Roofing and Solar Energy Production

For several years, we have contended that if you’re in the roofing business, you must also consider yourself to be in the energy business. That’s because, on virtually any structure, nothing has more potential to enhance the total building energy efficiency than the roof. And nothing creates a better canvas for energy production that the roof. So, whether it’s saving energy, producing energy, or both, if you’re in the roofing industry, you’re also in the energy business.

As a manufacturer of metal roofing, Isaiah Industries has taken considerable steps to ensure that our products are energy efficient in terms of reducing summer heat gain. An Isaiah Industries’ metal roof addresses all 3 forms of heat transfer – radiant, conductive, and convective – to achieve a roof system of maximum energy efficiency.

TYPES OF HEAT TRANSFER

  1. The reflective coatings we use block radiant heat transfer into the attic space.
  2. The integral airspace beneath most of our metal roof systems stops conductive heat transfer from the rooftop down into the attic.
  3. With proper attic ventilation, convective heat flow in the attic carries any heat that is gained in the attic, moving it back to outside through a ridge vent or other exhaust vents on the roof.

While these components and attributes of an Isaiah Industries’ roof save energy through reduced air conditioning demand, we also have engineered methods for attaching solar panels to our roofs for property owners who want to create energy with their rooftops.

The “holy grail” 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 or other materials. 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 outright failed just limp along as costly, inefficient energy producers.

SOLAR SHINGLES?

Recently, a leading tech giant business made a big splash in announcing 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 the only way it might happen is if the roof lasts for a very, very long time and produces a huge amount of energy over that time that can be sold back to the grid. Unfortunately, that represents such a long term return on investment that homeowners will never see it as a good decision for them. So, at that point, huge government subsidies would be necessary in order to try to make it practical.

Any solar production equipment made today will be sadly outdated in 20 years, likely not making any sense to even operate it beyond that period of time.

As an additional consideration, the product proposed by the tech giant uses actual glass as a base for the roofing shingles. If you look at the cost of glass alone, it becomes apparent that this will be a very costly roofing product – considerably higher cost than other roofing products – and that cost does not yet include the energy production part of things. Regardless of the hype, we predict that their system will have an exorbitantly high initial cost and hoped-for payback over 50+ years. And the payback assumes the product produces energy at a very high rate, something which the company itself has indicated will not be the case.

When considering products that will allow you to use your rooftop to produce energy, it’s also important to keep in mind that solar production continually gets more efficient with technology advancements. Because of this, it is wiser 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 even 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 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, penetrations of the roof will be necessary but there are many commercially available fastening brackets designed for watertightness that work very well.

Metal roofs are ideal for solar installation. The durability of the metal roof will hold up to roof 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 help to 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.

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.