Solar Panels and Metal Roofing: The “Green Dream Team”
June 10, 2014 | By Mike Gonet | Filed under: Articles, Education, General, Green News, Metal Roofing, Solar Energy
Imagine this … a solar panel system mounted onto an environmentally friendly, lifetime aluminum metal roofing system. For starters, just saying that already sounds like a cool bragging right; and yes, this is totally possible – solar panels interface very nicely, effectively, and efficiently with lifetime aluminum metal roofing. With that in mind, let’s delve into the topic of why solar panels and an aluminum metal roof are a dream team, how to initially approach this type of system, and what to avoid.
Classic Metal Roofs, LLC has worked with solar companies all over Southern New England in attempt to fulfill the needs of homeowners looking for options to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Check out some of our past aluminum metal roofing system installations with integrated solar systems …
A solar panel is a set of photovoltaic modules electrically connected, and in most cases, mounted onto a structure. In this case, a structure that they interface very nicely with is an aluminum metal roof. Solar systems generate electricity, practically pay for themselves, significantly lower the cost of energy, provide clean energy, and nearly instantly produce free energy. Solar panels harness the suns energy, providing a non-polluting energy alternative to coal and oil. They typically have a lifespan of over 30 years and are designed to outlast other nonrenewable energy sources. Ultimately, solar panels interfacing with an aluminum metal roofing system provides for an incredibly environmentally friendly system for you and your home.
Don’t Install Solar On Asphalt – Do Use Aluminum, Zinc, or Copper
Before you even begin to ask yourself – do not even consider having solar panels installed onto your asphalt roof, if you have one. The warranty for your roofing system must absolutely outlast the solar panels. Unlikely with an asphalt roof. Therefore, you will be wasting your time and money putting a 25-35+ year (most solar manufacturers have a warranty of 25 years) solar system on lackluster asphalt roofing material. Something to take note of is that contractors who claim to install a 30-year asphalt roof are very tricky with their wording (asphalt roofs last, on average, 16-years), regardless of the contractor’s “promises” or warranty.
There is already a high possibility for roofing failure with asphalt, integrating solar with asphalt will only make it fail sooner due both to increased load and roofing penetrations. The roofing penetrations required for the installation of a solar panel mounting system increase the likelihood of leaks later on down the road – ultimately shortening the already short lifespan of the asphalt roof. That being said, solar panels and asphalt roofing are, conclusively, a recipe for overall roofing disaster. Do you want to deal with paying for the removal and re-installation of the solar panels when (not if) your asphalt roof fails? Not to mention that during re-roofing, the process for the re-integration of the solar panels with an asphalt roof must be coordinated in order for the panels to be re-installed simultaneously by the roofers and solar company. Something else to keep in mind is that roofers are paid to put on roofs, not solar panels; thus, the roofer will usually be removing the solar panels, creating a high possibility for the roofer to make errors dismantling the panels, negligently causing serious damage to them.
The roofing material that will interface best with solar panels is going to be a material that, at the very least, outlasts the 30 year lifespan of the solar panel system. This is why we recommend aluminum with solar: aluminum outlasts the solar panel systems by a lifetime. Solar panels can be installed on standing seam metal roofing with attachments that do not penetrate the roof or add ballast, lowering the cost and labor of the system. Therefore, if you want solar panels on your roof, you are best off with a metal roof initially. Since the service life of an aluminum metal roof will outlast the life of the solar panels, you will be able to install new solar panels after many years of the roof. However, do keep in mind that the roof’s warranty usually does not cover damage to solar components; as in most cases, the solar company will differ from the roofing contractor.
STOP! What You Really Need To Know
If you have done research on the web regarding solar panels and metal roofing, we advise you to be very cautious. Classic Metal Roofs, LLC has years of experience in the field, and many homeowners have intimated to us upon meeting that they are planning on getting solar panels subsequent to the installation of the metal roof. Understand this: If you want solar on your metal roof, the metal roofing contractor absolutely must know this.
