Don’t Have An Ugly Roof

Solar panels on a roof can blend in and be hardly noticeable or they can stand out just enough to be bragging. On the other hand, some folks manage to make it really ugly. Don’t have an ugly roof.

I am on the mailing list of a lot of solar newsletters. They include a lot of pictures of roofs. Some are pretty ordinary and some are strikingly clever…artistic, even. Then there are the ones that rate a few internet terms like OMG! and WTF?!

National Archives at Atlanta building
This one started out nice and got patchy toward the bottom

One that comes to mind was a lovey bucolic setting featuring a barn equipped with solar panels. Instead of going with the flow of the barn’s roof line, complex mounting structures were added to make the panels align just so, according to some optimum specification! It was hideous! OMG, WTF were they thinking? Match up with the roof. It creates less wind loading stress and it looks so much better. If a slightly less than optimum alignment doesn’t give enough power, then just add more panels. They’re cheap! Probably the panels were cheaper than those ridiculous mounting frames.

You hardly notice the 27kw of panels on Brad’s awesome garage

Another one you see a lot is where the roof of a nice house looks like a hodgepodge, with missing areas. These are because the solar guys left out a panel where a plumbing vent pierced the roof. It does not have to be that way. When I built my house I wanted minimum roof piercings, so I tied all of the vents together in the attic for a single pipe on the backside of the roof. When I recently (finally, after waiting over a year) got a new roof on my house, I got rid of that one piercing by installing a vent valve in the attic. This is like a check valve that lets air in to allow the sinks and toilets drain properly, but does not let sewer stink into the attic.

Solar at Florida Governor's Mansion
Governor Crist shows how it should be done.

Installing these in your attic and capping or patching the roof hole means that a uniform grid of panels can be mounted without jarring visual disturbances. Guess what else? You get to fill in those ugly gaps with a few more panels.

–Neal