Which Roofs Are Best for Solar Panels? How to Make Sure Your Roof Is Solar-Ready


Split screen header reads "what kind of roof is best for solar panels?" in navy text over a light blue and yellow watercolor backdrop on the left and on the right a 2-story white house in San Diego with two sets of black solar panels.

So you want to go solar, but aren’t quite sure if your roof is as ready as you are…


It was easy for you to jump aboard the solar ship, but the reality is a raggedy roof can drop your anchor before you even leave the shore.


And when your sights are set on a treasure trove of savings, finding out you have the wrong roof (or need to spend a small fortune on repairs) is enough to take the wind out of your sails.


But how do you know if your roof is ready for solar? And if it’s not, how can you get it there?


The good news is you don’t even need a map.


At Empire, we believe your solar journey should be nothing but smooth sailing. That’s why we’re revealing all of our roofing insights so that you can make an informed choice.


Let the experts in the installation industry guide you through the best and worst roofs for solar, plus 3 simple steps homeowners can take to make sure their roof is solar-ready.


Which Roofs Are Best for Solar Panels?


Simple lined illustration with white background featuring different roof types against a backdrop of simple clouds. From left to right, an a-frame roof, two roofs with pointed tops, shingles, and a slanted roof.

Wondering which roof is really best for solar panels? Well, it isn’t quite that simple.


No one roof type is best for solar panels—there are mounting solutions for just about every roof out there,” explains EnergySage, an authority in the solar sphere.


But, they also note “some roof types will cost more to mount solar panels on” due to extra equipment needed by solar installers.


See how well your roof ranks as we review the pros and cons of some of the most common roof types and their compatibility with solar panels.


Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt Shingle roof: a navy background and two rectanglular shingles with a line down the middle. The one on the bottom is yellow and the one on top is light blue.

Asphalt shingles are an incredibly popular roof type due to their durability and affordability.


An asphalt shingle typically consists of a fiberglass or organic cellulose base coated with a waterproof layer of asphalt. When properly installed, an asphalt roof can last up to 25 years.


These cost-effective shingles come in a variety of different colors and styles, such as three-tab and architectural, offering owners more creativity and customization of their roof.


To install solar panels on asphalt shingles, your installer will start by drilling several studs into your roof where your panel mounts will go. These are then topped with a flashing, a kind of cover that creates a water-tight seal around the mount to prevent any leaks.


As one of the most common roof types on the market, your solar installer should have ample experience installing solar panels on asphalt shingles with ease.


Tile

Shingle roofing: Same style as previous but the rectangular shaped is curved in a wave shape. The one on the bottom is yellow the one on the top is light blue.

Clay and terracotta tiles are a more ornate option but can be much more costly when it comes to converting to solar.


Tile roofing is best suited to warm climates with salty sea air, so it’s no surprise that this roof type is more common near the coast. In the right climate, a tile roof can last over 100 years.


Clay and terracotta tiles are created from environmentally friendly minerals from the earth and offer energy efficiency by regulating the temperature in your home.


With so many different options for styles (flat, fluted, curved, etc.), colors, and materials, tile roofing offers homeowners endless customization, albeit at 2-3 times the cost of asphalt.


Installing solar on clay roofs also comes with additional expenses, since your solar installer will need to actually remove some tiles in order to attach racking feet directly to your roof.


Additionally, the individual tiles themselves are brittle and prone to breakage and can crack under the pressure of your installer walking on your roof.


The biggest takeaway? Clay and terracotta tiles are certainly compatible with solar panels but have more costly installations compared to other roof types.


Metal

Corrugated metal roofing: Three long rectangles lay side by side with yellow bolts at the top and bottom.

Metal roofs are an attractive and durable option for many homeowners. Depending on their quality and thickness, the lifespan of your metal roof may last as long as half a century.


An arguably more sustainable option to asphalt, metal roofs rarely need to be replaced and don’t rely on fossil fuels like petroleum. By reflecting off radiant heat, metal roofs are also energy efficient by reducing your cooling costs, reveals home advice resource Bob Vila.


A metal roof is also engineered for the elements; it can easily withstand wind and snow and ice slide right off, making it an ideal option for colder climates.


Metal roofs have a very modern appearance as well as ample options for colors and customization. They can even be manufactured to look like other materials, like wood or slate.


And if your metal roof is standing seam, your switch to solar is incredibly simple, since your solar installer can mount your panels right to your roof by securing them to those seams.


Don’t have a standing seam metal roof? Still not an issue, as your solar installer can simply drill in the necessary holes. Either way, metal roofs are very compatible with solar panels.


EPDM, TPO, and PVC

A light blue bucket pours yellow tar onto a tar and gravel square.

Lots of roofing used for low-angle or flat roofs is also compatible with solar, such as EPDM, TPO, and PVC.


If you’re wondering what all those letters mean, here’s a quick peek at the definitions and differences between these roofing materials without overcomplicating things:


  • EPDM: ethylene propylene dienterpolymer, a dark synthetic rubber

  • TPO: thermoplastic polyolefin, a lighter, more reflective rubber

  • PVC: polyvinyl chloride (aka plastic) made with a lower percentage of petroleum


These options, often used for commercial buildings, can be easily and often inexpensively adapted for solar by installing a ballast system (aka weighted mounting system).


