Go green, save green with a solar metal roof

Jerry Walsh Skelly says it's not unusual for people to stop and compliment him on the metal roof of his Louisville, Ky., home when he's out doing yardwork. What they don't guess at first glance, though, is that the black panels are capturing solar energy.

"It's not obvious to the naked eye," says Walsh Skelly, who opted for a standing seam metal roofing system with thin-film solar panels to re-roof his Colonial home. "Nobody knows there's solar up there."

Unlike traditional photovoltaic panels that jut out from a roof's exterior, thin laminate strips adhere to the metal roof, allowing them to blend in with the surface.

Long-term savings

Walsh Skelly is among the growing number of homeowners who consider the environment when they choose metal roofing systems, which are partially made from recycled materials, and can increase a home's energy efficiency and therefore lower utility bills. When combined with solar technology, the cost savings can be dramatic.

In 2008, Walsh Skelly's annual electric bill was $2,133. He installed the solar laminate roofing in the fall of 2009, and in 2010 his bill dropped to $878. That year he was also able to sell $800 worth of extra electricity he generated, bringing his total electric bill to $78 for the year.

Walsh Skelly paid about $30,000 — $10,000 for the metal roof and $20,000 for the solar — and netted $7,000 in tax rebates for the system, which was installed by highly rated Cornett Roofing of Franklin, Ind. "Our company's mission revolves around permanent Earth-friendly products," says company president Richard "Chan" Cornett, who adds that solar laminate was a natural fit with the recycled steel roofing his company produces. "It was synergy!"

Interest in solar laminate roofing has increased since the company began offering it three years ago, and Cornett says he's now installing it about every 10 days, though other contractors have had a more difficult time piquing clients' interest. He says the cost of a solar metal roof can be recouped in as few as six years through lower utility bills and net metering, which involves selling extra electricity to companies that, in turn, sell it to utilities.

Despite the potential for long-term savings with solar metal roofing systems, some consumers balk at the added costs. "We've done a hundred bids with it, with zero response," says Jason Coe, owner of the highly rated Gresham Roofing in Gresham, Ore., near Portland.

He estimates the average price for an asphalt shingle roof is about $2.50 per square foot, while a metal roof costs about $5 per square foot. Adding solar to that would add an average of $12.50 per square foot, Coe says. His company began marketing the solar laminate roofing systems over a year ago. "Because of the economy, it's really tough to sell," Coe says. However, customers who purchase metal panel roofs can later install solar technology.

Solar and metal benefits

The thin-film solar laminate may have an advantage over solar panel systems, depending on architecture, position and local climate. "The solar laminate is said to do better in different weather conditions," says Corey Saft, associate architecture professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Saft built one of the first houses certified by the Passive House Institute, which has stringent energy efficiency requirements. The home features a white standing seam metal roof with alternating panels of solar laminate.

Saft says the laminate can absorb energy in cloudy or shady conditions at various angles, unlike more traditional photovoltaic solar panels. He says you should spend about the same amount of money to get equal energy from the thin-film solar roofing as from regular solar panels; however, the laminate might require more surface area to generate comparable energy.

Member Katy Prats considered solar laminate panels when she replaced the roof on her Victorian home in St. Petersburg, Fla., but instead selected a metal roof with scalloped shingles and installed photovoltaic panels on her garage. Prats liked the look of metal roofing but also that it can be engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds and is environmentally friendly.

An estimated 20 billion pounds of asphalt shingles wind up in landfills each year so choosing a metal roof, which can come with a warranty of up to 50 years and can be recycled, can help reduce consumer waste. "A metal roof is going to be more expensive in the short term, but in the long term it's going to be less so," says Prats, who paid $50,000 in May 2010 to re-roof her 4,200-square-foot home.

More consumers are choosing metal roofs, with or without solar components, for their environmental and financial benefits. Homeowners can save up to 40 percent on summer energy bills with metal because of its reflectivity, says Bill Hippard, president of Metal Roofing Alliance and vice president of PreCoat Metals. Depending on where you live, a metal roof might also net you a discount on your homeowners' insurance due to its storm-resistant properties.

Enthusiasts say a metal roof can add to a home's aesthetic value. Ken Gieseke, a spokesman with McElroy Metal in Shreveport, La., says it's come a long way since his company began manufacturing metal roofing in 1963. "A lot of people imagine rusted, wrinkled tin on an old shack," he says.

Today, there's a variety of metal roofing styles to choose from, including those resembling cedar shake, slate or ceramic tiles. "A metal roof will dress up the curb appeal of a home," Gieseke says. Indeed, real estate experts say metal roofing can add thousands of resale dollars to your home's value.

If you're weighing a metal or solar metal roof, consider getting an energy audit and solicit multiple bids from roofing contractors, who can provide a cost-benefit analysis of various systems. Find which will fit your budget, net the most savings and achieve the look you desire.

