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Solar Panel Installation Options for Residential Roofs

Ellen Marie Siloy October 31, 2012

The roof is probably the best place to install your solar panels assuming there is an ample amount of sunlight to be collected and a good amount of roof area available. This also reduces the chances of having shadow casts that will decrease the solar panel’s performance. The high location can also discourage thieves from stealing your panels.

On residential mounting installations for solar panels there are three main options:

A.Hybrid Mount. Also known as “minimally attached system”. It uses some structural attachment. It is good when achieving minimal roofing penetrations while giving more security. A good example is the A-frame mounting which can either be screwed on the roof or weighted down using ballasts. A-frame mounted solar panels is a great option for those who want to a perfect South orientation, or for those who have limited space for their solar panels. They are usually placed on flat roofs to achieve an angled position. It is stable on windy areas and A-frame mounting is the quickest option compared to other types of solar panel installation and most models have added roof leak protection.


B.In Roof Installation or Structurally Attached. This is a popular choice when it comes to installing solar panels which are usually with a frame that can be fixed onto the roof and surrounded by a flashing, similar to vent flashings. There are different types of flashings to choose from, they can come with corrugated or deck style flashing. The panel flashings make a perfect fit on roof which prevents leakage in the roof system that increases the roofs life expectancy.

B.Non-Penetrating Ballasted Mounting. Instead of screwing bolts to secure the solar panels ballasts are used to hold the solar array on the roof. This is a good option when minimal penetration is desired on roofs. Since it is not secured on the roof it is suitable for low-wind zones. Ballasts are usually made from stainless or galvanized steel and newer models today offer smaller footprints.

On Types of Roofs:

1.Tile and Shake Roof. This costs more for solar panels installation due to its breakable material. Tile and shake roofs are more brittle than asphalt tiles. It may be best to consult professional installers to do the solar panel installation but will raise the initial costs even higher. There may be an added 10% to 25% on the regular fee for installations.

2.Flat Roof. Due to its flat surface it will need more racks to position on the correct angle. It is usually installed on free standing frames to increase its capability to achieve the right orientation and angle. Flat roofs are more common on commercial buildings.

3.Mansard Roof. Just like flat roofs it has a relatively flat surface which will need added frames to increase the collection ability of the solar panels.

4.Curved Roofs and Complex Roof Systems. For roofs with unusual features it can be a challenge to install solar panels and can further add on installation costs. In 2009 SRS Energy has introduced Sole Power Tile which can be installed seamlessly with curved roofing tiles. This is the first BIPV or building-integrated photovoltaic roofing shingle designed for curved roofing systems.

5.Steep Roofs. This type of roofing can also be challenging to install and will require special cranes to reach areas.

Remember that the type of roof will make a difference in installation costs. Also be sure to stick to the building code requirements since wirings are needed to be installed from the solar panels down to the power and lighting outlets. For areas where weather is unpredictable, frequent adjustments on the orientation of the solar panels may be needed so it is best to install them in a way it can be easily tilted or re-oriented but stable enough that it won’t be easily tipped off.

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About Author

Ellen Marie Siloy
Ellen Marie Siloy

A graduate of Architecture working as a passionate designer, blogger and web content provider for nearly two years.I have extended my knowledge through writing articles related to my field and what I have learned and experienced in that short period of time validated my advocacy. I believe that a good designer is able to communicate through his or her art but a designer who is able to explain his or her work through verbal or written is even better. View all posts by Ellen Marie Siloy →

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