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It can be easy to overlook your solar mounting hardware since it’s mostly hidden under your solar panels. But, as with other types of solar equipment, there are multiple options to consider and you want to make sure you’re getting the right solution for your solar energy system and property. Here are some of the top factors to consider when evaluating your solar mounting options.
Though most of your mounting system is covered by solar panels, there are some components that may be visible. For example, some mounting systems are lower-profile than others and may even include a skirt for the edge of your solar array, while others have taller rails and visible clamps on the edges of each panel.
If you’re concerned about the appearance of your future solar panel system, it’s worth asking your installer which parts of the racking system, if any, will be visible on your rooftop, and what each of the components looks like. Many installers can also provide pictures or videos from some of their past installs if you want to see what the proposed mounting system looks like in real life circumstances before installing one yourself.
First, it’s important to know that properly-installed solar panel systems should not cause leaks in your roof. However, you can take extra precautions with your chosen mounting system, as some provide better protection against leaks and roof damage than others.
To affix a mounting system to a sloped roof, solar installers need to drill holes. Flashings, some of the most critical parts of any mounting system, help prevent leaks by diverting the flow of water away from these holes.
Different mounting systems use various types of flashing: traditional solar flashings are large squares of aluminum that slide underneath shingles, allowing water to flow over them. Some newer solar flashing technology includes elevated pieces of metal that direct any water flow up and away from the roof penetration. Installers are also starting to utilize flashing that is placed above the shingles with a water-tight rubber EPDM seal more often(such as microflashing).
Importantly, if your roof is in good shape and you work with a qualified, reputable installer, there’s a rare chance that your solar panel system will cause leaks. However, ensuring that your installer is using suitable flashing can help ensure maximum protection. As you’re comparing your solar options, it’s a good idea to ask your installer what type of flashing they recommend for your roof, what sort of experience they have installing it, and whether they’ve had to respond to any service calls about leaks with this product.
Wire management is an important step for every solar installation: this is the process to place, secure, and protect your solar energy system’s electrical setup. Proper management of photovoltaic (PV) wires isn’t just necessary for aesthetic reasons – more importantly, wire management is imperative for operational and maintenance purposes, as wires that aren’t properly insulated, exposed to harsh elements, or stretched too tight can wear down and fail, therefore impacting the performance of your solar panel system.
Wire management can have a significant impact on maintenance costs and the longevity of your system; reputable installers put in the time and effort to make sure that these wires are not just visually appealing but placed in a safe, reliable position on your roof. Back in the day, installers simply used cable ties for this. More recently, many mounting equipment manufacturers build their own wire clips, wire clamps, and conduit trays that help to more seamlessly guide wires along your rails or solar panels. Many of these products are specifically designed to protect your PV system’s wires from damaging ultraviolet rays.
Ease of install
While the basics of installing rooftop mounting systems are generally the same, certain factors can make them more difficult or time-consuming to install. Heavy components, the number of individual parts, and the effort required to affix the mounting system to your roof can all impact the amount of time it takes for your solar installer to finish your installation. The more complicated the system and the heavier the equipment, the more expensive your installation is likely to be. Your installer will likely have a preferred mounting solution that takes these factors into account, but keep in mind that if you’re requesting a specific type of mounting system outside of their normal set of products, it may make your installation more expensive.
Compatability with your roof
Not all solar mounting systems work for every rooftop; if you have a roof made of clay, Spanish tile, metal, or rubber membrane, a traditional penetrating mount system won’t work. Fortunately, certain racking manufacturers have separate mounting solutions for these types of roofs. Additionally, many racking manufacturers also offer options for ground-mounted systems or flat roofs, as they also have their own unique considerations. Take a look at this article to read more in-depth about mounting solutions for various roof types.
Find the right solar installer on EnergySage
It’s certainly important to find the right solar mounting system for your needs, but the best mounting system won’t mean much without a qualified, reputable solar installer to do the work. On the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can compare custom quotes from up to seven local installers. If you have questions about mounting systems right off the bat, simply note them in your account for installers to address. If you’d like to start with a quick estimate of solar costs and savings, try our Solar Calculator.