Let it Shine: Creative Ways to Use Solar Energy for Your Property

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Written by Annie Button

With more of us adopting ways to live more sustainably, solar energy has been growing in popularity amongst homeowners. Panel technology has become more efficient and cost-effective. Installing solar panels provides renewable, clean power while reducing your climate pollution and electricity bills. Today, their most common placement is on rooftops, solar technology can be integrated into properties in creative ways beyond just roof panels.

Advancements in solar panel design now allow homeowners to follow a greener lifestyle by installing systems on garages, patios, pergolas and even windows. For those with limited roof space, ground-mounted arrays optimised through strategic placement are an option. Community solar programmes also enable homeowners to buy into shared neighbourhood solar installations.

Thoughtful solar design allows homeowners to maximise their use of this clean energy source while adding aesthetic appeal to their properties. Plus a solar system helps increase resale values. When paired with other renewable sources like geothermal heating and cooling, solar contributes to fully sustainable and environmentally-friendly homes. Here, we explore the creative possibilities of solar systems as we move toward a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.

Creative Ways to Use Solar Panels

Well regarded as a sustainable living idea, when it comes to using solar panels, roof installation tends to be the standard approach. However, there are many creative ways to integrate solar technology into your home and property beyond just placing panels on the roof.

Panels on roof

Even though roof-mounted panels are standard, you can get creative with the layout, such as installing vertical panels, arranging them in patterns or maximising space with custom panel sizes. Explore different roof areas like garages and extensions and use technologies like microinverters for flexible panel placement.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 10,000 to 20,000+ plus for home installation (depending on size or property).

Panels on garages, sheds, etc. Supplementary buildings like garages and garden sheds are ideal extra spaces for solar panels, allowing you to generate extra power from multiple structures. Tracker mounts can follow the sun's path for optimal angling. Make sure to check structural soundness before installation.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 3,000 to 10,000+** **depending on the size of the property.

Ground-mounted solar arrays

For properties with limited rooftop space, ground-mounted solar arrays can be installed in yards and strategically placed and landscaped for aesthetic appeal. Arrays can be mounted on poles, framed with fencing, or built into hillsides. Consider spacing needs for cleaning and maintenance access.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 10,000 to 35,000+** **for a home system depending on the size of the property. 

Solar carports

Constructing solar panel carports over driveways or parking spaces provides cover in addition to generating renewable power and helping homeowners to live more sustainably. Use garage or carport structures to mount standard or flexible panels. Ensure height clearance and account for future vehicle sizes.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 15,000 to 30,000+** **for a two-car garage size.

Solar pergolas

Install solar panels on pergolas to provide shade over garden areas and patios which produces extra electricity. Use pergola beams, louvres, and covering to hold panels while providing adjustable shade. Consider drainage system needs.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 20,000 to 50,000+** **depending on the size of the property.

Solar awnings or canopies

Solar awnings and canopies can be constructed over porches, windows, and other exterior areas to simultaneously create shade and harvest energy. Opt for retractable styles to control sun exposure. Check wind load capacity for your area.

General upfront investment: From $/£/€ 3,000 to 12,000+** **depending on the size of the property. 

Solar patio umbrellas

Patio umbrellas with integrated solar panels can transform outdoor relaxation areas into small power stations. Look for lightweight, waterproof umbrella designs with flexible solar fabric. Ensure pole base is stable for winds.

General upfront investment: Approximately $/£/€ 500 to 1,200 per umbrella. 

Building-integrated Photovoltaic (PV) panels

Integrate solar technology directly into buildings with products like solar shingles or windows to produce electricity which, in turn, serves structural and aesthetic purposes too. Solar roofing tiles can replace standard shingles. Energy-generating window coatings are also available.

General upfront investment: Approximately $/£/€ 25 to 40 per sq ft. 

Community solar options

Community solar programmes allow homeowners to invest in shared solar installations when their own property lacks sufficient space. Purchase a portion of a community project to earn credits on your utility bill.

General upfront investment: Varies, often little to no upfront expense. 

Benefits of Creative Solar Applications

Taking a creative approach to solar panel installation enables you to maximise clean energy production from all available exterior space, rather than just relying on the roof. Structures like garages, gazebos and pergolas become opportunities to harvest more solar energy when panels are mounted strategically.

This creative integration of solar also allows for innovations in aesthetics and design. Rather than looking out of place, solar shingles, windows, canopies and pergolas can enhance the architecture and landscape of your home when thoughtfully incorporated.

Beyond just improving the aesthetics, these types of creative solar applications reduce your dependence on carbon-intensive utility grid electricity by expanding your home's clean energy generating capacity. So your property becomes more sustainable and fully powered by the sun's limitless rays through effective positioning of solar panels, professional installation and innovative solar application.

Considerations for Creative Solar Projects

For green living property owners, creative solar projects allow for increased energy production and aesthetic appeal, yet there are a few key considerations to research before installation. Important factors to evaluate include costs and ROI, structural engineering needs, regulations and zoning laws and optimising sun exposure through placement.

Costs and Return on Investment – While solar is a long-term money saver, creative solar projects can have higher upfront installation costs versus basic rooftop panels. Research your options thoroughly and calculate payback period and ROI. Government incentives like feed-in tariffs can offset costs.

Structural Engineering Needs – Any solar project impacting your home's structures requires an engineer's approval, like carports, pergolas and solar roofs. Ensure the building can handle the additional weight load before undergoing installations.

Homeowners Association Regulations – If you belong to a homeowner's association, ensure any creative solar plans meet their community rules and aesthetic standards before installing. Permitted solar projects may require approval paperwork.

Zoning Laws and Building Codes – Understand both local and national regulations that apply to solar structures in residential areas. Projects like solar carports and ground mounts may have zoning or land use restrictions to consider depending on location.

Sun Exposure Optimisation – Creative solar projects require careful placement planning to maximise sun exposure throughout the year. Consult solar mapping tools to identify optimal solar access areas on your property before installing panels.

Researching these factors will help ensure your creative solar project is feasible, maximally efficient and regulatory compliant. Regulations vary widely across localities so do your homework before installation. Reaching out to professionals that help you with installation is a great way to learn how to navigate any issues like this. They have a lot of experience and will gladly work with you to figure out the best approach.

Take Control of Your Home’s Energy Solutions

Creative solar panel installation allows homeowners to live more sustainably and maximise clean energy production and green living insulation solutions from all available exterior spaces in conservatories and not just rooftops. Thoughtful integration of solar technology can enhance aesthetics while reducing fossil fuel dependence. With proper planning and consideration of regulations, creative solar projects enable beautiful, sustainable, sun-powered homes.

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