As energy costs increase, many homeowners are looking for alternative energy solutions for their own homes, but these solutions can often cause more problems than they’re worth.
For many homeowners, the most practical alternative energy solution is solar panels, which are usually installed on roofs in order to be exposed to the most sunlight and to be out of the way. The problem is that most roofs are not designed to be energy conductors, and without proper planning and installation, this investment may end up costing a whole lot more than you bargained for. If you’re considering solar panels, here are several things to keep in mind.
Solar panels, by nature, disrupt the flow of water along your roof, which can create leakage issues over time. If panels are installed incorrectly, leakage can also occur around the areas where the panels were bolted in and attached to the roof. Even if they are installed correctly, adding multiple panels to your roof necessitates more penetrative points, all of which create more susceptibility to leaking. This means more frequent inspections of your roof and more maintenance over time to prevent those connection points from becoming compromised.
Roofs do not last forever, and neither do solar panels. The current solar panel products on the market have an estimated lifespan of 25 to 30 years. This is a similar lifespan to traditional architectural shingles. If your roof is already a few years old, putting solar panels on top of it means that somewhere down the line the roof is going to need replacing before the solar panels will. Having the panels removed and reinstalled on top of the cost of a new roof may negate any energy savings. If you’re set on solar panels, the best time to install them is shortly after replacing your roof.
Solar panels weigh about 40 lbs each, and that does not include the weight of the metal brackets used to attach them. Add all of this up and that’s a heavy additional load for your roof to be bearing. Most roofs are not designed to bear this type of additional weight, so reinforcement or replacement may be necessary before installing. A structural engineer and licensed contractor can consult on the viability of your current roof hosting solar panels. Most legitimate solar panel installation companies will not install on roofs that do not meet the structural requirements.
Solar panels create the perfect living conditions for animals looking to nest safely away from ground predators, but in a weather proof environment. The space between the bottom of a solar panel and the top of your roof is prime real estate for birds, bugs and squirrels. These nests can cause damage to both the roofing material and the solar panels and reduce their performance. If you do install solar panels, it will be critical to visually inspect them regularly to ensure you don’t have any unwanted tenants. If you do spot a nest, you’ll need to call a pest or wildlife removal company. Do not attempt to remove these yourself.
One of the most important things to research before having solar panels installed is whether their installation will void any warranties your current roof may have. Often your roof has two warranties: a labor warranty from the company who installed the roof and then a manufacturer warranty from the company who made the roofing materials used. Check with both companies to see what their policy is for adding solar panels to your roof before voiding a valuable warranty that could cost you thousands in repair costs down the line.
Solar panels can be a good option for energy savings for some homeowners, but it’s not a decision to make lightly and without research. Weigh all the options before moving forward, speak to a licensed roofing contractor if you have specific questions and talk to other homeowners who have had them installed. Andrews Roofing has been providing roof repairs and replacements to the Hampton Roads region for decades, and we’ve seen first-hand the wide variety of issues that can arise from roof installations such as solar panels, satellite dishes and more. Contact us today with your roofing needs and questions.