Solar panel patio covers have many different names. However, solar pergolas, solar gazebos, and solar carpools are essentially the same thing, no matter which name you call them.
However, solar panel patio covers are more than just a patio roof with solar panels.
Solar panel patio covers can provide shade, power, lights, and whatever else you need your outdoor space to be. They’re:
- Benefits of solar patios
- Cost of a solar gazebo
- Solar patio designs
- DIY solar patios
Solar panel patio covers can take any backyard to the next level in power and design. This two-in-one design is a great use of space.
What Is a Solar Panel Patio Cover?
Patios are like another room in your home where you and your family can enjoy the outdoors. Solar patio covers are like roofs to your deck, providing shade and keeping the rain off so you can enjoy late summer thunderstorms.
A solar panel patio cover by extension is a patio cover with solar panels incorporated into its design, either sitting on top of the patio or the roofing material itself.
You can use the power from the panels in plugs, batteries, and lights for whatever capacity your patio needs. A solar panel patio cover is also a great option if solar panels cannot go on your roof, hooking into your home’s electricity and providing power.
Alternatively, a solar panel patio cover is an excellent option to extend your home’s power supply. Solar panel patio covers can cover the outdoor living area of your home, provide power, and look great.
They can save tons of money over time and is a great way to add value to your home, either as an addition to roofing solar panels or as a separate power supply.
How Much Does a Solar Gazebo Cost?
While buying solar panels is worth it over time, the upfront cost is nothing to sneer at. For example, regular patio covers can cost about $3,000. Add about ten grand then you’ll have a rough idea of how much a 3kW solar system would be.
And if you want more power, it only scales up from there, requiring bigger pergolas and more solar panels, which increases the cost as the systems scale up.
A 5kW solar panel system would require about a $5,000 patio cover and $15,000 to buy and install the solar panels. A 12kW system would equate to a $12,000 patio cover and roughly $36,000 for the solar panels.
As you can see, the prices scale with the amount of power you want to generate. A 12 kW system would be enough to power most of your small essential appliances, but it won’t power your whole home.
Smaller systems are good enough to power laptops, lights, small electrical appliances, cars, and whatever else you might need for the outdoors. You should pick a system that will supply your power needs without overdoing it.
Different Solar Panel Patio Cover Designs
There are two rules all solar pergolas need to follow. One, they need to be slanted. Precipitation needs to slide off the solar panels so it doesn’t affect their efficiency. And two, solar panels need direct sunlight for most of the day.
You can use the solar panels as the roofing material of your pergola, giving it a more exciting interior. You can have it manufactured out of wood, metal, or whatever other material you want to use; grow plants along the side as long as they don’t block the sunlight to the panels.
If you follow these two rules, you should have no problems with your solar patio cover, making the sky the limit.
Whatever outdoor space you can dream up, you can incorporate. You can even have the solar panels placed atop the pergola roof and surprise visitors with the news that everything on your back porch is solar powered.
However, if you choose to design your pergola, ensure you plan on the electrical system requirements of the solar panels, such as a place to store power and wires with an electrical box.
But if you’re designing your solar pergola from scratch, it shouldn’t be too difficult to plan for these necessary electrical components. If you’re not creating from scratch, you can probably make do with your current patio cover, especially if you’re redoing the entire space.
Can You Put Solar Panels on an Existing Patio Cover?
Yes, you can, but only if your existing cover meets all the requirements. For one, it needs to be slanted. This is because solar panels require a slant to work correctly.
Two, it needs to be able to handle the weight of the solar panels. This isn’t an issue most of the time, but if your pergola is old and shaky, it most likely won’t stand up to heavy panels.
You can skirt this issue using lighter panels such as flexible solar panels. However, they won’t produce as much power as the heavier solar panels.
And the final requirement is the amount of space available for the solar panels. It’s best if your existing pergola is a standard size such as 17X17 or other standard sizes. If your pergola has an unusual shape or is too small a roof space, it’s not worth putting in solar panels.
Pretty much any patio cover attached to the roof of the house fulfills these requirements, and using an existing patio cover has its advantages.
Existing Patio Cover Pros
Since the patio cover already exists, you only need to install the solar system on top of your patio to get the benefits. In addition, you can use most patio covers for solar systems; they only need to meet the requirements above.
Using an existing patio cover cuts down on costs, and you can still take advantage of the solar panel’s electricity. In addition, it’s quicker to install the panels and the appliances or lights you want electricity to power.
Existing patio covers save both money and time for solar panels.
Existing Patio Cover Cons
However, existing patio covers do have some drawbacks. For one, you’re integrating solar panels onto an existing structure, meaning you’ll have to make some modifications to make things look good.
