Preparing Your Commercial Roof for a Solar Installation

Installing a solar power system can offer numerous financial, environmental, and operational benefits for commercial facility managers, making it a compelling investment option for many businesses. Transitioning to solar energy is both sustainable and cost-effective. However, before embarking on a solar installation for your roof, it’s crucial to ensure that your roof can adequately support this long-term investment. In this blog post, we outline the best practices and essential steps to prepare your commercial roof for a solar installation.

1. Conduct a Preliminary Roof Inspection

The first step in preparing your roof for a solar installation is to conduct a thorough roof inspection. This inspection serves three primary purposes:

  • Analysis of Roof Composition – An analysis of the current roof system is performed to determine the manufacturer and if there is an existing warranty. This will also help determine how many roof layers are present.
  • Identifying Repairs: The inspection will identify any existing damage or weaknesses in your roof structure, such as leaks, punctures, or general wear and tear. It’s essential to address these issues before installing solar panels to avoid complications and ensure the longevity of your investment.
  • Recommended Actions: Based on the inspection findings, your partnered contractor can recommend specific actions to reinforce the roof’s integrity and enhance its durability, such as reinforcing support structures or applying protective coatings.

2. Consider Compatible Roof Types

To get the most out of your solar investment, you may have to consider replacing your roof in conjunction with a solar installation. As such, it pays to consider your roof type and the potential pros and cons before moving forward with installation on your facility. Not all commercial roof types are equally suited for solar installations. Some of the most compatible roof types include:

  • TPO Roofs: The most common roof type in this day and age, TPO roofs are a popular roof type due to their durability, flexibility, and heat-reflective properties, making them ideal for solar panel installations. Being heat reflective, TPO roofs fall under the classification of a “cool roof”. This means that TPO roofs greatly reflect sunlight and can better emit absorbed heat, prolonging the life of your solar installation, lowering indoor temperatures, and reducing the need to utilize air conditioning, resulting in energy savings, and keeping your facility energy regulation compliant.
  • PVC Roofs: PVC roofs are an ideal match for solar installations due to their durability, flexibility, and compatibility with mounting systems. The lightweight nature of PVC roofing minimizes structural load concerns, making it suitable for supporting solar panels. Additionally, PVC roofs offer excellent waterproofing properties, ensuring the protection of underlying structures and electrical components from moisture damage. The flexibility of PVC membranes allows for seamless integration with solar mounting systems, facilitating easier installation and ensuring a secure attachment of solar panels. Overall, PVC roofs provide a reliable and long-lasting foundation for maximizing the performance and lifespan of solar energy systems.
  • Liquid Applied Roof Systems: Liquid-applied roof systems are a popular roof type, particularly with solar installations, due to the easy application process, flexibility, seamless surface membrane, versatile nature, and heat-reflective “cool roof” properties. These systems are easily maintained, so their monolithic nature makes them a great choice for pairing with a solar installation. Liquid-applied roof systems can be applied to existing roofs, resulting in never having to tear off and replace a roof in its entirety, ensuring your solar installation remains intact, and a part of your roof, for the foreseeable future.
  • Standing Seam Metal Roofs: Known for their durability and longevity, standing seam metal roofs are typically made out of steel, aluminum, or copper, as they are resistant to corrosion, rust, and degradation as a result of UV exposure. Thanks to their standing seams, these roofs offer a sturdy base for solar panels that can eliminate roof penetration altogether, preserving the roof’s integrity. Standing seam metal roofs enjoy a long lifespan, often exceeding 50 years (if properly maintained), making them perfect for pairing with a solar installation that can also last for 40 to 50 years.

3. General Considerations for Long-Term Solar Assets

Preparing your roof for a long-term asset like solar requires extensive comprehensive planning. Some considerations you’ll want to consider before moving forward with solar are:

  • Roof Load Capacity: Before installing solar, you must ensure that your roof structure can support the additional weight of solar racking, components, and panels. Structural reinforcements may be necessary.
  • Waterproofing and Sealing: To ensure that roof penetrations are properly sealed to prevent leaks and any potential damage to solar panel components. Any potential issues or negative roof impacts should be pointed out in your preliminary inspection.
  • Routine Maintenance: A routine maintenance plan will be essential in keeping your roof and solar panels in optimal condition over the long term. Develop a schedule to conduct periodic inspections and repairs to prevent any setbacks with your roof and solar installation.
  • Longevity of Solar Equipment vs Longevity of the Roof System: Considering that solar panels and associated components can have a lifespan of 45 years or more, the age of your existing roof is a critical factor in solar preparation. Assessing the condition and longevity of your roof will help determine the feasibility and longevity of your solar investment.
  • Warranties: If you’re considering a roof replacement prior to a solar installation, it is crucial to consider the warranties of both systems. Aligning the warranty duration with the expected lifespan of your solar assets is essential to safeguard your investment and avoid potential conflicts in the future. Installing a long-term solar asset on a roof with a significantly shorter warranty period may not be prudent if you’re seeking to maximize the benefits of solar energy. Lastly, It’s often beneficial to work with a contractor who can offer a single-source warranty that will cover both, the solar equipment and the roof.   

A successful solar installation starts with the optimal roof. By conducting a thorough inspection, considering the most compatible roof types, and implementing necessary preparations, you can maximize the performance and longevity of both your roof and a solar installation. Investing in a robust roof ensures that your solar installation remains a valuable asset for decades to come.

Whether you’re ready to embrace solar energy or just have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at RoofConnect and SolarConnect, we’re here to help you create a sustainable future for your facility!

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