The Nitty-Gritty Solar Roofing

Not all roofs are created equal for solar, so it’s important to understand a few basic things about roofing when evaluating your home. Here’s the real deal on solar roofing concerns.

Different Types of Roofs.

Provided there’s enough space and sun, solar can be installed on any roof. It does, however, cost more to install on tile roofs, shake shingle roofs, and very steep roofs.

Tile and shake roofs cost more for solar because there’s no way to walk on them without causing some minor damage, such as breaking a clay tile here and there. Installers will make it right, but it may raise your costs somewhat. Similarly, very steep roofs may take more time to install and require special cranes or equipment. On flat roofs, you may need a few more racks to position the panels at the correct angle. We can account for the different types of roofs with our solar estimate tool.

The Condition and Age of Your Roof.

Solar panels covering your roof will certainly reduce some of the weatherization wear on the portion being covered by your roof. However, solar panels are not a replacement for a new roof, unless they’re solar powered roofing tiles (photovoltaic shingles), known as “BIPV” or Building Integrated Photo Voltaic tiles.

It’s therefore important to know the warranty on your roof and how many years are left on the life of your roof. If you’re close to the end of your warranty and have had a lot of leaks in the past few years, you should probably replace your roof before going solar. Yes, this will cost you more money, but it will cost you even more in labor costs to remove the solar panels in order to replace or make repairs on your roof after the solar is installed.

If you think you’re about five or more years away from a roof replacement, it usually makes sense to go solar first.

How are Solar Panels attached to my Roof?

The way panels are attached to your roof depends on the type of roof you have. In general, composite shingle roofs are attached through bolting mounts into your strongest roof rafters and then attaching rails to those mounts.

But it’s not just drilling a hole and crossing your fingers. Installers also add sealants into and around the mounts that fill in any gaps. Often the mounts are surrounded by metal “flashing” –coverings that serve as an extra rain proof barrier. Parallel rails are then attached to the mounts and the solar panels are attached to the rails.

Live in a townhouse or have some other flat roof? These roofs can be attached with racking and some type of ballast, such as concrete blocks, to keep panels stable and without drilling holes the roof’s structure.

Concerned about Solar Panel Theft?

First of all, this is rare. Yes, you might have heard about it in the news, but that’s why it’s news: It doesn’t happen often. The reason is that it’s not something that can be done while you’re sleeping or without someone noticing. Even if a crew were pretending to be solar un-installers, your neighbors are going to notice since you made such a big deal about getting them in the first place.

Even if you live in a high crime area, there are locking systems you can buy, as well as special cements that would require a blow torch and a lot of time to remove. A little sticker next to the rack that says that these solar panels are protected from theft by X product should deter thieves from trying.

Finally, your solar panels should be covered by your home insurance. This should cost you very little extra or nothing extra, though that may differ by state and if data shows thefts increasing. So far it hasn’t which is why insurance companies charge little to nothing extra to cover solar panel theft or accidents. Check with your insurance agent about your policy.

Pole mounts, the non-roof Solar Alternative.

There are cases when a person’s roof and/or garage are facing the wrong way or there’s too much shade. An alternative is a pole mounted solar system. This requires some back yard space and extra cost to dig a trench for running wires from the poles to your home’s electric panel.