How Much Roof Space Is Needed For Home Solar Panels?
When it comes to residential solar panels, your home’s roof is the most obvious place to put them. But it’s easy to get confused about how much roof space is needed for solar panels in order to install a home solar power system. Not all roofs are constructed to the same size or specifications, and some homes have roofs with steeper pitches, while others have roofs with more faces or odd shapes.
We’d love to tell you a simple formula for the exact amount of square footage that is required for a certain number of panels, but it’s not quite that simple. Each residential solar panel array is custom designed to match the homeowner’s needs and the unique size, shape, and dimensions of their roof, so the square footage that’s needed is going to depend on a number of factors.
If you’re wondering, “How many solar panels will fit on my roof?” then here are a few things to consider.
How To Calculate The Solar Potential Of Your Roof
There are a few rules of thumb you can follow that can offer a general idea of how much roof space is needed for solar panel installation. These guidelines can also help determine how much roof space you have available to put solar panels on.
Generally, every square foot of roof space has the potential to generate about 15 watts of solar energy. Thus, a solar panel installation on a small home might only need around 200 square feet of roof space, while a larger home can require more than 1,000 square feet of roof space to properly offset electricity usage.
To offset an average amount of energy usage by the average American home, you’ll typically need around 18 to 24 panels to be effective. That is, of course, if everything about those panels is ideal, where the positioning is optimal, the panels are of a standard rating, and the location gets adequate sunlight year-round. If you change any of those variables, the number of panels you need is going to change as well.
If you want to get a sense of how many panels a roof can support, you don’t need a fancy solar panel square footage calculator. Here’s an easy calculation you can do: Multiply the square footage of your roof by.75 to account for the required solar setback. ( on that below.) Take that number, and divide it by 17.5, which is the average square footage of the standard solar panel size. The resulting number is the maximum number of solar panels you can fit on your home’s roof.
If you’re not sure of the square footage of your roof, there’s another relatively easy calculation you can do: First you need to know the dimensions of your roof from ground level. You can measure two sides of your roof from the ground, and then multiply those numbers together to get the square footage. If your roof isn’t flat, you need to account for the angle of your roof as well, so measure the angle from the ground (most smartphones have angle measurement apps that you can use) or just use 35 degrees to get a rough estimate if you don’t have an unusually steep or shallow roof. Then take the square footage that you measured from the ground and divide it by the cosine of your roof’s angle to get the total square footage. If you need a solar panel square footage calculator, you can click this link to get a sample calculation for a roof that measures 400 square feet from the ground, and has a 35 degree angle, and then just change those values to match the measurements that you take.
How Close Can Solar Panels Be To The Edge Of The Roof?
Most roof-mounted solar installations will need a “solar panel setback” for safety. This is one of the most common roof requirements for solar panels in local and state building codes. This setback is the open space between the edge of the solar array and the edge of the roof, and it provides an unobstructed pathway around your rooftop for emergency responders like firefighters to get better access to your home in case of an emergency.
The minimum solar panel setback varies from state to state, but generally, the setback will take up about 25 percent of your roof’s usable space. This accounts for two roughly 36-inch wide pathways that run along the edge of your roof, on a roof with just two basic faces. If your roof is more complicated than that, with multiple faces, or different shapes that come together at odd angles, your setback requirements may be different, which is why it’s important to work with solar professionals when designing your home solar power system. Palmetto’s team of solar designers not only make sure your roof space is optimized for power production but that it also meets the requirements of all jurisdictions as well.
Factors to Consider When Determining How Many Solar Panels You Need
When determining how many solar panels you need, it’s important to start by thinking about what your goals are and why you want to go solar in the first place. Do you want to maximize your return on investment? Do you want to save as much money as possible? Do you want to reduce your upfront costs? Do you want to have the biggest environmental impact and reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible? Most people want a balance of these goals, and may have other priorities as well, so it’s helpful to get a clear idea of what your specific end goals are before you start designing a solar power system.
Once you have your goals in mind, then you can determine how many solar panels you need to get there. This calculation is going to depend on how much energy your family uses, how much roof area you have available for solar panels, the location of your home and the angle of your roof, how much sunlight shines in your part of the country, the efficiency of the solar panels you’re using, and if your local utility offers net metering. Plus, you also need to consider your budget, because a large solar power system might produce more energy, but it’s going to cost more for the initial installation as well.
