A Guide to Solar Panel Mounts

By Isaac Ost
09 March 2018
Solar Panel Roof Mounting Guide

Solar panel mounts are a common component of almost every solar panel array. Although there are newer solar panel technologies coming out that do not require mounts, such as the Lumeta solar module that are being developed, the majority of solar panel arrays on the market and the ones already installed will require this feature.

Solar panel mounts are used to secure your solar panel array to a surface and can also be used to optimize your panel’s energy production through its angle and direction. The type of solar panel mounts that would be required for an array are completely dependent on the specific surface of which the array is being attached.

Overall, the purpose of a mounting system is to position a solar panel in the right location so that it can be exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight. This is usually at a 30 degree angle and should face south or southwest. Solar panel mounts can be completely customized to facilitate the effective positioning of the attached solar panel array to meet these parameters.

When looking at residential solar panel systems, the roof type of the home will have a big influence on the mounting system and solar array in general. The more you customize the system, the more expensive it will be however, so let’s take a look at some of the more common solar panel mounts.

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Types of Solar Panel Mounts

1. Roof-Penetrating Rack

There are several types of solar panel mounts that can be installed on a property owner's land or home. The most commonly used mounting system is a classic roof-penetrating rack. This is simply a rack that is drilled into a roof with additional screw holes or other attachment mechanisms on top of its surface so that the solar panels can be easily attached to them.

Roof-penetrating racks come in many forms. Some try to minimize the amount of drilling made into the roof, and some focus more on aesthetics. The two most popular companies for racking systems are Unirac and Ironridge, but you can also do some more research to find better options if these are not for you. Most companies like these use specialized clamping or screwing components that connect the solar panels to the racking system.


Solar Mounting System for Tile Roof

2. Non-Drilling Mounting Solutions

The next category of rooftop solar panel mounts are specific to surfaces that are not suitable for drilling. This includes things like metal roofs and roofs made of tile. For tile rooftops, you can add a special rack like the one pictured above or replace a small portion of the existing tiles with metal shingles. The metal tiles are designed so that the solar panel array can be easily secured through clamps, screws, etc. Metal roofing is one of the most common roof types for solar because they facilitate the easiest mounting method, which leads to lower costs. The system that these rooftops use is called a standing seam mounting system. Metal roofs with seams that protrude from the rooftop provide an easy platform to attach these mounts to.

3. Ground-Level Solar Panel Arrays

The type of mounts used for rooftop solar panels can be much different than the ones used on a ground-level system. In both cases however, you should always ensure that the panels are exposed to as much sunlight as possible. For those with unsuitable rooftops, having a ground-level system could be a cheaper and more efficient solution.

Solar panel arrays that are installed at the surface level will have much more flexibility in how they can be positioned and integrated. A notable benefit of having a ground-level solar panel array is that you can install a dynamic mounting system that will adjust its angle to maximize its exposure to the sun. You can also use racks and other components to create a fully customized array with any production capacity that you can support.

View our 2018 Solar Starter Guide

Setting the Foundation

The purpose of a solar panel mount is to serve as a foundation for a solar panel. Mounting systems allow for solar panel arrays to be positioned in the most effective location to maximize the panel’s exposure to sunlight. The type of solar panel mounts will vary widely depending on the rooftop or surface type where it is being installed on. Overall, solar mounts are pretty standard, but they are almost always a necessary component of your solar panel array.

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