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When it comes to solar panel installation, we think of the rooftop first naturally. But panels can also be installed on a carport or anywhere on the ground. But what about freestanding structures like pergolas, gazebos or a patio? is it possible to have solar panels there?
Solar panels weigh 30-40 lbs. so if you are going to install it on a pergola, make sure the roof can support the weight. Strong winds could blow the panel off the pergola so the support structure must be robust. This applies to patios and gazebos as well.
What are the Benefits of Having Solar Panels on a Pergola?
Think of solar pergolas as somewhat similar to RV solar awnings. Awnings are used to generate additional power, and the same thing applies to pergolas and other garden structures.
Solar pergolas can provide extra sources of power. You could use these as outdoor lights. Some people use solar lights to enhance their plants and gardens, and solar pergolas can do the same. Pergolas, patios and gazebos look great, but add lighting they become even more so.
Affordable power. Solar power is cheaper than electricity in the long term. You can save money by using solar power instead and it doesn’t take long to install them either.
Easy installation. You can install a portable solar panel on your pergola without having to mess around with wires. A small PV module can light the surrounding area easily. This is the ideal scenario and you won’t need a large solar panel to make it work.
Tax credit eligible. Solar pergolas are eligible for tax credits and any other solar incentives your state provides. You don’t have to pay any property tax on it and this does not even count the money you save.
Visually appealing. Pergolas are striking to look at. It draws attention and is a great place to relax and entertain guests. When you turn on the lights at night, it becomes even more visually arresting.
Can Pergolas Support Solar Panels?
This is the biggest question. A 300W solar panel weighs about 40 lbs., and that might be too much for a small pergola. Even if it can support the weight there is the question of how durable it is. A sudden wind gust or storm could send that panel flying off. Solar panels should only be installed on large pergolas with robust support.
The best case scenario is to use a small solar panel. A lightweight panel should be fine on a pergola. If you have a large structure – whether it is a pergola, gazebo or patio – it might be able to support the extra weight. Consult a professional contractor if you are not sure.
If you have solid pergola and can handle heavy weights, you can install several 200W 12V Rich Solar Panels and it there should be no issues. For a smaller roof, a portable or flexible solar panel might be the better option.
If your pergola can support the weight, it’s time to start planning. Plan out how you will install the solar panel and what size. You also need batteries and a charge controller to finish the installation. As long as the structure can support the panels, there should be no problems. For a curved or irregularly shaped roof, the Renogy 100W 12V Flexible Solar Panel is good choice.
There are many types of solar panels available, and some companies provide solar pergolas, solar patios and solar gazebos. For a fee they will install everything for you and you have assurance the structure is sound.
How to Install a Solar Panels on a Pergola
Choose a location and buy a pergola kit. Once the pergola is built you can add the solar panel. Some kits include all the components you will need except the solar panels which are a separate purchase.
The first thing you have to do is plan the layout. Choose a location that is easily accessible and will receive plenty of sunlight. Don’t worry about the heat as the area will be covered by a roof. The roof should face true south and it must be slanted so the panels can absorb maximum sunlight.
Once you have the layout set, you can build the pergola and add the solar panel. There are DIY solar pergola kits available, but the contents vary. Some kits only contain the parts needed to build a pergola, but not the solar panel. You have to buy those separately. Other kits have the solar panel components but not the pergola.
Do some research and buy the kit that best suits your situation. If your house already has a pergola, you just need to install the solar panel. if not, choose the pergola type, the size, and other particulars. There are a lot of styles to choose from, including custom designs.
You can install a solar panel on aluminum or pressure treated wood, and the guarantee can be up to 25 years, matching that of the best solar panel warranties. How and where you install the pergola is a matter of personal preference. This is a freestanding structure so you can put it literally anywhere, like near the pool or any place of interest in your property.
Solar Pergolas vs. Patios vs. Gazebos
Technically these three are different. A pergola is a structure that provides covering for a patio, while a gazebo is an area in the garden reserved for seating.
When talking about solar panels however, a pergola, gazebo, patio plus carports and awnings, are all called solar pergolas or solar lounge. It is an all encompassing term that describes any structure where solar panels are installed besides the roof. If you have solar panels at home and it’s not on the roof, it is a solar pergola.
There are many reasons why solar pergolas are gaining popularity. One is aesthetics, these structures just look better with lights on. They don’t need a lot of space either, though not as small as solar fence lights. Once installed they work like regular lights except you save on electricity bills without compromising comfort.
Solar Rooftops vs. Solar Pergolas and Patios
Many people prefer rooftops for obvious reasons. It is the closest to the sun and provides ample space for the panels. They are easy to install and there are a lot of solar power companies that provide installation and cleaning services. In other words it is the most practical solution.
But there are cases where freestanding structures are ideal. Here are some instances.
Large Ground Structures. You have a large freestanding structure. It is enough for a 5kwh or 10kwh solar array. That is enough to power a house. Why bother putting a solar system on the roof when it is easier to do it on this pergola? If you own a large enough ground patio, it is easier to install than on the roof.
Space Limitations. If your roof has limited space, installing the panels on a pergola or patio can provide extra power. Or maybe you just need a bit of solar energy in the backyard. If a solar powered light bulb is insufficient, a small solar panel will do.
Optimum Angles. Solar panels have to face true south for maximum performance and the roof pitch has to be 30 to 45 degrees. If your roof meets neither requirement, you can install the panels on a freestanding structure provided it is large enough to meet your needs. Or you can install the panel on the roof but add more panels on the pergola for extra reserve.
Shade. Tree branches or other obstructions will reduce solar panel production, no matter how large it is. If there are blockings on your rooftop, installing the solar panels on ground structures might be more effective.
Ground Mounted Solar vs. Solar Pergolas, Patios and Gazebos
Ground mounted solar panels are appealing for many reasons. They are easier to install being on the ground, and fixing is quicker too. You don’t have to go up the roof to give it a good cleaning either. In terms of convenience it has the advantage over rooftops or pergolas.
There are two major drawbacks. One is being lower on the ground means lower output. There is no way a ground mount solar panel can match the output of a solar pergola, let alone a rooftop panel.
The even bigger disadvantage is the space requirement. You need sizeable land to install a solar panel big enough to run a house. You also have to get a permit from the local government before you can proceed with the installation. Unless you own a large land, ground mount solar panels is not an option.
The fact that you can install solar panels on freestanding structures says a lot about their versatility. Where to install solar panels is up to you, but the important thing is you have options and can decide what is best.