top of page
AdobeStock_81687188_BW(1).jpg
Search

The Best Roofing for Solar Panels

best roofing for solar panels

Choosing the best roofing for solar panels is crucial when planning an installation. The roofing material plays a significant role in the effectiveness, durability, and longevity of the solar system. The right material can enhance the performance of the panels, ensure the structural integrity of the roof, and provide a seamless integration of the solar system with the overall aesthetics of the property.


Conversely, using the wrong roofing material for solar panels can lead to various problems. Inadequate weight-bearing capacity can lead to structural issues, potentially compromising the integrity of the roof. Incompatible materials may make it challenging to properly mount and secure the solar panels, increasing the risk of damage or detachment during extreme weather conditions.


Key Considerations for Solar Panel Roofing

Several key considerations need to be taken into account when selecting the roofing material to ensure the success and efficiency of a solar panel installation. These factors directly impact the solar system's performance, durability, and compatibility, making them essential for homeowners and businesses alike.


Weight-bearing capacity and structural integrity: It is crucial to select a roofing material that can support not only the weight of the solar panels and mounting equipment but also the possible added weight of snow during the winter season. Ensuring the roof structure can handle the maximum expected weight is essential to avoid any potential structural damage or safety hazards.


Heat resistance and thermal conductivity: The solar panel roofing should have good heat resistance to protect the solar panels from excessive heat and prevent any thermal damage. Solar panel efficiency decreases above temperatures of 77°F (25°C ), so selecting solar panel roofing with low thermal conductivity boosts the energy output of the solar panels.


Durability and lifespan: A durable roofing material must withstand the harsh effects of weather conditions like rain, hail, wind, and UV radiation. Choosing a material with a long lifespan will ensure that the roof can provide reliable support for the solar panels throughout their operational lifespan. Remember that solar power systems can easily last 25 to 30 years, so it's ideal when a roofing material has a similar or longer lifespan.


Compatibility with solar panel installation and maintenance: The roofing material should be compatible with solar panel installation and maintenance requirements. This includes considerations like the ease of installing the solar panel mounting brackets and the accessibility for future panel maintenance or repairs. For example, it's ideal if the solar installers can walk on the roof without damaging it.


Cost and energy efficiency: Cost and Energy Efficiency: When selecting a roofing material for solar panel installation, it is important to consider the balance between cost and energy efficiency. While some materials may have a lower upfront cost, they may not be as energy efficient and may require more maintenance and repairs in the long run.


On the other hand, some materials may have a higher initial cost but provide significant cost savings through their increased energy efficiency and durability over time. So, it is essential to weigh both the short-term and long-term costs and benefits when selecting a roofing material for solar panel installation.


Comparing Popular Roofing Materials for Solar Panels

Let's explore the most popular types of roofs to determine which are best for generating solar power.


Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are an increasingly popular choice for both residential and commercial buildings due to their durability, longevity, and sustainability.


Pros

One of the big advantages of metal roofs is their exceptional durability. They can withstand extreme weather conditions, including heavy rain, snow, high winds, and hail. Metal roofs also have a long lifespan, often lasting 40-70 years, which aligns well with the lifespan of solar panels. Also, metal roofs are environmentally friendly as they are typically made from recycled materials and are fully recyclable at the end of their life. Their reflective properties can also enhance energy efficiency by reducing cooling costs.


Cons

Despite their benefits, metal roofs can be more expensive upfront compared to other roofing materials like asphalt shingles. The installation process can also be more complex, requiring specialized skills to ensure proper handling and attachment. Also, metal roofs can be noisy during heavy rain or hailstorms, although this can be reduced with proper insulation.


Longevity and Maintenance

Metal roofs require minimal maintenance compared to other roofing materials. Regular inspections are still recommended to check for any potential issues such as loose fasteners or accumulated debris that might affect the performance of both the roof and the solar panels. Given their long lifespan, metal roofs typically outlast the solar panels, which can simplify future roof replacement. Proper care and periodic maintenance ensure that both the roof and the solar panels continue to perform effectively over their expected lifespans.


Solar Panels on Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are excellent for solar panels, especially on standing seam metal roofs. The standing seams allow for solar panels to be clamped directly onto the roof without the need for penetrations, reducing the risk of leaks and preserving the roof's integrity. This solar panel mounting approach simplifies the installation process and ensures a secure and stable mounting system for the solar panels. For other types of metal roofs, mounting brackets and flashing are used to ensure secure attachment and prevent water intrusion.


When installing solar panels on metal roofs, it is crucial to ensure the roof can support the additional weight. Fortunately, metal roofs are generally sturdy enough to handle solar panel installations without significant structural modifications. The installation process involves careful planning to ensure the panels are optimally placed for maximum sunlight exposure while maintaining the roof’s structural integrity.


best roofing solar panels

Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Asphalt shingles are a popular roofing material known for their affordability, ease of installation, and wide range of style options.


