Solar energy is a fast-growing industry in Australia, as more people become aware of its value as a way of saving money and living more sustainably.
For those who may be considering fitting solar panels to an existing home, it is a good idea to start with an inspection by an experienced professional. They can then advise you of the best way to go about installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
If your house is still in the design stage then there are several details to consider which could actively improve the function of solar panels once they are installed. Designing a home with solar energy in mind is one of the first steps towards creating an energy-efficient dwelling.
Consider the following:
- Ideal Orientation: Basically, the more sunlight your solar panels receive, the more power they will be able to generate for you. In Australia, the maximum levels of sunlight come from the north. So, if the panels can be installed facing towards the north, they should receive a good quantity of sunlight throughout the day. For this reason, designing the house with a north-south facing roof will increase your solar potential (compared to a roof with an east-west design).
- Roof Pitch: While not as crucial to solar energy production as the orientation, the angle of a roof can still have an impact. In an ideal world, solar panels installed on a roof should have an angle that is equal to the latitude of the location, with most being installed at a pitch of 30 – 45 degrees. This means in Adelaide, 35 degrees would be perfect. Since the ideal angle of the solar panels may vary depending on specific sites, it is recommended that you consult with a professional when determining pitch.
- Load-Bearing Capacity of the Roof: Considering the load-bearing capacity of the roof prior to construction can reduce problems associated with the solar installation once the house is completed. While an individual solar panel is not very heavy, on occasion people have tried to install them on DIY pergolas and created many problems. Depending on the mounting system used, the load may be distributed across the surface of the roof or focused on specific attachment points.
- Casting Shadows: Solar panels will function poorly if they are constantly cast into shadow by surrounding buildings. Even nearby trees can reduce the functionality of the solar panels if they are casting a shadow. When designing the roof and surrounding protrusions, try and position them so they won’t be limiting light to the solar panels.
There are other small things you can do when building a home to maximise the energy efficiency of the design. The goal is to heat or cool your home efficiently. For example, ensure you have sufficient insulation to keep the interior of the home a comfortable temperature or make the most of natural breezes by promoting air crossflow in the overall design.
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