Solar Nerd articles about: Roofing

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Rooftop solar installation. (Raze Solar/Unsplash)
Reinforcing a roof for solar panels: needed or not?
Most home and small commercial solar installations are mounted on a rooftop. This makes a lot of sense, because a rooftop is a readily available surface for mounting panels. Solar panels weigh less than you might think. Even so, sometimes a rooftop isn’t suitable because of the additional load that a solar array would place on a structure. In those cases, a homeowner might be able to upgrade their roof structure to support the additional load.
Photo of houses with steep roofs in San Francisco.
When is a roof too steep for solar panels?
With most home solar installations, the solar panels get installed on the roof. This means that crews need to be able to walk around on the roof, move equipment, and work safely. While flat roofs are easy to work on, roofs with steeper pitches can pose challenges. With very steep pitches, the logistics of the installation become too difficult for some solar installers, and they’ll turn down the job. Companies that are more experienced can work with steeper roofs, but they may add a surcharge to the project price.
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.
Closeup photo of asphalt roof shingles.
Replacing your roof before installing solar: how to decide
About 98% of residential solar installations are installed on a rooftop, with the remaining 2% using a ground-mounted system. For a homeowner who is thinking of going solar, one of the most important issues is deciding if your roof is in the right condition for solar. You can expect home solar panels to operate for 25 years or even more. If you install solar panels on a roof that later needs to be replaced, you’ll have to shoulder the extra expense of having the panels removed and reinstalled before the roofing can be done.