A ballast system consists of a series of concrete blocks strategically placed on top of solar mounts throughout your array—these blocks hold your panels in place while preventing the need to penetrate your roof.


Because less labor is required for these installations, they’re usually less expensive than the traditional practice of standard penetrating mounts (EnergySage).

Which Roofs AreWorst for Solar Panels?


A tiled roof with yellow trees in the background. A "no" symbol (circle with a line through it) overlays the roof.

If you have a slate or wood tile roof, you may have difficulty even finding a solar installer.


These roofs are definitely not preferred as they can break easily and may require custom parts and equipment, further complicating the installation process (EnergySage).


Additionally, shake, metal shingle, Cal-Pac, and Decra roofs also pose similar problems, so they’re usually not approved by most solar installation companies, including Empire.


If your roof is made of one of these materials and your heart is still set on solar, consider replacing your roof with one of the more compatible options we covered above.


3 Steps to Make Sure Your Roof Is Solar-Ready


Even if your current roof is compatible with solar, there are still a few steps you should take before your transition that can save you thousands in labor costs down the line.


Make sure your roof is ready for solar by reviewing its lifespan, repairing or replacing it if necessary, and reaching out to a solar installation professional.


1. Review Your Roof’s Lifespan

How many years are left on your roof’s lifespan? Your new solar system is set to last up to 30 years, and you don’t want it to outlive your current roof and cost you more later.


That’s why at Empire we recommend that your roof has a minimum of 10 years left in its lifespan before you install any solar panels. If your roof doesn’t meet this requirement, it’s worth replacing it first.


While it may seem costly and counterintuitive to replace your roof only to cover it with solar panels, this important investment can actually lengthen the lifespan of your new roof.


Here’s how: “Solar panels can actually extend the life of your roof by shielding it from inclement weather, so once they’re installed, you can be confident that your new roof is well-protected,” states solar pros at EnergySage.


2. Repair or Replace Your Roof First

Repairing or replacing your roof is much easier (and more cost-effective) before your panels are installed.


Replacing your roof post-installation comes with lots of labor costs, as your panels need to be carefully removed and may even require special storage until your project is complete.


If you expect to do any re-roofing after your panels are installed, it’s worth asking your solar installer if that’s something they cover and how much it’ll cost you. For example, Empire will remove your panels and reinstall them on your new roof for less than $1 per watt.


3. Request a Free Quote

In the end, a solar installation expert is your best resource for assessing if your roof is solar-ready. They’ll take more factors into consideration than just the state of your roof; like its shape, size, shade, angle, orientation, and more.


Remember when considering potential solar installers to look for long warranties that protect your system, like Empire’s unbeatable 25-year full workmanship warranty.


For more advice on selecting a solar installer, check out our guide How to Choose a Solar Installer Like a Pro: 5 Quick Tips for Success.


Let’s Review All Things Roofs and Solar


Solar panels on a roof with a sun and clouds in the background, juxtaposed with a checklist and a pencil.

Finding out if you have the right roof and how you can get it ready is a breeze when you have Empire on board.


In this guide, we took a closer look at some of the most common roof types and whether or not they were compatible with solar panels.


We also touched on a few of the worst roofs for solar and listed three steps you can take towards making sure your roof is solar-ready.


Let’s rewind and recap everything you need to know about roofs and solar:

  • There is no “best” roof type for solar, but some installations cost more than others

  • Asphalt shingles are extremely common and make for an easy installation

  • Metal roofs, especially standing seam, are a great fit for solar panels

  • Clay and terracotta tiles need to be removed first, resulting in greater labor costs

  • Solar can be added to EPDM, TPO, and PVC commercial roofs with a ballast system

  • Slate, wood, shake, metal shingle, Cal-Pac, and Decra are the worst roofs for solar

  • Make sure your roof has at least 10 years left in its lifespan before installing panels

  • Repair or replace your roof before your panels are installed to avoid extra costs

  • Reach out to a solar installation expert for a free quote and a more in-depth assessment


Ready to start your solar journey? Get your FREE QUOTE from Empire today!







References


Aggarwal, V. (2021, February 15). Is my roof good for solar? 5 top considerations: Energysage. Retrieved May 04, 2021, from https://news.energysage.com/home-good-solar-find-now/

Formisano, B. (2019, June 26). Pros and cons of tile roofing. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/pros-and-cons-of-tile-roofing-1824684

Gingrich, J. (2021, April 22). Are my home and roof suitable for solar panels?: Energysage. Retrieved from https://news.energysage.com/is-my-roof-even-suitable-for-solar/

Schwartz, D., & Vila, B. (2020, September 20). 7 things to know before choosing a metal roof. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://www.bobvila.com/articles/metal-roof-pros-and-cons/

Taylor, G., & Vila, B. (2020, September 17). Solved! how long you can expect your roof to last. Retrieved from https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-long-does-a-roof-last/

Thoubboron, K. (2021, February 13). Roofing with solar panels: Overview and options: Energysage. Retrieved from https://news.energysage.com/solar-panel-roof-replacement/





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