Installing solar panels on different roof types

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If you're considering installing a residential or commercial solar panel system, you might wonder if your roof type is appropriate for a solar installation. The good news is that solar panels can be installed on just about any roof type, but the installation process and mounting hardware might vary from material to material. In this article, we'll explore the many kinds of roofs solar panels can be installed on and how each has a unique installation process.

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The best roofs for solar panels: key takeaways

  • No one type of roof is best for solar panels – mounting solutions exist for just about every roof out there.

  • Some roofs will cost more to mount solar panels on. This is due to the different equipment installers need to use.

  • Start comparing customized solar quotes today on the EnergySage Marketplace.

Solar can be installed on almost any roof – here are some of the most commonly used roof materials that solar installers will encounter on the job:

  • Asphalt shingles

  • Clay tiles

  • Slate tiles

  • Concrete

  • Rubber

  • Wood

  • Metal

While solar panels can usually be safely and effectively installed on all roof materials, the exact installation processes may differ. As such, there is no "best" roof for solar – panels can go on just about any roof material. Below, we'll look at the various roof materials and how installers secure solar panels to each.

Many properties have tiled roofs, which may seem like a barrier to installing solar. However, solar racking companies and installers have crafted many intelligent and safe ways to make putting solar panels on a tiled or shingled roof easy.

Can you install solar panels on asphalt shingle roofs?

Asphalt is perhaps the most popular roof material – as such, asphalt shingle solar panel installations are common and straightforward. Installers will drill studs into your roof and attach panel mounts at those locations. To finish the job, the space around the brackets is sealed and surrounded with a flashing – a metal plate used to prevent water infiltration.

Close-up view of a solar panel mounted with a flashing on an asphalt shingle roof

Can you install solar panels on clay tile roofs?

Traditional Spanish tile roofs are made from clay tiles – this can be a pricey material to install solar panels on, given the extra labor required, but it's still very doable for solar installers.

Unlike traditional asphalt roofing, clay tiles are usually removed and replaced during a solar installation. This is for two reasons: first, clay tiles are relatively fragile and may break when installers walk on your roof. Second, to properly secure your solar panels, your installer needs to bolt the feet of your solar racking equipment directly to your roof. With clay tile roofs, this area can only be adequately accessed by lifting tiles.

To properly anchor your solar panel racking, solar installers will typically remove clay tiles at the areas where they need to attach racking feet to your roof. Metal hooks and flashing are drilled into the roof, and your tiles can be slid back into place above the mounting feet. Depending on the exact shape and dimensions of the clay tiles on your specific roof, your installer may need to purchase or make uniquely-shaped hooks and flashing so they fit fasten properly under the tiles. Companies like SnapNrack make specialized mounting inserts for all types of tiles.

In some cases, installers might replace the original tile with a new metal version, essentially combining the tile, mounting foot, and flashing into one piece of equipment.

Close up view of solar panel mounting equipment on a clay tile roof

Can you install solar panels on slate and concrete tile roofs?

There's more work involved than with asphalt tiles, but solar panels work just fine on slate and concrete tile roofs. Clay, slate, and concrete tiles are usually removed and replaced during solar panel installation. In some cases, installers will drill through the tiles themselves, but it's more common to remove the tiles and replace them with a mounting foot and flashing because of the brittleness of slate and concrete.

Solar panel mounting equipment on a slate tile roof

Not all roofs are made of tiles. This section will discuss how solar panels are installed on other common roof materials such as concrete, rubber, and wood.

Can you install solar panels on flat concrete and rubber roofs?

Some homes (often multifamily or commercial buildings) are topped with a flat concrete or rubber roof. Fortunately, you can still install a solar panel system safely and effectively on both. With a flat roof, panels need to be tilted towards the sun for optimal production, so your solar installer will need to install slanted metal racking to prop up your panels. Often these systems don't need to be attached to your roof – many flat roof installations utilize a ballast system instead of the standard penetration mounting that slanted residential roofs usually need. Ballast systems are simply a weighted racking setup that holds solar panels in place.

If you need to drill into your flat roof to install solar panels, don't worry – your solar installer will ensure that the holes they drill are as small as possible and sealed correctly to avoid roof damage or leaking.

Rows of solar panels installed at an angle on a large, flat roof

Can you install solar panels on wooden roofs?

Like asphalt shingles, installing solar panels on a wood or cedar roof mainly consists of drilling into a roof stud and slipping flashing under the wood pieces to prevent leaking. Wood shingling can be brittle, and your installer will need to take extra precautions when mounting your panels to ensure that no parts of your roof end up unnecessarily cracked or damaged in any way.

Close up view of a flashing piece mounted on a wooden tile roof

Can you install solar panels on metal roofs?

Depending on the type of metal roof you have, installations will differ slightly, but the big takeaway is that solar panels work well on metal roofs. If you have a standing seam metal roof, your solar installer won't have to drill holes in your roof, as panel mounts can be clamped to the raised seams. If you're working with a corrugated metal roof, your installer must drill holes into the roof. This won't damage your roof – just like asphalt tile or other common roof types, waterproofing sealant prevents any moisture from getting through over the lifetime of your solar panel system.

Regardless of what kind of roof is over your head – tiled, flat, wooden, and others – a solar energy installation can help you save money on electricity bills. Especially with unique roof materials and shapes, it's always a good idea to get multiple quotes from reputable, experienced installers. The best way to find and compare quotes from nearby solar companies is by registering your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. When you join, you'll indicate the location of your property on satellite imagery so that installers can provide custom quotes, given the size and material of your roof. After joining, you can also leave a note indicating your roof material type in your profile.

Community solar is a great way to save money and go solar if you aren't ready to invest in rooftop solar panels or are a renter. Community solar works by allowing you to join solar farms in your area and receive credits on your bill in return. No installations or upfront costs are associated with community solar; local utilities approve all projects. Visit our site to find a local solar farm near you.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
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  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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