If you are thinking about putting solar panels on your home or business, you might wonder if your roof is good for a solar system installation. Can you put solar panels on a clay tile roof?
If you put clay or concrete tiles on your roof the right way, they can last 50 or even 100 years. Installing solar panels on a tile roof is the hardest. Not only is it more expensive to install solar panels on a tile roof, but there is also a higher chance that a bad installation will damage the roof.
If a bad installation damages the roof, it can cause leaks, leading to expensive repairs in the future.
Solar installers can put solar panels on almost any kind of roof, but the way they install panels and the hardware they use might differ. There are ways to mount solar panels on almost any roof, although installations on some types of roofs cost more money.
The most common types of roofs that solar installers see are asphalt roofs, clay tiles, slate tiles, concrete, wood, and metal.
Apart from installing solar panels, there are other ways you can reduce your electricity consumption.
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Can You Put Solar Panels on a Clay Tile Roof?
Clay tiles are usually taken off and put back on during a solar installation because they are fragile and may break when solar installers walk on them.
Besides, to install a solar system, installers need to secure the solar racking equipment right to the actual roof of a home.
So, to attach the rack to a roof with clay tiles, installers can reach this area only by lifting the tiles.
What they do is drill the roof for metal hooks and other equipment and slide the tiles back into place over the installation.
Depending on the shape and size of the clay tiles, a solar installer may need to buy or make hooks with a unique shape so that they fit and stay in place.
Some companies make special hooks for different roof tiles.
Sometimes, installers might just swap out the old tile for a new one made of metal. This combines the tile, mounting foot, and flashing into a single piece of equipment.
But when putting in solar panels, tile roofs are the hardest.
Consequently, the installation of solar panels on a tile roof is more expensive compared to other types of roofs.
Besides, if done incorrectly, a bad solar panel installation can damage the roof and cause leaks.
That does not mean that a homeowner with a tile roof should avoid solar energy.
Clay roof tiles are strong enough to withstand wind and rain but can break easily (if you just step on them), which is a problem during the installation of solar panels.
Solar panel installers need to climb on your roof to put up the equipment that weighs several hundred pounds while being extra careful when working near tiles, as even stepping on a tile can break it.
Do Solar Panels Cause Roof Leaks?
Regardless of whether your roof tiles are made of clay or concrete, neither one will keep the rain out of your house.
The rain eventually soaks through clay and concrete because these are porous materials.
Also, water can get under the front edge of the tiles when the wind blows.
What keeps houses dry is not clay tile roofs but the underlayment, a waterproof membrane that goes under the tiles and makes the tile roof very durable.
So, while tiles keep out the sun, wind, and most of the rain, the underlayment represents a waterproof barrier.
How Are Solar Panels Installed on a Roof?
There are several ways to put solar panels on a tile roof.
A racking system must be anchored to the roof deck, which is done by two different methods.
The first method involves taking all tiles off the part of the roof where the solar panels will go. Solar installers replace the removed tiles with tar paper on the roof deck and asphalt shingles (composition shingles) on the top.
The solar panels are put on the new shingle roof, and then the original tiles are put back around the edges of the panels.
The new shingle roof underneath keeps your home waterproof.
Afar, this still looks like a roof made of tiles, a close look reveals the space between the tiles.
If done carefully and correctly, this method works perfectly, and the roof remains waterproof.
The other costs of any other method can be higher, so check with your solar installer which option is the best for your home.
There are products that let you put mounting points through clay tile roofs if the roof tiles are strong enough that solar installers can cut through them without breaking them.
This method doesn’t leave a visible gap in your roof tiles, but the installation is more complicated.
Solar installers will have to work on the roof without breaking the tiles and make sure that the installation remains waterproof.
This is not a painless procedure. It involves removing tiles for the mount, putting sealant, covering it with tar paper, then (again) putting sealant and a layer of mesh fabric on top of the flashing, and, finally, putting another layer of sealant.
Just then, the solar installer cuts a hole in the tile, puts it over the mount, and puts a collar with flashing on top of the mount.
The last step is to add more sealant to the collar.
What makes this process time-consuming and expensive is that you might have to do this a dozen times on a typical rooftop, but the result is great.
Some companies make hooks that go around the tiles and roof mounts that look like regular roof tiles. Each mount, made of composite or aluminum, replaces a whole roof tile.
They come with all the hardware needed to bolt them securely to the roof deck and keep wind and rain away.
Solar panels and tile roofs work well together because a tile roof that is installed correctly can last for 100 years and solar panels themselves usually have a warranty of 25-40 years.
When consulting a solar company, ask them if they install solar panels themselves, or do they hire someone else to install solar panels.
Find out how do they plan to attach the racks and whether the method is non-destructive.
Also, find out whether they will replace the tiles that they break for free and whether your roofer’s warranty covers damage to the roof such as leaks.