Installing Thin Film Solar On Metal Roof – Easier Than Falling Off A Log

One of the latest innovations is thin-film photovoltaic (PV) laminate. Rather than requiring the heavy glass and unwieldy racks of previous systems, the peel-and-stick laminate simply adheres right onto the panels of a standing-seam metal roof. Requiring about 5-10 minutes installation time per panel, this solution is lightweight, quick and easy and demands considerably less labor than its predecessors.

The complete process is simple: Just apply the PV laminate, install the new roof panels and connect the output from the PV to an inverter, which changes the direct current to alternating current used in our homes. Then, just flip the switch! With the help of a few roofers and an electrician, your home can be solar powered in the course of an afternoon. And when you consider state and federal tax incentives, net metering and your savings in electricity costs, your new system is not only a boon to the environment, but will ultimately pay for itself and save you money. (via)

44 thoughts on “Installing Thin Film Solar On Metal Roof – Easier Than Falling Off A Log”

  1. While there have been some concerns in the past with delamination of the thin films from the metal roof panels, I think that great progress is being made in that area.

    Another interesting roof-related tip is that many metal roofs now have reflective pigments in their paint systems. In the past, to create a reflective or “cool” roof, you had to use white or something similar. Now, you can also get decent total solar radiation in dark colors.

  2. Would it make sense to have dual-current wiring in one’s home for all those DC power items? If you could modulate the voltage at the outlet, and modify your power cords to cut out those AC adapters (wall warts), wouldn’t you improve efficiency over going through the inverter to get AC and then through all those adapters to go back to DC?Obviously, you’d still need some AC, but I say use the DC if you’ve got it.

  3. Jay: Yes it would be more efficient to use DC with solar instead of going through an inverter to get AC. But most people are not willing to re-wire the home (not to mention how much it would cost), and buy a second DC version of all their stuff again.

    If however you were building an off grid house from scratch, and didn’t own any stuff then you could go DC from the start. It really just makes more sence (economically and other ways) to just use the inverter. Most new inverters are pretty efficient now and days.

  4. Dear Naib,
    The video was good. I am a house wife & an enthusiast .I wish to make one solar panel by making a thin film by simply spraying the material on a metal sheet. Please do help me by guiding me what things I need & where to purchase them. These days Im living in Sweden. Any help is welcom.

  5. Hi Bushra: These are not spray on cells, think of them like huge stickers. The back peals off and you stick them to the metal roof. If you already have a metal roof all you would have to do is buy the thin film solar panel stickers and put them on. I would suggest contacting a solar installer in your area and asking them about thing film solar laminates, or thin film solar shingles, or thin film solar in general.

  6. Please Mr. Todd Miller,
    Tell me more about the `total solar radiation paints`.In which countries they are available? I am in a world far far away from USA & Canada.

  7. I am sorry but I do not know. This technology started in the US maybe 8 – 10 years ago and has really caught on in the past 4 – 5. It is being driven by the major international pigment suppliers, Ferro and Shepherd. After them, it is being drive by major international paint producers including BASF, Akzo Nobel, and Valspar.

    My point is that I suspect that ultimately this technology is available in your country but it might take a little pulling.

    These are paint finishes that are pre-applied to the metal while still in coil form before it is formed into roofing panels.

  8. Dear Naib,
    How long do these thin films last, in third world countries where the atmospheric temp. is 54 degrees .

  9. The leading supplier of thin films is United Solar Uvonic. They can be contacted through their website

    I really do not know for sure what their life expectancy would be in your area. The main issue would be with adhesion to the base metal I believe.

  10. I’ve got a pond on my roof…
    The roofer says that’s ok… I say it’s not.
    A flat roof isn’t really flat… it’s got a grade to shed water..
    I’ve got a swimming pool, not just some ponding that evaporates
    after a day or two… it stays.

    I think it was a bad install, because there’s no grade to the drains…

    So my question is: is a flat roof really flat?

  11. I am Bushra, I want to go solar and want to play around with thin film. A new roof is not a financial option but I have plenty of land.

    Any thoughts on installing metal roof panels to plywood and then sticking the film and setting that up on the ground or a pole. Maybe paint the plywood and wrap it in Tyvek to keep it safe from water damage.



  12. Norm: I am sure you could install these panels on other surfaces than flat metal roof. You should contact the manufacture of the panel you plan on purchasing and ask them about mounting options.

  13. How effective are these in winter? Does snow accumulate on the roof and cause an inefficient harvest of energy? If snow does accumulate, could the thin-films be damaged with tools shovelling snow and ice off the roof?

