Renewable energy has posed problems and solutions for interior designers for decades now.
Issues of space, aesthetics and cost have often been contested by the appeal of future-proofing and sustainability, but how can the modernised energy-saving approach of utilising solar panels strike a satisfactory balance with both the beauty and practicality of creating a functional living space?
1. Finding solar power
Solar panels may traditionally take an external form, but their influence can certainly be felt in interiors. By embracing the technology, homeowners are not only able to allow much more natural light into the house, but their heating and cooling systems are generally more effective, air is purer, and this doesn’t even take into account how much lower energy bills will be.
But buildings powered by solar energy can be much less effective on inner-city properties. The UN estimated back in 2016 that nearly 55% of the world’s population were housed in cities, and with countless high-rise structures and smog, there are significant challenges for bringing solar power into the home due to obstructions.
This is a sizeable problem for interior designers keen to maximise natural light. How can one utilise natural light sources when doing so is a challenge in itself?
While this is a problem that varies from case-to-case, one increasingly popular solution is through placing solar panels in alternative areas than on the property’s roof.
Wall-mounted panels are an excellent solution for buildings that are blocked out of sunlight for long periods of the daytime. They can also potentially be exciting from an interior design perspective, with some panels taking the form of Venetian-style blinds while others are built to look like translucent boards of colour that can tint natural light coming into the building.
Wall mounted panels are also highly practical for far northern and southern hemisphere locations. For example, homes in New York can expect to gather more energy on average from wall-mounted panels than its roof-based counterparts due to the lower position of the sun throughout the day.
The scalability and adaptability of panels in populous areas can pave the way for great creative solutions for designers looking to maximise the potential of their interiors through renewable energy.
2. Making solar panels beautiful outside and in
A key problem for both architects and designers is how to make solar panels beautiful – and it’s often not an easy task.
There’s no getting away from how much of an eyesore solar panels can be if they’re installed onto a contrasting backdrop. This is particularly pertinent if the home has red-brick roofs.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, and more bespoke solutions are available that have the power to heavily influence design both inside and outside of a home.
Both Forward Labs and Tesla have been at pains to make solar panelling pretty, and their bespoke solutions involve embedding the renewable sources into environmentally an environmentally friendly roof. Both company’s solar roof constructs make the tops of their homes appear to belong, with contrasting light and dark designs that are complemented by a similar interior theme.
When it comes to energy saving in this day and age, there are more discreet, more decorative options than ever before. The Technical Research Centre of Finland, for example, has developed organic solar panels that are customisable and lightweight enough to be placed just about anywhere discreetly – whether that may be on windows, walls, machines or billboards.
One example of these organic solar panels takes the form of a leaf, and there’s even scope for graphics to be printed on one side of the device to maximise its visual appeal.
3. Solar water heating
To maximise the long-term savings of solar power, it’s useful for homeowners to equip their property with a sun-powered water heater.
This poses more issues for interior designers who may need to accommodate the larger water tanks and meters to ensure that the alternative energy system is running smoothly.
The extra machinery may lead to the compromising of space to work with, and both devices will need to be placed with good accessibility for regular check-ups.
Once again, this enables interior designers to think creatively about their use of space and the ability to place sustainable technology in a position that allows homeowners to give it the attention it needs while avoiding the prospect of diminishing the beauty of a room.