SOLAR ROOF 101 – ROOF MATERIAL, PLACEMENT & CONCERNS
Solar panels harness energy from the sun. They convert light to electricity, so it only matters that there is sunlight hitting the panels for a prolonged period of time, this includes scattered and reflected light apart from direct sunlight. That, however does not mean you can just put your panels on the roof and expect to get all the electricity you need.
WHY IS IT AN ISSUE?
The type of roof you have plays an important role in the way your solar panels are arranged, which in turn determines the solar energy output of the cells. Invariably, the type of roof also influences the cost of the total process. The panels are definitely known to reduce the stress the weather in general puts on the roof, as they cover them, but panels are in no way substitutes for roofing, unless they are designed to be solar shingles or something similar which is rare in the residential market. It requires mention because roofs that are troublesome, weak, or old may not be suitable for paneling. With programs like HERO financing that are commonly used to help people purchase home solar systems, if needed people also wrap in re-roofing or roof repair into their HERO program.
ROOF ANGLE AND DIRECTION
For maximum from your solar roof, panels will have to be facing south, or as far south as possible. It should be true south, or solar south, not magnetic south. While the general direction is the same, magnetic south is off by a small margin. Why south, you may wonder. That is simply because you are in the northern hemisphere and positioning your panels south will ensure that is gets light throughout the day, for the longest time, from sunrise to sunset. If you are in the southern hemisphere, it works the other way around. The angle should be close to the nearest latitude. Most commercial solar installers will do this for you, but it is something that is good to be aware of.
While some contractors may say that composite, metallic or like roofs cannot work with solar panels, know that just about any roof can hold them. If there are solar panels on traffic signals and telephone posts, your roof can surely take them. Roof material dictates the way your solar contractor will secure the panels to your roof rather than whether or not you are eligible for rooftop solar. Still, if this is of concern to you for aesthetic or other reason, residential ground mounted solar is an option if you have the space.
SOUTH FACING ROOFS?
Because they are generally flat, solar panels usually just point in the direction of the roof itself. Installing solar for apartments may be a bit easier in many instances as commercial buildings often have flat roofs and the direction can be easily chosen and aligned accordingly. Frames and other structures can be placed on flat roofs and they can be fine tuned and optimized to get the most light for the longest time. If there are, however, no part of the roof that is facing south, you may want to think of wall installation, or have free standing frames that can turn the panels to face south.
SOLAR ROOF TAKE-AWAYS
The only types of roof that can be problematic when it comes to installation are ceramic tiled and wooden shake shingle roofs, but they are only challenging, not impossible. Even exotic curved and Gothic looking roofs can be fitted with solar panels, they may not be done right away, but it is not impossible.