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Do Solar Panels Cause Roof Leaks? [How to Avoid Them?]

Tim Carter
Written by Tim Carter Last Updated: June 19, 2022

One of the most important reasons to go solar is that it will save you money on energy, lowering or even getting rid of your electric bill. Theoretically, putting high-efficiency solar panels on your roof should save you a lot of money. But what if installing photovoltaic solar panels causes damage and your roof caused starts leaking? Do solar panels cause roof leaks?

If installed by qualified solar technicians, roofs with solar panels should never leak. Reasons for a leaky roof include improper solar panel installation, an old and damaged roof, or a roof made of slate or wood tiles, which are hard but brittle and can break or crack when drilled through.

To prevent roof leaks, hire a reputable contractor or an experienced company that follows best practices.

Most of the time, a leaking roof results from the actions of irresponsible solar companies that didn’t accurately evaluate a rooftop or didn’t report potential damage.

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How To Prevent Roof Leaks After Installing Solar Panels?

Before installing solar panels, take care of roof repairs.

A roof that’s not in a good shape cannot hold a solar installation without problems.

For example, if you know you will need to replace your roof in a few years, do it before installing solar panels. This way, you will avoid extra costs.

Besides, another reason to install solar panels is that they help keep roofs in good shape, and change how it looks and works.

Panels are heavy and thus hard to move. They are also hard to break. And, if installed correctly, not even hurricane-force winds will move them.

So, apart from saving on your electricity bills, they will protect your roof from the long-term weather effects, wind, rain, and snow.

Solar panels are low maintenance. They only need occasional cleaning. Panels have an expected lifespan of 25 to 40 years, so a solar array protects your home for a long time.

And, definitely, if properly installed, solar panels won’t cause roof leaks.

How Do You Put Solar Panels on the Roof?

The standard way to install solar panels on a roof is to use mounting brackets that go through the roof and into the house’s support structure.

Installers drill multiple holes, fill them with high-quality silicone, and cover them with metal flushing, which keeps moisture from getting in.

The process is simple and, if done carefully and correctly, the result should not be a roof leak.

Modern solar panels weigh about four pounds per square foot, so most roofs are strong and can hold large installations.

Still, solar installers should always check a rooftop before installing solar panels and make sure that the roof can hold the extra weight.

Solar panels can be put on flat roofs as well

Instead of drilling holes in the roof, solar installers place panels and secure them with a heavy ballast, such as concrete blocks.

This adds some weight, but it shouldn’t weaken the roof’s structure.

How Are Solar Panels Installed?

You can install solar panels on a sloped roof, flat roof, or on the ground.

Usually, people install solar panels on the roof. Most roofs are great for solar panels and get the most sunlight. But if it is not possible to install solar panels on the roof, they can be placed on the ground, anywhere on the property that has enough open space and gets enough sun.

When placed on the ground, depending on the position of the racking system, solar panels can be a few inches or a few feet above the ground.

If placing solar panels on the roof, the structure used for mounting solar panels has to adjust to the surface of the roof.

1. Mounting on rails

First, solar installers place a set of rails using screws and bolts and then use clamps to connect each solar panel to these rails.

This type of installation is best for roofs with tiles or a slope.

2. Mounting without rails

When mounting solar panels without using rails, solar installers fix each panel directly to the roof. One benefit of direct roof installation is that you can set panels in any way you want because you don’t have rails that guide their placement.

A qualified solar installer must have experience with this type of mounting system to install solar panels properly.

You need to know that mounting without rails creates more holes in your roof.

Nonetheless, when compared to rail-mounted systems, mounting solar panels without rails save more money in the long run.

3. Shared rails

A shared-rail system needs three rails instead of four if you plan to install two rows of solar panels, which cuts costs and installation time.

Importantly, this mounting system implies that your roof will have fewer holes in the end.

Mounting Solar Panels on Flat Roofs

There are many homes and businesses with flat roofs, which need a different mounting option and a way to clean.

When attaching solar panels to a flat roof, solar installers use a pre-installed structure and a set of ballasted blocks that support the system. They use clamps and clips to attach solar panels to this structure, so your roof gets only a few holes.

You also have the freedom to change the tilt of your solar panels (between 5° and 15°).

Most of the time, roof-mounted systems cost less than ground-mounted systems because the roof itself is the main structure needed to hold up the panels. This keeps costs from going up because ground-mounted panels would need aluminum or steel structures to hold them up.

Solar Panels Vs Solar Tiles

Roof solar panels are commonly known solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. They are installed on top of a house or building and create electricity by converting sunlight into direct current (DC) using photovoltaic cells.

Solar shingles and solar tiles, on the other hand, are solar PV systems too, but they are integrated into a home or building’s roofing system. They look like and function as regular roofing shingles or tiles, but with solar cells embedded within them.

Although solar shingles and solar tiles are newer solar technologies, solar panels have been around for a much longer time and are thus more established.

An important difference between solar shingles, solar tiles, and solar panels is that solar shingles and solar tiles can be used as part of a home’s or building’s primary roofing system, while solar panels need to be installed on top of an existing roof.

Solar shingles and solar tiles are also less obtrusive than solar panels since they blend in with a roof.

Additionally, solar shingles and solar tiles are more durable than solar panels, since they better withstand wind, hail, and other elements.

In terms of cost, solar panels are typically cheaper than solar shingles or solar tiles.

Although solar shingles and solar tiles have many advantages over solar panels, solar panels are still the more popular choice because of their lower cost and longer history.

Therefore, solar roof tiles (solar shingles) work just like regular tiles, except they also function as solar panels.

Solar tiles are long-lasting, strong, and withstand all kinds of weather.

There are a few downsides to installing roof tiles:

  1. They are very expensive (almost $22 per square foot)
  2. It takes longer to install them
  3. They are less efficient when compared to traditional solar panels
  4. This type of technology is still in development.

However, Tesla believes that its solar roof is a better investment than a regular roof in the long run as it generates electricity even on roofs with odd angles and intermittent sunlight.

With a Tesla solar roof tile system, buyers get a small home battery that stores the energy roof tiles produce to be used during power outages and at night.

Final Thoughts

Most roofs can handle the weight and size of solar panels so they shouldn’t cause roof leaks.

Solar panels can last anywhere between 25-40 years, and they will protect your roof and your home.

Yet, they cannot be placed on a damaged roof or a roof that cannot hold a solar array.

So whether you need a new roof depends on a few factors, but the main one is the condition of your current roof. It should be fairly new and in good condition.

Therefore, before installing a solar system, consult an expert that will examine your roof and suggest repairs if needed, or simply turn to a qualified solar contractor who can recommend repairs and take care of everything else.

Alternatively, if you can afford it, consider installing solar roof tiles that can withstand all weather and look amazing.


Tim Carter
Tim Carter

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