Roof-Mounted Solar Panels: Debunking the Myth of Roof Leaks
The decision to install solar panels on your roof is a significant one, driven by the desire to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. However, a common concern among homeowners considering solar panels is whether the installation process can lead to roof leaks. This is a risk many home owners have given for their reason to not look into solar, no matter what the savings may be. In this blog post, we will delve into the roof mounting process for solar panels and address the myths and realities surrounding the potential for leaks.
I. Roof Assessment
Before we dive into the mounting process, it's essential to highlight that a thorough roof assessment is the initial step in solar panel installation. Some home owners don't want to place solar panels on a brand new roof, as though they somehow degrade the large investment they just made to their home. While the spending of thousands of dollars makes one more protective of their asset, it is also the very best time to install solar panels.
Even the best south facing roof, installed by the greatest installers in the world, cannot hope for a perfect leak free install every time. General rule of thumb, if the roof is old enough that it has the risk of leaking without the solar panels, it might not be a good idea to place solar on it. That is why a roof assessment is necessary.
This assessment will look at the roof to determine it's condition. A proper inspection should look for signs of aging and take this into consideration. Loose shingles, falling granules, and the shiny look around the edges showing fiberglass are all signs of a roof's age. Additionally, if there is an attic, the inspector will go there to look at the truss system and to spot any discoloration in the insulation to verify if there are any signs of leakage already occurring in the home.
This assessment will determine the condition of your roof and whether any repairs or reinforcements are needed to ensure a leak-free solar panel installation. If you have an old roof, you may get denied by the solar company for installation. If you insist to do the install and ignore their advice, you may have to waive your warranties. This is highly not recommended. So, assuming you have a good roof, the next step is installation either through roof penetration or ballast mounting.
II. Roof Penetration vs. Ballast Mounting
A. Roof Penetration
Many shingle roofs require a rail system mounted through roof penetration. This sounds scary to homeowners, but this process is meticulously done with leak prevention in mind.. The way it is mounted begins is for the installer to locate the portions of the roof where the truss system is. A penetration here is far more secure for the solar and far safer when it comes to leakage concerns. Then, a mounting system is secured to the roof by drilling holes into the truss and securing the system with bolts. This is then sealed up.
While this method may raise concerns about potential leaks, reputable solar installation companies take extensive precautions to prevent water infiltration and use equipment like these mounting systems that are designed to blend into the roof and make leaking near impossible. Two big points to emphasize are the installers and equipment used:
- Sealing and Flashing: During the installation process, the holes created for bolts that get attached to the home's trusses. These holes are meticulously sealed with high-quality sealants, and flashing materials are used to create watertight barriers around each penetration point. This minimizes the risk of leaks.
- Professional Installation: Hiring experienced professionals who are well-versed in roof attachment techniques is crucial. They ensure that penetrations are correctly sealed and that flashing is installed to protect against water intrusion. Bad installers get bad reviews and don't last long in the industry.
B. Ballast Mounting
Ballast mounting, on the other hand, doesn't involve roof penetrations. Instead, solar panels are held in place using weighted racking systems. This will usually be the option of choice for flat roofs. While this method eliminates concerns about roof leaks, it may not be suitable for all roof types. A proper inspection will determine if a flat roof can support the weight of the solar panels. An additional measure to protect home owners is that such proposed systems must be passed through a permitting process. So, if an installer says that a roof is good, but the permit office determines a flat roof is not rated for a solar system, then the permits are denied and solar does not go on the roof.
III. Regular Roof Maintenance
To further dispel the myth of solar panel-induced leaks, it's essential to highlight the importance of regular roof maintenance. Regardless of the mounting method used, all roofs require periodic inspections and maintenance to ensure their integrity.
- Roof Inspections: Regular roof inspections, ideally conducted twice a year, can identify any potential issues, such as damaged shingles or flashing, that might lead to leaks.
- Professional Roofers: Employing professional roofers for inspections and repairs is recommended. They can address any concerns promptly and ensure the long-term health of your roof.
If this seems excessive, just remember that you can easily inspect your own roof to spot early signs of aging. Discoloration due to shiny edges, or whole spots with lacking granules are easy give aways. Many roofing companies are willing to give a free inspection to give you an idea of when a roof needs to be replaced. Take advantage of this when you need to get a good idea of how many years you have left on a roof.
IV. Professional Installation and Warranty
At the end of the day, this is construction done by human beings. There is always a small chance of risk. Therefore, selecting a reputable and experienced solar installation company is paramount to a leak-free solar panel installation. Professional installers adhere to industry best practices, use high-quality materials, and provide warranties that cover not only the solar panels but also the roof attachment system. A proper workmanship warranty that takes the liability of any install work should be a mandatory requirement for any solar installer you are looking at. This added layer of protection ensures that any unforeseen issues related to the mounting process are addressed.
In conclusion, the installation of roof-mounted solar panels, when done correctly by professionals, should not cause roof leaks. Roof penetration techniques are designed with robust waterproofing measures, while ballast mounting eliminates this concern altogether. Regular roof maintenance is essential, regardless of whether you have solar panels, to ensure the longevity of your roof.
While there is always the slightest chance of a roof leak, you can take precautions to ensure your solar install has the best chance for success. By selecting a reputable solar installation company with workmanship warranties and staying proactive about roof care, you can confidently embrace the benefits of solar energy without the fear of roof leaks.
So, if you have been worried about looking at solar due to roof leaks, don't be. A reputable solar company will not place panels on a roof that is not compatible with solar. There is always an inspection to ensure your roof is a good fit, followed by a permitting process to double check the work of any installer. No installer with workmanship warranties wants to install on a bad roof, that is because they would be footing the bill for any repairs or replacements. The best policy for all parties involved is to meticulously ensure a proper install and do the job right the first time.