solar panels roof damage

Solar panels and roof damage

Many property owners worry about damaging their roof when installing a solar panel system. These installations will typically last around 30 to 35 years, so it’s important to make sure installing panels doesn’t cause harm to your roof. Fortunately, roof damage as a result of a solar panel installation is extremely rare because installers take precautionary steps while installing panels to prevent leaks and other damage from occurring.

Solar panels don’t damage your roof when installed properly

Just like any home improvement project, using the right service provider is essential to a rooftop solar job. For most homeowners, installing solar panels will not result in roof damage as long as your solar installer is a licensed, qualified professional and your roof is in good condition. If you hear of roof damage occurring because of a solar installation, it’s likely because the roof was initially in poor condition.

The first step is making sure you’re working with a reputable installation company. You can connect with high-quality solar installers is by registering your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. We pre-vet all of our installer partners to ensure that only the best installation companies have the opportunity to provide quotes through our platform. If you are concerned about damage to your roof, you can question your installer of choice about their installation process and measures they take to prevent roof damage using the online messaging center or invite installers out for site visits so they can inspect the roof and answer your questions in person. It’s also worth asking any company about their workmanship warranty, and whether or not it covers your roof on the off chance damage occurs.

How solar panels are installed on your roof

Being concerned about roof damage with a solar panels installation certainly isn’t unreasonable. Putting racking and solar panels on your roof alter one of the core parts of your home’s structural makeup, and there are parts to the installation process that put your roof at risk if done incorrectly.

One of the biggest concerns for property owners is the holes needed in your roof to secure your solar panels. During installation, workers will drill holes in your roof to secure the racking which will hold your panels. These holes are for lag bolts, which secure your panels to your roof, and are designed to withstand extreme weather. These holes and bolts are necessary for almost every solar installation, and their size and depth will vary based on what your roof is made of (asphalt, wood, etc.).

Holes in your roof never sounds great, but there are several safety measures used by solar installers to make sure your roof remains structurally sound and won’t leak at all. To prevent water from getting through the new hole, the bolt fixture will be surrounded by flashing, which is a metal or plastic shield that fits under existing roof tiles. This flashing is then further sealed with tar or similar material. Lastly, the hole where the lag bolt is also filled with a sealant to protect against water seepage in your roof.

Aside from the holes in your roof, a common concern from property owners is the added weight solar adds to your roof. In almost every case, the weight of solar panels will not compromise the structural integrity of your roof – roofs are designed to hold much more weight than might be added with 20-30 solar panels. If you live in a snowy climate, you won’t need to worry about the weight of snow either, because solar panels are typically installed at an angle, allowing snow to slide off.

Solar doesn’t always involve holes in your roof

If you’re still concerned about having holes in your roof to mount your solar panels, there are some less common ways to still benefit from rooftop solar energy. One popular option is to install solar roof tiles or solar shingles, which integrate the electricity-generating capacity of photovoltaics right into your roof shingles and eliminate the need for mounting traditional panels. While this option has many aesthetic benefits, costs are still high and the technology isn’t as efficient as traditional panels. 

If you have a flat roof, you won’t need to put holes in it to install solar. Installations on flat roofs commonly use ballast mounting systems. With this type of system, the mounts are weighted down sufficiently to ensure the system remains secured to the roof.  Another option to avoid solar on your roof entirely is to install a ground mount, or join a community solar plan and receive solar energy from an offsite location.

Find high-quality solar installers on EnergySage

A rooftop solar panel installation is a great investment that won’t lead to roof damage when you work with a professional, experienced installer. By registering your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, local qualified solar installers can bid on your project and submit quotes for you to review. Worried that your roof may not be right for solar? Get started on our free Solar Calculator today to determine if your property is suitable for a solar installation.

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21 thoughts on “Solar panels and roof damage

  1. George N Alford

    I would never recommend Tesla’s solar panels. We were happy with the money saved on our electric bill, but when we developed a roof leak, (not caused by the panels) we called to have the leak checked so see if it was from the installation and was told in September of 2018 that they would not be able to get out here until after the first of the year. That’s a long time to wait in an area prone to Monsoons.

    I was not aware that when they install the panels, numerous holes will be drilled through the roof and only sealed, no flashing installed around the holes which is required to better insure no leaks will form. If you get a leak anywhere on the roof, be it above or under the panels, but not caused by the initial install, Tesla will charge $499 to remove and reinstall any panels that need to be removed to make access to the area by a roofing company. Also, Tesla told me after the panels were ready to be re-installed that they would not re-install them if all the areas that they made previous holes were not repaired with new tar paper, they would not re-install them and warranty the install. This was only after the area of the leak was fixed which cost us $800. So now I had to contract a roofing company to lay new tar paper on one whole side of my roof and replace broken tiles, at yet another out of pocket cost of $3150.00 dollars! Not only that out of pocket cost, but during the time that the panels were off and not producing and offset, we were still having to pay the monthly fee for the lease. No help there yet. There is supposed to be a cost adjustment at their next meeting of some kind, but we are out that money for now! They don’t treat us like we matter at all.

