The Evolution of Solar Panel Aesthetics

March 8, 2022 5:51 pm
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Since the dawn of the solar industry, we have witnessed solar technology improve by leaps and bounds, and with that is not only the efficiency of the solar panel but also its aesthetics.

Comments from consumers have driven designers to enhance the look of modules to be as sleek as possible:

“But what about the curb appeal?” 

“I’m worried about the resale value of my home.”

“I’d love to get solar, but I don’t think my spouse can get over the look of the panels on our house.”

We have heard these and more from homeowners considering solar in the last two decades. Often, it’s the last major obstacle before going solar, and for many, it can be a dealbreaker. Concern about your home’s appearance is entirely understandable; luckily, innovation in the solar industry hasn’t just improved the efficiency of solar panels and their visual appearance. Unfortunately, many homeowners aren’t aware of this progress and the options available for those looking to make their solar installation look as sleek and unobtrusive as possible. 

For a lot of folks, when they think of residential solar, they probably imagine something like the install pictured here: Multiple arrays across as much roof space as possible, with shiny metal railings and unique bluish cast to the solar cells themselves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This system was installed in 2016, and we are proud to say it is still functioning as projected.

For many, they may want their solar installation to be as prominent as possible. For those who are more concerned with aesthetics, take a look at some recent installs below that highlight the progress in solar panel design.  

 

 

 

 

 

This system below was just installed in the Milwaukee, WI area in February 2022 utilizing Rec’s new black-on-black 405-watt solar panels. These panels have excellent efficiency and incredible energy degradation ratings.

Their black-on-black design allows them to form a cohesive block of panels without the broken lines of the outer railing and conductive bussing ( the grid-like lines that crisscross in solar panels). 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is another recent install using the same black-on-black innovation. In the Milwaukee area, this solar installation covers the entire south-facing roof, but due to the low visibility of the black-on-black panels, it’s easy to walk right by the house without ever knowing it was producing its own power from the roof. 

 

 

 

 

 

This last solar install from the Madison area shows what black-on-black panels can look like when put out front and center. Even though these panels are not concealed by placing them on the back of the house, they still fit the house’s profile without breaking up the roof lines. Solar panels appropriately installed like this will be maximally productive and minimally distracting. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are still some considerations that Wisconsin homeowners need to think about that will impact the aesthetics of their solar installation.

  1. Generally, it’s best if your solar array faces directly south. Being a northern state means that we get spotty sun in the winter; Arch designers combat this by designing all of our systems to capture the maximum amount of solar energy at all times, which for us means due south. This can be great for curb appeal if your front door faces north, but if your front door opens to the south, be aware that your prime solar real estate is facing the curb. 
  2. Solar panels are just part of the system. An inverter and conduits are also needed. If you look again at the Madison install, you can see the thin piece of galvanized metal peeking out from the upper right corner of the array. That is the conduit, which carries the energy down to the inverter, the system’s brain. There are options to hide that conduit run (running it through the attic), but in almost all cases, the most cost-effective option is to run it down the side of the house, as in this case. 
  3. Not every roof allows for a single array design. While it’s always great to have an installation that looks like the ones above, this isn’t always possible. Take a look at our previous article here on challenging rooftops for solar to see what we are talking about. There are just some cases where, if you want viable solar in Wisconsin, that means taking advantage of as much roof space as possible. 
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