Depending on how old you are, you may remember the large solar panels people used to attach to the roofs of their home in hopes of lowering, or even eliminating their power bills. These large panels had their limitations, and were often considered an eyesore by the neighbors. Solar residential roofing has come a long ways from these days. There are various types of solar roofing options, and many are almost undetectable from traditional style roofing.

These solar options will not only pay for themselves, but may even put money in your pocket. Will one be right for your next roofing project?

What Are Your Options?

The world of roofing continues to evolve by integrating the latest green technology into their roofing materials. As a result of their efforts, there are a wide variety of solar roofing options on the market. These include:

  • Photovoltaic roofing systems - are entire systems which can seamlessly be integrated into your existing asphalt, or attached to your metal roofing. These systems are rated by the amount of wattage they put out. For example a 10 kilowatt (kW) system will produce 10,000 watts of power when it is at its maximum output. These systems are traditionally broken down between two main types of panels. They are:
    • Amorphous silicon panels - are thin layers of silicon, which are attached to a panel. These work best in low light conditions, but require you to install more surface area due to their reduced output.
    • Crystalline silicon panels - are the most common type of panels due to the fact they are more durable, and produce more wattage than their Amorphous cousins. These panels are constructed by laminating the photovoltaic cells between sheets of tempered glass and plastic, and then finishing it with an aluminum framing.
  • Photovoltaic modules - are the heart of any type of photovoltaic system. They are a grouping of connected solar cells, which are the working component of the system. They collect the solar energy which in turn is converted to energy your home can use. How these modules are integrated into the system will depend on the manufacturer. Many times these are referred to as solar panels.
  • Solar shingles - are simply small photovoltaic panels which appear to be traditional shingles. They perform double duty by protecting your roof, while harnessing the energy from the sun. Solar shingles are available as solid panels, strips of panels, and thin solar film. Although relatively new on the market, it is estimated that each shingle can produce between 17-50 watts of electricity. 
  • Tile solar roofing - are very similar to solar shingles. Designed to work as traditional slate roofing tiles with a little extra. Each tile has photovoltatic cells attached, which allows the tiles to harness solar energy. Both solar shingles and solar tiles are becoming more accepted due to their intrusive look, as well as their superior designs.  

Although these are all different products, they all work basically the same way. The solar cells contained within the materials capture energy from the sun, and then converts it to power you can use to heat, cool, and power your home. Solar systems are now being designed for everyone. Not only do the new materials work well in areas that have a lot of direct sunlight, but with battery backup, they can work well almost anywhere in the world.

Did You Know Solar Energy Can Put Money Back In Your Pocket?

There is currently a federal tax credit which will allow you to claim up to 30% of the cost of your solar equipment, as well as your installation. Unlike some credits which cap out at a certain limit, this credit has no upper cap. This credit can be used to offset any federal taxes you may owe, and can even be rolled over into the following year. Unfortunately, this credit is set to expire in 2016, so if you are seriously considering a solar system, now is the time to invest in one. Depending on where you live, there may be state and local credits as well.

Another source of income you do not want to overlook is selling energy back to your utility company. Depending on the type of system you install, and the amount of sunlight you receive, you may even find yourself making more energy than you need. You may be able to sell this energy back to your local utility company and receive a check directly from them. Contact your utility company for more information.