Solar panels are a great way to generate clean, local energy and reduce your electricity bills. But, before you can start reaping the benefits of solar power, you need to get the panels and other equipment all set up. How are solar panels installed on a roof and what to expect from this process?
The solar system installation may seem like a daunting task, but with the right information and preparation, it can be a straightforward process.
Whether you are a homeowner looking to make the switch to solar energy or a contractor interested in expanding your services, this guide will give you a clear understanding of the installation process. So, let’s get started and learn all you need to know.
Good reasons why to install solar panels on a roof
Mounting solar panels on a roof has several advantages over setting them up on the ground. Here are a few of them to help you decide whether this is an option that would work for your property.
Space utilization: Roof-mounted solar panels make use of otherwise unused space and do not take any valuable yard space.
Aesthetics: Rooftop solar systems are less visible and blend in better with the surrounding environment compared to ground-mounted systems.
Protection: The solar system is better protected from potential damage caused by weather, animals, or people.
Improved energy production: Solar panels receive more direct sunlight. The risk of shading is also smaller.
Making the decision whether roof mounted panels are the best option, depends on specific characteristics of your house and property. You should also consider the size and orientation of the roof, the available space, local zoning regulations, and your home’s energy needs in relation to the available solar irradiation.
Further reading: Roof mount vs. ground mount
How are solar panels installed on a roof step by step
Preparing for the installation of a rooftop solar system requires planning and calculating ahead of time. You have to calculate your annual energy consumption, assess the condition of your roof, and select a suitable solar system. It then continues by hiring a professional installer and reviewing your financing options.
Here are the key steps when preparing for a solar panel roof installation.
#1 The initial assessment of your roof
You need to assess the condition of your roof and make sure it can support the weight of the panels. Check for any signs of damage and verify that the roof is structurally sound.
Here are the key steps to conducting a roof assessment:
- Check the age and condition of your roof: Check the age and overall condition of your roof to be certain that it is suitable for a solar panel installation. If your roof is older or in a poor condition, it may need to be repaired or even replaced beforehand.
- Measure the size and angle of your roof: Measure the size and angle of your roof to determine the optimal placement for the solar panels. This information will define the number of panels your roof could sustain, and will affect the maximum amount of energy you can get from solar.
- Check for shade: Look for areas of your roof that are shaded by trees, buildings, or other obstructions. Shade can significantly reduce the performance of your solar panels, so it is important to identify any potential spots with shade and make adjustments if necessary.
- Evaluate the structural integrity of your roof: You may need a professional roofing contractor for this step. Your roof needs to support the additional weight of the panels. A professional contractor should assess the strength of the roof and determine if any additional support is needed.
- Consult with a solar installer: Now is time to call a professional solar installer to discuss the specifics. In many cases, solar installation companies offer a detailed assessment of the roof as a part of their work.
Based on the information you gathered during the inspection, you should select the solar equipment. Solar panels come in various sizes, efficiencies and capacities. Good quality solar panels are more likely to match your expectations and protect your roof than lower grade ones.
Once the initial assessment is over, it is time to focus on what happens next, and that is shortly before the team comes to mount your solar panels.
#2 What should you do prior to the scheduled installation time?
Before the installation of solar panels on your roof takes place, there are a few things you should do to help. These are:
- Clear the work area: Make sure the area around your roof is clear of any obstacles that might hinder the work. Remove furniture from your balcony, potted plants, or other items from the area where they could stay in the way.
- Secure any loose items: Check if any loose items on your roof, such as tiles or shingles, are secure. This will help to reduce the risk of damage during the installation.
- Disconnect electrical devices: If you have any electrical devices, for example air conditioner, that are connected to the roof, you should disconnect them before the team arrives. This will help to reduce the risk of electrical shock.
- Review the installation plan: Review the installation plan provided by the solar contractor one more time. Be prepared. Make sure you understand the process and any potential impacts on your property.
- Communicate with neighbors: If you live in a shared building or your roof is visible from neighboring properties, you should communicate with your neighbors about the upcoming installation to avoid any misunderstandings or future disputes.
By taking these steps before the work begins, you will prevent any unexpected events that would make the installation more difficult.
Now comes the second stage, the moment when the installation team arrives and proceeds with mounting the solar equipment.
#3 The installation process of the solar panels and other equipment
With the arrival of the installation team, the process of mounting solar panels is underway. The following steps typically occur:
Introduction and safety briefing: The installation team will introduce themselves and conduct a safety briefing to explain the risks and measures they will take before installing the panels.
Layout and design: The technicians will lay out the design of the solar system and confirm the placement of the panels on your rooftop. They will take into account any shading issues, structural considerations, and other factors that affect the performance of the system.
Preparing the roof: They will prepare the roof by cleaning and securing any loose tiles or shingles. That is if there are any that have not been secured prior to their arrival.
Installing mounting hardware: Mounting hardware like brackets and rails is used to securely attach the panels to the roof. This hardware is typically installed using roof-friendly materials, such as silicone sealants or stainless-steel fasteners.
Mounting the panels: The process of the actual installation of the solar panels is the next step. At this moment, each panel gets attached to the supports. The technicians also connect the wiring and install an inverter. Solar panels will be adjusted to optimize their exposure to the sun.
Connecting the panels to the electrical system: The panels must be connected to the electrical system in order to generate electricity. This is being done with electrical wires that connect the panels to an inverter and then to the electrical panel.
