If you’re considering installing a residential or commercial solar panel system, you might be wondering if your roof type is appropriate for a solar installation. The good news is that solar panels can be installed on just about any roof type, but the installation process and mounting hardware might vary from material to material. In this article, we’ll explore the many types of roofs solar panels can be installed on and how each has a unique installation process.
What are the different roof types you can install solar panels on?
Solar can be installed on almost any roof – here are some of the most commonly used roof materials that solar installers will encounter on the job:
- Asphalt shingles
- Clay tiles
- Slate tiles
While solar panels can be safely and effectively installed on all of the above roof materials, the exact installation processes may differ. Below, we’ll look at each of the various roof materials and how installers secure solar panels to each.
Installing solar panels on tile and shingle roofs
Many properties have a tiled roof, which may seem like a barrier to installing solar. However, solar racking companies and installers have crafted many smart and safe ways to make putting solar panels on a tiled or singled roof easy.
Asphalt shingle roofs
Asphalt is perhaps the most popular roof material – as such, asphalt shingle solar panel installations are common and straightforward. Installers will drill studs into your roof and attach panel mounts at those locations. The space around the brackets is both sealed and surrounded with a flashing – a metal plate used to prevent water infiltration – to finish the job.
Clay tile roofs
Traditional Spanish tile roofs are made from clay tiles – this can be a pricey material to install solar panels on given the extra labor required.
Unlike traditional asphalt roofing, clay tiles are usually removed and replaced during a solar installation. This is for two reasons: first, clay tiles are relatively fragile and may break when installers walk on your roof. Second, in order to properly secure your solar panels, your installer needs to bolt the feet of your solar racking equipment directly to your roof. With clay tile roofs, this area can only be accessed properly by lifting tiles up.
As such, to properly anchor your solar panel racking, solar installers will typically remove clay tiles at the areas where they need to attach racking feet to your roof. Metal hooks and flashing are drilled into the roof, and your tiles can be slid back into place above the mounting feet. Depending on the exact shape and dimensions of the clay tiles on your specific roof, your installer may need to purchase or make uniquely-shaped hooks and flashing so that they fit fasten properly under the tiles. Companies like SnapNrack make specialized mounting inserts for all types of tiles.
In some cases, installers might simply replace the original tile with a new metal version, essentially combining the tile, mounting foot, and flashing into one piece of equipment.
Slate and concrete tile roofs
Much like clay tiles, both slate and concrete tiles are usually removed and replaced during the solar panel installation process. In some cases, installers will drill through the tiles themselves, but it’s more common to remove the tiles and replace them with a mounting foot and flashing because of the brittleness of slate and concrete.
Installing solar panels on other roof types
Not all roofs are made of tiles. In this section, we’ll talk about how solar panels are installed on other common roof materials such as concrete, rubber, and wood.
Flat concrete and rubber roofs
Some homes (often multifamily or commercial buildings) are topped with a flat concrete or rubber roof. Fortunately, you can still install a solar panel system safely and effectively on both. With a flat roof, panels need to be tilted towards the sun for optimal production, so your solar installer will need to install slanted metal racking to prop up your panels. Often times these systems don’t even need to be attached to your roof – many flat roof installations utilize a ballast system instead of standard penetration mounting that slanted residential roofs usually need. Ballast systems are simply a weighted racking setup that holds solar panels in place.
On the off chance that you need to drill into your flat roof to install solar panels, don’t worry – your solar installer will make sure that the holes they drill are as small as possible and sealed properly to avoid any roof damage or leaking.
Similar to asphalt shingles, installing solar panels on a wood or cedar roof mainly consists of drilling into a roof stud and slipping flashing in under the wood pieces to prevent leaking. Wood shingling can be brittle, and your installer will need to take extra precautions when mounting your panels to ensure that no parts of your roof end up unnecessarily cracked or damaged in any way.
Depending on the type of metal roof you have, installations will differ slightly, but the big takeaway is that solar panels work well on metal roofs. If you have a standing seam metal roof, your solar installer won’t even have to drill holes in your roof, as panel mounts can simply be clamped to the raised seams. If you’re working with a corrugated metal roof, your installer will need to drill holes into the roof. This won’t damage your roof – just like asphalt tile or other common roof types, waterproofing sealant prevents any moisture from getting through over the lifetime of your solar panel system.
Solar panels work on many different property and roof types
Regardless of what kind of roof is over your head – tiled, flat, wooden, and others – a solar energy installation can help you save money on electricity bills. Especially with unique roof materials and shapes, it’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from reputable, experienced installers. The best way to find and compare quotes from solar companies near you is by registering your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. When you join, you’ll indicate the location of your property on satellite imagery so that installers can provide custom quotes given the size and material of your roof. You can also leave a note in your profile indicating your roof material type after joining.