One of the biggest factors that influence your ability to go solar is how suitable your property is, and your roof plays a big role in that. Characteristics like roof orientation, material, condition, and shading all impact whether your roof can accommodate solar panels. Homeowners come to us all the time wondering if their roof is suitable for solar panels, so we can help you understand how these qualities impact your solar potential. Here are the main factors that determine whether or not your roof can support solar and some options you have if your roof isn’t ideal for it.
Roof Orientation: What Is the Best Direction for Solar Panels?
You may have heard that only-south facing roofs are good for solar, but that’s a misconception. South-facing roofs are definitely ideal, but they’re not the only option. Solar can be installed facing the east or west and still produce plenty of energy. We’ve successfully helped many homeowners wipe out their electric bills in spite of less than desirable roof orientations. For example, the Galkowskis, a Westwood family, turned to us to help them build a solar system on their east and west-facing, shaded roof. With a tailored design to optimize sun exposure and high-efficiency products, their system brought their monthly electric bill from $220 to only $60. Plus, they’re able to offset the remaining balance with solar incentives.
Roof Size: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Typical solar panels require about 15 square feet each, so the size of your roof plays a key role in how much energy your solar panels will produce. The more roof space you have, the more panels you can fit. In the US, the average roof needs about 230 square feet of rooftop space to accommodate a solar system that can cover the home’s power bill. Vent pipes, chimneys, and other fixtures can interfere with building an even solar array, but you can still place solar panels around those features.
Roof Type: What Roof Material Is Best for Solar Panels?
A solar system can be installed on pretty much any material, but the installation process and mounting equipment vary by roof type. For this reason, most solar contractors in New England won’t install on slate roofs. Thankfully, asphalt roofing shingles are the most common roofing option in Massachusetts, and this roof type is great for solar. Wood shingles, like cedar, are also found on many homes because of their durability, and solar companies commonly install on this material as well.
Another roof type rising in popularity is the metal roof. These roofs make your home more energy-efficient because they reflect heat, which, in turn, decreases cooling costs and saves you money. The installation process isn’t as straightforward for these roofs as it is for roofs with shingles, so not many contractors will install solar panels on metal roofs. If you have a metal roof and are looking to add solar panels, send us a message.
Last, there are rubber roofs. These are an eco-friendly choice because, like metal roofs, they reflect heat, which can curb energy needs. We have experience installing solar on these roofs, so we’re happy to help design and build a system for you whether you have a metal, rubber, or more traditional roof type.
Roof Condition: Do I Need To Replace My Roof Before Installing Solar Panels?
High-efficiency solar panels are built to last for decades, so it’s crucial that your roof is able to support them for years to come. If you have around 10 to 15 years left in your roof’s lifespan, you shouldn’t worry about replacing it before going solar, especially because panels protect your roof from rain, snow, and sleet, extending the life of your roof. However, if your roof needs to be replaced soon, it’s best to replace your roof when you install panels. You’ll know your roof will last for the lifetime of your system, and you can wrap the cost of a new roof into the Federal Solar Tax Credit. This puts 26% of the costs back in your pocket, so it’s huge savings for a new roof.
If you still have at least 10 years left on your roof, you can take your panels off when you do replace your roof. The company that originally installed your system can remove then reinstall your panels once your new roof is built. If you do this, make sure you consult your solar company and not just a roofer! Your solar installer’s electrician will know how to properly remove your system and reinstall it to keep your warranty intact.
Roof Shading: Does Solar Work in the Shade?
For maximum sun exposure, you want minimal shading. Do you have trees or a chimney that shades your roof? If you have trees that impede solar access, you may want to consider removal. Just like the cost of replacing a roof, the cost of tree removal can be wrapped into the Federal Solar Tax Credit. Certain panel designs help lessen power loss from shading, but you should consider how much the shading impacts your home to see if you should consider tree removal for solar.
Backyard Solar: What Options Are There Besides Rooftop Solar?
Solar panel placement isn’t limited to your roof. If the roof above your home isn’t ideal for solar, there are a range of opportunities still available to you. Detached garages, pergolas, carports, sheds, and barns can house solar panels. Though these structures typically have less space than the roof of your home, they’re often still able to cut your electric bill.
Another choice for solar technology in your backyard is a ground-mounted system. If you have a decent-sized yard, you could install conventional ground-mounted panels, or, to maximize power output and energy savings, you can install a solar tracker. Solar trackers receive optimal sunlight by following the sun from east to west throughout the day. Both of these options are just as powerful, or sometimes even more powerful, than rooftop solar.
The Value of a Site and Roof Evaluation: What’s Next?
Choosing a solar installer to inspect your roof is the best way to know if you’re a good fit for rooftop solar. While there are a handful of websites that offer free quotes through online calculators, these tools fail to take into account the unique roof characteristics outlined above. On the other hand, with an on-site energy assessment, a solar professional carefully examines your roof’s shape, size, condition, shading, and material to ensure your system saves you money and looks good, too. If you decide to go solar, the same team that evaluates your roof can then design and install a custom system based on your needs.
Find Out If You’re A Good Candidate for Solar
We can inspect your roof and give you next steps for going solar. No-cost and no-obligation, just helpful info to make sure solar makes sense for you.