How to Ensure Your Roof is Ready Before Installing Solar Panels
homes in the US are powered by solar energy, and that number is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. In a place like California, where sunshine is abundant and energy costs are high, homeowners have more incentive to invest in solar panels.
If you’re considering joining the growing ranks of homeowners taking advantage of renewable energy, you must first ensure your roof is up to the task. After all, your roof is the foundation for any installation, and the success of your solar panel system depends on it.
This article will provide an overview of what you need to know before installing solar panels on your roof. We’ll cover the importance of making sure your roof is up for the job and what kind of preparation needs to be done.
Why are Solar Panels Installed on Roofs?
a study conducted at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, solar panels deflect around 38% of heat, reducing the temperature of the roof by about 5 degrees.
This has a cooling effect on your home, making it more comfortable during the hot summer months.
Why Solar Panel Companies Require Roof Cleaning Before Installation
require you to clean the roof before the installation begins.
Schedule an appointment with a trusted roof-cleaning company before installing solar panels. This will make the process go smoother – and will help to protect your roof from contaminants after the panels are installed.
The Main Requirements of a Solar-Ready Roof
The Condition of Your Roof
A successful solar panel installation starts with preparation. A clean and structurally sound roof makes for an efficient installation process – whereas a damaged roof can lead to malfunctioning panels, which decreases energy output. Any structural issues need to be addressed before installing your solar panels.
Getting your roof assessed by a professional is essential to eradicate biological growth and keep your roof structurally sound.
Talk to an expert to analyze your roof and make sure it’s fit for solar panels. Failing to do this could potentially lead to more expensive problems down the road.
The Square Footage
One of the first things to consider when planning for your solar panel installation is the size of your roof. You must ensure that your roof meets the minimum square footage requirement to accommodate solar panels. On average, solar panels have dimensions of 65 by 39 inches.
Based on California’s total energy per capita data, you can expect to install anywhere from 8-20 panels. The number of panels you’ll need depends on the square footage of your home and the amount of power you use per hour. You can calculate the number of solar panels.
Building codes often require open roof pathways to access the components of solar panel installations and make repairs. Your roof should be large enough to accommodate these pathways.
A qualified solar panel professional will determine if your roof has enough square footage to meet your energy needs.
The Age of Your Roof
When it comes to transitioning to solar, many homeowners don’t think about the age of their roofs. The age and structural integrity of your roof is the most important things to consider before installing your solar panel system.
The average lifespan of a well-maintained roof varies based on the type of roofing material, but it usually falls between 20-50 years. Older roofs are more prone to structural damage and other issues that may hinder the installation process.
Homeowners with older roofs should have a professional inspect their integrity before installing solar panels. In some cases, a roof may need to be completely replaced, and it’s essential to address any issues before the installation process begins to avoid the need to remove and reinstall the solar panels down the road.
For those with asphalt roofs that are over a decade old or for those unsure of their roof’s condition, it’s recommended to have a full inspection done to ensure that your roof is suitable for solar panel installation.
Common roofing materials for solar panel installation include metal and asphalt. Asphalt shingles are the most popular material used in installations due to their suitability for solar panels. It’s also relatively simple and cost-effective to install, requiring no specialized equipment.
Solar panel installation on tile and slate roofs requires careful consideration. While clay tile and some slate roofs can last hundreds of years, installation can be more expensive.
The Amount of Shade Your Roof Gets
Solar panels need direct sunlight to produce maximum energy, and in California, they perform best when facing south or southwest. The amount of shade your roof receives can affect the placement of your solar panels.
Shade reduces solar panel performance. Even if only a part of the solar panel is shaded, it can cause problems for the entire system’s energy production.
It’s important to avoid shade from fixed obstructions like trees, chimneys, or nearby buildings. If possible, the panels can be placed out of the direct shade in the planning process. Shade from clouds, snow, or dust is temporary and less predictable.
Fortunately, the levels of snow and cloudiness are generally low in most areas of California.
If you have any concerns relating to shade on your roof, consult with a qualified solar energy professional. They will evaluate any possible issues related to the shade on your roof and give you recommendations on how to address them.
Over to You
The popularity of solar energy in the United States continues to grow – with no signs of slowing down. In California, homeowners are incentivized to invest in solar, and for a good reason: solar panels are an excellent way to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, and have a self-sustaining source of power.
Placing solar panels on your roof is the perfect way to leverage California’s abundant sunshine. Before installing solar panels, however, you must ensure that your roof is fully prepared.
