Mounting Your Solar Array: Roof Mounting vs. Ground Mounting

Roof mounting your solar array is the most common and economical way to mounting solar panels is on the roof of your home or business. Any roof pitch or orientation from East to South to West can accommodate panels will do. Also, panels can be mounted on any roof type – asphalt shingles, metal, tile, or membrane flat roofs. In fact, just about any roof can be used. A few exceptions include roofs with large amounts of shade or obstructions from vent stacks or dormers.

How Roof Mounting Works

To create a roof mount, aluminum rails are mounted to your roof’s trusses and then the solar panels attach to the rails.

For standing seam metal roofs, S-5 clamps are used on the seam, rather than penetrating the metal with lag bolts. These clamps only work on standing seam metal roofs– for any other type of metal roof, we use a good sealant on all roof penetrations.

For shingle roofs, flashings (thin sheets of metal used like a shingle cover solar attachments as a barrier against water infiltration) and sealant are used with 5/16” lag bolts.

We like to use ballasted racking systems for flat roofs. These racking systems do not penetrate the roof surface. They are engineered to withstand wind loading with just a few blocks or bricks to weigh them down.

Whoever is installing your solar array should be ensuring they are leak-free. Our rooftop installations are guaranteed to be leak-free.

Will you need to replace your roof?

It is a good idea to have at least 10-15 years left on your roof warranty, but a good visual inspection can determine if the shingles need to be replaced prior to solar installation. Some homeowners opt to replace the shingles just below where the solar panels will be installed rather than the entire roof.

When you inspect your shingles, if you can see fiberglass showing around the edges where the mineral has worn away, it is recommended that you replace your roof first. If you would like to proceed with installation anyway, it is possible to have us remove your array and reinstall it after your shingles have been replaced. This generally costs around $1600-$2000 depending on the complexity of the installation.

Ground mounting your solar array require extra infrastructure, like excavation, concrete, and a trench to carry the wires from the solar panels to the building. Additionally, a ground mounting structure or pole(s) are necessary to mount the panels. However, if your roof structure will not support the added weight of the solar panels, ground mounting is the best option.

While it may cost more, ground mounting does have benefits.

Ground Mounting is a great option if your shade-free, south-facing roof space is limited. A ground mount can usually be installed to face true south for optimum production. 

Pole-mounted structures have an adjustable tilt-angle where you can gain 4% more production by adjusting the angle of the panels only twice per year.

Ground mounted or pole-mounted systems can also double as shade structures, car ports, or even a veranda.

Be sure to check out our podcast, Off Grid Pros, to learn about the basics of going solar!