If you install a solar metal roof, you may be eligible for a $500 federal tax credit. Check for local tax incentives as well.

"People just have to do their research," Prats says. "A metal roof can be expected to last forever, if you take care of it. We'll never go back to asphalt shingles, that's for sure."

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A contractor installed this 28-panel solar system, rated to generate 7,140 watts of direct current, on this home's roof. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Jennifer O. of Davis, California)

Before you buy a solar system for your home, it pays to do your homework. Take the time to research factors that will affect the system’s performance.


please swnd info for n.e.PA contractors for this

Can this be applied to a 3 year old mobile home? Or is it too heavy?

need phone number looking for roof dorothy Kender

Why are the comments out of order date-wise?

what about this type of roofing for a flat roof for home of 100 yrs old?

Very timely article. We're looking to replace our roof with Energy Star compliant metal after hail damaged our asphalt shingled roof. I would love to add solar panel, so this would be a great solution for us. The trouble we've had is trying to find a contractor. We've had two come out ( who were highly rated on Angie's List ), one sent a bid but never responded to a follow up question and the second one never even sent in a bid. I would love to talk to a reliable contractor who could install a metal solar roof for us. Is there anyone in the Atlanta, Ga. area out there who has experience with these kinds of roofs?

how do the solar shingles stand up in heavy hail?

Solar laminates picture are made by Uni-Solar (parent company Energy Conversion Devices) out of the Detroit area [U.S. made!]. They are hail and wind resistant and can be walked on. They can work well in shaded area and pump out more kW of electricity during the day than ANY other solar panel....plus they look GREAT. Uni-Solar is coming out laer this year with their PowerShingle for another residential application to integrate seamlessly with you standard 3-tab asphalt shingled (re)roof.

I am a Uni-Solar dealer with personal installations on my residence and my business. More than happy to chat via email!

I started putting on Artic White metal roof. At this time I do not have the extra money for the solar. But would like to apply it later on. Who would I contact in Northeastern Pa to do this and who has a good reputation.

Does a metal roof attract lightning? I live in the Hampton Roads section of VA and would like to look into this.

Who does this in San Antonio? We already have a metal roof. Can it be "retrofitted"?

We install these and other solar sytems please inquire.

Is the government still offering the tax incentives for installing solar in 2011?

Robyn of S. Michigan on 4/13 or anyone else using inside antennas, the solution is to get an outside antenna for your frequency and cable (wire) to the device. The metal roof blocks radio waves especially digital signals like XM radio.

Is the government still offering the tax incentives for installing solar in 2011?

We live in S. Michigan and had a steel roof put on our home. We love it but we can't find eve's troughing that will work in the winter months and won't let leaves in during the fall and our XM radio no longer works in the house which we really miss. We really love the sound of the rain on the roof tho and the look is very nice. We just miss the reception we had.

It's no wonder the contractor in Oregon can't sell solar metal roofs there...energy costs there are extremely low and it's hardly ever sunny!

The NREL solar map showing energy received by zipcode should answer a lot of questions

Not to discourage anyone who's interested in solar roofs, but they're a measure like many others that really benefits from mortgage treatment. In Hawaii, new homes are required to have solar water heating panels installed--with the savings, tax credits, and the long terms and low interest associated with mortgages, it works out very well. Solar roofs may need the same treatment--incorporating them at the point of a mortgage to reduce the cashflow impacts.

Need more information on solar roofing, metal roofing in Seattle. Where can I find more information on all roofing options?-in Seattlle

The article was very interesting and informative. We are considering replacing our shingle roof and plan to check on metal roofs. Solar add on may be expensive. Are there any guarantees about the long term performance of PV? Will it last at least 15 years?

what about using recycled rubber/plastic roofing systems?

Hello! The the people who say something like: "I can see this working in CA or FL, but what about me who lives in cloudy (fill in your city/state here). We bought a home with solar panels on it 2.5 years ago and we live in SEATTLE! The grayest place in the US! Not only does our solar make it so that we have no electric bills, we also got the tax write-off ($7,000) PLUS once a year we get a check from our local power company for about $300 because we "sell" our energy back to the power grid. When we bought, the film was not available, but if we were going to buy another home right away, I would definitely do the metal roof with the film. It's worth it...even just for the peace of mind that we are not contributing to the problem, but to the solution! :)

Oklahoma gets a lot of hail...How well does it hold up? I love the idea of green and of solar energy...

Lots of opinions, need more facts. A more complete analysis is highly desired.

Utilities (esp. municipal, and pud's& co-ops) need to do the simple job of being the middle-man. They could link solar companies, banks, and customers - using the deals they could cut because of scale. Solar would boom, and customers would pay off the loan with only the savings. Their bill thus would not go up at all. There is no reason not to do this -- yet my utility has a "green program" where one pays extra for green energy. Crock.

