Solar Panel Roof Mounts (Types – Fixing – Setup)

If you are converting your house to solar energy, you know that those solar panels won’t drop from the sky above you. It takes research, work, and time to incorporate this energy solution into your home. 

You might have also learned that solar panels are only a part of the items you will need to make the switch. Solar panel roof mounts are a critical part of your sustainable energy system as they provide protection, support, and durability for this investment.

Before you choose to mount your solar panels to your roof or secure them on the ground, you need to know more about the mounting system: What are the required components? How are they mounted? What safety features matter? Find the answers below.

The structural supports required for a rooftop solar panel installation are called a racking system. Within this system, you will find roof attachments, mounting rails, and clamps. 

When completed correctly, these attachments can help your panels and your roof withstand harsh weather conditions and aging to last as long as 20-25 years. Find out below what your options are with mounting systems, how they can be installed correctly, and how you can optimize your panels’ performance for years to come.

Solar Panels Mounted On A Flat Roof
Solar Panels Mounted On A Flat Roof

What Are the Different Types of Solar Mounting Systems for Roofs?

While most systems involve aluminum rail or stainless steel frames for the solar panel roof mounting, there are various ways these elements can be customized. Going from basic options to more specialized, we will look at all the types you might encounter and why they could be right for you.

Fixed Mounts

Most rooftop mounts are fixed to one location through bolts or weights. Whether drilled or ballasted, they remain in a pre-set position once installed.

The benefits of this type of mount include a lower price and less maintenance. However, the changing pathway of the sun may cause your panels to be slightly less efficient during some parts of the year.

Ballasted Systems

A defining feature of ballasted mounting systems is the heavy concrete blocks that hold the frames in place. 

The extra material in this racking system adds a larger amount of weight to the roof. Ballasts would be a good option for roofs that are flat or metal. They also work for low-sloped roofs and newer roofs. Most of the time, buildings that meet these criteria are commercial buildings.

While too much weight can be a concern in some situations, especially for homes, there are other reasons why ballasts can be a desirable feature.

The concrete blocks keep your solar panels stable since the mounts are free-standing. Since some roofs would incur damage or erosion from drilling, a ballasted system offers a non-invasive solution with its extra weight.

Many ballasted systems still incorporate frames that allow the solar panel to tilt towards the sun, being beneficial for flat roofs that can’t allow for flush-mounted panels.

Tracking Mounts

Tracking mounts come with added features to optimize the orientation of your solar panels.

As the name suggests, these mounts can track the ideal angle of the sun. This ensures that your solar panels are at an optimal degree concerning that season. However, this addition comes at a higher price than fixed mounts and could also add extra weight to your overall system.

What Are the Common Types of Solar Panels?

Most solar panels are made from different configurations of silicon since it is a durable material in abundant supply. The three common types of silicon panels include polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and amorphous cells.

Polycrystalline panels are cheaper and less durable than their monocrystalline counterparts. They can be slightly larger but are highly efficient.

Monocrystalline panels are made from highly pure silicon to create unbeatable efficiency and impressive durability.

Amorphous panels are ideal for high temperatures and greater amounts of shade. Though less efficient, they have unique benefits.

Are Flexible Solar Panels Any Good?

Flexible, or amorphous, solar panels do have distinct advantages. These are thin, pliable, and made from silicon. These types of panels can have a few benefits for your roof and a few disadvantages.

These panels are lightweight, which makes them a good option if you want to minimize the pounds your roof must support. Additionally, this type of panel is better suited for adhesive roof attachments rather than invasive drilling.

Flexible solar panels absorb a wider range of the light spectrum than other types of panels can. This means that they perform well in high temperatures but are less efficient than other panels. To equal the same amount of power output as regular panels, you would need twice the amount of flexible solar panels.

However, flexible solar panels can be a compelling option for a more modest structure.

How Are Solar Panels Mounted to the Roof?

The three components which firmly secure your solar panels to the roof are all part of your racking system.

Roof attachments are commonly drilled into your roof’s beams to utilize the structural support which is already built into your house. Each location where drilling has been done will require a complete seal using flashing and sealant. 

Flashing is a small piece of metal that fits like a shingle to shield your roof from water. Sealant is also applied to make any gaps airtight.

Your solar panels will rest upon mounting rails that support each cell along the edges to act as a supporting frame. You can find these brackets in both high-quality aluminum and stainless steel for maximum strength and durability.

Finally, clamps will hold all these pieces in place. The panels are clamped securely to mounting rails that connect to the roof attachments.

How Do You Install Solar Panels on a Roof Without Drilling?

The best way to avoid drilling into your roof is to invest in a ballasted racking system. The extra weight from concrete blocks keeps your panels and rails in place without invasive holes in your roof.

Other methods include fastening a steel grid to the ridge point of your roof, installing solar shingles, or using adhesive methods. Flexible solar panels are best suited for these solutions.

Which Structure Is Best for Solar Panels?

A fully equipped racking system with roof attachments, mounting rails, and clamps will protect your solar panels and roof best. Though drilling into your roof does introduce certain risks, this is the best and most common method for residential homes.

How Do You Install a Solar Panel Bracket?

This type of mounting system will require a drill, bolts, flashing, and sealant. Brackets support the solar panels through the strength of the roof’s rafters below. Currently, it is best to request a professional’s help.

