Solar racking: How to choose the best option

If you pick a high-quality installer, don't worry too much about the racking equipment.

Edited by: Emily Walker
Updated May 23, 2024
8 min read

You'll generally only see the shiny new panels when you install a rooftop solar panel system. But right under those panels is racking equipment, which is key to keeping them secure and in place. 

The right racking equipment for your system primarily depends on your roof type. From there, you'll have a few brands to choose from––but usually, your installer will have preferred racking equipment that they'll select for you. 

High-quality solar companies build systems meant to last. So, as long as you're confident in your installer, you should feel confident in the racking equipment they suggest. We'll explain some of the top brands you'll see in quotes from top installers, and how to make sure you're getting the right racking equipment installed. 

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Key takeaways

  • Proper solar racking safely affixes solar panels to buildings, so your racking system must be compatible with your roof.

  • The essential components of a solar racking system include flashings, mounts, rails, and clamps.

  • The top solar panel racking brands include SnapNrack, Unirac, IronRidge, Quick Mount PV, EcoFasten, and AllEarth Renewables.

  • Aesthetics, leak protection, wire management, and ease of installation all factor into racking system design.

Solar mounting

A solar racking system safely affixes solar panels to different surfaces, such as your roof or yard. Solar companies use racking products to hold equipment in place during an installation. Solar racking, also called solar mounting, is usually made from aluminum, which works well for rooftop installations due to its strength and low weight compared to other materials.

Solar racking is a vital part of any solar installation, but represents only a small percentage of total system costs––right around 3%, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). For an average-priced 11 kW solar panel system ($31,460 before incentives), that comes out to $1,068 for racking equipment.

Not all racking systems are the same, but, there are several components in most solar racking solutions:

1. Flashings

Installing solar panels on a roof involves drilling holes susceptible to leaking if they're not adequately covered. Flashing is a material that stops water from leaking through your roof, usually as a thin, rectangular piece of aluminum sheeting. An installer will insert flashing underneath shingles on a traditional asphalt tile roof. For roofs made with tile, metal, rubber, or wood, your installer will use specially designed flashings that fit the unique shape of your roofing material.

Flashings for solar racking.

2. Mounts

Solar panel systems are attached to your roof with mounts. Mounts are sometimes referred to as "feet" and are usually attached to your roof with a bolt through the flashing and into a rafter, securing your whole system. There are many varieties of mounts used in different racking systems. Solar installers need access to your attic or the underside of your roof during an initial site visit to ensure that your rafters are structurally intact and appropriately spaced to accommodate the mounts for your solar panel system.

Mounts for solar racking.

3. Rails

Mounts hold up rails, the component of solar racking that your solar panels sit directly on top of. They are often long aluminum tracks installed vertically or horizontally on your roof plane. Several alternative rail setups exist to standard rails, such as rail-less or shared-rail. An added benefit of rails is that they provide a clear space to run the wiring of your solar panel system, helping to reduce clutter and improve the safety and aesthetics of your installation.

Rails for solar racking.

4. Clamps

To keep solar panels secured in place on racking, installers use clamps, which link solar modules to the rails below. Installers will often use both mid-clamps and end-clamps on an installation. Mid-clamps sit between solar panels and them in place on two sides, while end-clamps sit at the ends of the full system and are typically larger.

Clamps for solar racking.

Curious about how a full solar panel installation works? Check out our complete overview.

Most installers have preferred racking equipment that they typically work with. We'll dive into the top brands you may come across when getting quotes. Many of these brands  offer standard "penetrating" rooftop racking, which works with traditional asphalt roofs. The right racking equipment for you will depend on your specific roof type.


SnapNrack is a solar racking company based in California that specializes in making a snap-in racking solution. Their Ultra Rail Roof Mount System uses snap-in brackets for attaching rails, making any installation easy. They also produce ground-mounted racking systems and more traditional penetrating rooftop solutions without snap-in rails. To minimize risk and reduce time spent on the roof, they also offer a mounting system that allows most of the installation process to be performed on the ground.


Unirac has several product lines, all catering to different types of residential and commercial solar panel systems. Unirac offers racking equipment that can be installed on various angles of pitched roofs, flat roofs, and ground-mounted systems. According to the company's website, Unirac has been included in over 2.5 million installations.


Generally thought of as making some of the physically toughest racking products, IronRidge offers pitched roof, flat roof, and ground-mounted racking solutions. IronRidge also tested components of their pitched roof systems in extreme environments, including Florida's high-velocity hurricane zones. IronRidge is based in California and has been operational since the mid-1990s.

Quick Mount PV and EcoFasten

You can install solar on most roof types, but penetrating roof mounts aren't the best option for every roofing material. Quick Mount PV and EcoFasten are two solar panel rack manufacturers that have developed more specialized products for specific roof types, including standing seam metal roofs and clay and Spanish tile roofs.

If you have a standing seam metal roof, your installer can use Quick Mount PV and EcoFasten mounting systems to clamp onto the roof's seams without making any holes. Drilling holes in the roof is a time-consuming process that has to be done carefully so your roof remains watertight after installation. Your installer can speed up the installation by using Quick Mount PV or EcoFasten racking on standing seam metal roofs.

Solar racking clamped to a standing seam metal roof.

Solar racking clamped to a standing seam metal roof

Clay and Spanish tile roofs are more brittle and easier to break than asphalt, composite, or metal roofs. Quick Mount PV has developed a Tile Replacement Mount to make installing solar on clay and Spanish tile easier. Tile Replacement Mount products are shaped like roof tiles and can be swapped with existing tiles on your roof. In addition to making the installation process easier, they ensure your solar installation is watertight since your installer isn't making holes in your roof to mount your panels.

Quick Mount PV Tile Replacement Mounts on a Spanish tile roof.

Quick Mount PV Tile Replacement Mounts on a Spanish tile roof

AllEarth Renewables 

Not every roof can support a solar panel installation. Some roofs don't get enough sun during the day. Others face the wrong direction or don't have enough space for panels. In those cases, you can install ground-mounted solar panel systems if you have room on your property.

If you want to take your ground-mounted solar installation a step further, you can install a mounting system that contains a tracker. AllEarth Renewables makes one of the most popular solar trackers in the U.S.

Solar panels mounted with tracker systems will follow the sun throughout the day as it moves across the sky. Some trackers adjust throughout the year as the seasons change to ensure your solar panels capture every possible second of sunshine. They're generally only available for ground-mounted systems, not rooftops.

Tracking mounts are more expensive than stationary ground mounts or rooftop mounting systems–but they can be a good investment if your primary goal is to maximize your energy production.

It can be easy to overlook your solar mounting hardware since it's mostly hidden under your solar panels. And honestly, that's often OK. While this equipment is integral to your solar panel system, quality installers will install quality racking equipment, so you don't need to focus on it too much. But if you do want to be involved in deciding which racking equipment you get installed, here are some of the top factors to consider:

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