We are in the process of replacing our existing asphalt shingled roof. We are in a high wind area, have a southern exposure, & our 2nd story gets quite warm in the summer months, therefore we strongly considered a metal shingle style roof. I also did my research on the solar shingles & other solar type materials but was alarmed when looking into the warranty & maintenance issues of such a product. I contacted MRA (metal roofing assn.) and they agreed that the longevity of such products is still uncertain since they have not been on the market for an extended period of time & that weather conditions such as hail have been known to damage the solar shingle style option. She also stated that it would take years to recoup the costs of solar & that the main reason for doing it would have to be an environmental issue. So, I decided to forgo the solar option. I then looked into metal shingle roofing alone & was alarmed when I read concerns on forum after forum on metal roofing where there were issues with condensation. I am only trying to make others aware of my concerns so you can do your own research and arrive at an educated decision that is right for you. It is a costly endeavor & one that requires you to do your homework. As an FYI, I am considering the "Cool" roofing option through GAF/ ELK which offers solar reflection properties to keep cooling costs down in the summer & prolong the life of the shingle since it will be a somewhat lighter shade than the other options. Good luck in your decision!

I love solar, but people need to keep in mind it's not permanent like insulation or such. One, they need maintenance. Two they get weaker over time. So time estimates of 25 years are WAY off. Depending on brand and quality, the panels could be at 50% in 10 years. Let alone in 25 years. I have no idea about this solar metal roofing, but it would nice to know how it produces over time.

I live in Chardon, Ohio where we get lots of snow (had about 135 inches) this season, and its not over yet. My house is a cape cod style, with an attached garage... so there are various roof lines to deal with. I would assume that there are situations where part of the roof could be done in the solar metal roofing, and other parts could be done with traditional asphalt shingles. My garage has a large Cape Cod style high-pitched roof that faces the sunny south. I could see just doing this roof in the soloar roofing. My house is 23 years old now, so it is getting time to look at a new roof. Not sure the wife would like the look of the solar roofing.

Would this product work on flat roofs in new mexico sun of 101 degrees?

I’m a roofing contractor in SW Michigan, and we get a decent amount of inquiries about metal roofing. It’s great, but expensive. Based on my experience, it is generally double the cost of a shingle roof (or more, depending on materials of each – lots of variation). I will say that the “green” aspect is less important to folks I talk to than the idea of not having to replace your roof every 12 years due to cheap shingles wearing out. That’s when I tell them about modified shingle products (made by Malarkey and Atlas), which last longer in our bad MI climate. Plus, the sun doesn’t shine here like it does in CA, FL, etc…so the solar aspect hardly ever comes up.

How much roof, exposed to sun, is necessary for thin film solar panels on metal roof?

how does this solar solution compare to existing solutions in terms of total weight - is it significantly lighter than traditional panels?

What is the usefull lifetime of the PV's? How are they disposed of when the go bad? How do they hold up to hail? What about snow loading, and snow covering?

thats great for places like VA.,Fla., Ax.,what about Cleveland Ohio ?

What about Condo building? Three stories with 11 HVAC units on the roof? Is this a possibility for such a roof/building?

We replaced our roof last year with metal. Because of our age we didn't go with solar and we're seeing a 30-35% savings on power costs. The cost ended up being roughly 30% more and a warranty that's 4-5 times in length. We feel it was money well spent.

Is this available in Pawtucket, RI?

We live in Va. Beach. I would love to know if there was an installer like Cornett Roofing in our area.

I was so excited to see the metal roof article. I am in the market to purchase one myself. Not only that, but I also just received a Patent for my invention of Magnetic Christmas Light Clips! What a wonderful combination.

Great article. I have long thought metal roofing makes great sense, aesthetically as well as practically. Unfortunately for me, here in Arizona I have a flat roof. Foam is in my future, I think.

who does solar near Bergen County NJ?

For us, installing solar PV on our roof in L.A. was a no-brainer. After city rebate and 30% federal tax credit, it cost us 8k, added 20K to our property value, and will save us around 80-90K after 25 years, assuming the 6.7% increase in rates, which are predicted. I like the way they look, too.

We the consumer have to take the bull by the horns to save the planet. Reducing energy usage is everyone's business. I will consider a solar roof next year! Great info.

Is there an installer in CT that installs the metal solar roof? Am interested!

names to contact for Princeton NJ

Really, really interested - we're in Chicago, how do we find a reputable, experienced solar roofer? Any suggestions?

What about Ondura? It's less expensive with all the eco-friendly benefits of metal.

The solar metal roofing has many benefits like as it make home secure, save energy, utilize solar rays, make environment green and always look unique.


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