To ensure an effective and long-lasting solar panel system, your roof should be freshly cleaned and free of issues like mold, rust, and dark shading. Pacific Exterior provides professional roof cleaning services in Northern California.
If you’re ready to take the first steps in preparing your roof, schedule a cleaning service appointment with Pacific Exterior today.
Before you install solar panels, consider requesting a roof inspection to make sure it can withstand installation, especially if the roof is towards the end of its life. If your roof is between five and 10 years from needing replacement, it’s a good idea to get an expert out there to assess.
Most solar companies don’t offer roofing services, although there are some exceptions. Either way, roof work is commonly performed alongside a solar installation and your solar contractor likely has good referrals for roofers in your area – they may even be able to get you a discount on your roof replacement.
If your installer determines that your roof should be replaced prior to going solar, it’s a Smart move to do so. Solar panels are more durable than most roofing materials – so, when you pair solar with a roofing installation, the panels actually extend the lifetime of the portion of the roof that they cover.
The other benefit of pairing solar and a roof replacement together is that if you’re installing on a new roof, it’s unlikely you’ll need to re-roof during the lifetime of the system. This can help save you money in the long run because you’ll avoid the costs associated with removing and reinstalling the solar panels on your roof.
How much does a roof replacement and solar panel installation cost?
In the case that you do need to replace your roof prior to installing solar panels, you’re likely wondering how much your solar panel installation will cost. The average cost to install a new solar system in 2022 is 20,000 before rebates and incentives (like the federal tax credit), based on EnergySage Marketplace data. The average cost to replace a roof is about 10,000, according to This Old House. Therefore, you can expect an average new solar system installation and roof replacement to cost about 30,000. However, you may be able to knock a significant amount off of that price if you opt to combine the two larger costs. You can save up to 30 percent off of your new solar system with the federal tax credit and may be able to receive discounts on the roofing costs if your local roofing contractors or solar installers have partnership agreements to offer customer discounts.
If you run into a roofing issue and need to replace your roof post-installation, there will be labor costs associated with taking the panels off your roof and putting them back on. Unfortunately, it’s hard to give specifics on the costs associated with this labor, as it can vary greatly. Installers will have different rates for their labor and the cost can also vary based on the size of the system, how many panels will need to be removed, and whether you need a place to store the equipment.
If mounting hardware also needs to be removed in order to replace your roof, this will add onto the cost. On average, residential installations tend to cost somewhere between 450,500 to 6,000 to remove and reinstall. (This is not inclusive of the cost required to replace your actual roof.)
If re-roofing post-installation is a concern for you, it’s always good to ask your potential installer how often they do this type of work, and the typical cost associated with it. Some companies will actually specify a price for this in your initial contract, and it never hurts to request this from your company prior to installation.
Do solar installation warranties cover the roof?
Roofing issues caused during the installation process or overtime are uncommon, but many solar installation companies often have warranty coverage for your roof where the panels are located in case you need a roof repair. Many companies do this because it’s common for existing roofing warranties to become void if you’re installing solar, at least for the portion of the roof where your system is installed.
The typical duration of this type of warranty is 10 years, but it can vary from company to company. Before you sign a contract, confirm with your installation company whether they warranty the roof and the duration of that warranty.
Solar Panels on Flat Roofs: What You Need to Know
Do solar panels on flat roofs work? If you’re keen on investing in renewable, clean, and green solar energy, you do not have to let a flat roof keep you from installing a solar panel system.
So, can solar panels be installed on flat roofs?
Absolutely yes! As long as your roof is in good condition and no large obstructions are blocking the sunlight and diminishing your energy output.
This is excellent news for most American homeowners who prefer flat roofs. However, it would call for some adjustments.
Read on to understand the pros and cons of solar panels on flat roofs.
The Advantages of Flat Roofs for Solar Panel Installation
Maximize Solar Panel Output
This is good news for you whether you use renewable energy on a domestic or commercial scale. How so?
Solar engineers need to consider the angle of the roof and its orientation when installing solar panels on sloping roofs. In addition, PV panels will produce much less than the desired output if the roof faces east, north, or west.
However, on flat rooftops, you have the freedom to adjust the angle of your solar panel system, so it faces between south and west. You can ensure it aligns with the latitude of your geographic location too.
Since this is the ideal location for any solar panel, you can derive better output from your set-up than you would from a slanting roof not facing the right direction.