Here are a few things you should think about when determining how many solar panels you need for your roof.
How many solar panels you’ll need, and thus how much roof area for solar panels you’ll need, starts with an estimate of how much power you use in a given year. There are plenty of ways to determine your annual energy usage, but the easiest is to simply take a look at your current monthly energy bill. It should tell you how many kilowatt-hours of energy you use in a given month, then just multiply that number by 12 to get an annual estimate. If you don’t know your own estimated energy usage, a good starting number is that the average American home uses about 11,000 kWh of energy every year.
You should also consider any potential changes to your family’s energy usage in the future that you might want to account for. For example, if you buy a new electric vehicle that you plan to charge at home, or if you start working from home more often, or if you expand your family with a new child, your energy needs might change pretty significantly from the previous year.
Location (How Much Sunlight You Get)
Different parts of the country get different amounts of sunlight. For instance, Arizona is famous for intensely sunny days. On average, Arizona gets 300 days of sunshine every year. Conversely, Juneau, Alaska, spends more than two-thirds of the year in darkness.
This impacts how much roof space is needed for solar panels, because depending on where you live, you’ll need more or fewer solar panels. So if you live somewhere with lots of sun, you might only need enough roof space for a few solar panels. But if you live in Juneau, you’ll need lots of solar panels on your roof to harness the available energy.
The direction of your roof also determines how many solar panels you need, as southern-facing roofs in the northern hemisphere are ideal, as they receive more direct sunlight and can use that sunlight to create more energy. If your roof does not face south, you may either need a more complicated installation to get your panels facing the right direction, or you may need more panels to make up for the difference in energy-creating potential.
Size and Rating of Your Solar Panels
Solar panels can vary in size and rating, leading to different sized systems for the same amount of energy output. Some panels might be smaller but have a higher watt rating, which means they’re more efficient than a larger panel with a lower rating. That’s why you must consider the efficiency of the panels when determining the total solar panel system size for your roof.
While the efficiency of solar panels might vary, solar panel sizes typically don’t, as most companies have a standard solar panel square footage to make installation easier. The standard solar panel size dimensions are about 65 inches by 39 inches, which is roughly 17.5 square feet.
Your Solar Budget
Generally, larger systems are a great way to quickly offset your current electrical and fossil fuel energy usage. However, larger systems are naturally more expensive. While you may have the roof real estate for a large array, you might not have the financial budget for it, and vice versa.
Another thing to consider when figuring out your budget is whether your local utility offers net metering, and what rate they offer for that net metering. If you’re not familiar, net metering is when your utility company offers you credits for the extra energy that your system produces and feeds back into the grid. These credits can then be used to offset the cost of power that you might need to draw back from the grid, such as at night or during storms if you don’t have a battery storage system. If your local utility offers a generous net metering policy, it may allow you to expand your initial budget and then make up that difference over time.
Is It Possible To Install Too Many Solar Panels?
Believe it or not, it’s not always beneficial to install as many solar panels as you can possibly fit on your roof. Adding extra panels that aren’t needed just increases the cost of your initial investment, and if you don’t have a way of capturing or getting credit for the extra energy that you’re generating but not using, then you’re not getting a good return on that investment.
A good solar installation should offset as close to the exact amount of energy that you use as possible. That’s why we typically ask for samples of previous power bills when designing a system. These power bills help us estimate your power requirements, and design a system that matches your specific needs. Some months you might use more energy than your system produces, and some months you might use less energy than you produce, but at the end of the year, the goal is to generate about the same amount of energy as you use.
That said, there are some instances where it makes sense to install more solar panels to generate more energy than you plan on using. The first is if you plan on installing an energy storage system to capture that excess energy. Solar battery storage lets you use the energy you generated during the day to power your home at night, and also gives you a backup source of power in case you have a blackout or other issue.
Another time that you might want to generate more power than you plan to use is if your utility offers a strong net metering benefit. Net metering is when the utility gives you credit for the extra electricity that your solar power system produces and then feeds back into the grid, and this can help offset the cost of any electricity that you pull from the utility when your system isn’t generating electricity, like nighttime or during large storms.