Pros

One of the main advantages of asphalt shingles is their low cost, making them a popular choice for many homeowners. They are also widely available in a variety of colors and styles, allowing for customization to match the aesthetic of the property. Also, asphalt shingles are relatively easy to install, which can help reduce installation costs.


Cons

Unfortunately, asphalt shingles have a shorter lifespan than other roofing materials, typically lasting around 15-30 years, depending on the quality. They are also more prone to damage from harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind, and hail. Furthermore, asphalt shingles are not the most environmentally friendly option as they are not easily recyclable and contribute to landfill waste.


Longevity and Maintenance

Asphalt shingles have a moderate lifespan compared to other roofing materials. Regular maintenance, such as inspections and repairs, can help extend the lifespan of asphalt shingles. It is important to replace damaged or missing shingles promptly to prevent water damage and ensure the overall integrity of the roof. Also, routine cleaning and maintenance can help prevent debris buildup and moss growth, impacting the performance and longevity of both the shingles and the solar panels.


Solar Panels on Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Asphalt shingles are considered a suitable roofing material for solar panel installation due to their widespread use and compatibility with most mounting systems. However, it is important to ensure that the roof structure can support the weight of both the shingles and the solar panels. Proper installation by experienced professionals is crucial to prevent any damage to the roof or the solar system.


When installing solar panels on an asphalt shingle roof, it is crucial to seal roof penetrations to prevent water leakage and maintain the integrity of the roof. Proper flashing methods that securely seal the penetrations can help divert rain, snow, and other moisture away from the roof penetrations, ensuring the roof's protection and longevity.


roofing solar panels

Tile Roofs (Clay or Concrete)

Clay or concrete tile roofs are known for their exceptional durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal, making them a popular choice for homeowners seeking both functionality and beauty.


Pros

One of the main advantages of tile roofs, whether clay or concrete, is their exceptional durability. Tile roofs can last 50 years or more with proper maintenance, making them one of the longest-lasting roofing materials available. They are also highly resistant to fire, rot, and insect damage, providing excellent protection for the home. In addition, tile roofs offer superior insulation properties, helping to keep homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, which can reduce energy costs. Their aesthetic appeal is another significant benefit, as they come in a variety of styles and colors that can enhance the architectural beauty of a home.


Cons

Despite their benefits, tile roofs have some drawbacks. They are considerably heavier than other roofing materials, requiring a strong roof structure to support their weight. This may necessitate structural reinforcement, increasing the overall cost of installation. Tile roofs can also be more expensive upfront compared to materials like asphalt shingles. Additionally, while they are durable, individual tiles can be brittle and prone to cracking if walked on or impacted by heavy objects, which can complicate maintenance and repairs.


Longevity and Maintenance

Tile roofs have a long lifespan, often outlasting the solar panels themselves. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning debris and inspecting for damaged tiles, helps to preserve their longevity. It's important to replace any broken tiles promptly to prevent water damage. Since tile roofs are heavy, routine inspections ensure that the roof structure remains sound. Properly maintained tile roofs can continue to protect homes effectively for many decades, supporting solar panels without significant issues. Routine cleaning and upkeep of both the tiles and the solar panels help to maximize their performance and durability.


Solar Panels on Tile Roofs

Tile roofs are suitable for solar panel installations, but they require special considerations to avoid damaging the tiles. Solar installers need to use specific mounting systems designed for tile roofs, which often involve removing tiles and installing flashing and brackets that support the solar panels without causing leaks or damage. Proper installation by experienced professionals is crucial to ensure both the roof and the solar system remain intact and functional.


When installing solar panels on a tile roof, it is essential to work with a solar installer experienced in handling tile materials. This ensures that the tiles are not broken or cracked during the installation process, which could lead to costly repairs. The use of proper flashing techniques helps to seal roof penetrations and prevent water leakage, maintaining the roof's integrity and longevity.


Synthetic Cedar Shake Roofs

Synthetic cedar shake roofs are durable and low-maintenance, providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood shakes. They offer the aesthetic appeal of natural cedar, plus increased longevity and resistance to rot and insects.


Pros

Synthetic cedar shake roofs offer several advantages, including enhanced durability compared to natural wood. They are designed to mimic the appearance of traditional cedar shakes but are made from engineered materials that resist rot, mold, and insects, providing a longer lifespan and reduced maintenance needs. These synthetic shakes are also lightweight, so they can be installed on most roof structures without requiring additional reinforcement. Also, synthetic cedar shakes are often made from recycled materials, making them a more environmentally friendly option.


Cons

Despite their benefits, synthetic cedar shakes can be more expensive upfront than traditional wood shakes or other roofing materials like asphalt shingles. The initial cost can be a deterrent for some homeowners. Furthermore, although they are durable, synthetic materials may not perfectly replicate the natural aging process of real cedar, which can be a drawback for those seeking an authentic weathered look over time.