Testing and commissioning: Once the panels are installed, the installation team will test how the system works. They will also commission the system and finalize any necessary connections.
Monitoring performance: At this stage, it is important to monitor the performance of the solar system to be sure that everything runs smoothly. Performance monitoring systems serve this purpose. They track the amount of electricity generated as well as any issues that arise in the future.
Cleaning up and final inspection: The work crew will clean up the work area and conduct a final inspection to review their work.
As you can see, this is a fairly complex process, which is a reason why it is recommended to work with a qualified contractor who has experience with this type of installation. In addition, local building codes and regulations must be followed, and any necessary permits should be obtained prior starting the installation.
Mounting solar panels on a roof without drilling
It is possible to attach solar panels without drilling holes into your roof by using adhesive or clamp-based mounting systems. These systems use specially designed brackets and clamps that hold the panels on the roof without puncturing it. The work begins by:
- Choosing the right adhesive or clamp-based mounting system: Look for a mounting system that is specifically designed for your roof type, such as tile, metal, or asphalt shingle.
- Cleaning the roof: Clean the roof to ensure that the adhesive or clamps have a clean surface to adhere to.
- Installing the brackets or clamps: Install the brackets or clamps on the roof according to the manufacturer’s instructions and secure them with adhesive, screws, or clamps.
- Attaching the panels: Once the brackets or clamps are in place, attach the panels to the mounting system.
- Connecting the panels to the electrical system: Connect the panels to the electrical system, including the inverter and electrical panel.
Some roof types may not be suitable for adhesive or clamp-based mounting systems, and it may be necessary to use drilling to secure the panels. Additionally, building codes and regulations must be checked whether this type of attachment is allowed.
Are the non-drill mounting systems safe?
Mounting solar panels on a roof without drilling is possible with certain types of mounting systems, such as those that use adhesive or ballast weights to hold the panels in place. However, these systems may not be suitable for all roofs, and may not be as secure or durable as systems that use drilled-in mounting hardware.
Adhesive mounting systems are less durable over time and may not be able to withstand strong winds or heavy snow loads. Ballast-weighted systems are a more durable, but they are more difficult to install and require more roof space to accommodate the weights.
Drilled-in mounting systems are generally considered to be the most secure option. These systems use brackets or clamps that are attached to the roof structure with screws or bolts, providing a stable and secure attachment for the panels.
How close to the edge of a roof solar panels go?
The exact distance from the edge of a roof depends on a variety of factors. They consider the weight of the panels, the strength and durability of the roof, the wind load capacity of the roof, and local building codes and regulations.
In some areas, local building codes may have specific requirements regarding the minimum distance from the edge.
However, the recommended distance of 2 to 4 feet from the edge of the roof is a commonly used industry standard that has been established.
This distance provides a margin of safety to help ensure that the panels are stable and secure. It also prevents any damage to the panels or roof over time.
Installing solar panels on a roof cost estimate
The cost of installing roof-based solar panels can vary greatly. The final price depends on the size of the solar system, the type of roof, your location, and some other factors. But here is a rough estimate of the costs involved in the process.
#1 Site assessment
A site assessment typically costs between $0 to $500 and it starts with a professional installer inspecting your roof and electrical system to determine the feasibility of the installation. How much you will pay depends on the agreement with your contractor and their terms and conditions.
#2 Equipment and materials
This includes the cost of the panels, inverter, mounting system, electrical wiring, and other materials that are needed to set everything up. The cost can range from $3,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the size of the system.
Labor typically makes up a significant portion of the overall cost. Based on the size and complexity of the installation, labor costs can range from $1,500 to $10,000.
#4 Permits and inspections
Building permits and inspections can cost several hundred dollars. The amount varies depending on the location.
#5 Net Metering and interconnection
If you plan to connect the solar panels to the electrical grid and use net metering, you may have to pay a fee to the utility company. This fee can range from $100 to $1,000.As you can see, the final costs can vary by a few thousand dollars. For this reason, it is recommended to get quotes from different installers in your area to get your local price range. There may be various incentives and tax credits available that can help reduce the overall cost so you’ll have to check what options are available in your region.
Problems with solar panels on a roof?
Installing solar panels on a roof can come with several potential problems that could happen if some part of the process is neglected. These include:
- Roof damage: If the panels are not installed correctly, they can damage the roof and cause leaks.
- Incorrect installation: Improper installation of the panels or mounting system can result in electrical problems, reduced efficiency, or even panel failure.
- Incompatible roof type: Certain roof types, such as flat roofs or roofs with limited space, may not be suitable for solar panel installation.
- Shading issues: If the roof is shaded by trees or nearby buildings, the panels may not be able to generate as much energy as they would have if they were in direct sunlight.
- Age of roof: If the roof is old or in poor condition, it may not be able to support the weight of the panels. The roof may need to be replaced before the panels are installed.
- Weather damage: Solar panels can sustain damage during extreme weather conditions. High winds, hail, or heavy snow could change the output of your solar system.
- Maintenance and repairs: Solar panels and other components of the system may need to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced eventually. This is a part that adds to the cost of owning and operating the system.
Further reading: How to replace a roof with solar panels?
You should work with a qualified solar installer who has experience in residential solar energy to help to minimize these potential problems. Additionally, a good warranty and insurance coverage can provide protection against damage and other issues that may arise over time.