Solar panels, when mounted on a building roof, not only generate electricity, but they also create a cooling effect, according to researchers from University of California, San Diego.
Quite a number of materials and methods have been explored to keep buildings cooler during the summer months. Energy efficient strategies include planting of trees, which cast a shadow and prevent the walls and roofs from overheating, or using various paints and roof membranes to reflect the incoming light.
Now, the team of scientists found one more way to help maintaining the temperatures of rooms a little lower. Using thermal imaging, the researchers conducted series of measurements in order to quantify the cooling effect of solar panels at various orientation angles. They established that the building ceiling was 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under solar panels than under an exposed roof.
The team also established that this cooling effect increases the amount of energy sold to the grid by 5%, resulting in equal discount on the price of the solar panels.
For best results, the scientists suggest that tilting the panels increases the cooling effect, as this creates an open gap between the panels and the building roof, allowing circulation of air. In addition, the higher the panels efficiency, the bigger the cooling effect.
The scientists do not claim that solar panels are more effective than reflective roof membranes or materials. They simply showed that this renewable energy technology has much more benefits than simply generating electricity.