Installing solar panels is all the rage across the country for a number of very solid reasons. The electricity solar panels generate comes from a free, perpetual source that isn’t about to run out of steam for a few billion years or more. That’s not a bad starting point.
With a few adjustments to your home’s wiring and the addition of a bank of batteries that will store up power for cloudy days and nighttime use, a solar powered home can make great strides towards energy independence. While some don’t get all the way there – the homeowners need more electricity than a solar system can provide – there are some who generate enough electricity to sell their excess back to the local utility services. How about that for turning the tables or corporate America? Score one for the little guy.
Needless to say, solar power systems do not add to the planet’s potentially catastrophic global warming problem. You might not live to see the worst of global warming, but your ancestors will know you took a step in the right direction.
Still, all the benefits aside, installing a solar power system in your home is not exactly worry-free. A premium solar company will tell you that some of the same basic principles apply to solar power installations as they do to any other home project, including economies of scale, basic company expertise and a solid track record the homeowner can bank on.
In all fairness, anyone with a tool box, a ladder and time on their hands can figure out how to install solar panels without any undo problems befalling the project. But who wants to escalate the risks, especially when the integrity of your home’s roof is at stake.
As a starting point, the two common placements for solar panels are on the rooftop of a new or an existing building or somewhere on the property that gives the panels a clear access to sunshine – a cleared section of the backyard, for example. It is the rooftop placements that are, first of all, the handiest place to put panels and, secondly, the place where serious problems could arise.
Your home’s roof is more than a projection from wind, rain and snow. It is part of your home’s ventilation system. It is a major component to the home’s insulation system. It is often a control system for excess rain and snow melt, when that comes along, directing the water to a safe distance from the home’s foundation.
In other words, the roof of a home has several critical functions to perform, making it not so automatic that your basic weekend carpenter knows how to install one without creating more problems for the home.
Here are some issues to contemplate:
Remember, unless you have a metal roof, the average roof on an average home is expected to last about 20 years before it starts to break down from ice damage and general wear and tear. They start to leak.
That said, installing a solar panel array that is expected to last 30 years are more obviously conflicts with the roof replacement schedule. The smart money says replace the roof before you install the solar panels and hope for the best. Indeed, the panels will shield the roof from snow and rain, possibly extending its useful life expectancy.
Secondly, solar panels are angled to make the maximum use of the sunshine that comes your way. But what if that angle conflicts with the angle of the roof, which is designed to divert water to a gutter and drainage system, giving water a chance to move away from the home to prevent damage to the foundation?
Obviously, what happens to water drainage after solar panels are installed should be assessed. You might adjust the size of your panels or their location to make sure drainage remains problem-free.
Moreover, a fully insured construction firm might be your best bet simply because a construction project that breaking through the roof barrier needs to be done without creating leaks in the roof.
Of course, the best way to keep a roof from leaking is to never violate the seal that you already have. If you punch through a roof to support the solar panel brackets – the hardware holding the panels in place – then you need to reseal the roof after the brackets are installed.
One way to keep the roof intact is to simply install the solar panel array on posts in the front or back yard and leaving the roof out of the equation. But not everybody has the room in their yard to install a solar panel or they simply love their yard too much to give it up. We can’t argue with that. We love our yards, too. But we also love a roof that doesn’t leak. So, do it right, sun lovers, and enjoy the rewards.