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Solar Installation Tips for Commercial Construction

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As solar power becomes more affordable and accessible, commercial buildings are increasingly being retrofit with solar panels to take advantage of an endless supply of renewable energy from the sun. However, when you build a new commercial building, you can design it specifically for solar power. Here are some tips on how to do that effectively.

Choose Roofing Materials With Solar Power in Mind
The roofing material used has a part to play in the overall solar power system cost. If you were retrofitting the roof, you would just have to absorb this cost if you were working with a material that was less compatible. However, when you are starting a construction business, you can choose the roof materials specifically with solar panel installation in mind. Roofing materials that tend to be less expensive to install solar panels on include Thermoplastic Polyolefin, standing seam, and corrugated metal.

Avoid Obstructions
Check out the neighborhood where the new commercial building is to be constructed. Are there a lot of nearby buildings that are taller than yours is intended to be? What about tall trees? If there are a lot of obstructions such as this in your neighborhood, installing solar panels may ultimately be more of a challenge. Anything that shades the panels or blocks the sunlight to them can reduce production of solar energy. As you are planning your building, track the shadows and design the roof to maximize the amount of sun available to increase energy production.

Place Chimneys and Vents Strategically
Every modern building, commercial as well as residential, has to have some chimneys and vents to remove exhaust from HVAC systems, etc., from the building. If buildings didn't have these, carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases would build up inside. If you plan on incorporating solar power into your building design, you want to avoid anything on the roof casting a shadow on the panels because it will reduce your energy output. The solution is to place the vent and chimneys in such a way that they are never between the solar panels and the sun. It can be a difficult conundrum to solve and may require some strategic problem-solving.

Consider the Roof Slope
The slope of the roof influences the efficiency of your solar panels. Many commercial buildings have a roof that is nearly flat. When the sun is high in the sky during the summer, this design is more effective at collecting solar energy. However, you may want to consider increasing the slope of the roof so that the solar panels are more efficient at producing electricity when the sun is low on the horizon during winter. A 45-degree roof is considered optimal for electrical production during the winter. You may have to find the right balance between optimal slope for solar power efficiency and overall building aesthetics.

Determine Your Energy Needs
The amount of electricity you can produce depends upon the number of solar panels that you can install. If you are planning a big building with high energy needs but a small footprint, you may not be able to produce enough electricity to serve the whole building. That doesn't mean that you should abandon the solar plan altogether. Rather, it means that you may have to choose a different system. You may not be able to go off the grid entirely, but you may be able to install a grid-tied system that will significantly reduce the energy bills for the building.

Orient the Building Appropriately
When you are constructing a new building, you can plan and design it specifically so that the side of the roof with the solar panels receives as much sunlight as possible. Since the sun remains primarily in the south, you should design the area of the roof facing this direction to be as large and wide as possible.

When retrofitting an existing roof, you are limited in your ability to collect the largest amount of solar energy possible. However, these limitations disappear, or at least shrink significantly, if you design your new commercial building with solar efficiency in mind.

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Updated 07-28-2021 at 02:37 PM by kevgardner83