Energy, Solar Power and Metal Roofing

February 16, 2017 | Filed under: Energy,Newsletter Articles,Research

metal roofing and solar energy

Here’s a quick, graphic look at saving energy, solar power, and metal roofing.

On almost all homes, nothing has more potential to enhance total energy efficiency than the roof. And nothing creates a better canvas for energy production than the roof. So, whether it’s saving energy, producing energy, or both, if you’re looking for a roof, it’s important to consider how your roofing decision will impact your future energy needs and costs.

SAVING ENERGY

With the right roofing choice, considerable steps can be taken to save energy by reducing summer heat gain.There are 3 forms of heat transfer: radiant, conductive, and convective. Here is how a Classic Metal Roof addresses each form:

reflective coatings block radiant heat, ventilation exhausts convective heat

  1. Radiant Heat. Our metal roofs’ special heat-reflective coatings block radiant heat transfer from the sun into the attic space.
  2. Conductive Heat. The integral airspace beneath metal shingles and, with certain installation procedures, beneath other metal roof systems, stops conductive heat transfer from the rooftop down into the attic.
  3. Convective Heat. With proper attic ventilation, convective heat flow in the attic moves any heat that is gained in the attic back to the outside through a ridge vent or other exhaust vents which can be part of a metal roof.

PRODUCING ENERGY

There are methods for attaching solar panels to metal roofs for property owners who want to create energy with their rooftops.

The ultimate, of course, is a roof that produces energy on its own. Over the years, we have seen many companies attempt to integrate energy production with various roofing shingles. While this is indeed a great idea – one product that serves both as a roof and an energy producer – most of these attempts have failed outright and those that have not failed seem to limp along as costly, inefficient energy producers.

SOLAR SHINGLES?

Recently, a leading tech giant announced that they will introduce a power-producing roof that is the same or lower cost as a traditional roof. That would be phenomenal if they could do that, but it would require that the roof last for a very, very long time and that it produce a huge amount of energy over that time that could be sold back to the grid. Unfortunately, that represents a long term return on investment for homeowners.

When considering products that will allow you to use your rooftop to produce energy, it’s critical to keep in mind that solar production keeps getting more efficient with technology advancements. Because of this, our recommendation is to buy a solar system with a 20-year life expectancy rather than one with a longer term life expectancy. Any solar production equipment made today will be sadly outdated in 20 years, likely not making any sense to operate it beyond that period of time.

“Any solar production equipment made today will be sadly outdated in 20 years, likely not making any sense to operate it beyond that period of time.”

COST-EFFECTIVE SOLAR ENERGY

The reality is that traditional crystalline photovoltaic panels offer the most cost-effective solar energy production. Their modular nature is very helpful in allowing repairs and replacement. Additionally, while they are durable and built to last 20 or so years, they do eventually need to be replaced, allowing property owners to step up to even more efficient energy production at that time.

METAL ROOFS AND SOLAR INSTALLATIONS

Traditional solar panels can be integrated nicely with metal roofs. With clip-fastened standing seam metal roofs, the panels can be clamped onto the raised seams so that no or very few actual roof penetrations are necessary. With other types of metal roofs, minor penetrations of the roof will be necessary and there are many commercially available fastening brackets designed for water tightness that work very well.

Metal roofs are ideal for solar installation. The durability of the metal roof will hold up to foot traffic when the solar array is installed and serviced. The metal roof will also easily last as long as the solar panels themselves. Additionally, cool metal roofs can increase the efficiency of the solar panels themselves. And, finally, using a metal roof to save energy while producing energy at the same time with solar is the best of both worlds.

If you as a homeowner have plans for solar in the future, discuss those plans with your roofing contractor. We often see that many of the benefits which attract someone to metal roofing also cause them to later seek solar panel installation. Depending upon the type of roof you choose to have installed, it may be possible for the installer to take steps now that will simplify solar installation in the future.

WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?

While our current recommendation, by far, is to stick to the tried and true traditional photovoltaic panels (which keep getting better all the time), we are pleased to say that there are other things on the horizon. At some point in the future, we believe that the coatings on metal roofs themselves will be suitable solar collectors. This truly will be a fully integrated solar roof that makes sense.

So, there you have it – the lowdown on energy efficiency, solar, and metal roofing. Please contact us anytime we might be of service. Additionally, if a new roof may be in your future, be sure to download our Homeowners’ Guide To Roofing. And, for answers to your questions, don’t forget about our Metal Roofing 101 Video Series which has short videos to address over 40 common questions.