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Can I Install a Solar Panel on My Metal Roof?

Apr 15, 2019

One of the most frequently asked questions we get when potential clients are in the research stage of metal roof installation is whether or not you can install solar panels on a metal roof. Undoubtedly, the increased interest in solar paneling originates from the fact that many people who choose metal roofing do so because of its sustainable nature and environmental benefits. It’s no surprise, then, that people who choose an environmentally friendly roofing option also desire to install an energy-efficient method of providing electricity to their homes.

Can You Install Solar Panels on a Metal Roof?

The answer is a resounding yes. For the reasons mentioned earlier, solar panels and metal roofs are a match made in heaven. Both are environmentally friendly and are focused on reducing the impact on the environment, and both are a common topic of discussion regarding new, “green” building techniques.

In general, solar panels are made in two basic forms – the classic, metal-framed, standing crystalline photovoltaic solar panels you may be familiar with, and the newer, thin-film solar laminate sheets. Both are appropriate for installation on nearly every available type of metal roof on the market today. However, a few accommodations are necessary in some circumstances. For more information, consult the pros and cons list below.

Pros of Installing Solar Panels on a Metal Roof

The considerations you must make when planning solar panel installation on a metal roof are few but important. However, in most cases, it is actually preferable to install panels on a metal roof instead of a traditional, asphalt shingle roof. Pros of installing solar panels on a metal roof include:

  • Durability. One of the number one factors in any decision to install solar panels is their relatively considerable cost, as well as the cost of installation. Since it can cost as much as $2500, or more, to install a solar panel system that ranges anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 itself, most homeowners prefer to install their solar panel system only once. However, since residential asphalt shingle roofs last from 10 to 30 years once installed, homeowners installing solar panels on top of asphalt shingle roofs risk having their solar panels outlive their roof by as many as ten years.

If a roof supporting a solar panel system needs to be replaced, the solar paneling will need to be removed for the duration of the roofing project and then replaced once it is over. Many roofing companies will not handle removal and installation, necessitating another installation fee from the solar company. In addition, you risk damaging your solar panels from frequent moving.

Conversely, a durable metal roof will last as long as 50 or 60 years, outlasting even the industry-best solar panels and eliminating the need for multiple installation fees. In the end, although metal roofing can be a little more costly initially, its durability well outstrips that of asphalt shingles and the reduction in installation fees for your solar panels make metal roofing well worth the cost.

  • Installation is easy. A primary concern of many homeowners is that installation of solar panels will mean drilling a series of holes in a previously watertight roof, causing leaks and damage to the roof. Fortunately, many solar panel manufacturers also make mounting options so their panels can be installed easily on a range of roofing systems. No matter what type of metal roof you have, there is likely a drill-free, hole-free solution for installation.For example, one solar manufacturer has developed a solar mount that exactly mimics the shape of metal roofing tiles. Since the mount simply replaces a tile, no holes are drilled and no gaps or leaks are produced. Other manufacturers developed a mount with clamps for installation on standing seam metal roofs. Since the mounts clamp directly onto the standing seams, no holes are drilled into the roof itself.

Even corrugated roofs, with their much thinner profile and lack of an external structure to which installers can attach solar panels, can support traditional solar panels. The roof cannot support the panels on its own, but solar panels can be attached to the internal support structure of the roof. There are several variations of mounts to achieve this, but the fact remains that even the thinnest metal roofs have the capability to support solar panels.

  • Both are sustainable and lower your energy costs. As mentioned, metal roofing and solar panels are often part of a green roof installation plan that can help the environment by reducing waste and fossil fuel usage. However, metal roofing can also work to help lower your energy bills, and adding solar panels increases its positive effects.In general, metal roofs reflect more of the sun’s radiant energy back into the environment, instead of absorbing it like asphalt shingles. As a result, less heat is released into your home in the summer. Similarly, less heat is lost to the environment in the winter so long as your home’s roof is adequately insulated. Adding solar panels to an already ENERGY STAR approved roofing system only serves to increase your energy savings. In addition, most solar panels and metal roofing systems are recyclable once they reach the end of their lifespans.

Cons of Installing Solar Panels on a Metal Roof

Negatives of installing solar panels on a metal roof are relatively few:

  • Some installations call for custom brackets. If you have a standing seam or metal tile roof, you will need to use custom brackets to install your solar panels without drilling holes in your roof. Though this method of installation retains the water tightness of your roof, your options for purchase may be a little more limited, as you must first find a solar company compatible with the brackets.
  • Some installations require holes to be drilled. If you have a corrugated metal roof, installing solar panels will likely require you to drill down into the support structure for your roof. However, if done correctly, you can maintain the original water tightness of your roof by adding sealant. Alternatively, some companies manufacture brackets that attach to the ridges of the roof, avoiding holes in the water channels.

In conclusion, you absolutely can install solar panels on your metal roof. In fact, in most cases, metal roofs offer a better base for installing solar panels than asphalt shingles. Speak with your solar company and your roofing company to determine the best techniques available for your roof type.

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