In general it’s not possible to install too many solar panels (as long as your roof has space for them) but there just might not be a significant advantage to doing so.
How To Put Solar Panels On Your Roof
Your home’s roof space is just one of the factors that determines the optimum solar power system for your family’s needs. The arrangement of panels and the difficulty of the installation is determined by your roof, but you also need to consider your family’s energy needs, any future changes that your family might expect, your local incentives and net-metering programs, and a variety of other factors. Fortunately, Palmetto can help figure out the precise number and type of panels that will work best for your roof, and make it easy to get a system that’s perfectly matched to your family’s needs.
To find out how many panels you can put on your roof, get started with a free solar estimate, and a Palmetto solar expert will help design a system that’s just the right size to meet your energy goals.
How Much Solar Power Can My Roof Generate?
With solar panels, your rooftop can generate your own power and give you energy freedom. Your rooftop also offers peace of mind with today’s climate extremes and antiquated electrical grid. So find out how much power your roof can possibly generate when you go solar.
A General Solar Equation
There are various equations for calculating how many solar panels and the amount of power needed for a household. Here’s a general example:
The average energy needs of a U.S. household is a 6.62-kW solar system to match the 9,000 kWh of average energy usage by U.S. households each year. And, the typical solar panel makes 320 watts of electricity in ideal sunny conditions. Here’s how many solar panels that equals. 3
Divide 6.62 kW (the system size) by.320 kW (the wattage per panel) = 20.69—rounded up that’s 21 panels. While your home is far from average, this is how you can calculate your own rough estimate. 3
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Solar Power Variables
Many factors go into calculating the best solar system size. Some of these variables include your home’s energy usage, your roof’s available square footage, the solar panel wattage, and amount of sun the solar panels will receive.
For example, in Maine where sunlight is often at a minimum, homeowners prefer higher-rated panels that generate more electricity in comparison to panels typically selected for homes in sunny California. For all residences, high efficiency panels generate more wattage which means fewer panels on your roof.
Design a Custom Solution
Each Sunrun solar system is custom designed and built for your energy needs using a proprietary solar design software platform. There’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. It can be as small or large as you want or need. Sunrun doesn’t install cookie-cutter systems. Our proprietary technology, called BrightPath enables us to design a system and solar plan specifically for your home.
Large photovoltaic systems produce the most electricity and reduce your carbon footprint more than a smaller system. Yet, even if you’re not limited by cost, the size of your south-facing roof may limit your system size. In that case, maximize your solar installation’s yield by considering smaller, high efficiency panels to achieve your energy goals.
Solar Power Generation Choices. Wattage or Efficiency?
The broad selection of solar panel models available for household use are not created equal. And, they do not all generate the same amount of power.
Solar panels are rated based on the watts they generate. The higher the wattage rating, the greater amount of power your solar installation will produce. Most residential solar panels have power output ratings from 250 to 400 watts, depending on panel size and how well they convert sunlight into energy. While higher power ratings are considered preferable, power output is not the sole factor in judging a solar panel’s performance.
For instance, two solar panels may each have a 15% efficiency rating, yet the power output rating of one is 250 watts and the other is 300 watts. 4 The higher output may simply be due to the 300 watt panel’s larger physical sizerather than having a high efficiency or more advanced technology. Therefore, panel efficiency is a better indicator of solar panel performance than just power output for meeting your energy needs.
Size vs. Quantity
In application, you could use either of these panels in a solar system to build a system with a total rated capacity of 5kW. The difference is it would have either 20 250-Watt panels or 16 300-Watt panels. 4 With either panel’s wattage, the systems would generate an equal amount of power if installed in the same location.
How Much Energy Can a Solar Panel Generate?
A solar panel’s wattage represents its potential power production under ideal conditions. The table below shows the minimum, maximum, and average power outputs of the solar panels from a few leading manufacturers. Each company has a wide range because they produce multiple solar panel models. Panel wattage is important but just one factor that goes into your equation.
