Roof Mounts for Solar Panels
A solar panel roof mount (also called a solar racking mount or solar system mount) will hold your solar panels and system in place. The mounting system is a crucial component because it is responsible for securing and stabilizing the solar panels on your roof without compromising the roof’s stability or water tightness.
You want to be completely confident that you have selected a mounting system that can stand up to harsh weather and other factors. Your roof mount is one of the most important ways to protect your investment in solar energy.
The Rundown on Solar Racking: Everything You Need to Know
Solar racking is an essential part of any solar energy system. It is the system that holds the solar panels in place on your roof and ensures they are secure and stable. If you’re considering installing a solar energy system for your home, it’s important to understand the basics of solar racking and how it works. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with an overview of what solar racking is and the different types of solar racking systems available. We’ll also discuss how to choose the best system for your needs.
Solar racking, also known as PV racking. is the process of mounting solar panels to a structure. This can be a roof, a ground-mounted system or even a pole mount. Solar racking involves choosing and installing the components and systems needed to support and secure your solar array. The type of racking system you need will vary depending on the size and design of your solar array and the installation location. Solar racking systems are designed to withstand different environmental conditions, including wind, rain and snow. They must also provide an adequate amount of support and stability to ensure your solar array remains in place.
- Roof Mounting
- Ground Mounting
- Side of Pole Mounting
- Top of Pole Mounting
Roof mounts are the most common type of PV racking and can be mounted directly onto your roof or onto an independent racking structure. Depending on the roof type and size, different mounting systems may need to be used, such as clamping, ballasting, and rail systems. In addition, roof mount systems can also be adjusted to accommodate different roof pitches and tilt angles. which helps maximize the performance of your solar system.
Which Solar Panel Roof Mount Solutions are Best?
altE offers the following high quality solar panel mounting and racking solutions from top brands:
IronRidge Roof Mounting System
IronRidge is well known for its XR Rails, which are used for their roof mounting systems and ground mounting systems as well. IronRidge offers an easy-to-use Design Assistant tool to help you list out which parts you need for your racking system.
For their roof mounting system, you will need to:
1) Choose your XR Rail:
XR10 Rail Select Clear: 14′, 17′
- Low-profile rail- no snow areas
- Up to 6′ spanning capability
- Light/Moderate load capability
XR100 Rail Select Clear: 11′, 14′, 17’Select Black: 11′, 14′,17′
- Std. residential mounting rail
- Up to 8′ spanning capability
- Heavy load capability
XR1000 Rail Select Clear: 11′, 14′, 17′
- Heavyweight mounting rail
- Up to 12′ spanning capability
- Extreme load capability
Need Splices? Select: XR10, XR100, XR1000
- Use internal splices for a seamless, bonded connection that extends rail length
And Endcaps? Select: XR10, XR100, XR1000
- Endcaps provide a finished look to rails, while protecting the collection of water and debris inside the rail
2) Choose the appropriate Clamps Grounding:
Midclamps Select: Clear, Black
- Universal Fastening Object UFO
- Bonds the modules to the rails
Endclamps Shop: Stopper Sleeves or CAMO
- Stoppers snap onto a UFO
- Turns into a bonded endclamp
- Sized to module frame width
- NEW- CAMO Universal Endclamp fits all modules
Grounding Shop: Lugs and Straps
- Only one grounding lug per row
- Microinverter bonding kit
- Grounding strap for rows over 50ft
3) Lastly, don’t forget your Attachments:
Flashing Select: Mill, Black
- FlashVue. superior waterproofing
- Conduit Mount for flashing conduit, strut, or junction boxes
- Bonding hardware sold separately
Slotted L-Feet Select: Mill, Black
- Drop-in design for Rapid and secure rail attachment
- Bonding hardware sold separately
Tilt Mounts Shop: Tilt Leg Kits
- Tilt Mounts for flat roofs
Tamarack Flush Roof Mount System Kits
Tamarack Solar offers economical and robust mounting kits that are UPS-able. They also produce ground mounts, top-of-pole mounts, and side-of-pole mounts. Their roof mount kits consist of:
- All the parts needed for a 4- or 8-panel roof mount installation. all in one UPS-able kit
- Easy wire management where all system wiring fits inside the rails
- Universal clamps that fit a variety of solar panel frame thicknesses, from 30mm to 40mm
- Different kit versions for light to heavy snow/wind loads
Solar Stack Adhesive Roof Mount System
Check out the rail-less and roof penetration-free flush and tilt mount option from Solar Stack that uses a polyurethane foam that adheres to both a huge variety of roof types and the strictest building codes in North America. This mounting system is ideal in wet climates and is rated to withstand conditions even in High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZs) such as South Florida and Puerto Rico.
