Solar Panel Pergolas & Patio Covers [All To Know About]
Did you know that solar panels must not be on the roof?
Our experience with solar roof mounts has led us to believe that this is the only way solar modules should be installed.
But what would you do if your roof is so complex that you can’t mount solar panels on it?
Would this be an excuse for missing out on the benefits of solar?
Definitely not, as there’re alternative structures such as your pergola or home patio where you can install your solar modules.
Now I know the question running in your mind right now. “Are solar panel pergolas or patio covers worth the investment?”
Here’s a quick answer:
If your primary roof can’t accommodate solar panels and you plan to build or already have a decent-sized pergola or patio, investing in a solar panel cover is worth it.
A solar panel pergola/patio cover will not only provide you with an innovative way of harnessing solar energy but also enhance the style and appearance of your home.
In this post, we’ll let you know what solar panel pergolas and patio covers are and how you can use them as an alternative method of generating solar power.
So, if you’re still unsure whether installing solar panels on your pergola or patio roof is a worthy investment, read through, and you’ll hopefully make a sound decision.
What is a Solar Pergola?
Before we move on to answering this question, it’s essential to first understand what a pergola is.
A pergola is an extension of the living space to the outdoors.
According to home design experts, there’s no better way to shade your lot or backyard than with a pergola.
In conventional pergolas, the roof structure is made of slats.
Back to the answer to the question at hand.
A solar pergola is a shading, weatherproofing, and power generating structure installed as a roof for a standard pergola. Solar pergolas are a more beneficial and practical alternative to conventional pergola roofs.
What is a Solar Patio Cover?
Similarly, let’s start defining by what a patio is:
A patio is a place where you get to relax and enjoy the luxury of your outdoor space at its best.
Unlike a pergola, a patio is usually meant to be a functional additional room where you and your family can dine and engage in recreational activities.
While it’s okay for a patio not to have a roof, you should consider installing one.
So, what is a solar patio cover?
A solar patio cover is a framework for solar panels installation that doubles as a roof for your patio.
It is very common for solar patio covers and solar pergolas to be used interchangeably since modern pergolas and patios have overlapping functions.
Now, let’s assume you’re considering installing a solar panel cover on an already existing pergola or patio; the next question you’d probably have is, what components do I need for the project?
Follow through this following topic to find out.
Solar panel pergola/patio kit
A typical solar pergola kit/patio should include the following items:
- Solar panels
- Top slats
- Pillar posts
- Support timbers
- Installation hardware
Additional items needed for the project:
- MPPT charge controller
How to install solar panels on a pergola or patio?
Of course, a pergola or patio is a must-have for this project. In case you don’t own any of these outdoor structures already, you should hire a contractor to build one first.
Regardless of whether you choose a patio or pergola, the final design should reflect your aesthetic tastes.
I know starting this project from scratch sounds like a hassle, but it’s actually an opportunity to build a perfect platform for the solar panels all at once.
After your structure has been constructed and you have your solar panels kit ready, here’s the installation process:
1. Choose the solar panels to support structure design
Before you mount your solar panels on your pergola or patio, you should choose the design of the support platform.
Here, you can go with an open or closed structure. With the latter, you should be able to view the solar panels from below, which from an aesthetics perspective, makes the space even more interesting.
2. Determine your module’s direction and install the support timbers
To get the most out of your solar panel cover, you should construct it facing south. Also, you need to lift the support timbers so that the solar panels tilt at a 30-45 degrees’ angle.
3. Install a slat below the support timbers (for closed structure only)
If you want a closed structure, install a slat layer below your support timbers such that the solar panels won’t be visible from below.
4. Fix your solar panels on the support timbers
Screw your solar panels on the supporting timber, and you should be almost done with this installation. Solar panels come with brackets and screws needed to mount them.
5. Wire your solar panels to the charge controller, inverter, and battery bank
At this stage, the remaining work should be to connect the solar panels together and to other components of the PV system such as the MPPT charge controller, inverter, and batteries.
This completes the system, and you can now enjoy producing solar power on your patio or pergola!
- All safety instructions related to working at height must be followed as well all building codes in your area when constructing a solar panel patio cover.
- When installing a solar panel pergola or patio cover, make sure that the design not only supports the solar panels but also the primary purpose of the space.
Now you may be wondering:
Is this project do-it-yourself-friendly? Learn more about this below.
Can a Solar Panel Cover Installation for a Pergola or Patio be DIY?
In reality, if you’re comfortable working at heights, you can build your own solar panel pergola or patio cover. However, you need to keep in mind that it’s not an easy task at all.
In the end, if you don’t understand electrical work, you may still need the help of a solar technician.
So, it’s best to leave this project to an experienced builder and a solar technician to avoid errors and unnecessary risks.
Are Solar Panel Pergolas or Patio Covers Worth it?
An excellent way to know whether a solar panel pergola or patio cover is a worthy investment is by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is a roof necessary for my existing pergola or patio?
