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Integrated Solar Panels – Ultimate Guide

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Solar panels have come a long way from when first arrived on rooftops. From being overly large and obtrusive, they are now more aesthetically appealing to the eye, and indeed the pocket, providing the opportunity to power your home with renewable energy from the sun.

Integrated solar panels combine a high level of energy efficiency with a much more streamlined and contemporary appearance, making them an increasingly popular choice for the householder who doesn’t want their roofline dominated by their solar panels.

Our illuminating (excuse the pun) guide on integrated roof solar panels can be found below and contains all the information you may need to decide whether they are right for you.

What Are Roof Integrated Or In Roof Solar Panels?

Integrated solar panels (also known as roof solar panels) are very similar to standard solar panels; the only difference is that integrated solar panels are embedded in a part of the roof that does not have tiles.

Integrated solar panels, in contrast to traditional solar panels, which are also referred to as “on-roof panels,” require very little mounting equipment and the support that is present is concealed beneath the panels themselves as opposed to unsightly frames.

In-roof panels are designed to perform similar functions to those of roof tiles because they are impervious to the elements, water, and air, and can be just as strong as traditional roof tiles.

The installation is also very straightforward. The majority of the time, there is no need to make any modifications to the primary structure of the roof; it’s rather a case of removing the roof tiles and plastic trays are then attached to the framework into which the solar panels are placed. Any spaces that remain around the trays are filled with slates to complete the installation.

Solar Roof Tiles vs Roof Integrated Solar Panels

Integrated solar panels and solar roof tiles are not the same things. Solar panels that are integrated into the roof of a home are installed on the roof, while solar tiles are laid in place of the existing tiles.

It goes without saying that solar roof tiles are noticeably more discreet when comparing them to integrated solar panels.  It can in fact be difficult to tell from a distance whether they are regular or solar tiles on a roof that has both types of tiles installed.

It’s important to keep in mind that solar tiles are usually less efficient than panels, which means they won’t produce as much electricity under the same conditions as integrated panels do. However, solar tiles may be more appealing to some homeowners because of their appearance.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Integrated Solar Panels?

Advantages of Integrated Solar Panels

Aesthetically Pleasing

Integrated solar panels are an option to consider especially if you are one of those who has always considered conventional solar panels unappealing. Because they are installed as part of the structure of the roof, integrated solar panels are designed to fit in with any surrounding roof tiles and to blend in so that they are far less noticeable.

Affordable

Integrated solar panels are now considerably less expensive than they once were – a factor that would have put many people off in the past. As the technology has gained in popularity, an increasing number of manufacturers began to offer integrated solutions, and the price of the panels decreased in order to satisfy consumer demand. In point of fact, the cost of in-roof panels and standard panels is currently pretty much on par with one another.

Lightweight

Standard solar panels can sometimes be unsuitable for some rooftops due to their weight, and this can lead to problems with the building itself as well as maintenance of the solar panels.

Integrated systems however are significantly lighter overall because they do not need to be installed on top of tiles, a mounting frame is not required, and they are generally lightweight.

Great For Older Properties Or Those With Building Restrictions

Integrated panels are more likely to receive planning clearance in listed buildings or protected areas because they are intended to lie flat with the roof and can even be chosen to match a particular colour scheme. This can be an important factor if your property is a listed building or in a Conservation Area.

In addition, in-roof solar panels are lighter than traditional solar panels, which means that they don’t add extra weight to the roof. This is an advantage for older buildings that can be more delicate, and where additional weight could cause structural damage.

Easy to Maintain

Even though solar panels are generally considered to be low-maintenance, in-roof panels take this trait to an even greater extreme. Because the integrated solar panel systems are entirely embedded, there is no framework mounting the solar panels; consequently, there is very little room beneath for any nesting birds to cause any issue with your solar panels, meaning no need for the extra expense of pigeon-proofing your panels!

Disadvantages of Integrated Solar Panels

They Produce Less Energy

Although it is obvious that integrated solar panels offer a variety of benefits, one significant disadvantage is that they are between 5 and 10 percent less efficient than on-roof solar panels which are installed in brackets in a roof.

This inefficiency occurs because integrated panels are contained within a tray rather than being mounted on brackets, and as a consequence, there is less air ventilation all around the panel, which prevents it from staying cool. Panels may overheat and produce less energy if there is insufficient ventilation on days when the temperature is extremely high.

Retrofitting In Roof Solar Panels Can Be Difficult.

With integrated solar panels, retrofitting, which refers to the process of adding panels to an existing solar system, is certainly possible, but the process is not without its challenges. This can add to the length of time required for an installation and the costs.

Are Integrated Solar Panels Available in the UK?

Absolutely! Integrated panels are being supplied by an increasing number of manufacturers. If you are considering them as an option for your home, Switchable may be able to help you find a trusted and reliable installer. At the very least, you’ll be able to discover whether they are a suitable option for your property.

Integrated Solar Panel Costs

In general, the cost should be comparable to that of conventional solar panels that are mounted on roofs; however, because the majority of integrated solar panels are customised, determining the exact cost of these panels can be somewhat difficult.

There is potential for the price to be affected by the following factors:

  • How many different panels do you have in total?
  • How much electricity do the solar panels need to produce?
  • Are you installing them into a brand-new construction or retrofitting an existing building?
  • The solar manufacturer you choose

 

When the roof is at the “felt and batten stage” (when the roof hasn’t yet been tiled), a cheap end integrated solar panel system starts at approximately £60 per panel, whereas when the roof is already tiled, the price increases to around £150 per panel. Prices will increase based on the manufacturer and model chosen which will be based on the electricity output required for your property.

Integrated Solar Panel Maintenance

Integrated solar panels require an even lower level of maintenance than their conventional equivalents that are mounted on roofs.

Since solar panels do not contain any moving parts, they require very little upkeep; however, integrated systems require even less attention because they contain even fewer individual components. Because there are no brackets, you don’t need to worry about pigeons or other birds nesting in your solar panels and causing damage, meaning you won’t need to check for debris as frequently, saving you time and effort.

Aside from that, integrated panel repair is very comparable to the standard maintenance performed on on-roof panels.

If you want your integrated solar panels in good working order, there are a few things it is recommended to do:

  • Get your panels serviced annually
  • Clean your solar panels twice yearly
  • Eliminate potential risks on a regular basis
  • Solar panels should be kept out of the shade
  • Make sure the inverters are displaying a green flashing light (i.e. indicating normal operation)
  • Analyse the day-to-day performance of your panels to identify any issues early

 

See more information regarding the maintenance and cleaning of solar panels.

Summary

With continuous efforts being made to increase the efficiency of solar panels, make panels more aesthetically pleasing, and find innovative ways to generate more electricity than before, solar panels are ever-evolving. While many are continuing to choose conventional solar panels, roof solar panels are becoming a very real alternative option for use in both household and commercial settings.

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Oliver Creevy
Ollie Creevy has over three years of expertise in the home improvements and solar panels sectors by writing content across multiple websites. He is highly knowledgeable about the latest trends, technologies and practices in this industry, and is passionate about sharing his insights with others. Ollie's writing has been featured in numerous publications, including MSN, Bustle, and Realtor.com.

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