With an average of 294 sunny days per year, Las Vegas is one of the best locations on Earth for a solar-panel installation to harness the incredible (and free) power of the sun. On the surface, a solar roof array makes perfect sense. However, energy-conscious consumers considering installing solar in Las Vegas probably have many questions: Is it difficult, costly, and time consuming to install? Is there a chance the installation could damage my roof? In this article we will take a closer look at these questions and provide you with some answers.
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How Are Solar Panels Installed?
The biggest issue for homeowners planning a rooftop solar installation is potential damage to their roof. During the installation process, your installer will have to make holes in your roof to properly anchor the solar panels. The panels are held in place by lag bolts, which are large screws designed for fastening large loads to wooden structures. This is especially important in Las vegas, where high winds can gust up to 60 mph.
How Do Solar Installers Prevent Roof Leaks?
One way workers ensure a sound installation is to secure the bolt fixtures with flashing that surrounds them. Flashing is a piece of metal (or sometimes plastic) that acts as a shield underneath your roof tiles. This flashing can then be sealed with tar or a similar type of roof patching material to prevent leaks. Professional installers should also be expected to use a sealant around the lag bolt to protect the roof from seepage.
If your home has a flat roof you will not need the lag bolt holes drilled. These installations typically utilize a ballast-mounting system, which uses weights to secure the system to the roof.
What About the Weight of the Panels?
A common concern homeowners have about solar installation is the weight of the panels and racking. It is extremely rare for solar-panel weight to compromise your roof’s structural integrity. In almost all cases roofs are more than capable of handling up to 30 solar panels. In addition, the panels are installed at an angle so if you happen to live somewhere with plenty of snow – that would not be Las Vegas – they are designed to allow the snow to easily slide off.
Another option for homeowners concerned about installing traditional solar panels is to consider solar roof tiles, also called solar shingles. These generate electricity through the shingles themselves, but are more costly and less efficient than solar panels. You could also consider installing a ground mount system or participate in a community solar plan.
Can Solar Panels Damage Your Roof?
Because solar panel installations can be expected to last around 30-35 years, it’s essential to ensure no harm comes to your roof during this installation. For the most part, it is rare for solar-panel installations to damage your roof because professional installers are paid to make sure this doesn’t happen. Therefore, it’s essential that you select a service provider who is licensed and qualified to perform the work.
It’s also important that your roof is in good condition to begin with. Failing shingles, tiles, felt, or plywood will increase the likelihood of a poor installation, even with a qualified installer handling the work. Make sure you know what shape your roof is in before you begin. If in doubt, contact an independent home inspector to check this out before you begin the installation process.
How do I select a rooftop solar panel installer?
An important factor is getting various quotes on your installation before starting it. Do your homework and select three of the best installers based on your own research. Invite them over to your home and ask them to provide you with a quote, and then have them take a closer look at your roof to determine the best installation process. Inquire about any specific methods they may have to enact to ensure your roof will not suffer any damage.
The installer should not only be willing to perform an initial inspection, but also answer the questions you have and be willing to mitigate any issues up front. A valid question for you to ask is what type of warranty they offer in case damage to your roof does occur, and what is their contingency plan for a successful installation in this case.
The installer wasn’t reputable
Some installers may not have a background in roofing, and so they may not fully comprehend the consequences of their long-term decisions when performing the installation. A few good questions to ask your future installer before you sign on the dotted line is what experience they have in roofing, and what plan they have to ensure no harm comes to your roof. Ask them if they’ve ever had a failed installation, what they learned from it, and what they did to fix it.
The roof was initially in poor condition
Before signing up for a rooftop solar installation, have a roofing inspector check your roof for the following:
- Loose or falling shingles
- Sagging or soft roof deck
- Load-carrying capacity
- Overall condition
- Materials used
- Your building height
- Wind loads
All of these factors can play an important part in your decision, so make sure you do your homework or hire a professional to do it for you.
As with any home repair or improvement project, do your homework and make sure you are comfortable with your solar-panel installer. Call several, choose a few and then ask them some of the questions noted above before making this important decision. Your installer should have answers to these questions to your satisfaction, and if that person does not, go back to the drawing board. Your solar panels can be expected to live on your roof for 30+ years, so choose your installer wisely and feel confident in your final decision.