Lower Installation Costs
The total cost of installing solar panels typically ranges from 12,000 to 30,000. Of this 10% – 15% account for labor and installation costs. These costs are lower on a flat roof since it is safer and easier to access without the need for safety equipment.
Compared to a slanted roof, there are significantly fewer chances of men or material falling off the roof during installation.
Ease of access and low installation costs aside, another major advantage of a flat roof is it can withstand the wear and tear of the installation process better than a sloping roof.
There is no danger of damaging the roof, unlike in a slanted roof where the shingles may come off.
Solar panels on flat roofs are not easily visible from the street. This will help maintain the overall aesthetic value of your home.
Considering all these factors, flat roofs make a compelling case for mounting solar panels. However, they are not entirely without cons.
You Cannot Overlook These Challenges
There are some major disadvantages when laying solar panels on flat roofs. These include:
Finding the Right Solar Panel Installer
This will be among your biggest challenges. When it comes to a slanted roof, solar panels can be laid flat against it. But the same cannot be said for flat roofs. Since angled mounts allow for better exposure to sunlight and optimum energy output, it will require specialized equipment to mount solar panels at an angle on a flat roof.
Unfortunately, not all companies are equipped to install solar panels on flat roofs.
Voiding of Warranty
Laying solar panels on flat roofs may render the manufacturer’s warranty void. Some companies declare their warranty void if you do not follow their installation instructions to the tee. And in most cases, installing solar panels on flat roofs is prohibited.
This is because water tends to get accumulated on flat panels, collecting in the gaps between the frame and the glass coating. This increases the risk of water breaching the silicone barrier used to seal the gaps, damaging the panels over a period of time.
Similarly, installing solar panels can also lead to leakages in your roof. While this occurs due to incorrect installation, you need to be extra cautious while installing PV modules on flat roofs.
Reduced Energy Production
Another problem to consider is the reduced production of solar energy over time. The accumulation of dust and debris on the flat solar panels will make them very dirty, thereby reducing their efficiency.
Roof Strength Requirements for Solar Panels
Solar panels and their required mounting equipment, whether penetration or weight mounts, typically weigh 3 to 4 pounds per square foot. Usually, this weight is acceptable for any roof type.
However, solar panels with weighted ballasts on flat roofs generally weigh a bit more because concrete blocks hold the system in place.
As long as your home has a fairly new roof that’s in decent condition, weighted ballasts are a fine solution. That’s especially true if you have SunPower solar panels. SunPower offers the lightest solar panels in the industry, at about 33 pounds per panel.
Are Solar Panels Bad for Your Roof?
Solar panels aren’t bad for your roof, but you should consider some factors, especially during the installation process. Because drilling is necessary to secure panels to the roof, the process leaves holes that could lead to water leaks over time.
Solar professionals can ensure installation avoids long-term damage to your roof — and ultimately to your home. Because solar panel systems have a 30- to 35-year life cycle, it’s important that technicians install your panels correctly the first time around!
And while drilled holes in your roof never seem appealing, numerous safety measures help ensure drilling won’t result in any damage. We’ll tell you a bit about the process.
First, technicians use drilled holes for lag bolts, which secure the solar panel system’s mounting rack. To avoid water leakage, technicians fill the holes with a sealant. Then, they surround the lag bolts with metal or plastic flashings — a sort of shield that fits under whatever roof tile type you have. Finally, they seal the flashings air-tight with either tar or another durable material to ensure your roof doesn’t suffer damage or seepage.
Solar Panel Design Considerations: How To Get the Best-Looking Solar Panels
If you’re worried that solar panels might make your home look … not as appealing as you’d like, remember that you have options!
For example, black shingles typically look best with solar panels. Although black absorbs sunlight, which can make your home feel a bit warmer, darker roofs help blend the appearance of solar panels so that they don’t drastically stand out.
At Freedom Solar, we offer SunPower solar panels in varying options. That said, their signature black aesthetic features all-black solar cells and antireflective glass, which look chic and sleek on any roof type.
And the benefits go beyond aesthetics. Whatever type of roof or solar panels you have, they’re a good look because they represent your character, values and commitment to sustainability.
Contact Freedom Solar for Your Solar Panel Needs
To learn more about solar panels or the installation process for your home or business, contact Freedom Solar today! Call us at (877) 795-0577, or submit an online inquiry. We’re ready to help you go solar anytime.
Freedom Solar also has it’s own solar panel repair and maintenance service department if needed. Our experienced team can maintain, repair and upgrade any system for maximum energy production and efficiency