Solar Nerd articles about: Racking Systems

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Wind damaged solar array (Credit: FEMA)
Strong winds and home solar panels: installation best practices
Solar panels intended for use on homes and businesses are remarkably strong and designed to withstand many different kinds of abuse from the weather, including rain, hail, and severe wind. In North America, test standards require that solar panels must be able to support 5,400 Pascals (Pa) of force on the front of the panel. That works out to 0.783 pounds per square inch. An average sized solar panel is about 2,500 square inches, which means that one panel can support about 2,000 pounds!
Photo of house with solar panels.
How to install solar panels over plumbing vents
That’s my house in the photo above. As you can see, it’s got a nice, neat array of solar panels except for one spot where a pipe is sticking out. Darn it! My array doesn’t cover all of my electricity needs, so having one more panel would have been nice. Plus, it would simply look better if there wasn’t a gap in the array. I wasn’t a solar nerd back when I had my solar installed, and I’ve learned a few things that might help you if you’re facing a similar situation.
An photo of a solar panel racking system.
How are solar panels installed on a roof?
The most visible part of a home solar system is the panels. Around 95% of homeowners choose a roof-mounted (rather than ground-mounted) system, so how the panels are attached to the roof is a key detail of the installation. Solar panels are attached to a roof using a mounting system. The most common type is a rail-based system, which uses aluminum rails as the structure onto which the panels and other components, such as wiring and inverter components, are attached.
Photo of hailstones.
Can solar panels be installed on a flat roof?
Most houses have sloped roofs, but flat roofs tend to be popular in mild climates that don’t need peaked roofs to deal with snow loads, such as southern California and the southwest. If you’ve seen photos of solar panels on a typical house with a sloped roof, you may have noticed the racking system holding the panels in place. In the most common case where asphalt shingles are used, the racking is attached to the roof deck with bolts that are drilled through the shingles and attached to the deck underneath.
Photo of solar panels on a tile roof.
Can you install solar panels on a tile roof and avoid leaks?
Tile roofs look great, don’t they? Not only do they really suit the architecture of the southwest where they are most popular, but they’re practical too. A well-installed clay or concrete tile roof can last 50 or even 100 years. But when it comes to installing solar panels, tile roofs represent the biggest challenge for solar installers. Not only can installing on a tile roof be more expensive, but there can be a higher risk of a poor installation causing damage to the waterproof integrity of the roof, leading to expensive repairs down the road.
Photo of a metal roof
Can solar panels be mounted on a metal roof?
The most common roofing material in the United States is asphalt shingles, and for good reason: they’re inexpensive, durable, and come in a wide variety of styles and colors. But while they’re less popular, metal roofs have a lot of advantages. If you’re a homeowner with a metal roof, you might wonder: can you install solar panels on them? The answer is: yes! While the majority of solar homes have asphalt shingle roofs, metal roofs are actually a better choice if you’re planning to go solar.
Photo of IronRidge pitched roof solar racking system
Will installing solar panels void my roof warranty?
Your roof keeps the rain off your head. That’s a great thing! It’s also an expensive thing to repair or replace, so you want to take care of it. But installing solar panels typically involves drilling dozens of holes right into the roof. If you’re thinking of getting home solar panels, that might give you pause. That’s reasonable, but there are millions of home solar installations in the United States. If roof leaks happened to even a small percentage of those, the home solar industry would have a serious problem on its hands.