Do solar panels ruin your roof?

Image source: Realtor.com

Chris Gennone

By Chris Gennone

August 16, 2021

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If you’re interested in installing solar panels or solar shingles but skeptical or concerned about how it could cause roof damage, let us put your mind at ease. While issues like additional weight, holes drilled into the roof rafters, and water leaks are legitimate concerns, significant problems will be rare if your solar panels are installed properly. Let’s take a closer look at how solar panels can affect your roof and what you need to know before you buy them.

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How solar panels are installed

Solar panels on a residential roof

Image source: Blue and Green Tomorrow

First off, let’s explain the installation process for solar panels. Depending on your type of roofing material and your roof’s slope, they may be installed a little differently. While installing solar panels on wood and flat roofs is possible, they are more difficult to install and not the best options for residential solar systems. Here are the most common roofing types for solar panel installations:

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Asphalt and composite shingles - Asphalt and composite shingles are the most common roofing types for solar panels. Solar panels are typically mounted on a racking system. Racking systems are installed on roofs by drilling holes into the rafters for lag bolts that hold the panels in place. Although drilling holes into your roof rafters sounds concerning, the lag bolts are covered with sealants and installing roof flashing underneath the shingles will prevent any leaks.

Metal roofs - Metal roofs are the ideal roofing material for mounting solar panels and usually have a longer lifespan than other roofing types. Solar panels are mounted on metal roofs with easy-to-install clamps or brackets, while standing seam roofs are the easiest to install solar panels on.

Tiles - Clay tiles present a slower and more expensive installation for solar panels. Roof tiles can be fragile and brittle, and removing them to install the required mounts can open the seal, leading to potential leaks. Some solar installers will decide to either remove an area of tiles and replace them with composite shingles, install special hooks, or use a different kind of mounting system like Quick Mount PV’s new tile replacement mounts, which replace your existing shingles underneath.

How solar panels affect your roof

Solar panels on a clay tile roof

Image source: Barrett Solar

If you’re wondering, “will solar panels damage my roof?”, the answer is no. Don’t think of solar panels as a hazard, but more as a shield. Not only do solar panels absorb damaging solar radiant heat, but they also protect your roof from debris, moisture, and help keep it cool, therefore lowering your electric bills.

While solar panels do add weight to your roof and could be hazardous if your roof is old or needs repairs, your roof should be able to withstand the weight. Because solar panels are installed on an angle, water and moisture will easily run off, protecting your roof from potential leaks. If you do have an older roof, we recommend that you have your roof inspected beforehand or opt for a new roof replacement if your roof is at least 20-25 years old.

What to know before buying solar panels

Condition of the roof - It’s important to have your roof inspected for the condition and structural integrity of your roof so you’re not faced with expensive roof repairs. If you have an old or damaged roof, we recommend replacing the whole roof and adding solar panels.

Roofing material and slope - Solar panels are mounted in different ways depending on the roofing material you have on your home. Determining your roof’s shape and slope will help place the solar panels, which should be facing south or west.

Weight - Depending on the condition of your roof, most are strong enough to withstand the added weight of solar panels. Solar panels shouldn’t add more than 4 pounds per square foot to the roof load, but we still recommend that your roof be inspected beforehand just in case.

Weather - How severe weather conditions affect your solar-paneled roof is an important thing to consider. If you live in a drier climate, you’ll be happy to know that solar panels absorb harmful radiant heat which could normally damage your roof. If you live in a climate with more moisture, solar panels can act as a shield where water runs off. Proper flashing and other materials help protect from leaks as well.

Permits - Before installing solar panels, you’ll need to make sure that you obtain the proper building permits and meet all the necessary local building codes.

Warranty - Another important factor to understand is the types of solar panel warranties and their impact on your roof warranty. Different types of solar warranties include a typical manufacturer, “workmanship” warranty that covers defects and a solar power warranty that assures set levels of energy production through different stages.

Before buying solar panels, you should read the fine print on your roofing warranty. It’s not uncommon for some roofing companies to include certain modifications like skylights and solar panels that can void your roofing warranty. In these situations, your roofer may have to coordinate with the solar installers to ensure that your panels are properly installed and meet the terms of your roofing warranty.

Installing solar panels: in summary

A professional installing solar panels on a residential roof

Image source: Treehugger

The demand for more renewable energy is growing, and solar power is now more accessible than ever before. In 2021, solar energy surpassed wind power for the first time, accounting for 39% of new electricity generation capacity in the US.

Though prices for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have dropped by an average of 70% since 2014, the installation of solar panels is still a big investment, so any type of concern you may have is legitimate. But as far as your roof is concerned, you won’t have to worry about solar panels having a negative impact. While there are potential issues like roof leaks and structural damage, solar companies and inspectors go through necessary precautions to make sure your roof is in good condition, preventing them from causing any damage, and that your solar panels and roof last as long as possible.

Get in touch with a local roofer today.

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