Maximize Power Production from the Sun
The electricity generated by a solar panel system is ruled by its rated power output. Yet, it’s dependent on other factors as well to best serve your energy usage. These include: panel efficiency, temperature sensitivity, shading, and the angle of your roof. A roof’s angle, though, has less impact on panel performance than the direction it faces. Top production occurs when solar panels face south a tilt angle of 30° to 45°. 5
Additionally, available sunlight varies by location. This brief equation shows how sunlight and a solar panel’s specifications turn into the amount of power generated.
Let’s say on a good day, you average 5 hours of direct sunlight. Multiply 5 hours of sunlight x 290 watts from a solar panel = 1,450 watts or roughly 1.5 kilowatt hours per day. That’s about 500-550 kilowatt hours of energy per year from each panel on your roof. 4 How does that compare to your annual energy usage?
Cost vs. Value
High efficiency solar panels tend to cost more than their less efficient counterparts. Yet, it’s worth assessing whether the upfront cost difference is justified by the value of generating more electricity over the lifecycle of your solar system. Alternatively, you may wish to install a smaller system and still draw some electricity from the grid. This decision will in part be affected by whether you add solar battery storage.
Why Solar Panel Output Matters
The price of a home’s solar system is generally based on the total power output of the installation’s solar panels. Pricing in the solar market is typically measured in dollars per watt. Thus, your solar panels’ total wattage plays a significant part in your system’s overall cost.
Battery Storage Increases Energy Freedom
Harness and store the sun’s abundant energy. Across America, homeowners are installing battery storage systems with their solar panels.
A recent study predicts that by 2023, 90% of residential solar systems will include battery storage. 6 Sunrun’s Brightbox battery storage gives you the freedom to choose affordable, reliable power without inflated rates or usage restrictions. 8
How a Solar Battery Adds Value
Add increased value to your solar panels by storing the energy they generate. Solar panels with battery storage maximizes the amount of electricity your installation retains for your use. By adding solar battery storage, you can take even greater control of powering your energy needs.
Surplus electricity created by your panels is stored in the battery until you need it. During an outage, when the sun sets, or if you’re using extra power, electricity draws from the battery. It’s an easy, elegant solution with many benefits.
With a home battery system, you can collect nearly every ray of sunshine on your rooftop. Sunrun’s Brightbox system intelligently and remotely optimizes your usage of electricity stored in the battery. If you have Time of Use Rates, when peak electricity rates are in effect, the battery storage system automatically releases stored energy to reduce your electricity costs.
Brightbox battery storage enables you to generate, store, and manage affordable solar energy on your terms. A battery also maximizes your electricity offset from the grid and ensures that you buy a minimum amount of energy from the electric company when are highest.
Preserve Peace of Mind
Rooftop solar panels with battery storage generate electricity and provide a backup power solution. During an outage, Brightbox keeps preferred circuits powered. Our energy storage system enables you to run four 15-20 Amp, 120V circuit breakers for approximately 8 to 12 hours—enough to keep essentials humming until the sun rises.
Solar can’t change the weather. But, having electricity during an outage gives you peace of mind and a value beyond money.
State Strategies Back Solar
Going solar is a wise decision. The Fourth National Climate Assessment warns that our antiquated electric grid was not built to withstand today’s extreme weather. 7 Communities are bearing serious consequences.
You can assure a reliable energy future for your home with solar. Clean, sustainable solutions just make life better. Rooftop solar and home batteries build a safer, modern and resilient power grid.
Many states offer solar rebates and tax credits for home solar systems—in addition to the solar federal Investment Tax Credit. 10 Check out why rooftop solar is part of California’s wildfire mitigation plans and how the benefits of clean energy policies and strategies help build a sustainable planet. 11
Beyond tax credits, many states are passing solar initiatives. California has adopted forward-looking policies to create a more local, efficient electric grid not dependent on fossil fuel power plants. As a result, hundreds of thousands of residents have installed solar panels and added solar storage batteries.
Furthermore, Nevada is on track to rapidly expand solar installations, create thousands of new jobs, plus reduce pollution and lower electric bills across their state.
Brightbox Home Battery Storage Service
Let’s change the way we power our lives. Sunrun’s solar panels and a Brightbox battery can help lead America to a cleaner brighter future. We’ve been building toward this energy revolution for more than a decade. See if you qualify for solar panels and battery storage today. Take control of your energy costs and regain freedom from your electric bill.
