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Choosing The Best Solar Panel Racking System

Solar Panel Racking

As a solar energy installer, you may find that customers are concerned with the way their panels will look on their roof. And while we know appearance is important, it’s also crucial to choose the best panel racking system for their home. Did you know that the lion’s share of your time installing a solar system is dedicated to assembling, aligning and attaching the racking system? Therefore, picking the best solar racking system is critical.

Choosing the solar panel racking system wisely will help keep your projects on schedule and on budget. This can help reduce your installation costs while ensuring happy customers.

You don’t want to have your solar installation crew fumbling with cumbersome parts while on the roof. This can lead to accidents and even injuries. In addition, if you are installing solar PV systems in areas with severe weather, it is also essential to make sure the solar panel racking system can handle these extreme conditions. Let’s explore all you need to know to select the best solar panel racking system for your next solar energy installation.

What Is Solar Panel Racking And Why Is It Important?

A racking system safely affixes solar modules to different surfaces, including roofs, carports, awnings or the ground. These systems are typically made of metal and set the orientation and tilt angle of a solar array. In areas with a lot of snow, installers often pitch solar power systems at a steeper angle to allow snow to slide off the panels easily. Racking systems help ensure panels are pitched at the optimal angle to capture maximum solar energy.

Solar Panel Racking Systems for Pitched Roofs

Pitched roofs are the most common roof type for residential installations. Solar systems are commonly installed parallel to the roof on angled roofs, with a couple of inches gap between the mounting hardware and the solar PV panels. If the gap is too small, there won’t be proper airflow, and the solar panels can overheat, reducing electricity production.

Solar Panel Racking Systems for Flat Roofs

When installing PV panels on flat roofs, they are often pitched at a steeper angle than the roof itself, compliments of the racking system. Some customers might want to avoid roof penetrations. In such cases, a ballasted system might be a good option. These systems use concrete blocks to weigh the system down instead of anchoring the system to prevent wind lift.

Ground Mounted Solar Panel Racking Systems

It isn’t always possible to install the solar system on the roof. Although it is almost always the lowest cost option, it often isn’t possible or advisable. For example, if the roof is heavily shaded or in a state of disrepair, a ground mount might be better suited.

These racking systems typically angle the panel up to lift off the ground and at an ideal angle to avoid shading and optimize solar electricity production. In addition, pole mounts enable the system to have a tracker to follow the sun.

Roof Material

The age and material of the roof also matters. If a client’s roof is in need of replacement, installers can recommend that the homeowner take care of this before any solar panels are installed. Panels can last 20-25 years or more, so it’s important to ensure the viability of the roof’s structure before boots hit the roof. Check out some of the recommended roofing materials that are particularly well suited for solar panel roof mounting systems.

Components Of Solar Panel Racking

These systems are composed of several parts, all critical for securing solar panels to the roof.

Roof Flashing for Solar Systems

Roof penetrations will lead to roof leaks if they are not properly sealed. Therefore, flashing is used to stop water from penetrating into the home or business, and it’s often comprised of an aluminum rectangle.

Keep in mind that flashing varies depending on the type of roof. For example, for asphalt shingle roofing, it is often slid under the shingles. By contrast, standing seam metal roofs don’t require flashing if no roof penetrations are made and the racking system is attached to the roof’s seams.

Solar Panel Roof Mounts

This is the part of the solar racking system that comes in direct contact with the roof. Often, these attach to the roof through flashing, and a bolt attaches to the rafters in the roof. Before installing a solar energy system, ensure the rafters are intact and properly spaced to secure the project properly.

Rails on Solar Racking Systems

These are long vertical or horizontal tracks that run along the roof and are composed of aluminum. The solar panels attach directly to rails, and wiring usually runs along the rails, keeping the installation tidy.

Best Solar Panel Racking Systems

Although there are numerous solar panel racking manufacturers, below are three brands that lead the way for excellent PV racking solutions.

K2, SnapNrack, Unirac, and IronRidge are all reputable solar racking system manufacturers known for providing durable and efficient solutions. Here's a brief comparison of these four solar racking brands:


  • Recognized for its robust and durable aluminum and steel components.

  • Offers flexibility with adjustable components for various roof types.

  • Known for its Wind Tunnel Tested design, ensuring stability in challenging weather conditions.


  • While durable, some may find the system to be slightly heavier than alternatives.


  • Offers a versatile range of solar panel mounting solutions for various roof types and ground installations.

  • Known for robust and durable designs, ensuring long-term stability.

  • Provides both pitched roof and flat roof mounting solutions.


  • May have a slightly higher initial cost compared to some competitors.


  • Features an innovative design that simplifies installation and reduces overall costs.

  • Offers a comprehensive product line for both residential and commercial installations.

  • Known for a user-friendly and adjustable design, accommodating different module sizes.


  • Some users may prefer a more streamlined aesthetic.


  • Constructed with high-quality materials and can withstand various site conditions, including high snow and wind loads.

  • The innovative design of these racking systems streamlines the installation process by using fewer tools and parts, saving time and reducing overall costs.

  • Provides exceptional customer support and assistance to installers, including ongoing solar racking system product support throughout the project lifecycle.


  • May have a slightly higher initial cost compared to some competitors.

IronRidge Solar Panel Racking

what is solar racking

This solar panel mounting manufacturer produces solutions for flat roofs, pitched roofs, and ground mounts for both residential and commercial applications. Their products range from moderate to extreme load capabilities, and they are known for producing some of the strongest racking systems in the industry. This is especially helpful in extreme climates with large snow loads or high wind loads.

The IronRidge XR100 rail system has 8-foot spanning capabilities and is designed to support heavy loads. It is an easy system to assemble, especially for new solar installers, because this system requires minimal tools and parts. For example, there are only three socket sizes needed to assemble the rack, and it is fast, safe, and easy.

