What Type of Roof is Best for Solar Panels?

Solar panels are a great choice for anyone looking to improve their home’s sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint. Solar panels are becoming cheaper and even more efficient, but are all homes appropriate for their installation? In this blog, we look at what type of roof is best for solar panels.

Initial considerations

Before you get too far down the line thinking about solar panel installation, you need to make sure your home gets enough sunlight. If you have a south or southwest facing roof then you’re in a good position, but north and east-facing roofs will generally not be worth installing solar panels on. Additionally, if there are any overhanging trees or anything else blocking the sunlight on your roof, then these will need to be cut back or removed.

The pitch of your roof is also important, as roofs that are too steep will not be as efficient at absorbing solar energy and may be difficult to install. It is possible to install solar panels on flat roofs, but they will need to be installed on a metal racking system that props them up at the correct angle to absorb solar energy effectively.

Roofing materials and their suitability

Solar panels can be installed on roofs of almost any material, but some are better suited to the addition than others:

Clay and slate tiles

Clay tiles are a common choice of roofing material in the UK but are not necessarily the best choice for solar panel installation. This is because some tiles will likely need to be removed to attach the solar panel mounts. These gaps will then need to be covered with flashing to keep the roof watertight and improper installation can result in leaks. These same problems face slate tiles: while solar panels can be installed on slate roofs, you must ensure that a trusted professional carry out the installation to prevent problems.

Metal roofs

Metal roofs are one of the best types of roofs for solar panels because they have a solid, durable surface to mount the panels on. Plus, in some cases, the panels may be able to be clamped onto the roof, preventing the need to drill holes in the roofing material. Many metal roofs are often formed from recycled materials too, meaning that, coupled with solar panels, you could have one of the most eco-friendly roofs around.

Asphalt shingles

Installing solar panels on an asphalt shingle roof is relatively straightforward. Holes must be drilled into the material and panel mounts attached to the roofing studs. Unlike clay and slate tiles, the roofing material doesn’t need to be removed first, but a metal flashing is still required to prevent water ingress around the drilled holes.

Cedar shingles

The installation of solar panels on wood shingle roofs is identical to installation on an asphalt shingle roof and, as cedar shingles are already a very environmentally friendly roofing material, they can be considered one of the best types of roofs for solar panels, at least for sustainability. The main problem with cedar shingles, however, is that the shingles may crack during the installation of the solar panel mounts, meaning you may need to remove some tiles and install flashing instead.

Remember, most roofing materials can support solar panels, but some, such as metal, are better equipped for the job. One final factor you will want to consider is the lifespan of your roofing material. If your roofing material needs replacing while your solar panels are up, taking them down and reinstalling them could be difficult and it would be a better idea to replace your roof beforehand with a long-lasting material.

Regardless of material, the best type of roof for solar panels is one that is south or southwest facing, with either a 30-45° pitch, or a flat roof using metal racking to achieve that angle. If you need any advice on making sure your current roof is appropriate for solar panel installation, please do get in touch.

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