    1. Allen Round

      Mr. Alford, I too have solar by Tesla and your experience is similar to what I am going through. My solar panels were installed in 2015 so the 1 year warranty against leaks is long past. We recently had a leak in our roof. I contacted Tesla, which took forever – all they want to talk about is cars. For $499 they will remove and reinstall the panels so the roofing company can repair the leaks. It is October 19, 2020, and they will not be doing the removal until January 4, 2021. I do have a roofing company lined up and they know about the new tar paper requirement. I have a couple of questions as to your experience. Did they have to replace the tiles that had been drilled for mounting the pucks during the first installation or did they just put them back where they had been? Upon the reinstallation of the panels, did they work with the roofing company to make sure the flashing around the holes was done correctly? By the wayI have also been told by another person who dealt with Tesla that the reason for the $499 cost of removing and replacing the panels is because if the job is less that $500 they do not need to use licensed contractors. I appreciate any comments or suggestions you may have. This has been a real nightmare. I’m, concerned that after all is done if there is a leak the roofing company will say it was because of improper reinstallation of the panels.and the Solar company will say it leaks because the roofing company didn’t repair the leak.

    2. john fredrick stephani

      Does anybody know of any warranties – or insurance against these leaks from solar panel installers ?

  2. Audrey Campbell

    My panels are professionally contracted. A squirrel made a nest under the panel. It made a hole in the roof. I don’t know for how long it built the nest, but it was big enough for rain to come through. $500. For Tesla to come remove panels so that roof could be repaired plus $1500. to repair the roof. I ran out of cash so the ceiling drywall In the bedroom is rain damaged. All funds were out of pocket. Liberty Mutual Insurance said that they are not responsible for rodent damage. All funds to repair came from out of my pocket. Besides that, the rodents bit the lines when he built his nest causing the panels not to work, for however long the panels were down. My electric bill went from $8. a month all the way up to $150. per month. My Tesla bill remained at $150. a month from the damage caused. So money saved, I don’t think that it is worthwhile having solar panels in the end its too expensive. For any money saved it all went back back for the birth of my 4 newborn baby squirrels. My home is two story so there is no way to see or tell if the squirrels come back again. So, ‍♀️

      1. Patsy Fleisch

        We have developed leaks which has caused damage to the beams and wood supporting the roof. The roof was only 6 years old when solar by Solar City was installed 2015. I am not sure what to do next. I have to have it all repaired. Solar City has been purhased by Tesla. A big fat mess. I am with John, where did you see the tesla insurance?

  3. Kristi

    I had solar panels installed by a reputable company on a 15 year old home. After the first year I have noticed cracks in the ceiling that keep growing and multiplying for over 4 years. I’m told the weight of the panels is well within the limits. There are no signs of the house settling due to the ground. What might be causing this?

    1. Melissa

      Hi Kristi. I am having the same issue, along with gaps that have been formed between my windows and the windowsills, gaps between the bottom of the wall and my hardwood flooring, and trim that is pulling away from the wall sideways. I believe all this is related to the weight of the solar panels. The name of my company is Sunova. I am suing them on my own. They sent two people out on two different occasions and came back with the same result – they do not feel they are responsible for the cracks or other issues I’m having.

  4. Connie Rosario

    I live in Guam, a tropical US island. I rented a home that belonged to GHURA, the local HUD. They had renovated 5 homes with solar panels. All our homes are full concrete because of typhoons. I am now getting evicted from the home, ( I was also evicted from the house next door for the same reason), because the contractors that put in the solar panel racks did not properly seal the holes made. Spalling is an understatement, more like the entire kitchen ceiling narrowly missing my husbands head.

  5. Chris Schultz

    I have a area where one of the panels is mounted on the roof valley. I have a wet spot that coincides with the panel. Should a panel be anchored or attached where a roof valley runs?

  6. William Fetzer

    Well if your going to attach tracks or fail to get the panels up off the roof. The roof will.not dry properly. Then in about 5 years your customers will have to replace there roofs. That means the panels will need to come off. The customer going to be looking at the installer for reimbursement

  7. Elise

    Solar panels are great and can save you a lot of money when saving on electricity. With a professional installer, you can assure that your roof and ceiling won’t be damaged because they know how to attached panel over your roof.

  8. K

    Our attached neighbour had his solar panels installed in the spring of 2015. By the fall of 2015 we noticed a lot of curling of our shingles just below the edge of his solar panels along the property line. Our roofer repaired this section in 2016. By 2018 the shingles were curled again. We’ve been wondering if it’s related to run off from the solar panels, and a freeze/thaw cycle. We’ve spoken with a home inspector who says that there is a significant amount of heat created under these panels and it escapes around the panels, so we are getting the edge of this heat release, along with excess snow and ice likely (we’re in Canada). Any advice from the field on how we can correct this, before we install a new roof? Clearly there is a repeating problem here. Thanks.


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