If you're just starting to think about installing solar panels for your home, then you may be wondering if your roof is suitable? Flat or sloped, there are solutions for just about any roof type (using Sunmetrix Discover, you can adjust the slope and see the impact). However, there are some important considerations before you make the leap to solar energy.

How old is your roof?

If your roof is nearing the end of its life, it makes more sense to repair or replace your roof first. Making changes to your roof after solar panels have been installed is more expensive, as they will have to be removed first. If you're a few years away from a roof replacement, why not consider combining your solar panel installation with your new roof? Some roofing companies are getting into the solar energy business, simplifying the whole process for you.

What type of roof do you have?

Unless your roof has a very steep slope, which may require specialized equipment to install your panels, it doesn't matter whether your rooftop is flat or sloped. Installers will account for the slope (or lack of slope) of your roof and determine whether you need racks to adjust the angle and orientation of the panels.

The material used on your roof is another consideration. If your roof is covered with slate tiles or another specialized material, the installation of your panels will be more expensive as the installers will have to take more care not to damage your tiles.

Will the installation of solar panels damage my roof?

Solar panels can actually help in protecting your roof from weathering and aging. However, you may be wondering if the way in which the panels are installed can cause damage, leading to leaks or other problems? The installers take special care when mounting the racks and panels on your roof, using sealants, weather protecting agents and metal flashing to protect your roof. On a flat roof, the racks and panels can even be installed without mounting them directly to your roof. Instead, very heavy concrete blocks may be sufficient for keeping your panels in place.

Will the installation of solar panels affect my roof warranty?

The answer is often yes, as many roofing companies do not want you to install anything on your roof which could increase the risk of leaks. However, many installers are providing their own warranty, sometimes through a third party roofing company, which takes the worry out of the equation.

How heavy are solar panels?

This is a common question! On average, solar panels and the mounting equipment weigh 2-4 lbs per square foot (10-20 kg per square meter), which is usually within the acceptable limits of your roof. However, one has to take into account the point loads, as installers often want to minimize the number of mounting locations in order to minimize the risk of leaks. If the installer does not distribute the weight optimally, the point loads can be considerable.

Are solar shingles an option?

If you have a sloped roof, you can consider solar shingles, which are designed to integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. Originally much more expensive than traditional solar panels, solar shingles have come down in price, making them an especially attractive option for someone already re-shingling their roof. They can be installed by a regular roofer, as they are relatively simple to install. However, an electrician is needed to set up the inverter box.