Our last post, How to Tell If Solar Energy is Right for You, provided guidance on how to decide if solar is a good fit for you personally. Today, we help you figure out if solar is a good fit for your residential roof.
Quite a few factors need to be considered when evaluating if solar will work on your home or not. The solar installation professionals at Citadel Roofing & Solar will assess all of these criteria for you when we visit your property. But many people prefer to have an understanding of what makes a solar-friendly roof before they start calling installers and figuring out which is the best solar company for them.
To help you out, here are five aspects of your roof that affect it’s ability to generate clean, cost-effective solar electricity and save you money.
Five Solar Factors
1. Roof Size — Obviously, the larger your roof, the more solar energy panels we can fit on it. And the more panels you have, the more solar you can produce.
Nice wide open roofs provide the most space, and the easiest space, to work with. But a lot of homes in California have dormers, cupolas or other design elements breaking up the plane of the roof. Those obstructions cut into the available space in which to fit the panels. And some roof styles like hip roofs also reduce the amount of available “real estate”. Obstructions like dormers and styles like hip roofs also make designing your solar energy system a bit trickier. But don’t worry, our solar designers are experts at working with complicated roof layouts. In fact, we love those challenges!
If your roof is small or has obstructions, you may want to consider a higher-output panel. Different panel brands and models have different strengths (called efficiencies in solar industry jargon). You can increase your system’s solar production by choosing more powerful panels that generate more electricity per square foot than standard panels.
2. Roof Direction & Slope — Because California is in the northern hemisphere, roofs facing south generally get the most sun in the course of the day when compared to roofs facing other directions. (Roof direction is called azimuth in the solar trade.) However, that doesn’t mean that only south-facing roofs work for solar. Roofs facing any direction from east to south to west can be great for solar production.
Similarly, the slope (also called the angle or pitch) of your roof will affect your solar production in some way. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to pitch. It just affects how much sun hits the roof throughout the day and year, and impacts your system’s electricity output.
3. Roof Condition — Citadel Roofing & Solar will not install a solar energy system on a structurally deficient roof. If you’re roof isn’t strong enough to support the weight of the solar panels, you can have a roofing company like us reinforce it before installing solar.
4. Roof Material — Solar is easily installed on virtually any roof type including the clay tile roofs so common in California, as well as asphalt shingles and metal roofs. But the material does affect the installation method — mainly how we affix the rails to the roof — so it may affect your system’s price.
5. Sun Exposure & Shade — Solar energy is produced when sunlight hits the photovoltaic (PV) cells in the solar panels on your roof. So the more sun your roof gets in the course of the day, and throughout the year, the more energy your system will produce. And the more energy your system produces, the more money you save on your electric bills.
If your roof has a little bit of shade at times during the day, that will cut into your solar production a little. If it has a lot of shade, that will cut into your production a lot. Most people underestimate the amount of shade hitting their roof. And shade varies throughout the year as the sun’s path gets higher or lower in the sky with the seasons.
Adding It Up
These little differences matter, which is why the installation professionals at Citadel Roofing & Solar will take detailed measurements of your roof when we prepare your proposal — not just its dimensions but also its azimuth and pitch, and we’ll also measure any obstructions. Sophisticated tools then help us calculate the amount of sun expected to reach your roof throughout the entire year, not just for the day of our visit.
If you’re not happy with your estimated solar production and shade is an issue, our experts can advise you on whether or not it’s worth trimming or removing trees near your house. Sometimes a little change can greatly reduce shade on your roof and make solar work much better for you. Usually, that means a net environmental benefit even though you lose a few trees. Of course, if the offending tree is your neighbor’s, we can’t help with that!
Putting the Five Factors in Context
While these five characteristics all impact your solar energy production and savings, advances in solar panel technology have made a lot of these factors matter much less than they used to.
For example, in the old days (several years ago!), shade on one of your solar panels could stop a whole section of panels or even the entire system from generating electricity. That is no longer true. The panels in most solar electric systems today operate independently of each other, so a bit of shade here or there has negligible impact on the overall system’s production. And as panels have become more powerful, the direction and pitch of your roof, and even the amount of shade it has, have come to matter less.
Roofs that wouldn’t have been economical for solar ten years ago can work very well today. Contact us by webform or phone (800-400-2852) if you’d like to get more information or a free proposal detailing your solar economics. And if your roof just doesn’t get enough sun to make rooftop solar economical for you, we can install a ground-mounted system if you have some open land. The beauty of ground-mounts is that your solar provider can position them at just the right direction and pitch for maximum solar electricity production.