Installing a solar panel system involves many varied decisions. When contemplating solar power, the most common question is, “Is my roof suitable for solar equipment installation?”; this is a very valid query. Many roofing materials are available; each has different implications for a solar setup.
Two roofing materials that are best suited for Solar Panels are Composite materials, such as fiber cement and asphalt shingles, and the other one is Metal Roofing. Each offers an easy work surface; attachment is simple, and the result is a durable installation lasting the life of the panels.
You have studied the available solar systems and are finally ready to pull the trigger on the combination of equipment that gives you the best balance of energy production against your budget. However, you have a niggling question at the back of your brain asking whether your roof is suitable for solar panel fitment.
What Type Of Roofing Is Best For Solar Panels?
Each type of roofing material offers a unique value proposition for the homeowner and potential solar energy user. These advantages include cost, weather insulation, ease of maintenance, aesthetic styles, fire resistance, and longevity.
Some types of roofing material are better suited for solar panels than others, and these are:
- Composite materials such as fiber cement and asphalt shingles
- Metal Roofing
- Tar and Gravel
- Clay Slate, and Concrete tiles
Thatch roofing is not ideal for two reasons:
- It isn’t easy to attach the solar panels to thatch roofs.
- The solar panels sit on the roof with no space between the thatch and the panel for air to flow. The lack of airflow increases the chance of the thatch under the solar panel starting to rot.
1. Solar Panels Are Easiest To Install On Composite Materials
Roofing made from composite materials (i.e., asphalt shingles and fiber cement) is the easiest way to install solar panels. These are the most common materials used for roofing of domestic dwellings in many European countries and North America.
Composite materials are often made from a mix of tar and fiberglass, or cellulose mat tar. They are ideally suited for solar panel installations because they are flexible and durable.
The Solar Panels attach directly to the composite structure with metal studs. It makes the operation easy and relatively low cost.
2. Can Solar Panels Be Installed On Metal Roofs?
Metal roofs, particularly those with standing seams, are suitable for solar panels installation. It is the easiest material on which to install solar panels, and therefore the costs of installation should be the lowest.
If the roof has standing seams, the solar panels are directly connected to these seams, and the installer does not need to drill any holes in the ceiling. If you wonder, standing seams are the ridge-like joins that lock the panels together.
The reflective metal quality makes the panels more effective in transferring the captured energy, making the panels more efficient with a higher solar yield.
Before installation, it is recommended that you consult an engineer to confirm that the metal used in the roof has sufficient gauge (thickness) and that it is rated for roofing.
It is also worthwhile to ask the engineer to check the fitting of the metal roofing material to the underlying roof trusses. The installed panel is slightly raised off the roof, resulting in a space between the solar panel and the roof.
Strong wind gusts could cause a lifting action, and if the roof is not correctly attached to the trusses, it could be damaged or even blown off!
3. Can Solar Panels Be Fitted To Tar And Gravel Roofs?
Tar and Gravel are usually used as the material in constructing flat roofs. The material is very suitable for solar panels. Installations; however, to ensure maximum effectiveness of the solar panels, a frame will have to be installed to pitch the panel at the correct angle.
These frames can be free-standing structures, ballasted to the roof by concrete blocks. The solar panel can be attached directly to this material, but as this will involve drilling into the roof, there is a risk that the roof’s integrity may be compromised, resulting in leaks.
4. Are Clay, Slate, And Concrete Tiles Suitable For Solar Panels?
Clay, slate, and concrete tiles offer beautiful aesthetics and design options, which are not available with other roofing types. These tile types are suitable for solar panel installation with a few provisos.
The tiles may be old, brittle, and easily damaged during the solar panel installation. Ensure that you have access to enough replacement tiles so that the look of your roof is not compromised if you are forced to remove the cracked tiles.
The installation costs are higher because the roof tiles need to be removed. Then specially designed batons, which support and position the solar panels, are connected directly to the roof trusses.
Make sure you use a qualified and experienced installer to ensure that:
- The aesthetics of your roof are not damaged.
- The integrity of the roof is maintained. You don’t want water leaks!; this is when the saying “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” is very appropriate. If you use the cheapest installer who may not have the necessary experience with your roof type, it will cost you much more in terms of future repairs.
Other Factors Affecting Rooftop Solar Panel Fitment
There are other factors to consider to determine whether a particular roof is suitable or not; these include:
- The roofs orientation
- The pitch (angle) of the roof
- The size of the roof
- Other buildings or plants cause shade on the roof.
- The age of the roof
An older building may not have been designed with solar power in mind; therefore, it may not offer the perfect pitch or orientation to the sun.
1. What Is The Ideal Orientation For Rooftop Solar Panels?
A simple rule of thumb is that the solar panels must face the sun for as long as possible; in the Northern Hemisphere, the solar panels should face the South. Likewise, the solar panels need to face the North in the Southern Hemisphere.
2. How Do You Decide What Angle To Install The Solar Panels?
During the day, the sun will appear at a different angle depending on the latitude you reside. The rule generally followed is that the angle of the solar panel should be equal to the geographic latitude of the installation.
If the site is at 30 degrees latitude, the solar panel angle’s most effective angle is 30 degrees.
3. Is the Size Of Your Roof Sufficient For Solar Panels?
The average solar panel (assuming a 500 kW solar panel) requires 3 ¾ inches to generate 1 Watt Hour of energy; this means that to generate 5 kilowatts (5000 watts), you will need a roof with a flat area of at least 130 square meters facing the sun.
If your roof is not big enough, and you don’t have a barn, shed, carport, or garage which you can press into service, you will need to create a suitable standalone structure on which to install the panels.
4. Is Your Roof Too Shaded For Solar Panel Installation?
Trees around the house or other buildings may cast shade on your roof. Check the roof during a typical day and ensure the shade doesn’t affect the area where you propose installing the solar panels.
If trees are causing the shade and are not too precious, you may want to consider cutting these back or down.
5. Is Your Roof Too Old For Solar Panel Fitment?
The age of the roof has two possible implications.
- If the roof tiles are ancient, they may be brittle, and any attempt to move them can result in cracking or chipping. The cracks will affect the roof’s integrity to withstand rain; if this is the case, the installer must exercise extreme caution. Try to acquire several replacement tiles for the inevitable breakage.
- The age of the roof may compromise its structural integrity. Check if there is any wood rot or structural damage to the trusses. Although solar tiles do not weigh a lot, installing them may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Apart from a few exceptions, most roofing types are suitable for solar panel installations; the best roofing for solar panel installation is composite materials and metal sheeting.
Installing solar panels is not a difficult job. Make sure the people doing the installation are suitably experienced. They will complete the project without any tears. You will have a durable solar generation unit that will supply you with a stable current for years to come.