- No roof penetrations
- No rails needed. panels attach directly to mounts
- No mechanical attachments or ballast systems needed
- Simply prime, spray foam, and place mounts
- Use 12 mounts in coastal areas and other wind zones
Flashing and L-Feet
IronRidge Roof Mount Rails
Solar Stack Adhesive Roof Mounts
Tamarack Solar Roof Mounts
Info on Roof Mounts for Solar Panels
A roof mounting system may require the following items:
- Rails. to provide a platform for mounting the modules
- Splices. to connect rails as needed
- Mid clamps. to be located between each module
- End clamps. to secure the end of last module
- L-feet or standoff. to secure the rail to the roof
- Flashing. to prevent water leakage
- Grounding lugs. to run the grounding wire
What Are Solar Panel Mounting Rails?
Solar Panel Mounting Rails are a metal rail that protect solar panels against buckling while safely and efficiently transferring loads from the ground up into the structure. Solar panels experience countless extreme weather conditions throughout their lifetimes. High winds capable of tearing off roofs and snow falls heavy enough to bend metal frames are two weather examples your solar panels may have to deal with.
Their superior spanning capability means they require fewer roof attachments, which reduces the number of roof penetrations and the amount of installation time.
Why You Need Clamps Grounding
Clamps. The module clamps connect the roof attachments to the mounting rail. There are several different types of clamps for each angle and corner on the solar panels.
- For mid clamps. the number of mid clamps required is equal to one fewer than the number of modules on each row.
- For end clamps. four are required for each row as end clamps are going to be attached to both ends of each of the two rails.
Grounding. It’s extremely important to ground your solar panels and your equipment when you’re installing a solar power system. If you experience a lot of lightning storms in your area, grounding your solar system could help prevent damage to your system. Furthermore, the NEC requires that all equipment be electrically bonded and connected to the grounding system to ensure the safety of anyone that might come in contact with a dangerous fault current.
Finding The Right Mounts for Your Solar Panel Installation
Still unsure about which mounting option is right for your project? At altE, our team is always happy to help – and with our extensive expertise, we can recommend options for even the most complex or unusual of setups. Call us today for a free quote for roof mounts for your solar system at 877-878-4060.
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Solar Ballast Mounting System
SunRack ballast mounting system adopts foldable triangular to save cost both on installation and transportation. Non-penetration to rooftop.
- Item No.: SFS-FR-02
- payment: L/C T/T
- product origin: Fujian,China
- color: Natural or Customized
- shipping port: Xiamen
- lead time: 15
Solar Ballast Mounting System
SunRack SFS-FR-02 ballast mounting system adopts foldable triangular to save cost both on installation and transportation.It is a modular structure,which can be expanded from one module to any scale while maximizing the roof usage.Our professional engineer will propose the size and weight of ballast for the project you are involved
Installation Site: Flat Roof
Applicable Orientation: Landscape
Material: Aluminum, stainless steel
Warranty:10 years on material
A Full Commitment To Quality
Top material, quality craftsmanship and easy installation design, supported by senior engineers with comprehensive and in-depth mounting industry experience and garanteed with a 10-year limited parts warranty
Different types of roof mounts
Flush mounts are the first type of roof mount that we will cover. They are an inexpensive and a simple option suitable for most roof-mounted solar panel installations. They are generally not adjustable, and as the name suggests, they are designed to lay flush with the roof surface on which they are mounted. The solar panels are generally secured using metal clips that hold the panel in place, leaving about 2-4 inches of space between the roof and bottom of the panel. This allows for plenty of airflow along the underside of the panel, which keeps the panel cool and operating at maximum efficiency. If a panel overheats, its efficiency drops and so does its life.
These mounts are great for homeowners, less so for business owners. Roof mounts in general aim to protect your roof as well as the solar panel itself. The flush mount reduces wind load on the solar panels. Flush mounts are ideal for reducing the dead load on your roof, they work for any type of system, are suitable for high wind areas, there is room for flexibility in the panel slope and orientation and they provide minimal interference with roof drains.
They are not without faults though. Depending on the type of roof you have, installing a flush mount could require a roof penetration (penetrations are not required normally), which will increase the risk of roof leakage.
Ballasted mounts are similar to flush mounts, but use weights to hold the solar panels in place on your roof. This design can save labor time and costs, but presents an additional challenge of getting the weights onto the roof, which can be quite substantial when dealing with larger systems. Ballasted mounts do not require roof penetrations, are faster and cheaper to install and allow for a panel tilt of up to 20 degrees for optimal solar exposure. However, this mount increases the load on your roof, has lower power density, and is less suitable for high-wind areas. They are limited by certain site conditions like roof slope and building height.
There are also hybrid mounts, which you can probably guess are a combination of flush mounts and ballasted mounts. They use some structural elements of both mounts to accommodate some roofs that can’t support either. Hybrid mounts require minimal roof penetration, can be fast to install (depending on the model) and allows for custom design optimization based on factors like load bearing and wind. These mounts are typically more expensive and can take up more space on your roof, leaving less room for your system.
