Things to know when replacing a roof with solar panels

Alex KotsyubaRoofing

solar panels on shingle roof
As a roofing contractor, we see our fair share of shingle roofs with solar panels installed on them. In some cases, the solar panels were replaced along with the roof. In other cases, the solar panels were recently installed, while the shingles have been on the roof for quite some time. One question that we are always asked is “How do we go about changing the roof when we have solar panels on the roof?”. Although a roof replacement in itself is a pretty standard process, it can be complicated by the fact that there is the removal and installation of solar panels involved. We have shared our own recommendations below based on past experiences with our customers as well as solar installation companies throughout the years.

IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON INSTALLING SOLAR PANELS ON YOUR ROOF
Are you in the planning stages of having solar panels installed on your roof? It is crucial that you have your roof inspected by a reliable roofing contractor prior to having any solar company install solar panels onto your roof. This is true especially is you are not aware of when the roof was last replaced. A typical roof will last around 20-25 years before having to be replaced. Having someone knowledgable inspect the roof can save you from having to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket. There have been many times Home Evolution has been called out to inspect a leaking roof that has solar panels installed on it. We would then find out that the roof is at the end of its life expectancy and needs to be replaced, while the solar panels have been installed recently. According to the Federal Trade Commission consumer information, a residential solar system is designed to stay on a home for 20 years. That does not necessarily mean that the panels will stop producing energy after that 20 year mark. However, when the time comes to replace or update those panels, the technology may have changed and certain parts may need to be updated or replaced. Most solar panel installation companies will take a look at the roof and tell you if they see any warning signs. However, they are not roofing professionals and often overlook critical areas and components on the roof that may be failing now, or will do so in the foreseeable future.

LEASING THE SOLAR PANELS
Wether you are planning on leasing the solar panels or buying them outright, there is always a fee that is involved in having the solar panels removed and reinstalled after a roof replacement. Many times, the solar panel installation company will charge a nominal fee to remove and replace the panels if you are leasing the panels from them since they do want to keep you as a customer. That fee always depends on certain factors such as the amount of solar panels installed on the roof, how busy the solar company is, the age of the solar panels as well as other factors.

PURCHASING THE SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM OUTRIGHT
If you purchase the solar panels outright, you may end up having to pay anywhere from $2,000 to upwards of $10,000 to have the solar panels taken down and re-installed once the roof is replaced. According to fixr.com, the average cost of removing and reinstalling 14 to 16 solar panels for a 1,500 square foot roof is around $2,000-$3,000.The technology of the solar panel systems that are being installed are always evolving as the technology evolves. We’ve met with customers who need their roof replaced but because they purchased the solar panels outright and the technology on them is outdated, have been quoted a price of up to $13,000 to replace the rail system on the panels along with other parts. Although this is not always the case, it is important to get a few quotes from local solar panel installers so that you can budget and plan for the roof replacement as well as any expenses involving the solar panels.

Not sure what kind of shape your roof is in? Check out some of the resources on our website including our roof repair page as well as the roof replacement services for helpful information.

IF YOU HAVE SOLAR PANELS INSTALLED AND NEED YOUR ROOF REPLACED
Once you have figured out a plan to have the solar panels removed and installed back by the solar panel company, communicating with all involved parties is key. This can be a tricky process during summertime or during peak roofing season. It is important to get in communication with the solar installation company first to ensure that they are charging you a reasonable price as well as to get your place in line as many solar installation companies are busy. It is not uncommon to have to wait up to 6 months to have the panels removed. Although roofing companies understand that they often have to work around the schedule of the solar panel company, it is always important to try to communicate with the roofing contractor on a regular basis to ensure that they can have the necessary materials ordered, the delivery of the materials scheduled as well as having their schedule open to have the crew install your roof within that time frame.

IMPORTANT TIP FOR HOMEOWNERS
It is always important to make sure to have the roofing company inspect the roof after the solar company has reinstalled the solar panel system on the roof. We have some examples of the types of damage that we come across when doing the post solar panel install inspection. The images below were all taken from one single solar panel installation on a roof that we installed.


The solar panel installation company will often measure out the layout of the solar panels and begin installing them. Since it is best to drill and install the brackets for the rails into the studs of the rafters, often times they will begin to drill and realize that they have missed the stud. Since they do not have extra shingles on hand, they will place a piece of aluminum underneath the shingle or caulk the spot. As shown below, often times they forget to caulk the hole or even place the aluminum piece underneath guaranteeing a leak.

Image

When the solar panels are being installed, sometimes shingles are ripped or torn in the process of the installation. Although mistakes occur, it is crucial that the shingle is replaced or caulked/repaired to make sure it seals properly and is water tight. Failing to do so can reduce the lifespan of the roof as well as void any type of warranty on the roof.

Image

As in the picture above, this is an example of where there was an attempt to find a stud to install the bracket on. As you can see, although a piece of aluminum was placed underneath the shingle, the holes are still there and the shingle is raised. If the shingle seals from heat, there is now a pocket for water to get below the surface and create damage.

Image

MAKING SMART DECISIONS CAN HELP YOU SAVE MONEY
When it comes to going solar or replacing the roof on your home, making smart decisions and planning ahead can help you save money and avoid unnecessary headaches. When hiring a roofing company to replace the roof, ask them if they are comfortable with making another trip out to inspect the work of the solar panel installation company. If they are a reputable company that stands behind their warranty, it will be in their best interest to find potential problems and work with the solar installation company to resolve them if necessary. If you are planning on having solar panels installed on your roof and are not sure what kind of shape your roof is in, have a reputable roofing contractor inspect the roof before going ahead with installing the solar panels installed. If you are lucky, there may even be a roofing company in your area that does both roof installations as well as solar panel installations.