There are some gaps with SolarGaps

Posted by in News, on May 31, 2017

We have had a few people ask about SolarGaps (https://solargaps.com), a new product that turns windows blinds into solar panels.

Here are some things to consider about this product:

Price

The kickstarter price for a “medium” sized blind is $735 (USD).  This is about the same size as a standard 60-cell module which we sell for about $240 (CDN).  So you are paying over 3 times as much for this product.

Performance

Even the company promoting this product admits you are going to cut production in half by mounting it behind a window.  There is also the matter of the shading from the window frame.  And in general there is also more shading from trees and other buildings at the window level than on the roof.   So the blinds will likely produce significantly less power than a roof-top system.

Integration

Photovoltaic cells, like those in the blinds or any panel, produce DC electricity with variations in voltage and current.  In order to use the power you usually need additional equipment.

Some of the information from SolarGaps seems to suggest you can charge a cell phone or tablet directly from the their product.  However, if this is the only thing you are using them for then much of the power would be wasted when you are not charging your devices.

If you want to power other loads or connect it to your home’s electrical circuits you will need an inverter.  This will cost extra.  SolarGaps seems to suggest they will offer an inverter as part of some of their packages but no details are given on the inverter.  It doesn’t seem like their system would work standard off-the-shelf inverters. If you want to tie it into your home’s circuitry the inverter will need to have the proper certification.  And the electrical code requires that you tie it directly into your electrical breaker panel with the proper wiring and disconnects.  This can add significantly to the cost and may not be possible to do if you are renting an apartment.

But I Live in an Apartment!

The SolarGaps products seem to be promoted as alternative for renters and apartment dwellers.  However, given the complexity of connecting it to your home’s circuits it really probably will not be used for more than charging your portable devices.  If that is what you want to do you would probably be better off buying a less expensive portable solar panel from your local outdoor store.

If you want to “own” solar energy you could join a cooperatively owned community solar project like SolShare.  You will bet a better ROI from them then you will from buying SolarGaps.

Conclusion

If you compare the total system costs per unit of energy generated a rooftop solar array will generally be much better than SolarGaps.   It will also generate more power for the same amount of area

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