The Style Guide to Aesthetically Pleasing Solar Panels
Having solar panels on your house says a lot about you. The implication is, if you have panels, that you not only care about your wallet, but also the environment. They are a sort of badge of intelligence; which you think everyone would find appealing. The truth is, that some people don't think they are cool, based not on their implications, but on their aesthetics, or the way they look on roofs.
The aesthetics issue can be a major hurdle when it comes to some homeowners making the leap to solar. No matter how much money it will save them, some homeowners simply won't consider solar due to the fashion element, and not the function. Therefore, improvement of solar aesthetics should be a top priority for solar panel manufacturers, so that those homeowners on the fence to due to aesthetics will be more willing to make the leap.
So in order to determine what makes a solar panel beautiful, let's look at the panel options that are out there now, and what it is about them that could be considered ugly or beautiful.
"Less Attractive" Panels: Silver Framed, White Backing, Wired
People who don't like the way solar panels look are likely referring to the old school panels that have the thick, aluminum frames, tacky, raised up mounting, and white backing with wires showing. You know, like this:
The panels are a bit jarring, as they stick out from the roof, and the white-backing and visible wires give them a waffle-grid look that puts them in stark contrast to the color of the roof. Unfortunately, this is likely the stereotype image most homeowners associate with the look of solar panels. It's no wonder then why some fashion-conscious people avoid solar, as these gaudy panels may not be worth the money saved.
The reality is that most panel companies have greatly improved the aesthetics of panels from this old-school look and that panels like these are mostly used for utility-scale and commercial solar installations at this point. This style of panel is cheap and powerful as the white backing reflects more heat, which keeps the panel cooler and therefore increases efficiency. They also can look good in industrial areas or on homes that have flat metal roofs. So if you're someone that doesn't care about aesthetics, or are trying to power your warehouse, this very functional and cheap panel might be more your style.
"Attractive" Panels: Black Frame, White Backing, Wired
The step up from the old-school aluminum frames is the black framed, wired panels that are very common today. The black frame makes the panel slightly less jarring in contrast with the roof, which makes it a little sleeker and more discrete. The good thing about these panels is that they retain the white backing and lifted racking to keep the panel cool and retain efficiency, while still incorporating the sleek black design, without too much of a price increase. The LG Neon series is a great example of this style of panel. Here are a few examples:
"Very Attractive" Panels: Black frame, White Backing, Wireless
The step up from the wired, white backed, black framed panels are the Maxeon series panels exclusive to SunPower. They take all the great aspects of a black framed, white backed panel: efficiency and a sleek look, and make it even more efficient and even sleeker. This technology is patented by SunPower, so while this isn't a widely adopted look, it is very popular amongst homeowners. Also, because it's SunPower, these panels boast efficiencies that are unrivaled by other panels. The only downside is the increased price, but, due to the efficiency, the increased ROI makes up for the price, as well as the improved aesthetics. Here are some examples:
"Extremely Attractive" Panels: Black frame, Black Backing, Wired
A newer panel style is the all-black panels, frame, backing and all. The fully black look takes away the grid created by the contrast between the backing and the cells, which makes them very sleek and discrete. Up close the wiring is visible, but from the street, it looks flat black. The problem with this style of panel is that they are less heat resistant than the white-backed panels, which can adversely affect efficiency. It is also slightly more expensive than the white-backed panels. They are a good choice for those looking for a more modern look who care less about efficiency. Example:
"Most Attractive" Panels: Black frame, Black Backing, Wireless
The highest performing and best-looking panel out there is by far the SunPower Maxeon fully black panels. They combine the beauty and discretion of a black panel with the high efficiency of SunPower Maxeon Technology to bring you the best of both function and fashion. They take the aesthetic element even further by eliminating the wires, so even up close the panels are a smooth black. They are also able to be mounted closer to the roof than other panels due to the patented SunPower Invisimount racking system, which keeps them low profile. They look great on any roof, as their modern and futuristic look lends them to a variety of styles.
SunPower did extensive research to develop this panel that retains the black backing without getting too hot to hurt efficiency. These panels are immensely popular, and as a result are a bit more expensive. But with efficiencies of over 21%, these panels pay back their extra cost quick. Some examples:
"Beautiful" Solar Tiles?
For those homeowners who want to avoid panels altogether, there is the emerging option of solar roof tiles. While they are a relatively new technology, they have been popular with homeowners due to the hype, as well as their basically invisible nature. The problem with them is that because they are flush with the roof, heat can become trapped under them and hurt efficiency. They also are very expensive and are pretty new, so homeowners opting for this option are taking somewhat of a gamble.
So what panel is for me?
So now that you know the options, you can make a decision based on the type of system you're looking for.
Want a highly efficient panel that is low cost, and don't care about aesthetics? Silver Framed, White Backed, Wired
Want an efficient panel that is medium cost, and care slightly about aesthetics? Black Framed, White Backing, Wired
Want an efficient panel that is slightly higher cost, and is aesthetically pleasing? Black Framed, White Backing, Wireless
Want a panel that is less efficient, slightly higher cost but is very aesthetically pleasing? Black Framed, Black Backing, Wired
Want a panel this is highly efficient, high cost, and beautiful? Black Framed, Black Backing, Wireless
Hate the look of panels but still want to go solar? Solar Tiles
So what makes a solar panel beautiful? Sleekness, blackness, and a low profile. But other factors have to be considered when choosing your panels. If you value efficiency or price, you may not want the highest end, most beautiful panel. Or, if you want it all, you have the SunPower black panels which give you the best of both worlds. Regardless, before you make a decision, you should run through all the options with a solar expert first. Give us a call if you'd like to learn more.