Row of Solar Panels on roof in daylight.

Do Solar Panels Damage Roofs? What You Should Know


Will installing solar panels damage your roof? Installing a solar power system is a major project performed on one of the most important parts of your home, and as with any home project, it’s possible that your roof could be damaged during the process.

Still, damaging a roof while installing solar panels is unlikely with a reputable installer. Let’s take a look at the process for solar panel installation so you’ll know how to navigate any potential obstacles that could ruin your roof.

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The Solar Panel Installation Process

Conventional solar panel installations include large modules mounted on metal framework called “racking.” In some cases, this involves drilling holes into the roof. These holes accommodate lag bolts that are strong enough to anchor the solar panels in place.

Installing solar panels on a pitched roof usually requires drilling a hole in the roof, which opens the possibility of water seeping into the roof. When installing solar panels on a flat roof, you may need a ballasted system. A qualified, experienced solar installer should have the skills, tools and knowledge to avoid damaging your roof.

Once the installer has the panels in place, it’s time to begin wiring and connecting the panels, inverter and other components. This takes just a few days, with the inspection and activation steps taking place in the following weeks.

Finding A Qualified Solar Installer

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) website has tips for selecting solar companies. The DOE’s experts advise:

  • Seeking licensed installers familiar with local building codes
  • Getting references from other homeowners in the area with solar panels
  • Checking for legal judgments and liens against installers you’re considering
  • Looking for installers recommended by your local utility

How Do You Make Sure Solar Panels Don’t Ruin Your Roof?

Nothing is inherently bad about putting solar panels on your roof. Still, a few points are worth considering before installing a photovoltaic (PV) system.

Choose Who Is Doing The Work Carefully

You can install solar panels a few different ways. The right one for you may depend on the characteristics of your roof, including age and the type of roof.

Installing solar modules requires knowledge of both PV systems and roofs, so it might not be the best job even for someone skilled in DIY projects. Leaving this work to professionals with a track record of successful solar installations can prevent roof damage.

Make Sure Your Roof Is Ready For Solar Panels

The age, size, type and condition of your roof are important factors in deciding whether your home is good for solar panels. Because removing the solar panels to re-roof a home can be a major job, some solar installers and roofers say it’s best for homeowners to re-roof if the roof has less than 10 years of life left. It’s wisest to install solar modules on a new roof or one with plenty of life left.

It’s important to know whether there’s adequate space on your roof, too. Can it accommodate enough solar panels to offset your energy consumption?

Also, it’s a good idea to find out when your house was last re-roofed or built. Consider the roofing material, too. Metal, clay and concrete roofing materials have a lifespan of up to 50 years, but asphalt and wood shingles typically last 15 – 30 years. Solar panels can go on nearly any type of roofing material and even on flat roofs.

You can always consult a roofing contractor before installing solar panels to verify the condition and suitability of your roof. 

Decide What Type Of Solar Panels You Want To Install

Conventional racking is still the most common way to install solar panels, but it’s no longer the only option for solar panels.

Now available are solar shingles that blend in seamlessly with the surrounding roof. However, these shingles are typically more expensive than a conventional solar installation and not as efficient.

Verify The Installer’s Roof And Solar Warranties

When researching solar installers, it’s critical to ask about their warranties. Find out what type of situations are covered, from faulty hardware to damage caused by the installation.

You might also want to closely review your roof warranty to see what situations it might not cover, especially when it comes to installing solar panels. Solar installers often work with roofing manufacturers and licensed contractors to ensure that the roof is ready and that their work doesn’t void the materials or installation warranty terms.

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How Do Solar Panels Protect Your Roof?

Roofs are exposed to sun, rain, wind and sometimes even snow. All these contribute to the wear and tear on the roof. But solar panels can help by doing the following:

Providing Shade From The Sun And Heat

Let’s talk about the sun first. All that sunlight beating down on your roof can shorten the lifespan of shingles. It also makes your house hotter.

Most PV arrays are mounted a few inches above the roof. The modules block direct sunlight from reaching your roof and also create a cooling effect thanks to the space between the roof and the solar hardware. This cooling can reduce the amount of heat reaching the roof by 38%, according to a UC San Diego study. Your air conditioner won’t need to work as hard, meaning you’ll use your solar energy more efficiently.

Protecting From Rain And Snow

Solar panels prevent some precipitation from reaching your roof. They divert rainwater from the roof and allow snow to slide off quickly. Melting snow can even improve solar panel performance by clearing dust and other debris.

The Bottom Line: Solar Panels Aren’t Bad For Your Roof

There’s nothing about solar panels that’s inherently bad for your roof. The main concern is poor work quality, which can negatively impact any home project.

A well-done solar panel installation can extend the life of your roof, reduce your heating and air conditioning demand, increase your home’s value and reduce your carbon footprint.

What else should you know about solar panels before installing them on your home? Here are some pros and cons of solar energy to consider.

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