Marketing can be very evil and sometimes marketing goes as far as promoting blatant lies. Based entirely on our years of industry experience of installations all over New England, if solar panels are envisioned, a metal roof must be installed with solar in mind. We cannot stress this enough! Do not think that just because you have a standing seam metal roof, you can freely have solar panels attached. Well, you can … but, the results could and most cases will be disastrous, especially in a scenario involving wind uplift. Again, standing seam DOES NOT mean you can “seamlessly” just go ahead and attach a solar system. When the metal roof is being installed, the roofing must have the proper fastening so it can be substantially reinforced with solar in mind.
Basically, do not consider solar unless the metal roof installation has been beefed up to withstand solar. In most, if not all cases – if you already have a metal roof and did not have solar taken into account during installation, your roof may not be able to withstand solar panels successfully.
Field Experience in Context: We have seen standing seam metal roofing systems with a 20 foot long solar panel being only being held with 4 clips and 4 screws – some with only 3 of each. The not-so-funny thing about this is that it should have 20 clips with 40 screws. This fault is not uncommon. Become aware of the possibility that many people installing these metal roofs, especially if they know that solar is in mind, do not know what they are doing. Do your research, do it once, do it right …
Don’t Use Thin-Film Solar
The notorious “thin-film” solar approach is slowly slipping out of the industry and should not be considered a desirable solar solution for a standing seam metal roof no matter what the solar companies attempt to advertise. First and foremost, they produce roughly half the amount of energy as crystalline does. Though, as advertised, these thin-film panels are very flexible and can be applied to curved metal panels, making them a “good idea” for structures that cannot handle additional weight, a good idea does not necessarily result in a good system.
As discussed earlier, if solar is in mind, the roofing system must be purposely installed in a fashion capable of handling the additional weight.
Even if that were not the case, we would still suggest avoiding the thin-film all together. These solar solutions are advertised with the buzz word “simplicity” repeatedly – and they are exactly right. They really are too simple to work well with the complexities of a metal roofing system. Thin-film is attached as an adhesive with a “peel-and-stick” method, an advertised healthy alternative to the weight and penetration from the traditional crystalline systems. Are they efficient? Not really. It is generally made to fit particularly standing seam, which will not require any penetrations, regardless of the system. The defining problem for thin-film is that its surface is inconsistent with the natural expansion and contraction of an interlocking standing seam metal roofing system – which will gradually create many, many problems. Ultimately, we recommend that thin-film systems be avoided entirely.
Do Use Crystalline
The glass paneled “crystalline” silicon modules have many benefits associated to its integration with a metal roofing system. These modules will generally boost energy productivity because the mounting hardware will allow for the panels to cover more of the roof’s surface. They are very mobile, so if the roof, for some reason, needs to come off, they can be removed and re-installed when done correctly. Utilizing crystalline correctly, twice the amount of electricity will be generated compared to thin-film; and, compared to thin-film, roof penetrations are only required if interfacing with the traditional metal shingle, not standing seam.
The crystalline solar panel’s mounts can be attached to the seams on a standing seam metal roof with no penetrations required whatsoever. However, roofing penetrations are not necessarily negative for the metal shingle because the posts of the solar system will usually be attached to the rafters, making them very secure.
There are two primary options for installing solar on a metal shingle: the first is to do the attachment on the posts before the roof goes on, then flashing the metal shingles around the posts, while the second way is to install plates and posts after the installation of the metal shingle roofing system. In both cases, the posts that hold the solar systems are safely and securely attached to the rafters of the house. Again, the only way to avoid roofing penetrations is with standing seam by attaching the solar panel brackets to the raised seams of the metal roof. Remember, the roof must have been installed with the extra clips in order to withstand the solar panels regardless of the metal roofing product.
Overall, when speaking with a metal roofing contractor, decide whether or not you want to get solar panels prior to the installation so proper coordination can be made in effort to avoid roofing failure. We cannot stress this enough.
Interested in a solar system but do not know where to go? We highly recommend you visit these websites for more information on solar:
Interested in an aluminum metal roofing and crystalline solar system dream team for your home in the near future but concerned about the cost? Read more on how much a metal roofing system costs …