How To Lift Solar Panels Onto Roof

Although they work with light, solar panels are not light! They are pretty darn heavy, and one of the challenges you face if you are doing a DIY installation is how to lift your solar panels onto the roof.

To lift solar panels onto your roof, you can use a ladder railing system, a pulley system, a lifting bag, or even DIY lifting systems using a pulley. Carrying them up the ladder can also be done with products like the solar panel caddy, and all of these ideas will make this task that much easier.

To lift your solar panels onto your roof successfully, we need to look at the following:

  • How to prepare your roof before you raise your panels
  • How heavy are solar panels for your roof and to carry
  • What systems can you use to lift your solar panels

Let’s look at the best ways to lift your solar panels onto the roof to avoid potential damage to the panels and your roof during the installation and prevent injury to yourself!

Three men lifting a solar panel on a roof

How To Prepare Your Roof For Mounting Solar Panels

Preparing your roof involves getting both the wiring and framing or support structures securely so the panels can connect and mount securely.

Now that you’ve decided to get off-grid or have a PV backup, you want to install the solar panels, but there is some essential preparation you need before you even think about putting your panels on the roof.

We assume that you did your due diligence regarding roof eligibility, ie. Your roof is strong enough, large enough, and doesn’t have any cracks that could compromise the installation, and the rafters are strong enough to hold the weight of the solar panels and mounting system.

During your roof assessment, you will have been advised which type of mounting system would work best and the direction and angle they need to be at to maximize your output.

Since you are ready to mount your panels, all the checks have been done, and now you are ready. So before you lift your panels onto your roof, make sure that your mounting system is prepared and all the wiring is done. So once the panels are in place, you can simply connect the panels up, and your system is ready to go.

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Make sure the clamps needed to secure your panels are ready, and your wiring connectors are neatly positioned as you don’t want to be scrambling to find them when the weight of the panels is set down- as to move them is not that easy if you don’t position them correctly the first time.

Man with harness and hardhat lifting a solar panel in position on a roof

How Heavy Are Solar Panels For You And Your Roof?

A solar panel can weigh between 31lbs and 50lbs for residential and 50lbs and higher for commercial solar panels.

For residential purposes, most solar panels weigh about 40lbs, so if you think about carrying that up a ladder twenty or thirty times, you might want to reconsider that or at least get some help!

For the roof, a 40lb solar panel will add about 2,8 pounds of weight per square foot on a pitched top, and for a flat roof, that will increase to about 5 lbs per square foot. So, if you are doing a 400 sq ft installation on a flat roof, that’s 2000 lbs of additional weight and about 1120 lbs for a pitched top.

This is why the pre-installation roof assessments are vital, as you don’t want a ton of solar panels crashing down on your while watching TV!

What Solar Panel Lifting Systems Are There?

There are a few options available, like Solar Buddy and ladder pulleys that all use a similar concept of a winch or pulley and a frame to lift panels, and you can also get lifting bags and the solar panel caddy.

The Solar Buddy Panel Lifter

It uses a lightweight aluminum frame and a panel lifter connected to an electrical winch to control the lift. The lifter fits quickly and easily onto the structure, and the solar panel fits into the lifter frame and is secured using bungee cords.

The frame is laid against the wall, and the operator can then use the winch to lift the panel onto the roof, and it can then be mounted in place. This process is repeated until all the panels are installed.

The frame has wheels mounted to the base, allowing it to be easily transported, maneuvered, and located at the installation site.

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Some variations of this concept use a normal ladder with a basket or frame that clips onto the ladder frame while the panel sits securely on a hoisted frame using an electric winch.

The Hytile Solar Panel lifter is another example that can carry three panels up to the roof on every pass.

Lifting Solar Panels Using A Pulley System

This option requires a little more manual labor but is similar to the electrical winch version. The frame can be wood or steel, and the pulley rope is connected to a second pulley mounted behind the frame.

The panel is placed on the front of the frame, secured using clamps or ropes, and then hoisted by pulling the rope until the panel is on the roof and can then be mounted. You can create your solar panel lift system using a standard aluminum ladder and then build the frame with the pulleys.

Lifting Solar Panels Onto The Roof Using A Lift Bag

The lift bag is one of the simplest ways to lift a solar panel onto your roof. The installer standing on the top lowers the lift bag attached to a rope. The panel is placed inside the bag and then lifted onto the roof.

You can use this with a motor or winch if you don’t feel like doing all that work yourself.

The Solar Panel Caddy

This is another way to carry solar panels using the solar panel caddy, which uses a gravity-fed clamp device with a rubber handle that disperses the panel’s weight evenly.

You can lift it over your shoulder as if carrying a bag or hold it next to you with your fist facing upwards, and this is an ideal solution for smaller installation with maybe 6 or 8 panels.

An electrical winch system or pulley will be a more efficient option if you are doing a complete installation where twenty or thirty panels are being installed, as carrying that many panels up a ladder will take time and serious effort!

Resources

General Solar Panel FAQ

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