Solar Opposites

Solar panels aren’t just tacked onto a house and left to be unsightly — they generate eco-chic style while collecting energy for your home.

Unsure about installing solar panels? Michael Merck, president of West Penn Energy Solutions, sheds some light on the subject.

What are the benefits of residential solar paneling?
Solar panels (photovoltaic and thermal) can significantly reduce your electric and/or gas consumption, resulting in lower utility costs. An investment in solar photovoltaic (PV) or thermal is a “hedge” against the rising cost of energy. At the same time, an investment in solar panels may increase the value of your home. With existing solar federal tax credits, net metering laws and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), it can be cost effective. Panels produce clean, renewable and reliable energy, and they’ve never been more affordable.

How does one integrate energy-saving solar panels without ruining the home’s exterior design aesthetic?
There are many size and style options for panels. Some have black solar cells with black frames, blue solar cells with silver frames or black solar cells with gray frames. These color options help blend the panels with the surrounding roof shingles. It’s also important that the panels are installed symmetrically in relation to the available roof space and that the panel edges are plumb with the roof’s lines. Finally, a flush mount is aesthetically pleasing, as the panels are parallel and on the same plane as the roof shingles.  

How do the panels work to reduce energy costs?
Solar thermal panels reduce the gas or electric energy needed to heat the hot water in your home. Essentially, a fluid is pumped through the solar thermal panels, and the sun heats the fluid. The fluid is then moved to a heat exchanger or storage tank, and that hot fluid is used to heat your water versus gas or electric. It is possible to offset your entire home’s electrical consumption with solar PV or thermal. 


When considering a solar investment, it’s wise to work with a certified solar installer from the North America Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). The NABCEP certification is the gold standard in solar installation, and it means that your solar installer has gone above and beyond. Also, consider purchasing and installing U.S.-made solar components; this can help with your warranty, and it’s a great way to promote American manufacturing.

Categories: HOME + Design