25 February 2013

The added benefits of solar panels: rooftop insulators for your home

Solar panels on your roof don’t just generate clean energy for your house or business – they are keeping it cool as well.

Because solar photovoltaic (PV) systems take the harsh beating of the sun’s rays, they also prevent heat from penetrating inside a building’s ceilings. This is more great news for the growing number of residential and commercial roofs that are now covered with solar panels.

These compelling thermal advantages were officially confirmed by researchers at The Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Their peer-reviewed study – published in the journal of Solar Energy – was the first to measure the cooling benefits provided by solar photovoltaic panels.

“The panels essentially act as roof shades,” said Anthony Dominguez, a graduate student who worked on the project.

The study used thermal imaging to gather infrared data from the rooftop of a laboratory building in the university. Researchers found that during the day, ceiling temperatures were 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) cooler under solar panels than they were under exposed roof.The team, lead by Professor of environmental engineering Jan Kleisel, determined that the amount saved on cooling the building amounted to getting a 5 per cent discount on the solar panels’ price, over the panels’ lifetime.

They also found that at night, the panels helped to hold heat in – which would effectively reduce heating costs during winter. In this way, solar panels act as a kind of thermal insulator.

“Talk about positive side-effects,” said Kleissl.

“There are more efficient ways to passively cool buildings, such as reflective roof membranes. But if you are considering installing solar photovoltaic, depending on your roof thermal properties, you can expect a large reduction in the amount of energy you use to cool your residence or business.”

Kleissl’s team also found that solar panels with the highest efficiency reaped bigger cooling effects.

This finding adds to the list of reasons to choose Australian-owned TCK Solar: their systems are the most efficient in the Australian market. Precision-engineered in Germany, they outperform others by up to 28 per cent and are designed to last for 40 years. TCK’s SOLON solar panels were voted the best solar panels in the world by PV Magazine.

“Our systems are robotically made, which gives you high consistency and quality,” said TCK Solar Technical Director Timo Karnath. Karnath, a qualified industrial engineer, worked as the Production Manager at SOLON in Berlin before moving to Australia.

“They also give you peace of mind that your system will perform really well without losing efficiency, for many years to come,” said Karnath.