Roof-ground mounts are similar in design to normal ground mounts, but are able to sit on your roof. Depending on the type of roof you have, this may be better than a flush mount. Roof-ground mounts have the ability to come adjustable or fixed for maximum solar exposure throughout the year.
Roof mounts are optimal when your home or building has sufficient space for all of the solar panels that you require. They also have the option of being fixed or adjustable and can also be installed with a solar tracker. Solar trackers are an automated system that allows your panels to track the sun’s path throughout the day for optimal solar exposure and collection. However, while solar trackers do increase efficiency and reduce manual upkeep of your panels, they are not commonly used due to the hefty increase in total cost and the addition of another moving part that potentially break down and cause problems for your array.
Mounting your solar panels
As stated before, for the purposes of this article we will be focusing on roof mounts. Whether you have chosen a flush or roof-ground mount, the racks(the rails on which the solar panels sit) need to be mounted to your roof. These are generally mounted in rows across the length of your roof.
There are a few things you must know before installing your panels:
- Type of roof surface (Spanish tiles, flat gravel, concrete tiles, asphalt shingles, etc.)
- Length and width of the array space
- Number of rows needed
- Thickness of the roofing material between the mount itself and the rafters of the roof
- Distance between the beams of the roof
Overall, the potential problems that come with racking and mounting your solar panels have nothing to do with the weight of the system and what that does to your roof structurally. With the proper racks, mounts and installation, your roof will have no trouble handling the load. The main concern is the solar panels catching strong winds and flying off of your roof, taking a chunk of the roof with it. As long as the racks and mounts are installed properly though, this isn’t a problem. Most, if not all, mounts are rated to withstand wind speeds up to 150 mph.
Leaking roofs are another large area of concern many people have when installing solar panels, but again, if the install is done correctly, leaking roofs should never be a problem. There are some cases of rain water seeping into the penetrated area of the rafters, but flashing the penetrated area, which simply involves covering the area with a metal plate to make it water-tight, can prevent this. On top of that, a sealant is also placed around the penetrated area for additional protection against the elements. These sealants generally last longer then the solar systems themselves, up to 50 years for high-grade sealants.
The actual mount itself is a clamp that is attached to the rail and clamps the solar panel down against the rail, securing it in place. There are a few different types of clamps, and the best fit depends on the type of roof (flat or pitched) and the type of shingles.
Standard roof mounts and attachments
The standoff penetration is a standard attachment that is best used on flat roofs that are pitched, comp shingle or tile. Roofs with tile or thick roofing material will likely require a standoff. The 4-hole base is meant to be used with TGI rafters and can accommodate up to a 10 inch standoff. HD standoffs are used on flat roofs where there is a lot of built-up foam installation and a taller standoff is required. The L-foot with base and flashing (displayed in the image at right) is recommended for simple, flush mounts to a roof with composition shingles only. Finally, there are standoff tilt kits that allow for 10. 45 degree tilts of your solar panels. Depending on the roof type, it may require a combination of these components to achieve the optimum conditions.
For metal, non-standard roof styles, there are a few options to consider. The metal roof seam clamp attaches an L-foot or PV module directly to a commercial grade standing seam metal roof without penetrating the metal. The corrugated roof block allows attachment (displayed in the image at left) of the L-foot directly to a structural member covered with a corrugated metal roof without collapsing or crushing the ridge in the metal roof material. The new metal roof base provides a robust self-sealing mounting base for common corrugated metal roof profiles. The base seals to the roof with an integral EPDM Rubber Washer and a sealing top cap. This new base assembly kit has been tested to withstand over 4,000 lbs. of uplift force(from strong winds, for example). Finally, the hanger bolt clamp allows a versatile installation on roof surfaces that won’t allow L-feet or stand-offs.
Array edge screen and accessories
The array edge screen(or critter guard) is designed to keep birds, squirrels and other small animals from making their homes under your solar panels. These screens are attached to the sides of fixed solar panels secured by a flush mount and are made from vinyl-coated steel mesh screening that can be adjusted to fit many different height variations. The mesh screen is rugged enough to keep even the most persistent creatures out.
Some accessories for your solar panels include splice kits, which allow you to attach two lengths of rail together to create a strong single support. Rail end caps cover the ends of the rails to create a seamless line to the end of the array. Rail covers provide a complete wire management solution and a clean look to an installation. Channel nuts snap into the rail and provide a mounting location for a standard bolt. Finally, the microinverter attachment kit includes all of the hardware needed to attach microinverters to a system.
Beatriz Santos joined pv magazine in 2020. She wrote about new technology, RD, installations, markets, and policy on the global website.