Think there’s only one way to install solar panels for your home or business? Let’s discuss all your solar mounting options.
Though solar panels may get all the glory when you’re talking about how awesome solar energy is for lowering your electricity bills, creating green jobs, and saving the planet, solar mounting options are just as important.
After all, if your solar panels aren’t positioned and installed correctly, you’ll not only have a solar system that’s less efficient, you may leave your solar panels vulnerable to damage.
The right solar mount will properly position your solar panels and keep them secure. But when it comes to your solar mounting options, one size doesn’t fit all.
So the first step to determining what type of solar mounting system you should choose is actually figuring out where you’ll be able to get the most sunlight.
Don’t worry about where you’re going to “put” your solar panels for the moment. Just remember that your solar panels will be the most efficient (i.e., generate the most power and electricity bill-lowering credits) when they:
- Face south
- Have access to full sun for most of the day
- Are out in the open and away from tall buildings and trees
Have a place on your home or business property that may fit the bill?
When you find a trustworthy solar energy provider to partner with, an expert technician will visit your property to measure the best place for your solar array using science.
Then with their recommendations and suggestions (and your homework), you’ll be able to decide if you need a solar mounting system for a sloped or flat roof, or maybe even a freestanding unit altogether.
What’s the difference between all of these options?
That’s exactly what we’re going to help you learn today.
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Roof-Mounted Solar Options for a Sloped or Pitched Roof
Most solar panels are installed on angled or sloped rooftops. There are four most frequently used solar mounting options for roofs like these that aren’t flat:
- Mounting system with rails
- Mounting system without rails
- Shared rail system
- Non-penetrating system
Let’s discuss the differences between these options now.
Railed Mounting System: The Standard Choice
The most common solar mounting option, railed systems typically include two rails positioned parallel to each other and wide enough apart to allow a solar panel to nest on top of them.
The rails are attached to rafters in your roof with bolts or screws and then your solar provider will seal up the holes so they’re watertight. The solar panel is generally installed vertically to the rail above and the rail below and held together with clamps.
One solar panel requires two rails (a top and a bottom). Two rows of solar panels would require four rails… unless you’re using a shared rail system.
Shared Rail Systems are All About Efficiency
A shared-rail system takes two rows of solar panels and removes one of those rails, leaving you with three: a top, middle, and bottom rail. Then the two rows of panels are attached to the middle rail.
Since you’re removing an entire rail from the equation, you’ll have one less rail to pay for and install, fewer entry points in your roof, and you can position your solar panels the best way for generating solar power.
Once your solar provider determines the correct positioning of your panels, the installation is a breeze. However, it’s not quite as quick as an installation without rails at all.
Rail-Less Systems Cost Less and Give You More Flexibility
While railed systems are the most common solar mounting option, rail-less systems are definitely catching up.
By skipping the rail system, homeowners don’t have to pay for the rails, which lowers their overall cost of switching to solar. Plus, since there are fewer components to install and a much smoother process, you’ll be up and running faster.
Instead of installing rails and then mounting the solar panels to them, your solar provider will install a series of mounts that will connect with the built-in mounting hardware on your solar panels. As easy to install as hanging a picture frame on a hook on the wall, your solar technician will simply attach your solar panel to the pre-installed mounting hardware and you’re done.
A benefit of skipping the rails (besides saving a bit of cash) is that you’re not forced to fit your solar panels between those two rails only.
You can place your solar panels anywhere, in any direction. Position your solar panels anywhere the sun hits them best. It’s like being able to hike an open field instead of walking on a train track.
While these three options all require drilling or bolting solar mounting hardware to your roof, there’s one more choice that doesn’t. Don’t worry, most people are just as surprised to find this out too.
Non-Penetrating Systems Don’t Poke Holes in Your Roof
A newcomer on the solar mounting scene, non-penetrating and ballasted (or weighted) mounting systems are becoming super popular thanks to the fact that you don’t have to drill, screw, or bolt anything to your roof.
“We have a special bracket that straddles both sides of the ridge [of your sloped roof],” Mouli Vaidyanathan, CEO of Mouli Engineering, says. “When one side tries to lift, the other side goes downward. It’s like a seesaw of upward force being transferred.”
