How Do I Know if I Can Install Solar Panels on My Home's Roof?

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Can Every Roof Handle Solar PV Panels? solar panels on spanish tile roof

For most people, purchasing and owning their home is the most important investment they will ever make. In some cases, they treat the home as a major investment that needs plenty of tending to; but for others, doing any major renovations to an already expensive home might be daunting. For any homeowner looking to go green, installing Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof is a big step.

Before moving ahead on a project of this scale, some important information gathering is required. Here are a few guidelines to point you in the right direction when you think you may be ready to install solar panels on your home’s roof.

Understand Local Building Codes as They Relate to Solar Panels

Of course, building codes vary from area to area, regardless of what city you may live in. The installation of solar panels has become a popular topic for homeowners of all walks of life, however, and most local governments already have ordinances in place concerning PV panels. One common requirement asks for a three-foot clearance, while other areas allow solar building panels to come right up to the roof’s edge.

If you are living in an historical area, building permits may require panels to be hidden from the street. Your local vendor will know many of these requirements, but it can never hurt to research this information beforehand.

But I Already Have Some Roof Leaks

Some basic maintenance may be required before you install solar panels on the roof. For most roofs, though, installing panels will actually reduce the wear and tear. PV panels are light-weight, and the shingles directly underneath them will typically experience longer life. Even older homes that are in good condition can handle them, and homes up to 120 years old have been known to have solar panels installed. If you have concerns, ask your installer about their sealing procedures. In most cases, mounting solar panels will only improve your roof’s lifespan.

The Spanish Tile Question

The unfortunate truth is that many installers do not have the ability to work with Spanish tile roofs. That does not mean PV panels are out of the question. If you have a metal roof, Spanish tile, or wood shingles, you may have to look harder for a company that has the ability to install solar panels on your roof. Installing on these types of roofs can take more time, and will usually cost more money. If you have one of these types of roofs, but you also have some space in your yard, ground level panels might be the answer for you.

I Don’t Have a South-Facing Roof. Can I Still Have Solar Panels?

Some solar power installers, or more likely the power company, may have told you it was necessary to have a south-facing roof, but this is not actually the case. While a south-facing roof will improve the amount of energy you receive, PV panels will save you money on your energy bill no matter what direction they face. The same is true for those residents of persistently cloudy cities.

What Are These Solar Shingles I Keep Hearing About?

Solar shingles are a newer technology, and an alternative to the classic PV panels. They more closely resemble a composite shingle, and they might be just the thing to appease your local historical society. The possibilities for this new technology are exciting, and the costs are competitive when compared to traditional panels.

[Photo Credit: PM Silicone]

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