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What's the best mounting for solar panels?

Posted by Chris Rudge on 10 February 2010 at 9:07 am

Flush fitting of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to generate electricity has both benefits and downsides over the more popular 'on roof' mounting.

The benefit is a PV array that is more integrated-looking, although to keep that essential cooling airflow to ensure the system works at maximum efficiency, the modules still need to be mounted with an airflow space. There are some integrated systems around that look great, but  lose efficiency over hot summer days simply due to lack of airflow. PV needs to be kept cool, not heated up by your loft!

If you need to have your roof tiles replaced, or have a new house built with PV, then this would be a great time to consider an integrated solution as there will be big cost savings. Otherwise stick with the far less expensive 'on roof' solution which  will give you a quick effective way of having a PV array at ever deceasing costs.

Another bonus from having PV installed on your house is that it increases the value of your property. If you sell it, your buyers would benefit from all that free electricity and the income from feed-in tariffs.

Photo: iStock/Gene Chutka

About the author: Chris Rudge is a qualified electrician who specialises in renewable energy.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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5 comments - read them below or add one


GlenfenderComment left on: 15 September 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi, we are looking at solar pv on our slate roofed house (scottish slates - high propensity for falling off!!!!) - it has been proposed to fit the solar pv (Solarworld sunmodule monos) with Renusol Intersole mounting frame.  This would replace the roof covering beneath the panels and give a semi integrated look. Any views/thoughts on these bits of kit?

We are needing to reslate most of the roof anyway so the whole thing could be done at the same time.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 23 May 2011 at 8:17 am

Hi Ian

Here's an answer David Hunt posted on our facebook page:

No, nowhere near. Tiles are great aesthetically, but that is about it. Less output from a great space and a higher cost. 2, Yes there are thermal tiles too, and as I understand it (though without direct experience unlike PV) the same applies as above. 3. Tiles much more expensive.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 17 May 2011 at 11:56 am

Hope these answers are helpful: - how similar the output is would depend on the technology of the PV cells usually, not the way the cells are deployed (panel or tile); some newest technology will be more efficient though also of course usually dearer than last year's models; - the cells are only for PV, nothing related to solar thermal; - the tiles tend to be dearer than a few ready made panels; lots more initial connecting to link them all up. If you have a completely new roof you'd save the roofing costs, or rather turn these into PV installation costs without having to add panels on top afterwards, but if you are simply adding Pv to an existing roof there would be no sense removing a usable roof and then replacing with a more fiddly PV installation of hundreds of tiles. (The exception would be if you had a visual or planning priority to make it look like a tiled roof again). - as for actual costs please shop around as costs vary dramatically by installer, age of technology, and whether there's finance and competition between installers. Remember to check any products and installers are eligible for Feed In Tariffs if you are after these. (posted by Martin Fodor on Facebook)

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ian1973Comment left on: 16 May 2011 at 3:16 pm

we are currently in the planning process to build our own house and have lots of questions regarding the use of solar roof tiles. 1. Do you generate as much electricity with these roof tiles with the equivelant amount of panel space ? 2. I have noticed you can have panels that heat water and panels that generate electricity, do you have tiles that do both of these things ? is one more cost effective than the other ? 3. Is there anyone or anywhere i could find that would give me a ballpark square meterage cost ? and comparison between the 2 options ?.
Do in general people think its a better idea to go for the tiles than the panels, im concerned about possible repairs etc etc.

sorry if these sound a bit silly but im only just looking into this possibility so would appreciatte any help.

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ePower-SolarComment left on: 13 February 2010 at 9:18 pm

"..... a great time to consider an integrated solution as there will be big cost savings" 

From my experience there are no cost savings for roof integrated solutions, expect for example in France were in roof mounted photovoltaic systems are rewarded with higher feed in tariffs. Besides, integrated solutions always bare the risk of having a leak and repair is expensive. 

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