Are you thinking of investing in solar panels? You’re about to join two million other property owners who enjoy cheaper, more environmentally sustainable, and friendly electricity.
However, you may wonder if solar panels are suitable for your home if you have a flat roof. We understand the appeal of flat roofs – they are cheaper, easier to install, and management is more affordable and straightforward.
As most solar panels are installed on slanting roofs, you may wonder if you are at a disadvantage for having a flat roof. That is the essence of this article – you’ll not only know if solar panels can be laid flat on the roof but also important things to consider if you decide to go ahead with your desire to install solar panels.
Can Solar Panels be Installed Flat?
Yes, you can install solar panels flat, but they will experience a degree of energy loss without the slightest inclination towards the sunlight. Although it certainly is advantageous to have a roof that is inclined in the sun’s direction, a flat surface will also do.
Your solar panels will also be exposed to direct sunlight, which is the essence of putting them on the roof in the first place. If you use a low-pitch roof, you can still install solar panels and enjoy the power and affordability of solar energy.
To fully harness the sun’s power, your solar panels must be installed at the best angle, facing the sun and soaking in as much sunlight as possible. This is because the photovoltaic cells or PV cells are hypersensitive but still need full access for maximum performance.
In essence, you will know if you have been allowing your solar panels to receive enough sunlight if you regularly enjoy a solid six to twelve hours of electricity when the sun isn’t shining or at night.
If you have a flat roof, it is no reason to miss out on the benefits of solar energy.
Installing solar panels on a flat roof can be done in three ways. The attached type is the first, and it requires a chemical bond like resin or some other structure that allows the panels to stay secured on the roof. This is because flat roofs may not have parapets, which exposes solar panels to higher chances of wind damage or upheaval.
Your next option is a ballasted style. Here, you will place heavy items on the surface instead of drilling holes or using resin. Ballasts will be placed on the top and sealed with cement to prevent wind from upturning the panels. It is important to allow an expert to determine the weight your solar panels need if you are choosing this method.
Finally, if you have space and high parapet walls on your roof, you can install foundational solar panels, which will stay put.
Should Solar Panels be Flat or Angled?
Solar panels should not be flat because they can collect water which will build up on the surface and damage the solar cells. So, it is much better to angle them; not too much – as little as three to four degrees tilt will ensure that rainwater continually glides off the surface. That is if you have a flat roof.
For the other type of roof, there is already a naturally structured tilt. Your preoccupation, in this case, should be installing the solar panels in the direction of the sunlight and not against it to maximize the energy the PV cells can act on.
Another reason solar panels need to be tilted is so that they easily capture solar energy for maximum performance. Unless the sun is perpendicular above your solar panels, you shouldn’t expect the typical six to twelve hours of sunlight a PVC system offers.
The tilt is there because less distance between the sun and the surface of the panels means better access to sunlight.
Refusal to angle your solar panels can amount to an energy loss. However, you may not notice it, depending on your energy needs. In addition, a buildup of water is inevitable on solar panels that lack an angle, no matter how minor.
And you can expect a reduction in performance because the water will accumulate to create a sheen over the glass surface, thereby reducing the amount of energy that hits.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flat-Roof Solar Panels
Installing solar panels on a flat roof has upsides and downsides. They will help you determine whether the investment is worth it or not.
Advantages of Flat-Roof Solar Panels
Installation is a Breeze
You will spend a lot less if you want to install solar panels on a flat roof. This is because the PVC system is easier to mount or erect and requires fewer tools and equipment.
Maintenance is Less Challenging
Maintaining solar panels on a flat roof is less challenging. It lacks the slanting angles other roof types are famous for, so creating a maintenance routine for the solar structure won’t be a hassle.
You won’t also need too much equipment or tools to complete the process.
The Panels Won’t Reduce the Appeal of Your Home
A flat roof is exactly that – so people from across the street don’t see what is mounted on top. This can be great for maintaining the appeal of your property and keeping it safe.
If thieves and the less scrupulous in society cannot see your solar panels, they won’t target your property.
Disadvantages of Flat-Roof Solar Panels
They Need to Be Installed Properly
Your investment is unsafe if your solar panels are not well installed on your roof. And typically, flat roofs lack the structure required for attaching the panels to the roof, so you will need to consider an alternative.
If nothing secures your solar panels to the roof, they will come off at the slightest inconvenience.
They Get Dirty Easily
Unfortunately, flat-roof solar panels get dirty easily. This is because they are mounted on a flat surface, leaving no room for rainwater to wash off the dirt and debris accumulating.
They are More Susceptible to Destruction by Wind
Because flat-roof solar panels are not attached to the roof structure, it is easier for the wind to remove them when there is excessive force. This is even riskier if you have chosen a method like a ballasted style without consulting a professional for assistance.
You must ensure that your solar panels are too strong for the wind to upturn.
What is the Best Position for Solar Panels?
The best position for solar panels is an angle tilted toward or perpendicular to the sunlight. This is to maximize the energy that is realized from the sun. In addition, the direction the solar panels face is equally important. If you install them towards the south, you can prevent an energy loss of up to twenty percent!
You should avoid mounting them on the northern side of your roof, as they won’t receive the amount of energy they need for high performance.
The best angle to tilt your solar panels, regardless of the roof type, is between thirty to forty-five degrees. Note that you may be required to adjust the tilt during the winter. You can stay a step ahead by installing solar panels with the feature that allows you to change the direction of the panels with a remote.
However, the average roof that is not flat is angled between thirty to forty-five degrees, which is marvelous for solar panels.
Overall, a professional is in the best position to determine how you should mount your solar panels. This is very important, especially if you have a flat roof. They will also advise you on the most suitable anchoring method after considering the weather elements in your region.
A good tilt or angle is essential if you don’t want rainwater to collect on the panels. If that happens, it will reduce the efficiency of the PVC system and may even lead to damage over time. Solar panels are not waterproof, merely water resistant.
Do You Need Planning Permission for Flat Roof Solar Panels?
Yes, you need planning permission for flat roof solar panels if you live in the United States. You will contact two parties: your electric company and the local building authority. It takes some time, though – from a few days to weeks.
The process can be lengthy, so it is best to fill out the forms carefully and submit them on time. If you plan to install solar panels on your flat roof, the earlier you start the permit process, the faster you can begin your project.
Several steps are involved before you are qualified to install solar panels on your roof. For one, an engineer must come around to check that the structure is suitable for the weight of solar panels.
At the end of the day, you will have about fifteen pages of paperwork to submit to the Authority Having Jurisdiction, the AHJ, and your utility company. You cannot skip this step if you are looking to install flat roof solar panels.
You should prepare to pay a fee – usually north of a hundred dollars because of the inspections you will carry out on your property. You will know if your request has been approved within a few weeks.
But if it is denied, you will be told why and how you can rectify the situation. Check here for more information about the standards and requirements for installing solar panels.
Things to Consider Before Installing Flat Roof Solar Panels
Before you install flat roof solar panels, please consider the following things:
The Wind Speed
If you do not consider the wind speed for your region before installing solar panels, they may not last as long as they should. It will be easier for the wind to toss and turn them around, and the structure may come off one day. So, inform the manufacturer of this information so that they give you the suitable racking.
The Mechanical Units
Flat roofs are an excellent spot for items like your parapets, exhaust fans, water pipes, drains, and vents. You need to consider these before installing solar panels on the roof.
If you have a flat roof, that’s no reason to miss out on the rewards of using solar energy. Not only will you save a ton of money in the long run, but you can also reduce your carbon emissions.