In addition, the IronRidge XR100 has flashing attachments for nearly every roof type for easy installation and high durability. The racking systems are made out of aluminum alloy, which is excellent for the installer because it is lightweight yet very robust.

All IronRidge solar panel racking systems come with a 25-year warranty, and are listed under UL2703, the standard for evaluating the efficacy of mounting systems as they relate to electrical and mechanical connections.

K2 Solar Racking Systems

best solar panel racking system

Founded in 2004, this solar panel racking specialist serves the international market with various options for flat, tile, corrugated fiber concrete, trapezoidal sheet metal, standing and round seam roofs, and ground mount systems. It serves the residential, commercial, and utility-scale markets across the globe. They even offer some shared rail systems that reduce how many rails need to be installed, allowing solar modules to share rails.

The company, previously known as Everest Solar Systems, can customize solar panel racking solutions if its standard products don’t accommodate. It has provided racking solutions for over 20 gigawatts of solar energy capacity worldwide. Their online design tool allows customers to “build” solar panel racking systems for their projects and can connect directly with GreenLancer for the next steps of the installation.

SnapNRack Solar Panel Racking Systems for Roof Mounts

solar racking system

This solution contains a snap-in system to attach the rails for easy installation. With this system, it is easy to mix module orientation for greater energy production. The company is owned by SunRun and produces residential roof and ground-mount racking systems, but not commercial PV racking.

The company claims to have the largest span capability of any light rail solution. Also, it has the first railless system to earn Miami-Dade NOA approval. These are highly stringent due to the area’s high susceptibility to high-velocity hurricanes.

Unirac Solar Racking Systems

solar panel racking

Unirac is a leading manufacturer of solar panel racking systems, offering versatile solutions for flat roofs, pitched roofs, and ground mounts. Their product line caters to both residential and commercial applications with racking systems that support moderate to extreme loads. Unirac is known for producing robust racking solutions, ideal for areas with heavy snow or high wind conditions.

The Unirac SolarMount system is engineered for efficiency and durability. This solar panel racking system allows for quick and easy installation, making it popular among both new and experienced solar installers. The system requires minimal tools and parts, with a simplified hardware kit that ensures a fast, safe, and straightforward setup. The use of high-quality aluminum alloy makes the racking system lightweight yet strong, enhancing performance and longevity.

Unirac provides a comprehensive 25-year warranty on their solar panel racking systems. All systems are UL2703 certified, meeting standards for electrical and mechanical safety, reflecting Unirac’s commitment to quality and reliability.

How Much Do Solar Panel Mounting Systems Typically Cost?

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the racking system commonly costs about $0.10 per watt. However, ground mount systems cost more than rooftop solar systems because of additional hardware, permitting, and installation costs. The good news is that if your clients qualify for the federal solar tax credit, they can apply it to the cost of racking equipment and installation costs. The credit is now 30% for systems installed before 2033.

Solar Panel Racking System Materials

Solar racking systems are typically constructed using durable materials designed to withstand various environmental conditions over an extended period. Some of the best materials commonly used in high-quality solar panel racking systems include:

  1. Aluminum: Aluminum is a popular choice for solar panel racking due to its lightweight nature, corrosion resistance, and strength-to-weight ratio. It is well-suited for outdoor applications and can endure exposure to harsh weather conditions without rusting or corroding.

  2. Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is valued for its excellent corrosion resistance, making it ideal for solar racking in coastal or corrosive environments. It offers durability and strength, ensuring long-term stability and reliability for solar installations.

  3. Galvanized Steel: Galvanized steel is often used for ground-mount solar panel racking. It undergoes a galvanization process that adds a protective zinc coating, enhancing its resistance to corrosion and extending its lifespan, particularly in areas with high humidity or salt exposure.

  4. UV-Resistant Plastics: Some solar racking components, such as end caps and cable management clips, may be made from UV-resistant plastics. These materials help protect against degradation caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight, ensuring the longevity of the racking system.

  5. Anodized Coatings: Many aluminum components of solar racking systems are treated with anodized coatings to enhance their durability and resistance to corrosion. Anodizing creates a protective layer on the surface of the aluminum solar panel racking system, improving its lifespan and maintaining its appearance over time.

Solar Panel Racking FAQs

Read on to get answers to common questions about solar panel racking systems.

How do I choose the right solar racking system?

Consider factors such as roof type, local weather conditions, load-bearing capacity, and solar panel specifications. Choosing a solar racking system that complements your installation needs is helpful because it can reduce your labor expenses and save time.

Do solar panel racking systems impact PV module efficiency?

Solar panel racking systems can impact the efficiency of a solar installation by optimizing panel orientation and tilt for maximum sunlight exposure. Well-designed systems also provide proper ventilation, preventing overheating and ensuring panels operate at peak performance. The correct spacing and mounting angle contribute to overall efficiency, making racking systems an integral part of a solar energy system's effectiveness and longevity.

What maintenance is required for solar panel racking systems?

Solar racking is generally low-maintenance, but periodic inspections for debris, vegetation, or damage are recommended. Tightening bolts and ensuring the structural integrity of the solar racking system can contribute to its long-term performance.

Choosing The Best Solar Racking System Is Paramount

IronRidge, K2, Unirac, and SnapNRack all make quality solar panel mounting systems with excellent warranties. Many solar contractors get accustomed to a particular system, and they prefer it because they become more efficient at designing and installing systems with that specific equipment. Ultimately, choosing the ideal racking system depends on the property, local climate, and installer preference, but these options are a great place to start your search.

Once you’ve designed the racking system layout for a client, work with GreenLancer to streamline the required solar permitting and engineering processes. Complete the form below to learn more!


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