What Goes Wrong With Solar Panels?

Although uncommon, there are some risks associated with the installation and upkeep of solar panels on a roof. Knowing the best safety considerations can ensure that your solar panels never face these same shortcomings.

A few precautions include guarding your roof against leakage and weight issues.

If bolts in your roof are not sealed correctly, these small gaps can allow rainwater to seep into your roof. With too much water damage, a roof is susceptible to weakening or collapse. However, using flashing and sealant on every rooftop attachment can guard against any such damage.

Solar panels can add up to four pounds of weight per square foot to your roof. If your roof is already aging due to weather and time, the addition of panels and a heavier racking system could be too much for your roof to support. 

What Is the Optimum Tilt Angle for Solar Panels?

Solar panels get their energy from the sun, so maximizing the sun they receive will help them run most efficiently.

Usually, your panels will receive the most sun when they face true south, as long as you live north of the equator. 

The best angle for absorbing sunlight is between 30 and 45 degrees of vertical tilt. Your panels can soak up the most sun when they are exactly perpendicular to the solar rays. A rule of thumb for finding this angle: begin with the latitude of your area.

Solar Panel Mounting Ideas

Still not sure what solution is right for you? Here are some more ideas to get your light bulbs flickering.

Solar Panel Roof Mount Kit

As the popularity of solar power grows, companies are releasing more DIY options for everyday customers. 

Roof mount kits are usually recommended by home-improvement stores for use on RVs, trailers, or other off-grid residential uses. However, Grape Solar offers kits to supply a customer’s entire house.

Usually, customers who choose the DIY route will need to purchase all the necessary parts separately, even if buying a kit from a supplier like Home Depot or Costco.

Should I Choose Off-Grid or Grid-Tied?

When the sun goes down on your solar-powered home, you probably still want to use electricity. This is where these options differ.

For an off-grid home, owners will also have a battery bank that stores the surplus power to be used when the sun goes down. Acting essentially as a backup generator, this personal storehouse of electricity can keep a home or RV powered when it can’t use the sun or a grid system.

A grid-tied home can use solar panels during the day while also drawing from the power grid in the case of darkness or shortages. Through this system, both the solar panels and the power grid can contribute their energy to the other when there is too much or too little.

Solar Panel Racking System Ground Mount

Whether you have an older roof, live under shaded trees, or have concerns about the viability of roof-mounted solar panels, another idea is to mount your panels on the ground near your house.

One thing to consider is that this can raise the total price you will pay for your system, as additional support components need to be in place for ground mounts. However, this could be a good option for you if you prefer to have easier access to your panels or require a brighter area.

FAQs

See below for even more common questions about solar panels.

How do you mount solar panel rails?

The most common way to mount a system of rails involves drilling into the existing beams of your roof.

Other methods include ballasted systems, ground mounts, or adhesive methods.

How do you mount a small solar panel on a roof?

Any size or quantity of rooftop solar panels will require a full racking system which includes roof attachments, mounting rails, and clamps.

How many mounting brackets does a solar panel need?

Typically each solar panel requires between 1 and 2 mounting brackets. For example, a set of 15 panels might require between 20 and 30 mounting brackets.

Where are solar panel rails sold?

You will find racking systems at many home-improvement stores.

Do flexible solar panels need an air gap?

No. Though most solar panels can benefit from an air gap to aid in cooling, flexible solar panels can function even in high temperatures with no air gap. Due to their thin construction, the performance will not be hampered by heat.

Can you put solar panels on a slanted roof?

Yes, a slanted roof can certainly hold solar panels. Once you determine the ideal slant for panels based on your relationship to the sun, you can also add tilt legs if needed.

Do solar panels ruin your roof?

No, solar panels do not ruin your roof when installed correctly. Though accidents and surprises do happen, it is not inevitable. A safe installation of solar panels can help prolong the life of your roof with added protection from weather and sun damage.

Can solar panels be flush mounted?

Yes, solar panels frequently follow the existing angle of a roof. Benefits of this method include less wind resistance, less cost or equipment, and a seamless look.

References:

Solar Panel Setup FAQ

How long do solar panels last?

How long solar panels last depends on their quality and how well looked after. In general, though, most solar panels will last between 25 and 30 years, with the most expensive models having a life expectancy of 40–50 years. That being said, solar panels will still produce energy after this time, although their capability will have declined significantly. 

How do you set up a solar panel system?

The first step in setting up a solar system is determining how much power you need, and planning your solar system accordingly. After this, the setup is fairly straightforward;
1. Gather all the required components together; panels, inverter, batteries, cables, etc. 
2. Find a safe space in your home to house the inverter and batteries
3. Fix the panels to your roof or a stand
4. Connect the panels to your inverter or charge controller
5. Connect your inverter to your batteries

What is required for solar panel installation?

Again, the first crucial step for any solar installation is calculating your power needs. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate components. These include;
1. Solar panels
2. Batteries
3. Inverter
4. Charge controller
5. Suitable cables
These components are typically purchased separately according to your needs, but you can purchase ready-made solar kits that have all the components you need too.

Can I set up solar panels myself?

With a bit of basic DIY and electrical knowledge, you can certainly set up solar panels yourself, especially smaller systems. The setup can become somewhat complicated for large, high-power systems that are grid-tied, though, and you may want to get assistance from a qualified electrician. 

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