When the words ‘solar energy’ are mentioned, two images immediately come to mind: the sun in all its glory and large utilitarian-looking black solar panels. While the innovation behind capturing solar energy is one of the key players in the globe’s effort to move away from fossil fuels, many homeowners looking to renovate, or those looking to complete a new build are deterred by the lack of visual appeal in stock-standard solar panels. This makes sense considering that, since the early 1990s, when the first generation of cheaper, more effective, and overall more accessible modern solar panels hit the market, their original purpose was heavily focused on function over aesthetic.

In the 30 or so years since, innovation has tightened its grip around the solar industry, resulting in a range of solar panels that are much more visually appealing than earlier versions. Better still, the functionality of these units has increased, as well as their overall lifespan. In fact, a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reveals that the average efficiency of today’s solar units ranges from 15 to 20 percent, and these operate at their peak for 20-25 years, while the efficiency of a panel installed in the 1990s was only 11 percent. This efficiency range refers to the percentage of sunlight hitting the panel that gets converted to usable electricity.

As such, more and more people – as many as 92 percent of Americans, according to Pew Research – want to utilize solar energy across a range of applications, including the incorporation of panels into residential homes. But how exactly can solar be incorporated in a way that is not only functional but low-maintenance and aesthetically pleasing? Solar Energy Partners, one of the most innovative installers in the Western US, has three key considerations every homeowner should think about.


Curb Appeal

Every homeowner is somewhat aware that they will eventually sell their home, and as such, have to ask the question ‘what value will this add to my home?’ before embarking on any home improvement project or new build. This makes sense too, considering that people have the propensity to make their mind up about property or other people in one-tenth of a second, according to a study by Princeton. Thanks to this, the aesthetic appeal of how solar panels will look in your home is a crucial consideration.

Many solar panels have recently hit the market that is not only functional but beautiful. Whether they’re a sleek, flush, futuristic set of panels designed to completely ‘disappear’ into slate-colored roofing, or specialized tiles in a range of styles, each imbued with solar cells, there’s an option for every home aesthetic sure to attract, rather than deter buyers.


Efficiency and Personal Energy Requirements

Are you building or renovating a large, four-plus-bedroom home? Perhaps it’s a modest one-bedroom cottage? Size, the number of people living in the dwelling, and the activities that take place in the home are all critical factors to consider when selecting solar panels. This makes sense, considering all occupants within a home will be using varying amounts of electricity, and the higher amount of occupants and more space that needs to be powered will require a system with higher efficiency to provide for those requirements.

Although most homes will still be connected to a power grid despite having solar panels, it’s still a great idea to understand what your requirements are so you don’t outlay a significant investment on the wrong product. Thankfully, there are a number of services available wh can take your unique requirements into account to suggest solar panels best suited to a household’s particular needs.


Upkeep and Maintenance

Upkeep and maintenance are some of the most ignored facets of solar panels, but one of the most important in order to maintain an optimal power supply. For a solar panel to work, regular maintenance like the clearing of dust, dirt, snow, and other debris is required to ensure the panels capture enough sunlight. Some systems clean themselves automatically, and hydrophobic solutions can be purchased and applied to reduce the need for frequent cleaning.

Most modern solar panel systems come with a guarantee that they’ll perform at 85 percent or above for 20 to 25 years, but that doesn’t mean that things sometimes won’t go wrong and certain components will need to be replaced. As such, it’s crucial that homeowners are prepared to monitor the health of their solar panels. Luckily, most systems will come with a monitoring interface or software, but some white-glove services will also monitor the health of your system for you.

While it’s still unknown what will become our dominant power source as the world moves away from coal, gas, and other fossil fuels, one thing is for sure: solar is here to stay. Luckily for homeowners across the country who are looking to start a new build or renovate an existing home, solar is now a versatile element that can improve a build’s aesthetic rather than detract from it. Considering the environmental and money-saving benefits in both the short and long term, as well as the ease of applying for grants and having the process handled from start to finish by specialized solar panel experts, incorporating solar into your next build should be a no-brainer. [1]

[1] Solar Panel History: http://californiasolarcenter.org/history-pv/ National Renewable Energy Laboratory: https://www.nrel.gov/pv/materials-devices.html

Pew Research  https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/11/26/92-percent-of-americans-want-moar-solar-power/ Princeton Study on First Impressions: