Yes, with proper installation, your roof can handle the weight of solar panels – no problem

solar panels on roof

Yes, your roof can handle the weight of solar panels, as long as they’re installed properly.

(Sept. 10, 2018) Can your roof handle the weight of solar panels? Years ago, in this area of Northern Illinois, storms piled so much snow on roofs that a few roofs actually collapsed. People were taking shovels up onto their roofs and shoveling the snow to alleviate the weight. What does this mean to you as you consider putting solar panels up on your roof? Do you need to worry about the weight?

Rest assured, the answer is, No. You don’t have to worry about the weight of solar panels on your roof.

Solar panels, including all the mounting equipment, weigh about 2- to 4-pounds per square foot. That’s the one-square-foot equivalent of putting one of the following up on your roof:

  • A pineapple
  • A small cat
  • A two-slice toaster
  • A two-liter bottle of soda
  • A one-quart carton of soy milk
  • A medium pumpkin
  • A Pomeranian
  • A bowling pin

You can put any of these items up on your roof and not worry, even for a moment, that they might plunge through the roof. But, how much weight can your roof hold? Of course, a solar energy array weighs more than a pineapple. But, the weight is distributed or should be.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), your roof should be able to support 20-pounds of snow, per square foot, before the roof is ‘stressed.’ The IBHS goes on to explain that “10-12 inches of snow is equal to … about 5 lbs. per square foot.” However, if you have “2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow” (4-feet total or 60 pounds per square foot), you could have a problem since the old snow is packed and heavier. But, when is the last time you saw 4 feet of snow on your roof?

Since you don’t have to worry about the weight of your solar panels, it’s nice to know that the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says that snow can actually help to clean your solar panels (rain does the same thing). Of course, snow isn’t a big concern this time of year.

The real key to the question of the weight of solar panels is the distribution of weight. Properly installed, the weight is distributed across your roof to the extent that weight is never an issue. If, however, someone doesn’t install your solar panels correctly, then all bets are off and you could have trouble with your roof someday.

On the roof or on the ground: where should you mount your solar panel array?

solar panels on the ground

If your roof doesn’t offer an optimal position for a solar array, you can have your solar panels installed on the ground.

You’ve decided to install a solar panel array at your home or office. That’s a wise decision. You’ve taken a big step that will help you to virtually disconnect from the utility grid. Those big electric bills will begin to vanish as though evaporated by the sun. But, making the decision to go solar is only the first related decision you’ll need to make. And, along the way, you’ll need to decide whether to mount your solar energy system on the roof or on the ground.

Once you’ve decided to go solar, you’ll need to choose an installer and a solar panel system to install. If you choose the prior wisely, they’ll help you to make the latter decision wisely. They’ll also help you to make the right decision about whether to mount your solar panels on the roof or on the ground. However, here is a short overview of the questions to consider in making this decision:

Cost: Generally, a roof-mounted solar panel system is less expensive since the substructure is already available – your roof. Often, with a ground-mounted solar panel array, the installer has to build a substructure where they can mount the solar panels. It’s likely that they’ll have to pour concrete footings that are sturdy enough to hold the solar panels, and strong enough that they won’t blow away in a storm.

Appearance: Roof-mounted solar panels are generally less noticeable. They sit up on the roof where people simply don’t often bother to look. Of course, this depends on the position of your home and which side of the roof your solar panels are mounted on. If, for instance, the front of your home has a Southern exposure, your solar panels will sit on the roof above the front door and visible to traffic at the front curb. But, the appearance of a ground-mounted solar array also depends on where you mount the system.

Assuming you want the solar panels to soak up the sun’s energy obscurely – working quietly out of sight – the question is whether you have an out-of-the-way spot on your property where you can have a solar energy system installed. Keep in mind, it needs to be an area where the panels are directly accessible to the sun.

Positioning: How you position your solar panels on your roof depends on how your home is situated and which way the slopes of the roof face. Here in the Northern Hemisphere of Illinois and Wisconsin, a roof with a Southern exposure is ideal. If your home doesn’t offer that exposure, a Southwestern exposure is next best followed by Western and Southeastern. But, if you don’t have the ideal Southern exposure, you’ll probably need additional panels to make up the difference.

On the ground, you can generally point the solar panels towards the South as long as you have room and there aren’t any obstructions. This brings up the next point to consider …

Space: Usually, the square footage of a home is reflected, to some degree, in the amount of roof space you have. In other words, your roof will probably have enough space for your solar panel system, assuming the positioning works. But, on the ground, not only do you need the space for the system, but you’ll also have to be willing to give up that space for your solar panels. In other words, if you have a smaller backyard, would you be willing to use half the yard for your solar panels?

Typically, solar panels are 64” X 44”. Let’s assume that you’ll require 28 solar panels. With four rows of seven panels, the outside dimensions are 21’ 8” X 22’ 9”. That’s close to a 500-square-foot area.

Maintenance: Cleaning your solar panels is not a major concern. The rain will generally do a good enough job and there is a self-cleaning film on the panels. A solar energy system is also a low- to no-maintenance system. However, should your panels require maintenance, you’ll probably find it easier to maintain them if they’re mounted on the ground.

Is my home a good candidate for solar?

Good candidate for solar

The tree next to this home may block the sun but the tree is on the North side of the home. This home is a good candidate for solar.

Is your home a good candidate for solar? The quick answer is most likely yes. However, a search of the internet will provide point-by-point articles to help you determine if your home is good for solar.

The points made in these articles are valid though hardly insurmountable. Consider the following points you should consider when you consider adding solar power to your home:

What kind of roof do you have? Do you have asphalt shingles on your roof? Maybe you have a wood shake, slate tile, or clay roof. You may have a flat roof. These are all reasonable considerations when determining if your home is a good candidate for solar. The type of mounting hardware may change depending on which type of roof you have. However, whatever type of roof you have, there is always a way for a qualified solar energy installer to place solar panels on your roof. And, if that’s not feasible, they can always mount your solar panels on the ground.

How much sunlight does your roof receive? This is a question affected by two questions: the orientation of your home and the proximity of obstructions. If you have a one-story home that sits in the Northern shadow of a high-rise building, you may be an exception to premise that most homes are candidates for solar power. Otherwise, it’s a question of optimal conditions. If one pitch of your roof has a Southern exposure, that’s great. If not, you may have to install additional panels to make up the difference. Otherwise, if there are trees blocking the roof from the sun, it’s a question of pruning or taking down a tree or two, or of putting the solar panels on the ground.

Another question is climate – does the climate in your area make a solar energy system cost effective? Once again, the answer is almost assuredly yes. Here in the Midwest, solar energy systems are nearly as effective as they are on homes in an Arizona desert.

What is the condition of your roof? This is a very good question. The solar panels will protect your roof from some of the elements. However, it’s still essential that your roof is in good condition before you install your solar panels. You don’t want to find yourself, five- or ten-years after installing your solar panels, needing to pull the panels up to get at the roof again.

How much do you give to the utility companies each month? This is a great, big question with an answer that’s liable to bring a big smile to your face. Translate the question this way: “How happy would it make you to increasingly disconnect from the utilities and their monthly bills?”

All of these are considerations you need to take into account when deciding if your home is a good candidate for solar.

GOing Solar presentation at McHenry Public Library turns into interactive discussion

GOing solar energy presentation

Paul LaBarbera, with Magitek Energy Systems, gave a presentation on GOing Solar at the McHenry Public Library April 25.

Enthusiastic audience engages solar expert in ongoing Q&A

The seats were still filling as Paul LaBarbera, the owner of Magitek Energy Solutions, a solar energy systems installer, stepped to the podium and began his presentation Wednesday night at the McHenry Public Library. There was a Question-and-Answer session planned for after but the audience was having no part of waiting. Only minutes into his talk, LaBarbera was interrupted by the first of a welcome barrage of questions.

The audience was engaged, on the edge of their seats: they wanted to know about the potential for solar energy at their homes and offices and LaBarbera is one of the foremost experts in the field. Having installed more than 100 solar energy systems, he has the most difficult certification from Underwriters Laboratory – the only installer in Illinois with that certification.

Instead of a presentation, LaBarbera led an energetic discussion about solar energy and its potential. Instead of a Q&A session, when finished, LaBarbera and his assistant, Jacqueline Stern, sat down one-on-one with those in attendance, who had brought their electric bills along, to provide estimates of the cost and viability of installing one of these systems on their home or office.

LaBarbera had created a slide presentation to accompany the discussion. It was loosely followed as a map for the interactive process that took over. The slide presentation included:

  • How solar systems work
  • Illinois solar market trends
  • Components of a solar panel system
  • Types of solar panels and manufacturers
  • The ins-and-outs of inverters
  • Mounting systems
  • Benefits of going solar
  • Incentive programs
  • Finding a reliable installer
  • Frequently asked questions, including costs, installation time and issues, etc.

LaBarbera put numerous concerns to rest, such as issues related to proper installation of solar panel systems and the risks of roof leaks following installation of a system. While he admitted that he’s had to fix systems installed by other suppliers that caused leaks, he added that “Of all the systems I’ve done, we’ve never had a leak.”

He indicated that these systems have improved in quality over the years and will provide electricity at virtually the same level for years to come, where older systems lost their mojo over time. In the process, he said the value of solar panel systems will only increase.

“What’s the one thing I can tell you – electricity prices will go up. If you install a solar system that won’t be your concern.”

McHenry DIYers need to leave solar panel installation to the pros

McHenry DIY install solar panels

This is not safe work for the average DIYer. Installing solar panels is better left to the professionals on your McHenry rooftop.

Not just for proper installation but for savings, too

Folks in your McHenry neighborhood are amazed at your skill as a Do-It-Yourselfer. The fence you put up, the garage you built, the windows you installed. Clearly, you’re not an amateur. Now, you’ve got your eyes set on the roof of your house, but not to replace the roofing. Rather, you see it as rich in energy potential and you’re thinking of installing your own solar panel system. Don’t do it. Solar panel installation is not a project for DIYers.

There are good reasons not to go all DIY on a new solar panel system. The idea of installing a solar-energy system on your roof is sound. It’s a wonderful idea from which you’ll derive benefits for years to come. You have an opportunity to chop a big chunk out of your electric bill with clean, renewable energy from your personal ‘powerplant.’ But, DIY …?

Working on the roof always come with the risks of falling off. Though, as a DIYer, you’re not afraid of working at heights, it complicates matters when you’re performing a less familiar task, particularly when working with panels that could catch the wind and sail you off your McHenry roof.

There’s also the risk of doing damage to your home or the solar energy system. Anytime you put screws into your roof, you have to know what you’re doing so that moisture won’t follow through the next time it rains or when snow and ice start to melt. With unfamiliarity, it’s also a concern that you could damage the solar panel system during installation. That is potentially costly. And yet, there is still an even better reason to skip the DIY solar-panel-system installation.

There are big savings if you skip the DIY and let the professionals install your solar panel system

That just doesn’t make sense, does it? One of the best things about Do-It-Yourself projects is that you experience substantial savings in the process. It’s a wonderful reward of DIYers. But, this proven benefit is turned on its head when it comes to solar panel system installation.

This illogical quandary didn’t travel through a black hole to land with energy potential on your McHenry rooftop. Rather, it arrived there as a result of a legal meteor launched from the state capital in the form of the Future Energy Jobs Act.

By “Jobs” they don’t mean DIYers. The goal of the law is to increase Illinois’ dependence on renewable energy while, at the same time, promoting job growth.

For someone with a residential solar panel system that generates under 10-killowatts per hour, they’ll receive a check from the state for 15 years of anticipated State Renewable Energy Credits. The payment is a lump sum at the time that the system is energized.

For someone with a system that is larger than 10kw, they will receive four annual SREC payments that are based on average use for the preceding year to cover the 15-year anticipated energy production.

When you stack those substantial savings aside of the 30-percent Federal Tax Credit that is available with the installation of a solar panel system, the Return On Investment for your solar energy system is three to five years. After that, it’s all gravy, assuming you resist the urge to go DIY on your McHenry solar panel system.

 

free solar panel system seminar

Learn more about the benefits of installing a solar panel system to your home. This free event is at the McHenry Public Library at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 25.