By Scott Laskey
“Will my roof leak with solar panels?”
This is one of the most common questions homeowners have when it comes time to go solar. In virtually all cases, the answer is no. Roof leaks after solar panels are extremely rare. When roof leaking after the solar panels are fitted does occur, however, it usually becomes evident very quickly after the installation process is finished. Almost always, homeowners will notice the leak within the first year, when it begins to rain or snow.
Fortunately, these leaks are quite rare, and there are things you can do to find the root of the issue and address it quickly – before it does lasting damage to your home.
Here’s what you need to know.
While solar panels shouldn’t damage your roof, they can in the very rare case that they’re installed incorrectly.
For most people experiencing solar panel problems, the issue is as simple as incorrect wiring, dirty materials, or reduced panel efficiency. In the case of panels that cause leaking, however, the problem can be a bit deeper.
Since well-installed solar panels should never cause a roof to leak, the culprit here is typically incorrect installation or shoddy workmanship. In both cases, the leak can usually be fixed, but might be more extensive than, say, resolving a wiring issue.
Because of this, it’s essential to look for a solar installer that offers an extensive warranty on their workmanship. Sandbar, for example, offers a 10-year warranty on all our installs – which is pretty typical in the industry. This kind of warranty protects you against any potential problems and ensures you can get them fixed quickly, should anything arise.
Again – roof leaks are incredibly rare. If they do happen, though, these are usually the causes:
In virtually all cases, you will need to drill into the rafters and seal it properly during installation. While solar panels can be installed on virtually any residential roof, some shingle materials aren’t as compatible with solar panels and may require additional consideration during this phase.
If you don’t have the ideal roof for solar panels, poor installation tactics are more likely to make it leak. Roofs made from wood shingles, clay, slate, and terracotta tiles are particularly vulnerable to leaks and damage during installation. We advise replacing the areas of the roof where solar will be installed with composite shingles in this case, since it will be hidden under the array anyway.
If you’re experiencing leaking with one of these roofs, you’ll want to contact your solar installer. Their warranty will hopefully cover the damage and help you resolve the problem quickly.
Poor installation is one of the primary causes of roof leaking after solar fitting.
While reputable solar installers understand how to work with roofing and sub-roofing materials to ensure a tight fit and no leaks, new or inexperienced installers, or those working with inexperienced sub-contractors, may inadvertently damage the roof and make it vulnerable to leaks during rain or snowstorms.
If you notice new leaking after your panels are installed, contact your local solar installer or roofer to appraise the damage. It can be fixed, but you must act quickly.
While it’s not advisable, some homeowners choose to install a new solar array on an old roof. This creates two problems. The first is that roofs which are over thirty years old may have shingles that have already deteriorated over time and created dry rot, (or soft spots), in the plywood or rafters under the roof. Once the solar is installed, the added stress can make it more prone to visible leaks on the inside of the house, causing additional damage down the road.
The other problem is that, when the homeowner wants to replace the roof, they will have to remove the entire solar array and electrical conduit, which can be somewhat costly.
As such, anyone interested in solar energy panels for homes should consider their roof’s age, condition and shingle type in advance. If you have questions about whether or not your roof is well-suited for a solar array, your local solar installer, if reputable, should be able to address any concerns they might have during their consultation.
If you’re installing new panels at your home, the first thing you’ll want to do is hire a qualified solar installer to evaluate your roof and make a plan for fitting the panels. This is the single most effective defense against roof leaking and damage. While issues like old roofing materials or incompatible roofs can lead to leaking, a qualified and experienced solar installer will be able to pinpoint these dangers before installation begins.
Additionally, be wary of roofing companies installing solar who may take advantage of homeowners’ fears about the “leaky roof” scenario, especially those insisting it’s critical to hire a roofing contractor when going solar. This is unnecessary.
Many times, roofers don’t know how to measure, drill and install solar panels, since their license doesn’t usually allow them to operate in this capacity. In fact, many roofers use subcontractors to do the actual solar work through either a licensed electrician or solar installer. If working with a roofing contractor, be sure to ask if they’re “subbing” out any of the solar or electrical work.
If you’re not sure where to find a solar installer, consider asking your friends and family members for recommendations. They may have worked with a solar installer they liked in the past. You can also search online for reviews and testimonials that help you get a feel for how the company works and how well they serve their customers.
By investing the research to ensure your solar installer is reputable and skilled, you can save yourself time, effort, energy, and roof leaks down the road.
To learn more about getting solar energy panels for your home, contact Sandbar Solar today.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar & Electric. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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