Aesthetically Pleasing Solar Panels Style Guide

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 energy. 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 residential 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 energy 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 power, as these gaudy design 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.

Example Models:

LG 400 N2W
Sunmodule Plus 290-300 Mono White

“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:

 Example Models:


“Very Attractive” Panels: Black frame, White Backing, Wireless

Black frame, which backing and wireless panels are a great choice if you’re looking for a step up in aesthetics. 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. 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:

“Beautiful” Solar Roof 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 efficient, slightly higher cost but is very aesthetically pleasing?  Black Framed, Black Backing, Wired
Hate the look of panels but still want to go solar? Solar Roof 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 black framed, black backing, wired panels like the Q Cells BLK 380W panels. 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.