Longevity and Maintenance

Synthetic cedar shake roofs typically have a longer lifespan than natural wood shakes, often lasting 30-50 years with proper maintenance. This means that the roof can outlive the solar power system. Regular inspections and cleaning can help extend their longevity and ensure that both the roof and the solar panels continue to function effectively. It is important to promptly address any damage or wear to prevent water infiltration and other issues. Synthetic shakes require less maintenance than natural wood but should still be checked periodically for any signs of degradation. Proper care and maintenance of both the roofing material and the solar panels will maximize their performance and durability over time.


Solar Panels on Synthetic Cedar Shake Roofs

Synthetic cedar shake roofs are suitable for solar panel installations due to their durability and ease of installation. Similar to traditional cedar shakes, these roofs provide a stable base for solar mounting systems. Proper installation techniques are crucial to avoid damaging the synthetic material and to ensure the solar panels are securely attached. Installers typically use specialized mounting brackets and flashing to prevent leaks and maintain the integrity of the roof.


When installing solar panels on synthetic cedar shake roofs, it's important to ensure that the roof can support the additional weight of the solar panels. Fortunately, synthetic shakes are lighter than their natural counterparts, which generally simplifies the installation process. Experienced solar installers will use methods that avoid penetrating the roofing material whenever possible to maintain its water resistance and durability.


roof solar panels

Flat Roofs

Flat roofs are common on commercial and residential buildings, especially in urban environments.


Pros

Flat roofs are generally easier to access and navigate during the installation and maintenance of solar panels. They offer an ample, unobstructed area, allowing for flexible solar panel layout and orientation to maximize sun exposure. Space not used by solar panels can be utilized for other purposes, such as rooftop gardens, decks, or for mechanical equipment. Solar panels on flat roofs help shade the building, which can reduce cooling costs by keeping the roof and the building cooler.


Cons

Flat roofs require vigilant maintenance to prevent water pooling, which can lead to leaks if not properly managed. Depending on the structure, there may be weight limitations that could restrict the number of solar panels that can be installed. Flat roofs are more exposed to wind, which can apply upward force on solar panel installations if they're not anchored properly. Certain flat roofing materials may not be as durable as pitched roof options, potentially requiring more frequent repairs or replacement.


Longevity and Maintenance

Ensuring the longevity of flat roofs with solar panels requires the use of roof coatings and sealants, which help protect the materials beneath the panels. Also, frequent inspections are crucial for identifying and addressing issues such as water pooling, debris, and potential damage that can affect the integrity of the roof with a solar installation. Equally important is careful weight management during maintenance or repair efforts to prevent overstressing the roof structure. Careful attention to these aspects helps maintain the overall health and efficiency of the roof and solar panel system.


Solar Panels on Flat Roofs

Unlike pitched roofs, flat surfaces need special mounting systems to angle solar panels for optimal energy production. Ballasted mounting systems are a non-invasive choice that use weights to secure panels, maintaining roof integrity and preventing leaks. If there are roof penetrations from mounting the solar panels, waterproofing is crucial to protect against water damage. It's also helpful to have a structural review to ensure the roof can handle the additional weight of the solar modules and the racking system.


Worst Roofs for Solar Panels

Unfortunately, mounting solar panels on certain types of roofs is extremely difficult. Beware of taking on projects on the following roof types.


  • Wood Shake Roofs: They are highly flammable, less durable, and challenging to install solar panels without damaging the roof. Plus, the solar installation may void the roof warranty.

  • Slate Roofs: They are fragile and prone to cracking under the weight of solar panels, making installation difficult and potentially costly due to the need for specialized mounting equipment and labor.

  • Gravel Roofs: Installing solar panels on gravel roofs is difficult due to the uneven surface and the potential for gravel displacement, which can lead to instability and potential roof damage.

  • Rubber Roofs: They may not provide the necessary stability and support for solar panel racking systems, and improper installation can lead to leaks and roof damage.


Selecting the Best Roofing for Solar Panels

Choosing the ideal roof for solar panels is crucial for maximizing energy generation and ensuring long-term efficiency. Various factors such as orientation, tilt, shading, and material composition play significant roles in determining the suitability of a roof for solar installation.


Flat or low-slope roofs offer versatility and ease of installation, while south-facing, steeply angled roofs often yield optimal solar exposure. Also, durable roofing materials like metal or tile are recommended to support the weight of solar panels, withstand environmental elements, and have a long lifespan. By carefully considering these factors, your customers can make informed decisions that save money and boost solar energy production over time.


roofing solar

Another critical step in installing a solar system is the design and engineering. The GreenLancer platform was created to help solar energy contractors overcome design, permitting, interconnection, and engineering challenges. Our services include permit-ready solar plan sets, PV interconnection applications, and PE stamps for solar drawings. Create a GreenLancer account to begin shopping for solar design and engineering services for residential and commercial PV contractors.



Comments


bottom of page