Believe it or not, there are now more than one million solar installations in the United States. A precipitous drop in the cost of solar panels combined with advances in energy storage systems have made solar energy more affordable and cost-efficient than ever before.
Although it is common to associate solar especially sunny places like Southern California and Arizona, the reality is that solar installations are increasingly common across the mid-Atlantic and even up into New England. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), Maryland installed 167 MW of solar electric capacity in 2015 alone, ranking Maryland 11th in the country. Installed solar capacity doubled in just one year.
Lower Costs Driving Residential Solar
According to the SEIA, photovoltaic (PV) solar cell prices dropped 12 percent in 2015, and costs have dropped by two-thirds since 2012. The fact that so many solar installations are now in place across America should make it more reassuring for those considering this popular path to renewable energy.
There are some key considerations when installing solar panels over existing roofs. In many cases, it is ideal to install solar panels when a roof replacement occurs. It is important to make a wise decision about a roof replacement or repair before a solar installation commences. To get a feeling for some of the issues involved, consult GAF's "Key Danger Signals of a Failing Roof."
Solar Panels on Various Roof Types
Solar panels are successfully installed on everything from highly pitched roofs to flat roofs. Installations over asphalt shingle roofs and various types of flat roofs are common, although contractors install solar panels on cedar shake roofs, slate roofs and even tile roofs. Here, the expertise of a knowledgeable roofing contractor can help minimize damage to shakes or tiles.
Flat roof installations are quite flexible, because it is possible to align the panels to capture maximum sunlight, typically by orienting them toward the south. Solar shingles arrived on the market about a decade ago, and they offer an attractive, integrated solution to generating electricity from the sun's rays.
For pitched roofs, it is usually ideal to use south-facing sections. Panels are usually installed parallel to the roof slope, although angle brackets may be used to match tilt the solar panels to maximize output given sun angles in the DMV. When overhanging branches cast shade in otherwise desirable south-facing locations, pruning may address the issue and increase the overall output of the system.
Proper Solar Installation Important
It is vital that solar panels be installed properly for a number of reasons:
- The installation must be consistent with roofing industry best practices so that any existing roof manufacturer's warranty is not voided or jeopardized.
- Corrosion-resistant materials should be used, such as stainless steel fasteners and aluminum flashings.
- It is necessary to use code-compliant mounts.
- It's important to use watertight mounts that will hold up under the onslaught of the kind of weather extremes so common in the DMV region.
Solar panel brackets are usually attached to the roof with long lag bolts secured to the rafters. When brackets are bolted directly to the rafters, it is imperative that a high-quality sealant be used, such as one with a 50-year warranty.
There are also special non-penetrating brackets that do not require intrusion into the roof's sub-structure, although costs are typically higher. In general, running all brackets horizontally simplifies wiring. This may reduce labor costs and be more aesthetically pleasing.
The weight of solar panels on the roof is not really a concern, but high winds creating an upward force on the panels certainly is. Secure installation is vital to prevent solar panels from literally being ripped off the roof and a severe storm.
Again, keep in mind that thousands of homeowners in Maryland and across the country have successfully dealt with such installation questions.
Installation Over a Sound Roof
Given the typical 20-25 year life-cycle of a solar installation, it is important to install it over a new roof or a very sound roof to avoid the added expense of roof repairs under the solar panels during the years to come. At the same time, this should not cause undue concern, because it is often possible to temporarily remove the panels and brackets to allow for needed roof repairs. Once again, it is important to thoroughly seal around the fasteners used. This does add to labor costs, and energy production may have to stop while roofing work is completed.
Is the weight of a solar installation a concern? Not really. Solar panels typically weigh about 4-lbs per sq-ft, which is not all that heavy. Therefore, panels will not put undue strain a properly designed and installed roof.
A roof replacement done at the same time as a solar installation will give you the protection you need, the energy savings you desire and the peace-of-mind you deserve for 20 years or more.
Contact Us Today!
Once the decision is made to invest in renewable solar energy, it is important to maximize the energy efficiency of the roof on which the solar panels are installed. Proper use of asphalt shingles with more reflective granules, air-moisture barriers and added insulation will maximize the benefits of your solar investment.
BRAX Roofing is a full-service commercial and residential roofing contractor serving the DMV. We'd welcome the opportunity to inspect your roof and discuss the viability of a solar installation on your property. Please contact us today, and we'll arrange for a complimentary visit by one of our certified roof inspectors.
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