, 20183580

Solar roofing design 101 

Are you looking to be more solar smart for your home home? With all the information on the world wide web, where do you even begin? Below are elements to consider when researching solar panels to customize. If you’ve spoken to several installers and received  generalized price quotes, I’d recommend looking into customizing solar panels to meet your homes actual needs. Electrical, aesthetic, structural, environmental, and policy factors must all be accounted for to get the most accurate estimate for your home. 

It’s all about location, location, location

Typically, the direction and pitches that your roof faces can’t be altered. The orientation and pitch determine the quantity of solar energy  accessible for your location. Solar panels absorb more energy from  direct sunlight, thus furnishing more electricity. There are smart tracking systems that pilot panels all year to meet the sun’s movement to obtain the highest production for your home. 
Although these systems are intended to best capture direct sunlight to produce energy, they’re pretty expensive and not one system fits all type of homes. The set location of solar panels in a residential design is crucial since panels with a deeper tilt perform better at higher latitudes.  The sun sits lower in the sky for longer periods of time. The closer your residence is to the equator, the lower the ideal tilt angle and roof pitch. If your residence is in the northern hemisphere, the orientation to maximize production is south since your panels will get the most direct solar radiation.


Obstructions matter

Various sources of roof shade could influence the efficiency of solar panels. For instance, your neighbors’ homes, may shade your house at different times of the day. Trees nearby but off your property could influence shade on your roof as well. For most people, it's not necessarily to alter trees to have an efficient solar system. Custom designs of solar panels can include or exclude obstructions.
Depending on your area, some fire regulations mandate that solar can’t be installed in particular areas to assist firefighters in case of emergency for your home. This is called fire setbacks which require large areas of roof surfaces (close to ridges, hips, valleys, and  edges) be left clear for emergency walkways. Depending on your home’s location, not all areas require the same setback distances. Its best to look into your local fire regulations. 
Roof surfaces can have a few obstacles like skylights, air conditioning units, vents of various shapes, and chimneys, just to name a few. Most  obstructions are assumed to be immovable. Vents that aren’t heat producing can be modified to be flat or relocated to facilitate a larger or more aesthetic pleasing panel arrangement. 


Solar aesthetics versus solar efficiency

The solar industry continues to evolve quickly. The industry has been able to successfully accommodate a lot of the solar buyers needs. Yet, more research must be done to meet everyone’s solar needs. If one goal of solar energy has been met, it may compromise the solar product in other ways. This is when solar aesthetics come in. 
The most efficient solar panel design for production is not always the most attractive. The standard shaped arrays with panels (regardless of 
landscape or portrait size) on the same roof plane is of course ideal, yet isn’t the most realistic due to roof obstructions or the number of panels to meet the production value.
Also, for those that have a homeowners’ association, beware.  Some can be sticklers with the placement of your solar panels. The associations that do have regulations expect all-black panels that don’t face the front of your street. Please check in with your homeowners’ association for more details. 
Due to these moving parts, custom designing your solar panels could be ideal. It provides a more accurate estimation of your solar needs. If you want to move into the future and join the solar revolution, or if you want to find out what solar panels are right for you, go to and try our price checker tool. You can see how much a system will cost, and how much you can save over the next 20 years. For more information relating to going solar, don't forget to visit our solar blog section for more handy guides and articles.


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