Also, when you’re installing solar panels onto an existing pergola, you have less choice when it comes to design. For example, solar panels as roofing is an excellent way to make the space enjoyable. However, you don’t have that option with existing patio covers.
Besides the design, you have fewer options for wiring and power storage. It might not matter much if you’re just installing a carpool, but if you want your outdoor living space to look nice, you’ll have to do some serious planning and maybe change the existing pergola to suit your needs.
Can You Build a Solar Panel Patio Cover?
Yes, you can if you have the skills needed to build your pergola and wire and electrical system. Unfortunately, solar companies don’t sell kits to create solar panel patio covers, so you’ll have to do that yourself.
However, if you have the technical know-how and the correct building permits, nothing stops you from installing your solar panels and wiring them yourself. The same goes for the pergola. You just need to have the licenses and skills to build it.
And of course, you also need the materials. Since you won’t be able to purchase a solar patio cover kit, you’ll have to build it yourself.
DIY Solar Panel Patio Cover
In general, solar panel patio cover kits need six things:
- Solar panels
- DC/AC inverters
- MPPT Charge Converter
- Patio Cover
To start with, solar panels. You must decide how many to install based on the patio cover’s dimensions and load. Most patio covers can support about 300 lbs, equating to about five or six solar panels.
However, if you want to cut down on the weight, you can use flexible solar panels instead. They’re not as efficient as total solar panels, but they’re cheaper and cost less, perfect for patio covers.
There should be enough wiring for the entire system, plus whatever you want to hook up to the system. Of course, you’ll have to do your calculations, as it varies by patio cover and system sizes.
The DC/AC inverters convert DC electricity from the solar panels into AC electricity, making it usable for most electronics. Microinverters are ideal because they minimize the loss of efficiency and immediately transform the electricity from the solar panels, making them easier to work with.
If you’re going to use your solar panels to charge batteries, you’ll need an MPPT charge adapter. It takes the electricity from the panels and effectively distributes them to batteries. It’s necessary to prevent overloading the batteries and distribute the charge between batteries.
Next, you’ll need batteries to store the electricity from the solar panels. You can use whatever batteries you’d like, from unused car batteries to batteries specialized for solar power or just generalized batteries for storing electricity.
What’s important is that you have enough batteries to use and store all the electricity you use and collect from the solar panels.
The amount of power you use determines the size of your solar arrays, and the amount of energy your solar arrays generate determines the size and number of batteries you need.
And finally, you’ll need a patio cover that fulfills the requirements. It needs to hold the weight of the panels, hold wiring, and house the charge controller and batteries. It needs to be slanted and in a spot that gets a lot of sunshine.
Can Solar Panels Be Installed on an Alumnawood Patio Cover?
Yes, however, you’ll have to order the panels separately and hire a separate installer. Alumnawood doesn’t incorporate solar patio covers into its portfolio.
They don’t offer installation, so you’ll have to specify that you want solar panels installed during the patio cover manufacturing process.
You’ll have to coordinate a custom job with a slanted patio cover roof from Alumawood with the solar panel installer to get the solar panel patio cover of your dreams.
If you have an existing pergola from them, it should be fine for solar panels as long as it meets the requirements.
What Is a Solar Awning?
Solar awnings are different from solar panel patio covers in that they are awnings meant to roll up and out to provide shade. There are two different definitions of solar awnings.
One is an awning that runs with its solar panel. The awnings extend and retract automatically using solar power.
The second is awnings lined with solar panels that provide shade and generate power. However, they don’t generate that much electricity, so the technology isn’t quite there yet.
New Technology: Solar Blinds
Solar blinds are regular blinds lined with solar panels. When set at the window, they collect power from the sun and then convert it to electricity.
This technology is still in its nascent stages, but chances are we’ll see them hit the market in the next couple of years.
What Is a Transparent Solar Panel?
Transparent solar panels are just what they sound like-solar panels that light passes through. However, it may seem like an oxymoron, as solar panels need to absorb sunlight to produce electricity.
However, transparent solar panels don’t absorb light. Or at least visible light. Transparent solar panels look and act like glass but absorb invisible light like infrared and UV light to produce electricity.
It means you can get all the sunshine you want without dangerous UV rays and absorb power simultaneously.
Benefits When Combined with Solar Patio Covers
If you use transparent solar panels in patio covers, you’re getting all the benefits of sunlight with the harmful UV light and generating power. You can create a sunbathing paradise, a seedling room, whatever you want or need sunlight for.
You can even incorporate it into the overall design of your solar pergola by placing power-generating skylights, getting the best of both worlds.