Solar roof panels are a particular type of solar panel meant to be placed on the roof of a house or other structure for the purpose of collecting photovoltaic energy to convert to electricity or as a method for heating water. Solar panels work by harnessing the energy of the sun, converting it into a form that can be stored and used by humans. The type of solar panel known as a solar thermal collector works by simply absorbing the energy into a liquid medium, such as water, to later use as heat energy. The type of solar panel known as a photovoltaic module converts this energy into electricity, which can then be stored in battery bays to be used at a later date.
Most commonly, solar roof panels are of the solar thermal collector variety. Many buildings will line their roofs with hot water panels to collect heat. These panels contain a liquid that runs through pipes that are attached to an absorber panel. In home use, this liquid is usually water, but in larger-scale facilities it may be something else.
This absorber panel will be coated with a deep black coloring, to help it absorb as much sunlight as is possible. The sunlight strikes and heats up the panels, in turn heating up the liquid, which can then be pumped elsewhere for use. For home applications, they may be used to provide hot water for showers, laundry, and sinks, or may be used as part of a forced-water heating system to heat the entire building.
Solar roof panels may also be photovoltaic panels, used to generate electricity. These are most often seen in smaller home use, as large facilities often find thermal heating to be more efficient. In this case, the panels consist of large photovoltaic arrays that are placed on the roof of the house. The roof is an ideal location for photovoltaic panels because it tends to catch more direct sunlight than other locations on a piece of property, and also reduces the visual footprint of the solar panels, which many people find unsightly.
Energy absorbed by the solar panels can then be stored in batteries, to power the household. In the past, panels of this type were used primarily by people in remote locations, who were off of the local power grid. In recent years, however, with rising energy costs and a growing environmental awareness, many people who have access to traditional electricity sources are turning to solar power.
Solar roof panels may also refer to a new type of photovoltaic system, known commonly as solar shingles. These are similar in operation to traditional photovoltaic panels, but are smaller and have what most people consider to be a much nicer aesthetic. Solar shingles are about the size of normal roofing shingles, and they have a similar color. They are installed on the roof, and in many cases are indistinguishable from normal roofing materials. Solar shingles are a recent innovation but already are enormously popular. Many people who never would have considered other solar panels, because of their appearance, are turning to shingles to get the benefits of solar energy without the negative visual effect.