The Time To Go Solar Is Now
Sunrun will ensure that you have the best number and style of solar panels to optimize your rooftop’s solar power production. You can rest easy with a customized solar solution from Sunrun. Our systems are designed for your house structure, lifestyle, energy and financial goals.
We have the resources and experience to maximize your solar systems’ performance. We’ll guide you every step of the way from contract through installation and maintenance. And, we’ll be there to support and guide you for many years to come.
Solar power roofs have become instrumental in eco-friendly initiatives. They’re emerging on residential and commercial properties alike, and for a good reason. Read on to learn if a solar power roof is suitable for your building.
What Is a Photovoltaic Roof?
Photovoltaic roofs, also known as PV panels, are clean, renewable energy sources. PV panels are placed on rooftops and angled toward the sun. Photovoltaic panels use sunlight to convert photons into electricity. Photons are particles that represent a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation from the sun, and they convert sunlight into electricity—substantial enough to provide continuous power to the entire building.
What Are the Benefits of a Photovoltaic Roof?
Photovoltaic roofs have become the most practical and beneficial means of naturally sourced energy instead of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
A PV roof installation boosts environmental efforts and looks modern and attractive. PV roofing systems are versatile and available in smaller shingles and larger panels or fixtures. Buyers can decide what kind they prefer based on their style and building requirements.
As mentioned earlier, PV roofing systems help our environment tremendously since the building relies more on UV rays. Because the building gets most of its energy from sunlight, it helps preserve the earth’s resources. A PV roof installation eliminates pollution significantly. PV roofing systems can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 85,000 pounds annually.
Since PV roofing systems rely less on traditional electricity, they save you money on utility bills. They’re money-savers in the long run since they offer a great return on investment. Federal, state, and local governments provide tax incentives and rebates since solar power roofs are much better for the environment. Utility companies offer net energy metering programs that help people save money on their monthly bills.
Whether you choose solar panel tiles or install large reflective fixtures on your existing roof, it lets current and potential customers know you care about the environment. They’re backed by the roofing industry and known for their eco-friendly capabilities. Additionally, your sustainability efforts look great for your organization, increasing its support system.
Energy-saving initiatives help everyone in the world in one way or another. Solar and traditional roofing has their pros and cons; however, photovoltaic shingles provide several advantages that outnumber their drawbacks.
Don’t Stress About Roofing Options
If you’re unsure whether to install solar shingles or leave your roof as is, we’ll guide you to the best decision.
ROOFCORP’s Photovoltaic Roof Installation Saves Money and the Environment
ROOFCORP realizes property owners must take on many responsibilities. Every building-related decision must consider the comfort and safety of its occupants, as well as what’s best for your budget. We urge you to partner with us, especially if you’re moving toward sustainable roofing. Our team specializes in photovoltaic roof installation and adding solar panels to existing structures.
Don’t let expenses keep you from switching to solar. We assure you we can assist with lowering the costs by leading you to the incentives available to California and Washington property owners. ROOFCORP believes energy efficiency and building a cleaner, healthier world for generations to come is more important now than ever before. Becoming a greener company with plenty of additional money is possible with ROOFCORP.
We begin with a comprehensive roof inspection. After your project is complete, we offer ongoing roof maintenance to make sure your investment lasts for decades—rest assured, with ROOFCORP, you’re covered from every direction. Give us a call today, and move forward with your new roofing journey.
A Guarantee of Quality
Founded in 1985, ROOFCORP has always adhered to the highest standards of workmanship, materials, and professionalism. We are dedicated to safety and training, we never rely on subcontractors, and we stand by every project and every repair.
License Information: WA: ROOFCWI007Q1 OR: 204249 CA: 803718
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Understanding Solar Roofs vs Solar Panels
- A solar panel–also called solar cell panels, solar electric panels, or photo-voltaic (PV) modules–is a group of cells that make energy from sunlight–all mounted together in a framework, called a panel. Homeowners then install these panels on top of their roof.
- A solar roof goes a step further by using materials in the roof’s construction that can absorb sunlight directly rather than installing panels on top of an existing roof. The term “solar roof” may refer to an entire roof or just a section.
Most people today have some familiarity with solar panels, whether on camping equipment or on rooftops. Believe it or not, the first rooftop solar panels, connected directly to a building’s roof, were installed in the late 1800s.
