Considering Solar Panels for Your Roof? Here’s Our Advice as a Remodeler
Across the Madison, more and more people are investing in residential solar power systems. They are outfitting roofs both new and old with solar panels — and why not? Solar power technology has seen incredible advancement and support through Energy Star tax credits in recent years, lowering overall affordability including installation costs. Adding solar panels to your roof is also a simple, efficient way to generate electricity for your home and offsetting the energy impact of your home.
Understanding the different factors involved in a project like this is so important. To help you decide whether or not solar power is the right option for your home, we’ve created a list of the top things to evaluate before you install a rooftop solar array.
Is your roof in good shape?
Before you even consider installing solar panels, ask yourself, how old is my roof? If you know that you will need a new roof soon, or that a part of your roof is damaged, it probably isn’t the best idea to install solar panels. If you can, take care of any roof repairs before the installation. That way, you won’t need to pay extra to dismantle the work and then put it up again (in some cases for at least 20 years). As an Owens Corning Platinum Contractor, we have the roofing experience to help you evaluate your current roof and avoid untimely, costly replacement.
Another aspect is the warranty on your roof compared to the warranty on the solar panels. If you have solar panels that will last for 20 years and a roof that will only last between 10 – 15, the cost of maintenance will be higher due to repetitive remove and replacement of the solar array. The best option is to ensure your roof is in great shape before installing a solar panel system.
Is your roof a good candidate for solar?
Roofs come in many different shapes and sizes. Before you go ahead with any installation, make sure that your roof has enough space for a solar array. If there isn’t enough room, you likely will not get the return you expect on your investment.
Some houses are surrounded by tall forests and the trees block out most daily sun, especially in non-summer months. One way to determine if you home has solar potential is to check Google’s Project Sunroof to see if your home is a good candidate to produce solar power.
What direction does the slopes of your roof face?
Solar panels require specific placement in order to generate the maximum amount of power. Professional solar companies in Madison can advise on the placement and orientation that would maximize the solar harvest for your home. This information is important for to determine as part of the evaluation process.
Can your roof handle the weight?
Installing solar panels will increase the weight on the structure of your roof. If the weight of the solar panels are too much for your roof, there is a potential that it will sag or even collapse. In Wisconsin, this is especially important because of the snow load weight our roofs carry each winter. It is critical to have a professional evaluate your roof to determine if additional support is required to complete the installation.
Where will the water go?
When it rains, water runs down the roof, into the gutters and out and away from your home. When installing solar panels, equipment like racking and wire harnesses can prevent the water from flowing and draining properly. In some cases, solar equipment can move the water in a different direction, which can create leaks and other problems. These problems will need repair, which means the solar panels will need to be removed.
To avoid all of these issues, make sure that you inform your contractor of these concerns and provide a historical perspective of any water flow issues. They will be able to present a plan to you to prove that the installation will have a minimal impact on water runoff.
What about weather events?
Part of maintaining your solar power system is dealing with severe weather like lightning storms, hurricanes, hail, and more. There is a potential for some solar power equipment to get damaged during these events. While some insurance will cover these types of events, it is something to consider, especially if you live in an area where this type of weather occurs often.
As with so many home improvement projects, it’s good to do your homework and find reputable, insured contractors with experience working with your specific type of roof. Evaluating warranties for solar panels, inverters, and installation are all part of any solar installation, but also consult with your roofing contractor to understand how a solar installation could affect an existing roofing warranty. There are also some incentive programs that require you to have a warranty for your solar equipment in order to qualify.
Does your homeowner’s insurance cover solar panel damage in the event of hailstorm or tornado or fire? Some policies require additional endorsements for solar panels or might include a clause stating a coverage change if solar panels are added or existing at purchase.
The cost of installing a solar panel system in your home can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. The good news is the Madison has a great solar program called MadiSun Solar Energy Program and the Department of Energy is continuing it’s Solar Tax Credit program through December 31, 2020. Most programs require pre-approval and that the array be brought online before the program expiration date.
Overall, the government really wants to get people interested in investing in solar power. The Department of Energy itself offers as much as 30% in savings through rebates and tax credits.
Many solar companies offer long-term financing options with terms of 10 or 20 years. This allows homeowners to get a project online quickly and offset a loan payment immediate and future energy savings. Taking into account just the cost of project in this financing can sometimes lead homeowners to assume a larger savings than they will realize because of other repairs and maintenance required over the life an array including roofing, skylights, or electrical connections.
Can you DIY a Solar Project?
Solar panel installation is best left to professionals. Period. There are too many things that could potentially go wrong if you aren’t properly trained in the installation process.
First founded as an exterior remodeling company in 1977, Waunakee Remodeling has evolved into a full-service interior and exterior remodeling contractor. With 40+ years of industry experience in materials selection, design expertise, and professional custom craftsmanship, we’ve established ourselves as the premier remodeling company in South Central Wisconsin.