Solar panels are gaining popularity around the U.S. and for a good reason. They provide clean, renewable energy while reducing your electric bill and can end up saving you money in the long run. Although there are other places to put solar panels on your property, most homeowners elect to put them on their roofs. Today we’ll walk you through how to DIY your solar panel installation.
Can Your Roof Support Solar Panels?
Before we dive in on how to install solar panels on your roof, you should check to make sure that your roof can support solar panels. There are a few things to consider when checking for support:
How much weight can your roof hold?
Solar panels can weigh up to 55 lbs each, but most modern homes shouldn’t have an issue supporting that weight of solar panels. The concern will be if you have an older home or have any known structural integrity issues. If you have a standard asphalt shingle roof, you should be good to go. But if you have any concerns, you should consult a roofing professional to be safe.
Is your roof in good shape?
Before you install solar panels on your roof, you should make sure that it’s’ in tip-top shape. If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced within the next 4 to 5 years, you should wait to install your solar panels. Installing solar panels before repairs or replacement will only add more work and cost you more money as a roofing contractor will have to remove the panels to do any work. Also, if you do have a lingering leak or mold growing in the roof, it could affect the structural integrity and cause your roof to cave in from the weight of the solar panels. It’s a good idea to get a professional roof inspection before installing your solar panels.
Does your roof get a good amount of sunlight?
This might seem like an obvious question, but it’s an important one! If your home sits in an exceptionally shady area due to large trees or other obstructions, solar panels might not be extremely effective. Without adequate and direct sunshine, your solar panels won’t be as effective in powering your home and may not be worth the investment.
7 Steps to Installing Solar Panels On Your Roof
Step 1: Calculate How Many Solar Panels Your Roof Needs
Before you begin installing the actual solar panels, you’ll need to know how many panels you need and how much electricity you want them to produce. You can find this out by using an online solar calculator to estimate how many panels or how large of a system you’ll need based on the orientation of your home to the sun and the amount of electricity used on average. . Solar dealers will provide you with all the information on solar panel energy production, as well as an instructional map for how to best install the solar panels on your roof. These instructional guides will generally cost extra money because they are customized to your home, but they may be worth it to make the installation easier.
Step 2: Measure Your Roof and Mark Where the Panels Will Go
Now that you’ve ordered your panels and know how many will be on your roof, it’s time to take some measurements. The manufacturer of your solar panels should provide you with measurements for the panels and their mounting brackets, so while you’re waiting for them to ship, you can start planning where the panels will go. Head on up your roof and begin marking where the drill holes and mounting brackets will go with chalk lines and pencil.
Step 3: Drill Holes Into the Rafters
After you’ve measured out where your solar panel brackets will go, you can begin drilling your holes into the frame of your roof where the lag bolts will go. The holes must be drilled directly into the rafters of your home because if they aren’t, the weight of the solar panels could rip your shingles out due to the lack of support. Your lag bolts will screw into these holes to hold down the flashing, mounting bracket, and ultimately the solar panels. Your solar panel manufacturer will have precise measurements for how far these lag bolts should be placed from each other.
Step 4: Install the Flashing
It’s time to begin installing the flashing on your roof. The hole on your flashing will line up with the hole you drilled into your rafter. Slide the flashing under the shingle above the hole, line the holes up, and drill your lag bolts into the hole. The flashing is important because it will help provide a watertight seal keeping water from leaking underneath your panels and into your roof or attic space. Additionally, your flashing will also hold the mounting bracket in place.
Step 5: Put the Brackets in Place
The lag bolts will act as a guide for your mounting brackets. Different solar panel systems will have different mounting brackets and procedures for installation. In general, your brackets will either slide into place where the lag bolts are, or they will have additional bolts that will go through the holes in the flashing. The mounting brackets will hold your solar panels, so it’s important that you take your time with them. Double-check to make sure they are measured and spaced correctly, and also securely attached to the roof.
Step 6: Place and Wire the Inverter Kits
The wiring process can be complicated depending on the layout of your home and what type of inverter kits you’re using. Inverter kits connect to your mount and collect the energy gathered from your solar panels. After your inverter kit collects the energy, it converts it from DC current to AC current and sends that energy into your home for you to use. Because of the various types of inverter kits and home layouts, we’ll go through some general steps on how to install and wire them:
- Connect the inverter kit to the mounting brackets
- Secure the inverter kits in place with the provided manufacturer screws
- Run a trunk cable, the cable that connects to all the individual converters, through the mounting bracket rails and into the electrical box in your home.
- Depending on the configuration of your home and where your receiving electrical box is, you may need to drill a hole in your roof to gain access to the electrical receiver.
Although this is a DIY guide, we strongly recommend that you contact an electrician if you’re unsure about the wiring of your panels. The wiring of solar panels can be a complicated and dangerous process if you don’t have electrical experience.
Step 7: Mount the Panels
Your mounting brackets are in place, the inverter kits are plugged in, it’s time to mount your panels! Begin by plugging the inverter kit into the panel, then slide each one into place and tighten down the locking screws on each corner of the panel. There will be a significant amount of wire management needed in order for your solar panels to function properly and safely. Here’s a blog with some simple wire management techniques.
And there you have it, mounting solar panels on your roof in 7 steps! Technically, to get the power to run to your home, a final eighth step is needed. The eighth step requires quite a bit of electrical work to get your solar energy into your home’s central power system. As we stated before, we would strongly recommend contacting a local electrician to help you with the electrical work. If you have other roofing needs, such as asphalt shingle repairs or full roof replacements, reach out to us today! We provide clear communication with every homeowner and would be happy to provide you with a free quote for your next roofing project.