SolarPod Crown shown on a church in California (Image source)
Installation is the fastest with these new non-penetrating systems because your solar provider doesn’t have to locate a rafter, drill into it, and then install your rails and your solar panels. They just “hang” or “drape” the mounting system over your roof and your solar panels are attached to this bracket.
[bctt tweet=”New solar mounting systems can be installed without drilling into or penetrating your roof.” username=”1stLightSolar”]
The non-penetrating mounting will distribute the weight of your solar panels evenly on both sides of your roof and the laws of physics keep it there. Easy peasy.
Solar Mounting Options for a Flat Roof
What if your home has a flat roof or one that’s just slightly tilted, but not enough to be sloped?
Flat roof mounting options are common for industrial and commercial buildings since they have large spans of wide open space perfect for solar panels. But if your garage is flat and happens to get the most sun, a flat roof mounting option may be perfect for you.
Solar mounting for a flat roof typically involves fewer penetrations and a couple of ballasts.
Since a flat roof is generally level, your solar provider will use a ballasted (or weighted) mounting system on top of your roof instead of drilling into it. This mounting system uses a weighted “foot” as the base for your solar panels to lock into.
This base tilts up ever so slightly to position and cradle your solar panels along the top and bottom edges. It’s weighted down so it doesn’t fly off your roof during inclement weather.
If your roof can’t physically support all the weight of the ballasted system, your solar provider may have to penetrate your roof to install your solar array securely.
One major benefit to using a flat roof mounting system is the ability to install a dual-tilt system.
Normally solar panels capture sunlight best when they’re facing south. A dual-tilt, or east-west system, is installed the same way except your solar panels back up against each other and are turned 90° to capture more sunlight.
Flat roof mounting hardware can be made of aluminum or stainless steel, but plastic- and polymer-based mounting systems are entering the market as more affordable, lightweight, and easily moldable options ideal for simple, quick customization and installation.
If you want the ultimate in customization, on the other hand, how about solar mounting options that are already built into your roof?
Solar Shingles and Building-Integrated PV are the Future
Solar arrays are getting more aesthetically pleasing now that the technology is there. Instead of solar panel companies worrying about if they’re going to work well (they totally are), they can now think about curb appeal.
Solar shingles and building-integrated PV (BIPV) are part of the next wave in solar panels and solar mounting. Here your solar panels are actually built into your roof’s structure, no mounting system required.
Think of BIPV in the same way you see USB wall outlets cropping up everywhere. As the demand for USB wall outlets increases (how many devices do you need to charge in a single day?), builders and contractors will supply consumers with these built-in features.
The final solar mounting option we’ll discuss is the most creative. If you don’t have a roof to cover in solar panels and you’re not building a new home or office building, you can still make the switch to freestanding solar arrays.
Freestanding Solar Arrays May Offer the Most Bang for Your Buck
What if your roof sits under a huge shady tree and gets zero sunlight, but your backyard or parking lot gets a ton?
Solar panels aren’t limited to rooftops; they can be freestanding and ground-mounted systems that generate power for your property wherever they happen to be.
[bctt tweet=”Solar panels aren’t limited to rooftops; they can be installed anywhere you get the most sun.” username=”1stLightSolar”]
What about getting two awesome home improvements done for the price of one?
Creating a covered patio area using solar panels will give you and your visitors shade while lowering your home or business’ electricity bills — at the same time.
That crosses off one more of the biggest excuses people use to delay switching to solar. You don’t need a sunny roof if you have plenty of sun elsewhere on your property.
Ready to Find Out Which Solar Mounting is Right for Your Property?
There are a lot of factors determining the type of solar mounting best suited for your home or business. While the price of solar panels continues to drop, new innovations in solar mounting will also bring the overall installation price down as well.
When you find a solar provider you can trust, they’ll be able to determine the best placement for your solar array. Then you’ll brainstorm about the ideal solar mount for your system.
Besides using our 12 best money-saving energy hacks, switching to solar energy is the ultimate way to save your home or business cash every month.
Spend less on electricity and have more room in your budget. Grab our free guide about the money-saving side of solar power now!
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