The first solar roof appeared almost a century later, in 1973. Innovators at the University of Delaware integrated solar cells into the roof instead of putting them on top.
Since then, the solar energy industry has evolved considerably. Now that we understand it as a viable, sustainable energy source, today’s consumers seek the best ways to leverage solar and other renewable sources to meet ever-increasing energy demands.
The comparison below explains some features of solar roofs vs solar panels that can help you harness a virtually endless energy supply from the Southern California sun. It also offers some tips to help you decide which option best suits your needs.
What is a Solar Roof?
Simply put, the difference between a solar roof and solar panels is the relationship of whole (roof) to part (panel). Solar roofs are constructed with integrated materials that convert sunlight into electrical power, rather than placing panels on top. The integrated solar energy cells may be part of a building’s initial construction, or function as a later, post-construction upgrade.
Homeowners may upgrade to a solar roof if they discover the original structure needs replacing, or simply because they want to save money on utility bills while simultaneously increasing their home’s value.
While solar panel installations can look like obvious additions, solar roofs appear as seamless elements of architectural design. Homeowners concerned with improving solar energy’s aesthetics proved to be a factor in driving the industry’s growth.
Although typically thin, solar roofs are quite durable and resilient against harsh weather. In and around San Diego, they also tend to shine, as they’re commonly made of materials like gallium, indium, selenide, and copper. Several different types of solar roofs are listed below.
Types of Solar Roofs
A solar metal roof looks just like those on metal buildings. They contain several layers with a solar cell layer–including tempered glass–on top. With invisible wiring or connection hardware and a variety of available colors, you can select a metal roof that complements your home’s appearance.
This roof type features sections of solar panels that replace traditional roofs of asphalt shingles or clay tiles. Without roofing materials beneath, the solar panels interlock to keep out air, water, and debris.
Solar shingles, which look similar to other roofing shingles, are a popular choice. Their hidden wiring and connections give them a sleek appearance. Monocrystalline shingles–made from silicon–offer the highest efficiency.
The initial cost of installing a solar roof will likely be much more expensive than installing solar panels to cover a comparable size.
The advantages of a solar roof include significant added home value, lower electricity bills, and rebates and/or credits. Added together, these benefits can easily outweigh your installation investment.
Solar Panel Advantages
Solar panels, which are more well known, have more practical advantages and lower costs than solar roofs.
- AdjustabilityPanels can be angled to maximize insolation and energy efficiency.
- PortabilitySolar panels can be removed and reinstalled, although this option is not usually advisable, especially if the installation company lacks sufficient experience.
- AffordabilitySolar panel installations are typically less expensive than solar roofs, if no roof work is required. However, if you know your roof will require repairs in the near future, plan on scheduling them before installing solar panels.
How to Choose Between a Solar Roof vs Solar Panels
One of the main reasons homeowners choose a solar roof instead of solar panels–once they have confirmed that solar panels will work on their roof–is their aesthetic appeal.
While choosing between solar roofs vs solar panels can be difficult, answering the questions using the table below can help you make the best selection.
|COMPARING SOLAR ROOFS TO SOLAR PANELS||Solar Roof||Solar Panels|
|Will you need roof repair soon (i.e. less than 1-3 years)?|
|Is portability of your solar system a consideration?|
|Is it important that your solar system does not look like an add-on?|
|Is energy efficiency (maximum energy for the least roof coverage) your primary concern?|
|Is durability the most important consideration?|
|Is minimizing the overall cost of your installation most important?|
|Do you have metal siding on your home?|
These suggestions weigh the strengths and weaknesses of both options to help you decide when to consider installing a solar roof, solar panels, or both.
Before committing to any kind of solar installation, make sure to consult with an experienced company that can give you specific, detailed answers about using solar energy sources. You need a company that can obviously perform the installation to the highest standards, but will also be there to support you in the future.
Baker Electric Home Energy has served the Southern California area for over 15 years and provided clean energy solutions to more than 17,000 of your neighbors. Our way of doing business, The Baker Way®, which includes delivering extraordinary service and building customer confidence, is exemplified by being awarded the Torch Award for 2021. For more information on whether to go with solar roofs vs solar panels, contact us.