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Study: Solar panels for added insulation

19th Jul 2011

Research has shown that solar panels can help insulate your home.

The report comes from Jan Kleissl, professor of environmental engineering at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The study is believed to be the first of its kind and will be published in the journal Solar Energy.

Kleissl's team of researchers used thermal imaging to measure the temperature of a ceiling beneath an array of solar panels.

It was then compared to the temperature readings of a roof without a solar panel system.

The results were promising for those looking for ways to reduce the cost of heating and cooling their homes year-round.

Temperature readings showed that the roof with the solar panel array remained five degrees Fahrenheit cooler during the day.

Normally the roof would be exposed to the sun without a buffer zone and the resulting heat would be transferred through the ceiling into the rooms below.

The cooling effect is greater if there is a gap between the panels and roof as it allows for wind to move freely through the space and carry along extra heat with it.

Over the course of three days, the panels caused a 38 per cent reduction in heat.

The panels also helped retain heat during the night.

Kleissl says: “If you are considering installing solar photovoltaic, depending on your roof thermal properties, you can expect a large reduction in the amount of energy you use to cool your residence or business."

The potential benefits are the icing on the cake for those who are already reaping the benefits of solar power in the home.

Kleissl's study calculated the cost saved on cooling to be the equivalent of receiving a five per cent discount on the cost of the photovoltaic system of the course of its life.

Consumers won't have to change the way they install solar power systems, as the roof is already the most common place to position them.

Kleissl's team says that with further research, his team would be able to create a user-friendly model used for calculating the cooling effect solar panels would have on their homes, tailored to the climate in their region.

As more and more consumers adopt solar power systems in their homes and businesses, the future looks bright for clean energy.

Systems currently used to heat and cool, such as reverse cycle air conditioning in houses can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

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