- Is my patio or pergola of a standard size?
- Do I need solar panels to generate electricity at my home?
- Is the pergola or patio the only or an extra ideal location to install solar panels?
If the answers to these 4 questions are yes, then it makes sense to invest in a solar panel patio/ pergola cover.
While ideally, you could install a conventional roof on your patio, solar panels will give you way more benefits:
- They’ll produce energy that you can use instead of relying on the grid
- Your pergola or patio’s appearance will be upgraded
- You’ll have a shaded living or recreational area outdoors
So putting a solar panel cover on your patio or pergola is a brilliant idea.
To better understand the worthiness of this project, let’s explore what you should expect to spend for a solar panel pergola or patio cover.
Solar Panel Pergola/ Patio Cover Cost
A basic 10ft x 10ft solar pergola or patio should cost you around $1500 minus the solar panels to construct.
This translates to $15 per foot of the structure.
Considering that this area can accommodate around 12 standard-sized solar panels, and the cost per watt of solar panels is $3, the project’s total cost plus labor could stretch up to $4000.
This setup should save you approximately $70 off your power bill, which is undoubtedly a decent saving.
The average return on investment with a solar panel cover for a pergola/patio is around 8%
Transparent and Sliding Solar Panels for Pergola or Patio
One of the reasons why you may want to extend your living space outdoors is to tap into the health benefits of sunlight.
With transparent or sliding solar panels you can still enjoy the sunlight while on your patio or pergola.
Transparent photovoltaics with at least 15%-20% average light transmission is perfect for a pergola or patio.
Are Solar Pergolas/ Patio Covers Waterproof?
Solar panels are waterproof, so as long as the cover structure tilts properly, rain shouldn’t affect the module’s operation.
A side note: It’s important to invest in weatherproof patio/pergola furniture and fittings.
Can you add plants to a pergola/patio with a solar panel cover?
Adding plants to your patio will enhance its appearance and create consistency with the rest of your outdoor greenery.
Solar panels shouldn’t stop you from planting on your patio or pergola.
One thing to remember, though, is that you’ll need to be extra cautious with trimming so that the plants don’t overgrow and block light from reaching the solar panels.
Pros of Solar Panel Pergolas/ Patio Covers
You can add solar lights to your patio or pergola
The lighting options currently available for patios and pergolas are astounding, and you can easily use them to create a pleasant ambiance in your space at night.
When you have solar panels covering your outdoor living/recreational space, you’ll always have free electricity to power the lights.
Patios/ pergolas make the perfect spot for installing solar panels
A patio or pergola is usually built in the most well-lit area of your outdoor space. It’s, therefore, a smart decision to install solar panels as the covers for these outdoor structures. You’ll be able to produce optimum solar power even from a minimal area.
Extends the space to install solar panels
Sometimes, you may feel that you’re not producing enough solar power with your main roof’s solar module mount. Adding a solar panel cover to a patio in this situation would increase the amount of solar power you generate at your home.
Solar panels visually improve your pergola or patio
As mentioned earlier in this post, both a pergola and a patio are beautiful home additions. Installing solar panels as their roofs elevates the look even further. With the first glance at a perfectly installed solar pergola, you’ll just know that it’s quite a stylish feature that you’ve been missing on.
You’ll have a multipurpose roof on your patio
A solar panel cover on a patio will act as a visual addition, solar power generator and at the same time provide shade to the area. These extra benefits of solar panels make the entire investment worth it.
Cons of Solar Panel Pergolas/ Patio Covers
Not suitable for small patios or pergolas
Your solar panel installation area should be able to support a decent amount of solar panels. If you have a small roof area, installing solar panels on it would be impractical. Furthermore, too many panels crowded together may detract from the aesthetics of the space.
A new patio or pergola may be pricey
Unlike solar panel roof mounts where in most cases you usually have a roof already constructed, it may need you to build a patio or pergola to install the solar panel roof/cover. Well, this has its own pluses, but cost-wise, it can be unfavorable.
Your patio/pergola roof might have to be modified
If you already have a patio or pergola, high chances are that it’s flat-roofed. But for solar panels to harness optimum energy from the sun, they need to have a 30-45 tilt angle. Thus, if your pergola/patio has a flat roof, you will have to re-do it, which adds to the project’s cost.
Additional support may be needed
The extra weight of solar panels may necessitate the need to support your pergola or patio structure with extra pillars. As with altering the roof, this will add to the project’s cost as well.
Hopefully, I’ve got you unstuck with this whole thing of the investment worthiness of solar panel pergolas and patio covers.
Solar pergola shade structures and solar panel patio covers are a brilliant investment for anyone with a limited roof space or a roof that can’t accommodate solar modules.
Generally speaking, a solar panel cover for a patio or pergola will add value to your home.
While there are some cost constraints, especially if you are doing everything from scratch, the long-term benefits of solar panels qualify this investment as a wise one.
In case you need to learn more about solar power, don’t hesitate to check out our recent posts or recommended reads below.