Installing solar panels can help most homeowners or business owners save money on their electric bills. But the question is: can they actually be installed on any home or business? For example, what if you have a flat roof instead of a more traditional sloped roof? Well, while sloped roofs are ideal for solar panels, since the panels need to be placed at an angle to catch the sun’s rays, you can absolutely still install them on flat roofs! This is because flat roofs still have a slight pitch, or slope, in order to allow rainwater to drain off the building. But, no matter what type of roof you have, there are some things to consider when choosing your solar energy system.
Solar Racking Systems
When installing solar panels on a sloped rooftop, technicians will use what is known as a “penetration mount,” meaning they will drill multiple holes in your roof to attach the racking that holds the solar panels to your rooftop. But flat roofs require different kinds of racking systems to hold the solar panels in place. The options include:
- Solar Ballast System– This is a great option if you don’t want to drill holes in your roof: it uses a ballast to hold the racking system in place, meaning heavy weights such as concrete blocks are placed on the racks to hold them down.
- Attached Racking System- These are similar to those used on sloped roofs, and are fixed in place by fasteners, usually bolts or screws, which will require putting holes in your roof to secure the racking system.
- Tilted Racks– Tilted racking systems are available on both ballasted and attached racking mounts, and allow you to adjust the tilt of the solar panels throughout the day so they can get the most sunlight.
When choosing which solar racking system to go with, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons; for example, ballast systems don’t require any holes, but there will be additional weight placed on your roof, which can speed up your roof’s aging process. Attached racking systems are lighter and fixed to the roof, but they require more labor and additional materials like caulking or tape to stop leaks, and so are more expensive.
The cost of labor will make up around 10% of the total price of your solar panel system; because installing solar panels is easier and safer on a flat roof, and installers will not need special equipment to prevent falls, labor costs will actually be lower for flat roof installation. The rest of the expenses, such as the racks, will be a little more expensive. In addition, if you choose angled mounts to optimize your energy collection, you will have to pay more for those than for a regular solar panel system.
There are some possible issues with installing solar panels on a flat roof; one of the main concerns is leakage. If your panels are installed lying flat, a pool of water can form around them, causing damage to your roof. Other things to consider include:
- Panels that are laid flat get dirtier over time, and dirt reduces efficiency, so you will have to clean them more often than sloped panels.
- If you live in the north, panels that are laid flat will not face the sun as much as panels tilted towards the south.
- Laying panels flat can void the manufacturer’s warranty because of the water damage that can occur.
All of that being said, there is a possible solution to these problems. If you decide to install solar panels on a flat roof, you do have the option in certain cases to tilt them up to a slight 25 degree angle, as opposed to laying them flat, which could mean fewer problems with dirt, leaking, and inefficiency.
Having a flat roof will not stop you from reaping the benefits of solar panels, and in some ways, a flat roof can be preferable when it comes to installation and solar energy production! No matter what type of roof you have, if you’re looking to make the switch to solar, come to Go Solar Energy – we’ll find you multiple solar installers and plans to choose from. Our agents work with the top-rated solar companies in the country and will compare plans and find ways to save you the most money on a solar energy system. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar on our homepage, or to speak to an agent, call 888-290-3112.