The Best Roof for Solar Panels - 5 Common Materials

By Isaac Ost
03 January 2018
roof types for solar

After making the decision to install solar panels at your home, the next step is to determine the details of your specific solar array. Because solar panels are installed on a your home's rooftop, it is important to understand how different roof types may influence this process.

In general, solar panels can be installed on almost every form of roofing. This does not mean, however, that every rooftop solar array will be capable of producing the same amount of electricity. For optimum performance, a solar panel should be at a 30 degree angle and face south or southwest. For flat roofs, this angle can be achieved through brackets that are added onto the roof. Check out how your roof compares here.

Common Roof Types For Solar

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  1. Composite

    Composite roofing is the most common roof type in general. Because of this, there is a large number of individuals who are looking to install solar panels on their composite roofing. Composite shingles, or asphalt shingles, are utilized in this roof type and are made from a fiberglass or cellulose mat. Asphalt and other minerals are then added to the shingle to produce the final product.

    There are many benefits that come with using composite roofing. Some of these include a cheaper cost, flexibility in its look (can be adapted to look like most materials), and its durability. A composite roof type is one of the best options for solar panels.

  2. Tile

    Tile roofing is another very common roof type that can be found in almost any neighborhood. Tiles, themselves, can be made of different materials, and that is why it is important to accurately determine what materials your tiles are made out of before proceeding. For example, installing solar panels on clay tiles may be more expensive than installing on concrete tiles.
    When a solar panel array is installed on a tile roof, they will need to be attached to brackets that will lift the panels above the roof. The distance that the panels must be raised will be dependent on the material itself, and the cost is also affected based on what material the tiles are.

    Tile roof and solar
  3. Metal Standing Seam

    Metal roofing with standing seams is the best roof type for the installation of solar panels. The standing seams on these roofs make the attachment of the panel array incredibly easy, and with easier installation comes a cheaper cost. You also do not have to drill any holes into your roof with this roof type.

    Metal Roofing and Solar

    Some of the other benefits of metal roofing is that, by itself, it is already more eco-friendly. They are made out of recycled materials and are durable enough to last for over 30 years. Metal roofs with standing seams can allow you to install both thin film and standard PV panels. These roof types also reflect a significant amount of sunlight where it is not being absorbed by the solar panel, which leads to a cooling effect.

  4. Tar and Gravel

    For homes that have a flat roof, it is very likely that they will be of the tar and gravel roof type. Tar and gravel roofs are made out of layers of sheets that are attached with hot tar and roofing felt. There are some other mineral coatings added, as well. Because these are flat rooftops, they may require additional brackets that can be tilted at the 30 degree angle. This is very simple to do, but it will be more expensive than installing on a tilted roof or with a different material. Nevertheless, it is still a very viable roof type for the installation of solar.

  5. Wood

    The last roof type that you will see commonly throughout neighborhoods are wooden roofs. Wooden roof types can include shingles at an angle or may be completely flat, so the specifics will be dependent on the way the roof is structured. In any case, a wooden roof is less viable for solar panels because of fire safety concerns. Rooftop solar may not be the best option, but it will definitely not prevent you from going solar as you can consider ground mounted systems or community solar.

Solar Panels for Any Roof Type

At the end of the day, if you really want to install a solar panel array on your roof, there will always be a way. If the natural structure and materials of the roof are not suitable for an efficient system, there are many ways in which you can adapt a roof to meet the requirements. The amount of customization, however, will directly correlate to the cost of the system. Keep in mind, however, that if a new roof does become necessary to install solar, you can claim 30% of that cost in your Federal Solar Tax Credit.

Have you looked into rooftop solar before? Did you have any issues with your roof type? Leave us a comment below!

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