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Can You Put Solar Panels On a Metal Roof? What You Need To Know!

solar panels on metal roof

Many homeowners have been going with metal roofs for some time now. With a long lifespan, stylish aesthetic, and great energy efficiency metal roofs are an excellent investment. It only makes sense that homeowners would consider adding solar power to maximize the benefits of both systems.  So, can you have the best of both worlds? Yes, you certainly can.

In fact, metal roofs are ideal for solar panels for a few reasons, beginning with their long lifespan. While solar power only accounted for about 3% of the electricity in the US in 2020, that number is projected to hit 20% by 2050, so the idea is gaining popularity. Let’s find out what’s involved with combining the two systems.

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Considerations for Installing Solar Panels on a Metal Roof

Solar Power 101

Most residential solar power uses monocrystalline solar panels to produce an electrical current. The raw current is then converted to usable electricity which powers the home, is stored in a battery, or is sold back to the grid.

As for the panels, they need to get as much direct sunlight as possible—at least 4 hours a day.

That usually makes the roof the most sensible place to put them, but this comes with some obvious challenges, and some hidden ones as well.

The first consideration is actually not the mounting system, but the lifespan of your current roof. Solar panels have a lifespan of about 30–35 years, whereas metal roofs have a lifespan of 40–70 years.

While this makes them a great pair, you still need to take into account the age of your roof before installing a new solar power system. If your metal roof was installed 50 years ago and you put a brand-new solar power system on it, you may end up having to uninstall and reinstall the system when you replace the roof.

It’s not the end of the world, but if you’re able to have the roof redone, you may want to consider doing so to save on those costs down the road. Many metal roofing companies have begun installing solar power system installations, so finding a contractor who does both shouldn’t be a problem.

You’ll also want to take the pitch of the roof into account. If the roof is very steep, you may want to go with a system that tilts the panels, so that they collect more sunlight.

Once you’ve ensured your metal roof is young and bright enough to accommodate the number of panels you’ll need, it’s time to think about panels and mounting systems.

two houses with solar panels on the roof
Image Credit: Mischa Frank, Unsplash

How are Solar Panels Mounted on a Metal Roof?

If you’ve already made the investment into a metal roof, the thought of somebody going up there and screwing a bunch of holes into it probably makes you cringe. Fortunately, there are non-penetrating attachment systems that will allow you to mount your solar panels safely and without risking a leak.

Standing Seam Clamps

Standing seam clamps are often used as a method of attaching a panel system to a metal roof. They work by attaching to the ridges of a standing seam style metal roof, and when installed correctly, shouldn’t void the metal roof’s warranty.  Another way of installing solar panels on a metal tile roof is to use replacement metal tiles.

Metal Tile Footings

These are just metal tiles like the ones currently installed in the roof, which are designed to attach to the solar system. They simply pull out a few of the existing metal tiles and put in a new one that is built with a footing for your panels to mount to. This is another great, penetration-free method for building solar panels on a metal roof, but it does require that the tiles line up with the panel feet.

Straddle Blocks

Depending on the design of the house or the kind of metal roof it has, things may not line up perfectly. If this is the case, you may need to consider using straddle blocks. These are used on corrugated roofs and do require some drilling. They are, however, specially designed for the task. Straddle blocks that have been installed correctly will not cause your roof to leak. If possible, use the same company that installed the roof to keep from voiding the warranty.

You’ve probably noticed that certain mounting systems are designed for certain styles of metal roof, which begs the question:

installing solar panels
Image Credit: surasak jailak, Shutterstock

What Type of Metal Roof is Best for Solar?

There are a few variations on metal roof designs. While it is indeed possible and beneficial to install solar panels on any kind of metal roof, the style roof and its design will greatly impact the installation and costs of your solar system.

While non-penetrating systems are definitely ideal for protecting the integrity of the roof, it is not always possible to use them. Understanding the different challenges and strengths of each will help you to assess your project and decide how to move forward.

Standing Seam

This is one of the most commonly used designs for modern metal roofs and is by far the easiest to work with. The great thing about standing seam metal roofs is that the solar panel system can be attached with clamps. Aside from the obvious lack of holes in the roof, it is also a lot faster to install – saving you money on labor.

Metal Tile

Not all tile roofs are made of slate as they appear. Metal tile roofs are a great choice as both a roof and as a solar panel base. That’s because the tiles can be removed without damaging the roof. They are then replaced with tiles that have mounted brackets for the footing of the system.

These replacement-bracket tiles come in the exact same size and shape as the original. This allows the installer to build your solar panel system right into the design of the roof. Another nice feature of metal tile roofs is how durable they are.

When walking on a standing seam or corrugated metal roof, it is possible to dent it, if it isn’t a very thick gauge of sheet metal. The design of a metal tile roof is a little tougher, and if any tiles should get dented, they can easily be replaced.

Corrugated Metal

Solar panels may be a newer technology, but metal roofs are not. Corrugated metal roofs are an older design, and the main drawback in regards to solar panel installation is that they need to be drilled. There are no standing seams to clamp to and no tiles to replace, so the only option for installing your solar panels is to drill saddle blocks in.

multiple solar panels installed on the roof
Image Credit: Benjamin Jopen, Unsplash

Advantages of Mounting Solar on a Metal Roof

Metal roofs and solar panels share many of the same benefits, some more obvious than others. Some of these perks can be seen from a mile away, like the fact that they are both outstandingly economical.

If you have a metal roof installed on your home, chances are that you won’t have to install another roof on that building as long as you live. With energy efficiency savings for life, that makes a metal roof a very economical investment.

Economic

While a solar panel system doesn’t last quite as long as a metal roof, its economic value is undeniable. Combining the energy savings of a metal roof with those of a solar system is an unparalleled way to turn your home into a structure that saves. On top of being good for your wallet, both are also better for the environment.

Environmental

While solar panels provide green energy, the metal roof is surprisingly eco-friendly as well. Metal roofs are usually at least 20% recycled material and the whole thing can be recycled when it is no longer in use. The other piece of the picture is that using a metal roof keeps you from using the alternative, which is most commonly asphalt – a petroleum product.

Comfort

While combining a metal roof and solar panel system is sensible for your wallet and the planet, there is another, added bonus: comfort. As the panels absorb the sunlight, they also cast shade on the metal roof – which is prone to getting hot in the sun. By taking the sunlight and converting it into electricity, you are also saving your home from roasting under that metal sheet all summer, reducing the need for AC.

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Conclusion

Can you install a solar panel on a metal roof? Yes, and as it turns out, you ought to. You’ll be glad you did. Combining energy efficiency with energy generation is a sound plan. It is rare to find an investment that is as good for your pocketbook as it is for the planet, but installing a solar system on your metal roof is one of those ever-elusive win-win scenarios.


Featured Image Credit: Parsoa Khorsand, Unsplash

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