Today’s blog is a guest entry about solar roof tiles and solar panels from RoofingVancouverBC. Solar power is a popular topic among our readers and customers. This article explores how solar roofing works and why it is beneficial to homeowners.

As the costs of electricity become higher and people become more environmentally conscious, living off grid becomes more and more appealing.

Chances are, you’ve probably thought of getting your own solar-powered home. If you’ve ever wondered how all of this works and what exactly it can do for you, then read on to find more.

Not all solar panels are created equal

First, there are a few key basics that you’ll need to know.

Solar shingles fall under photovoltaic (PV) products, which are tools and/or products that produce most, if not all, of their energy from sunlight. This category includes phones, streetlights, calculators, cars, and homes.

Solar shingles and solar panels are not the same thing either. While they’re both PV products and can be used in any home, solar panels are what the name implies: they’re panels. These are the PV products that most people are familiar with, and are used in many areas such as farming or solar windmills. Solar shingles are exactly what the name implies as well – they’re not the large structures that are most solar panels, but the size and shape of your regular roof shingle. This key difference has a couple of benefits.

The science of PV

Whether they be solar shingles or solar panels, the science behind how they operate is the same. Here’s a very quick primer.

Most things are made of atoms – the basic building blocks that form anything on this planet (and quite a few things beyond it). Each atom is usually composed of three particles: protons (which are positively charged), electrons (which are negatively charged), and neutrons (which have no charge). The more protons an atom has, the more positively charged it is, and the more electrons it has, the more it veers to a negative charge.

Sunlight is a photon – a kind of radiation that has no electrical charge at all, because the protons and electrons are equal. When they strike a PV product, it hits a special surface coating that specifically knocks off one electron from the photon particle. This negative charge is carried all the way to the collection chamber of the PV particle, where they are harvested and turned into electricity.

All PV products work this way, including solar shingles. With enough of them, you can realistically power your entire home just by using solar energy, but location can determine how well and how much sunlight you’ll be able to get. But more on those later.

Why use solar shingles anyway?

So what should you pick between a solar panel and a solar shingle?

Roofing services would often offer one or the other, but solar roof tiles are undoubtedly more cost-efficient for homes. Most solar panels are industry grade, and are often used in a field or other similarly large arrangements. Solar shingles can be custom fit to your home’s needs, and fulfills the purpose of being an ordinary roof shingle, and a solar panel.

And while the cost may certainly be a little higher than merely installing a solar panel (since each solar roof tile will have to be individually fit within a grid, often wired by hand and piece by piece until the entire roof is covered) it’s more economical for homes, and looks great in any neighborhood. With the help of a professional to install your setup, you might not even think that your home is now being powered by solar energy by the time they’re done.

Incidentally, if you are looking for a professional to help you install PV devices on your home, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers would be your best bet.

Aside from the obvious savings that you’ll get from generating your own electricity, solar roof tiles help save the environment. And if your government gives incentives for homes equipped with PV devices, solar shingles are definitely something that you’ll want to look into.

Some other questions about PVs

Here are some very common questions (or misconceptions) about PV devices that you may have heard, and the actual answers to those questions.

Can I generate too much electricity on a very sunny day? What happens if I do?

Yes, you can actually generate more electricity than your home actually uses. In this case, you don’t have to worry about calling roofing service immediately – the excess energy is either uploaded to your local power grid, or stored within solar cells for later consumption. If you regularly return excess energy that you harvest to your local electricity station, you may even get compensated for it.

What about cloudy days?

There’s a common misconception that cloudy days render PV devices useless. Not so – PV devices can use diffused or scattered sunlight, making them perfectly fine during cloudy or even rainy days. As long as they get hit by any light from any source, PV devices can keep generating electricity.

What happens if my solar panels need maintenance or fail? Will I not have electricity anymore?

PV devices take over, not replace, your electrical grid. In the event that your solar roof tiles need repairs or fail due to other causes, you can simply switch back to using the electrical grid that normally powers your home. You’ll incur your usual electricity generation rates, but you won’t lose electricity at all.

Going green with solar

And that concludes the basics of how solar roof tiles – and PV products in general – operate. From the science, benefits, and FAQ’s, we hope you’ve found this guide helpful. With a little tinkering, time and care, you can find yourself saving a lot more in utilities with green roofing options than you’d ever think possible.

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