If you want to take advantage of solar energy but you can’t (or don’t want to) put solar panels on your roof, you do have other options. As solar panels become more advanced and the technology develops, gathering energy from the sun is growing ever easier and more unobtrusive than ever. Here are some great options for installing solar panels in places other than your roof.
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If you have a south-facing wall on your home with about eight feet by eight feet of space, you can install solar panel siding. These solar cells will work best in unshaded areas, of course, but they can still collect energy even in they are in southeast or southwest facing areas. The advantage of this installation method is that you can choose the color of your panels to match your home’s exterior and blend in with the architecture. The disadvantage is that the solar panels won’t be at an optimal angle to absorb sunlight, as they will be perfectly vertical.
Solar panels as an awning
If you live in the southwest, you’ve probably seen parking lots shielded by massive solar panels, and you can create the same effect at home, where your south-facing deck or porch can be covered by a solar awning, providing you with electricity, plus the added benefits of creating shade and blocking precipitation. This type of installation can be more aesthetically pleasing than traditional rooftop solar panels while still effectively generating power. The advantage of a solar awning is that you can add solar panels to an existing structure without disturbing the roof, but if your home doesn’t have a porch or patio that faces south, it’s an impractical solution.
Solar panel arrays can be made into novel shapes, allowing your solar electricity production to look as good as the savings on your electric bill will feel. Solar sculptures can be custom made to best suit the conditions in your area and optimize the positioning of the solar panels. In addition, a shaped solar array—like a tree shape—can elevate panels above obstructions that create shade, increasing the sun exposure. Not everyone will be impressed by the aesthetic of a solar sculpture, but if you have the interest and inspiration, you can probably find a configuration you’ll like.
Solar window glass
A newcomer on the solar scene is photovoltaic glass that can be used to generate electricity as a part of your home without a traditional solar panel. It can be made into skylights, windows, and even greenhouses. Because the technology is fairly new, solar glass is expensive right now, but as the technology develops, there will be more residential applications for photovoltaic glass.
Ground-mounted solar panels
Solar panels don’t need to be mounted to a structure at all. You can choose ground-mounted solar panels, which carry the advantage of being simple to install and easy to access for maintenance. On the downside, they can take up more space than panels mounted on an existing structure, but they can be placed anywhere that has an exposed, south-facing area.
DIY portable solar panels
If you don’t need to power your whole home, but prefer to use solar power as a back-up system during emergencies, a portable solar panel with a generator can work well. A portable system is cheaper than a permanent system, but it won’t generate as much electricity, so it won’t offer much savings on your utility bills. Still, a portable solar panel can be convenient for short-term use.