Contrary to popular belief solar panels do not always have to go on the roof. There are multiple other spots on a residential property where they may be installed; solar gazebos and solar pergolas being the key options.
Energy-producing equipment can be attached atop existing or custom-built structures, turning your garden into a mini power plant. One can power the entire premises this way, provided the panels are strong enough to do so.
But is it really a good idea? Is there actually any added value in investing in a solar gazebo, rather than placing the system on your roof? Here is all you need to know about this popular new form of green energy.
We must first understand what solar gazebos are and how they work.
Solar Gazebos vs. Solar Pergolas
In essence, they are both the same. The structures fall under the category of ‘solar patios’ or ‘solar canopies’ as many people call them. However, gazebos differ from pergolas; the roofs of the former are more opaque and provide full coverage from the sun.
The roof of a pergola, on the other hand, is typically slatted and provides only partial shelter over a patio or a garden pathway.
Either can be converted into a sort of ‘solar lounge’ by simply attaching solar panels on top. Granted, most solar systems are still installed on rooftops, owing to the larger surface areas and the extra sun exposure from being at a height.
But a growing number of homeowners with patio areas on their properties are opting for solar gazebos these days. Alternatively, if your backyard does not have one, you can build it with energy production in mind.
If you are amongst the latter, keep in mind that the size of the new structure is directly proportional to your energy consumption.
IDEAL GAZEBOS FOR SOLAR PANELS
A small one should suffice for those looking to power the outdoor areas only. But if you wish to produce electricity for the entire property, a bigger structure will be needed, of course.
Why should you buy a solar gazebo?
Solar gazebos or pergolas are the ideal solutions for homeowners who want to reap the benefits of solar energy but face one (or more) of the following limitations:
- They do not have enough space on the roof
- They have barrel-tile roofs
- The roof is too old or weak to support solar panels
- The roof does not face the south, thereby limiting exposure
Unlike ground-mounted solar panels, solar gazebos or pergolas will allow you to create energy whilst retaining the use of the land; they offer dual usage.
A key issue that arises when solar panels are laid on the ground or on roofs is that once done, there is little else that can be done underneath or around them.
A gazebo, on the other hand, can circumvent this so you can create a romantic sitting area or a small greenhouse for your home inside. No additional land is needed!
What’s more is that solar canopies offer added financial benefits, depending on where one lives. Some federal governments are offering tax deductions to homeowners going off the grid by including them in the overall cost of the installation, for example.
There are also many state-wise facilities to encourage investment.
But this is not just for residential properties. Restaurants, shops, stalls, etc., are a great fit for standalone solar structures as well.
They can provide shade for customers whilst producing electricity and reducing costs simultaneously. Outdoor bars, BBQ pits, swimming pools, and sports facilities can benefit a great deal from them.
And the best part is that investing in solar energy eventually pays for itself. In effect, it reduces the overall cost of running a property by slashing electricity bills.
The savings accrued from this over time will offset the initial cost of installing the solar system in the first place. Besides, who doesn’t like having extra cash around?
Are Solar Canopies Weather-Resistant?
Generally speaking, solar panels are viable through all kinds of climate conditions.
You will be glad to know that even on the most overcast days, they work up to 30% to 50% of their optimum capacity and 20% in times of heavy rainfall, thanks to the waterproof casing.
Additionally, most panel varieties are certified to withstand winds up to 140 miles per hour and cold temperatures have been found to improve the performance of solar cells as well. What more could one want?
Well, there is a catch. For instance, the panels may get blocked during heavy snow. Some cases of ‘uplifting’ have also been recorded, rare as they may be, wherein the panels lifted off and blew away due to strong winds.
And if nothing else, a nearby tree or building could cast a shadow over your solar system, stopping the sunlight from coming through.
If you are building a gazebo from scratch, you can design one that is optimized for maximum electricity production, choosing its size, location, and capacity accordingly.
How Much Does a Solar Gazebo Cost?
While a fully customized solar structure affords many benefits, both in the long and short runs, it can also get quite heavy on the pocket.
On average, a 6-kilowatt solar system costs anywhere between $1300 to $1500 after tax credits. And if you are building a gazebo or pergola from the ground up, be prepared for a bill well worth thousands of dollars.
Size, materials, and the overall design of the structure are important factors to consider before you make a big decision. From here, the cost of the panel itself will be applied.
Be warned: you may end up paying more than you would for a rooftop installation.
Government incentives for solar energy are there, yes, but it is advisable to study them first and determine if you even qualify for them at all.
The most relevant scheme at the moment is the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which allows a 26% reduction in the solar installation cost from one’s federal taxes, ultimately improving payback.
Other than this, different states offer different incentives like net-metering, wherein users can actually sell electricity to their local power suppliers at competitive prices. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
5 Tips for Potential Buying a Solar Gazebos
We’ve got some expert advice to help you make an informed decision. Now, whether you are contemplating going solar to cut your expenses or save the planet, you will want to, and should, get the most out of it.
But with a hefty price tag and so many options out there, you must do your research. Here’s how you can make the process easier:
- Multiple quotes, multiple savings: According to a recent report by the US Department of Energy, consumers usually compare as many solar options as they can find to find the best bargain. The bigger the installer, the more it will charge. Homeowners who get at least 3 or more quotes can save anything between $5,000 to $10,000 in total. Need we say more?
- Big installers are the most expensive: Ironically, large solar companies do not always offer the best prices. In fact, it is usually the opposite. Another government report recently found that big installers can charge up to $5,000 more than their smaller counterparts. To avoid overpaying, make sure to get quotes from both ends of the spectrum.
- Know the equipment: Carefully go through each and every item being installed. Quality products cost more, of course, but their durability and warranty schemes can help you save more in the long run. Also, many mainstream installers tend to inflate their prices in exchange for less favorable products so be mindful.
- Understand the Watt system: When it comes to solar energy, pricing is done as per watt. The greater the solar system, the greater its output and hence, the higher its price. By knowing how the Price Per Watt (PPW) is calculated, you can compare different quotes and hopefully, land a good deal. PPW is calculated by dividing the Total System Cost by the System Size in watts.
- Ask for referrals: This goes without saying. The solar industry is one of the fasting growing, with several options to choose from. Therefore, it is advisable to talk to friends, family members, or colleagues who may have gone off the grid recently. You can also read up on reviews online. We cannot stress this enough! A little research will go a long way.
Should you buy Solar Gazebos?
In most cases, the benefits of going solar outweigh potential losses. It is a green source of energy and the ideal way to cost-cutting around your house.
But in the case of solar gazebos or pergolas, in particular, there is much to be considered before one signs the contract.
Each home is unique, with its own particular requirements. Therefore, we recommend fixing your budget and determining what you hope to achieve by going solar first.
The scale of the installation you undertake, and ultimately, its price, will depend on that.