    Also, how about increased risk of lightning being attracted to metal roofing? Could that potentially damage the cells?

  14. Indra: Because of the dark color, they tend to warm up a little in the winter and melt the snow off, so you don’t need to shovel them off. If you did want to clear them you would need to use something gentle (like a soft bristle broom) to wipe them down.

    I was not aware of metal roofs having an increased risk of lightning strike, but if lightning strikes your roof you are going to have a lot more problems than your damaged pv cells. But yes, lightning would damage them (and anything else). I don’t think metal roofs raise the risk of lightning strike in any significant way but I am no metal roof expert.

  15. Truly amazing! The ability to install an effective solar panel without taking up any extra space is very important.

    Lightning always strikes the highest point. Metal roofing doesn’t increase the chances. But if lightning were to strike, it would actually help due to fire resistance.

  16. I am new to this whole technology. But I was wondering how the laminate compares in efficiency to the regular solar grid panels offered by GE atc. Thank You ! , Daniel

  17. I have a four year old 30′ by 30′ (1170 sq ft) A-frame type house with a 45 degree pitch roof. One side of the shingled roof faces directly south. The house has hydronic radiant floor heating and is well insulated. It has an in-wall air conditioner on the upper loft level which provides adequate cooling. I would like to consider using solar PV to provide hydronic radiant floor and water heating and summer cooling.

    I have three questions:

    1. Would it be more cost effective to install a metal roof with thin film over the shingles or install traditional PV panels over the shingles?

    2. The house is located about 200 feet from a 1/3 acre pond which is up to 16 feet deep. Would I get an energy gain by using a geothermal heat pump to extract/reject energy from/to the pond in conjunction with solar PV? Or would it be more efficient to use the solar PV energy directly for heating the water and running the A/C?

    3. Would it be more efficient to install DC powered water heater and A/C units to bypass convertors? Is a dual DC/AC system feasible? The house is on the grid and excess energy could be exchanged if the right system were installed.

    Thank you.

  18. To Roger:

    1: It would be cheaper to install regular PV panels over shingles, but when those shingles go bad, you will have to remove the entire solar array. Also your solar guy will not warranty against roof leaks.

    If you go with metal roof, you will not have to worry about re-roofing and leaks and UniSolar Pv shoul last over 25-30 years with acceptable power output.

    2: Definitely, Geothermal and Solar are a great combination, and if you have enough solar capacity (about 5-6 kW) you can actually get to Net-Zero usage of not only electricity but also in heating/cooling.

    3: Heating with solar electricity is out of the question – it’s too inefficient and expensive.

    Go with solar hot water – much cheaper and more efficient. You can have it mounted on the ground if you run out of roof space.

    Once again, solar electricity is too expensive to use for any type heating.
    Instead you can sell excess power for REC … but with geothermal, you should not need to sell – you’ll use all of your power.

    If there is not enough room on your roof for all of 5-6 kW, you can once again use a ground-mounted array. Just make sure you don’t mix panels from different manufacturers in the same string. If you have two types of panels – unisolar on a roof and lets say evergreen solar on the ground, connect them in two strings to 2 different inverters. This way you will get maximum efficiency and output.

    Good Luck.

  19. So do I have to attach it to metal? could i maybe glue it between pieces of lexan? how much juice/sq. foot? if i have to attach it to a conductor could i use mylar with the vapor deposition metalic coating to conduct it?
    I’m trying to reduce my footprint trying to get high efficientcy windows, plan on shooting the whole double wide trailer i live in with 4 inches of soythane…pricey but once i coat the roof i need to cover with insulating sno-roof membrane can I stick down the film with this membrane? or do I need a metal surface? please help, thanks…


  21. Excellent read. Our company specializes in standing seam metal roof installations and we’ve seen increased demand for that kind of roofing system simply because it works so well with photovoltaic laminates and solar roofing in general. Excellent investment that more and more homeowners are interested in.

  22. I am building a 24X24 remote cabin and want to install a thin-film off-grid PV solar system. Besides the membrane, inverter for 110v, and batteries, what other components do I need? How do I size it? And, what cost am I looking at?

  23. Make sure you don’t plant anything too close to restrict the airflow of the unit. Also think about removing the cover and dealing with that separately away from the obstruction.

  24. Thanks for sharing this article. We specialize in metal roofing in NJ and Bucks County PA. Metal Panels are more expensive than traditional shingles but they are energy efficient and they also increase the house value.

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