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Protect your roof, install solar panels

Francisco CastroApril 19, 20191720

They help reduce your carbon footprint, your electricity bill and provide you with dependable, clean energy.

And when you install solar panels on your roof, you’re not only protecting your wallet and environment, you’re also avoiding further damage to that important real estate covering you from rain and other weather conditions.

Indeed, solar panels can provide additional coverage to your roof, extending its life and making your investment go even further.

However, it’s important to keep in mind the condition and age of the roof before installing solar panels. A reputable solar installer will conduct an evaluation of the roof and if there are visible signs of damage, will probably not install PV modules on a roof that is close to needing repairs. 

Travelers Insurance recommends that the roof covering should have at least another 10 years left if you’re going to add solar panels to it.

If your roof is in bad shape, you should definitely consider replacing it before any solar installation takes place. 

Holes on the roof

Many homeowners worry about damage to the roof when installing a solar panel system and rightly so, your making holes on it, what could be worse?

Unless you have a metal roof, the answer is, yes, the solar installer will drill holes in the roof to insert the screws that hold the racking and panels. They need something sturdy to hold on to. You don’t want them flying away in a storm, right? The screws will go on the rafters, but they will put flashing around the bolt and special long-life (20 years warranty) sealant to prevent water from seeping in.  

Depending on the type of roof material you have (Spanish tile, wood shake, asphalt composite shingles), there might be more or less labor involved, but the way to hold the panels on the roof will be basically the same. 

But if your roof is flat, these method changes, as the racks and panels can be installed without mounting them directly on the roof. Instead, very heavy concrete blocks may be enough to keep them in place. However, due to the likelihood of earthquakes in California, those setups are not allowed. Also, they might not be allowed in areas prone to tornadoes.

There are also some newer installation methods that use clamping systems and minimize or eliminate the need to drill holes. Your solar installer should be able to tell you about your choices.

Weight on the roof

Another area of concern might be the weight of the solar power system. On average, a residential solar panel or module measures about 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet and weigh from 33 to 50 pounds each. Once on the mounting structure, they can weigh between 2-4 lbs per square foot, which is within acceptable weight limits for a roof. In fact, both residential and commercial roofs are designed to handle much more weight than that, at least 20 pounds per square foot. 

Cooling properties

Contrary to what you may think, solar panels do not create heat when they’re converting sunlight into electricity. They instead absorb the sun rays to make that energy. In doing so, they protect the roof on those extremely hot summer days. 

In fact, a study by researchers at UC San Diego shows that a building’s ceiling was five degrees cooler under solar panels than under a roof exposed to direct sunlight. That can help reduce the temperature inside the home up to nearly 35% more. That’s a big help to overloaded AC systems in the middle of a hot spell.

They also allow air flow between the roof and the solar panels, adding to the cooling effect and helping your air conditioning system as well. 

Inclement weather

Roofs damage over time from exposure to inclement weather: rain, wind, snow, and extreme heat. Solar panels create a barrier between the roof and those conditions and help reduce the effect of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. 

And despite their use of glass and other sensitive materials, solar panels are not wimpy devices. They are tough enough to stand up to harsh weather. 

Your installer should also be able to position your panels so the water flows easily without pooling anywhere. 

In addition, solar panels will act as a buffer keeping your roof safer from falling branches and debris. 

Bottom line is, the simplest way to avoid and prevent roof damage when installing solar panels on your roof is to hire a professional installation company. Most experienced contractors will include a warranty for their services in case of roof damage from their work. 

According to Travelers Insurance, the installers should have at least four years of experience and they should be North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified. You can also search the NABCEP’s Certified Installer Locator. While not required in every state, the NABCEP provides additional certification for solar energy professionals.

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