Solar Panels As Rooftop Insulators

If you’re looking for an additional reason to go solar, here it is. Solar panels aren’t just an environmentally friendly way to generate power and to save on rapidly escalating electricity costs – they can assist in keeping your house or place of business cool too, helping you to save even more on energy.

A team of researchers at  UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have carried out a study of the cooling benefits of rooftop solar modules using thermal imaging. The researchers found a building’s ceiling was up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under the array than under an exposed section of roof. Additionally, the panels can help keep heat in at night during winter.

Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental engineering who led the research, says his team has determined the savings through a solar panel’s insulation qualities amounts to a 5% discount on the cost of the modules over their lifetime.

The panels act as shades, preventing the the sun from beating down directly onto the roof. While solar panels do heat up, much of the heat is removed by air movement between the panels and the roof. The greater the gap, such as would be found in a tilted array, the greater the benefits. The team also found the more efficient the solar panels are in converting sunlight to electricity, the bigger the cooling effect, as heat is a by-product of inefficient conversion. In the team’s tests, the panels reduced the amount of heat hitting the roof by about 38 percent.

While Professor Kleissl acknowledges there are of course more efficient ways to insulate buildings, it’s just an added energy efficiency bonus through installing a rooftop solar power system.

The results of the testing show a rooftop solar array’s insulating qualities are a side benefit substantial enough to be taken into consideration when making a purchase decision. It’s this characteristic that also further bolsters the case for turning the sea of rooftops in our towns and cities into massive distributed electricity generation systems to help reduce the load on centralised power generation.

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