Adding a solar carport to your home or business can be a quick and cost-effective way to go solar. What is a solar carport? It’s a regular carport with solar panels either built into the roof or installed as the roof. Solar carports tend to be less complicated than installing solar panels onto an existing roof and can often be done yourself if you have some building experience and electrical knowledge.
How solar carports work
Solar carports are standard car shelters – made of beams, posts, braces, etc. – with photovoltaic solar panels on top. The panels are connected to an electrical control panel, allowing you to use the electricity from the panels to power your carport, garage, or home. It’s essentially a ground-mounted solar system that’s raised.
You can use a solar carport at your home or business to reduce electricity bills by generating extra power. This could mean using the carport to power charging stations and electric vehicles, or installing a battery storage system to provide electricity to your home or office.
How to get the most out of a solar carport
One advantage of a solar panel carport is that it can be scaled to match your needs. A residential solar carport protects your car from weather damage and produces energy for your home. Pairing a solar carport with an electric vehicle charger is efficient and convenient, but you can use the power generated by your carport roof however you like.
Adding a commercial solar carport to a space like an office building or shopping center is a great way to maximize your business’s solar capability. Commercial solar carports are often combined with electric vehicle charging stations, but can also be used to offset power costs to the building. A solar carport is a great feature, whether or not you have electric vehicles.
Having a carport in general can be helpful. The structure shields vehicles from weather and debris damage. In cold climates, carports protect vehicles from snow accumulation. In hot weather, the shade keeps your car cooler, minimizing the power needed to cool it down with air conditioning. Additionally, bare pavement creates heat islands, which raise the temperature in surrounding areas. A carport can reduce the likelihood of a heat island on your property.
If you’re planning to install a carport anyway, it often makes sense to incorporate solar panels.
How much does a solar carport cost?
As with most things, the decision to add a solar carport often comes down to cost. How much does a solar carport cost? The short answer is: it depends. However, the price is usually competitive with that of a standard carport and may be more cost-effective than a separate rooftop solar installation.
The good news is, installing a solar panel carport tends to be more straight-forward than adding solar panels to your home’s roof. This is largely because it’s easy to customize the structure for optimal solar exposure. When planning a solar carport, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Will the structure be purpose-built as a solar carport or will you install solar panels onto an existing shelter? With an existing structure, you’ll need to select the solar panels best suited to the space. For a brand new solar carport, you can start with your desired solar specifications and customize the structure to match.
- If building a new carport, what are your coverage requirements? How many parkings spots will you need? Of course a commercial solar carport will require much more space than a residential solar carport.
- What are your power requirements? Knowing the size of the load you plan to power with your solar panels is key to determining how many panels you need.
- How much sun will your carport get? If there’s a lot of shade from surrounding trees or buildings, getting the sunshine required to generate enough electricity might be challenging. Custom-building a carport will allow you to choose the best angle relative to the sun.
- Account for the distance between the parking structure to the electrical control panel. The farther away the control panel, the trickier (and often more expensive) to connect all the parts of the solar system.
- Know your local codes and restrictions. If you don’t have experience with electrical panels and building structures, we recommend hiring a professional to help you. You may still be able to do a lot of the labor yourself if you want to cut expenses.
Payback period for a freestanding solar structure
A solar payback period is the length of time it takes for your electrical cost savings to offset the cost of the initial solar investment. The upfront cost of a solar carport might seem like a lot, but after the payback period you’ll be generating free electricity.
Payback period (in months) = project cost/monthly power savings
If you’re building a carport anyway, remember the solar cost is just the price difference between a solar roof and a non-solar roof. There are often state and federal rebates available for installing solar systems, which can offset the initial investment cost. If you use a professional solar company, they can help you calculate and understand your payback period.
Ongoing operation and maintenance
Once you’ve built your solar carport, operation and maintenance requirements tend to be minimal. Most solar panel systems don’t require regular adjustments or cleaning, though some people like to clear snow accumulation or occasionally clean the panels. Under normal circumstances, this is optional and you may be able to do it yourself. If a panel becomes damaged or stops producing as much electricity, repairs may be required.
Win with a switch to solar
If you’re considering a solar carport, there are plenty of design and solar panel options available so you can customize exactly what you want. By researching your local building codes and current solar rebates and incentives, you can maximize your cost savings. A solar carport can maximize the space you have available and allow your home, business, electric vehicles, and charging stations to run on clean energy. However you switch to solar, it’s likely to save you money in the long run.