You want to go solar and your roof is the ideal place for the solar array. But is your roof up to the job?
A few items to take into account when considering replacing your roof: The roof’s age, its condition, and the costs involved for repairs or replacement.
There are a few signs you may know about already to determine the condition of your roof, without even climbing up a ladder. Leaks or stains in the attic or walls, mildew, dark “dirty-looking” spots on the roof, excessive energy costs due to insufficient ventilation – those are all signs that your roof may need repair or replacement. For more general signs, take a look at GAF’s Key Danger Signals of a Failing Roof .
If you are unsure or haven’t seen any of these signs, that’s probably a very good thing. Either way, you’ll definitely need a professional to assist you in further assessment. Your solar contractor can recommend a good local roofing company to work with and most reputable roofing contractors provide free estimates, so there should be no additional cost for the assessment.
An experienced roofing contractor can inspect your roof and let you know if it would be wise to install a solar array on it or if it would be best to replace it. Sometimes it may just be a matter of performing a few repairs to fix any minor issues in preparing your roof for the panels.
The roof’s age can help the contractor determine how the roofing materials are holding up and whether they are likely to continue to hold up in the future. The material style can help pinpoint how old the roof is and they will ask you few questions about how long you’ve lived in the home or if you actually know when the roof was originally installed.
The roofing contractor will look for red flags such as material wear (missing, cracked, or curling shingles), any leaks or weaknesses, and dry rot.
Although a typical solar array only weighs around 4 lbs. per square foot, a damaged or weak roof can end up sagging a little under the added weight over time. Sagging can mean cracks and leaks, which leads to dry rot and a host of other issues. It’s really not worth the risk!
Ask questions and make sure you fully understand the reasons for the roofing contractor’s recommendation so you can make your decision and take the next step.
Factor in the cost
Yes, if you really need one, a new roof is an added cost. But think about the cost involved in having the solar contractor remove the installed panels from your old roof and then reinstall them onto the new roof.
And don’t forget that when the solar panels are off, it means that you are not producing any power, so your electric bill will go naturally go up until the solar panels are reinstalled and turned back on. The entire process could take a week or two depending on the varying schedules of each contractor involved, as well as weather conditions.
You’ll need to weigh the convenience with the cost to see if it’s a better option to just replace the roof before the panels go up.
Bottom line: while you may be able to squeeze out a few extra years on an older roof, the best scenario for installing solar panels is on a roof that is in good condition and will not need replacement for a while.