Solar Panels killed my roof! E-I-E-I-Ouch!

15 Dec

Today’s been an interesting day. Today’s also been a day cold enough to cause body part that I’ve grown attached to, to fall off, but all in all, it’s been worth all the effort.

The last few days, it’s been raining like hell. In fact, the crazy guy up the street started building something in his garage that looked suspiciously like an Ark…

Now, I’m pretty sure it’s not ”ark-time” yet, because as the only Jew in South Mississippi, I’m confident that G-d would have warned me, first… LOL!

To make a long story short (I know that you wished I’d do that more often, huh?) a friend called me up, and hollered through the phone that his roof was leaking. Now, he wasn’t particularly pissed off, his teenage girl had just taken over the stereo, and decided that people in Georgia needed to hear her latest KORN album, too…

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah…

After he determined that his roof had sprung a leak, he called up his roofer. Like many other people in these parts, he had a “new” roof, since a trio of hurricanes had made roofing the biggest business in Mississippi since “corn-pone and crayfish…” But, unlike many of his neighbors, he’d installed solar panels, to produce both power, and hot water. And because of that, he’s in “hot water,” too…

Like many solar panel arrays, his are rack mounted. An elaborate frame is built out of non-corrosive metals, and then the panels are affixed to it. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the framework is attached to the roof, by punching holes in the roof and then bolting the framework in place. And therein lies the problem; each and every hole has to be flashed and sealed, or when the rain comes, you’re in big doo-doo!

Oh, did I mention that installing solar panels will almost always kill your roof warranty? Oh, I forgot to mention that part, right?

The first thing the roofer does is point his big ole’ finger back at you, while extolling the perils and pitfalls of drilling holes in a perfectly good roof. The “Cliff Notes version?;”

The roofer giggles, and says; “You’re screwed.”

And that’s just what his roofer did.

And, if you use a little bit of common sense, it gets worse. Solar panel technology has gotten pretty good. So good, in fact, that panels are warrantied for between 25-35 years. Here’s the bad news. The roof system you attached them to is usually warrantied at somewhere around 12-18 years. Uh-oh…

This means you’ll be replacing your roof, before you replace your panels. And, that’s a big job, because you’re gonna have to disassemble the panels and framework, repair the roof, and then… reassemble your panels and framework.

This is a big job, and you’re gonna pay, trust me. Logistically, it’s a big job to play “Solar Panel Peek-a-Boo,” and that job is more expensive than a week-end in Las Vegas, trying to impress a busty showgirl… Trust me. Don’t ask me how I know, just believe me when I say, it’s EXPENSIVE…

(I later married her. What the hell was I thinking?)

And THEN, you’re gonna have to face the cold, hard fact that you just invalidated your new roofing warranty, by drilling holes in the roof to re-mount your panels.

So, how do you get out of this mess?

(Not the “showgirl shuffle…” A divorce lawyer got me out of that mess, with nothing left but my skivvies, and a tattoo they couldn’t peel off! LOL!)

How do you install solar or photovoltaic panels, without invalidating your warranty?

Here’s how I’d do it…

First, start with the roof system. Shingles, tiles, you name it, they all require mounting holes, maintenance, and mucho labor. And, they don’t last forever. Nuh-uh! In fact, these roof types average about 15 years life expectancy.

But, metal roofs are all the rage, and they go on fast, sturdy, and they are good looking!

A metal roof goes on faster than grandma’s face lift can heal, and it’ll look better, for longer, I bet ya!

But what kind of metal roof do you put over your head, if solar panels are a part of the chorus?

Take a hard look at SSMR roofing. SSMR stands for “structural standing-seam metal roofing.“


Here’s why it’s such a good fit. SSMR roofs are warrantied to last 40 years, just for starters. That means that they’ll outlast your solar panels. And, the cool thing about SSMR roofing is that you don’t ever punch a hole through it. The solar panels are attached by either using adhesion (a thin film laminate process) or by using mechanical clamps mounted on the seams of the metal roof itself. Neither one of these methods of attachment cause a single hole to be drilled. So, your warranty stays intact, as long as your roof expectancy does.

So, now you’ve achieved “zero penetration.” I don’t know why they make such a big deal out of it, I had “zero penetration” mastered in high school…

Okay, so I was “geeky.” I admit it.

But by achieving “zero penetration,” (geez, just thinking it out loud gives me the shivers…) you’ve maintained the integrity of the roof, and and insured that your roof warranty is intact. And since SSMR roofing is rated at 40+ years, you’ve ruled out the “photovoltaic foxtrot.”

Plus, metal roofs are superior to traditional shingle or tile roofs, and they require less service and maintenance.

SSMR roofs are easy to maintain. You just hose them off from time to time. And it’s the same for most panels, a good cleaning every once in a while helps keep them nice and efficient.

And, here’s another “green” perk. At the end of their lives, all the components are recyclable.

So, are you ready for more good news?

The solar panels you use for SSMR roofing are actually cheaper than other panel types. Trust me, I checked it out, thoroughly.

Attaching panels to SSMR roofs is way less expensive than attaching the same panels to a traditional roof system. The SSMR roof gives you a “grid” of beam-like attachment points, by design. And, the Solar Panels attach to these beam-like attachment points above the seams of the roof.

I know… you don’t believe me. But here’s how it works. Panels get attached to SSMR roofs using aluminum clamps that attach to the roof seams. Because of this, it’s simple to install them. And, because you’re not drilling any holes, this method of attachment is way less labor intensive.

Here’s a photograph of what a panel-SSMR attachment looks like.


As you can see, the panels attach to the seams, and don’t penetrate the roof system. (Sorry for the grainy photo!)

Using a conventional racking system to mount your solar panels, the costs work out to about 30 – 70 cents per watt. But, direct mounting your panels on the SSMR roof works out to about 10 cents a watt. Obviously, you just saved some cash. And, you’ve saved some time, too. And, time equals labor.

Remember that most panel generated power systems measure in excess of 10 watts per square foot. This translates to a savings of about 2$ – 8$ per square foot over traditional roof systems. Your construction time is reduced, and that means your project gets finished sooner.

Okay, so I’ve saved you time, and money. Can I do anything else for you? You bet I can…

Frame mounting your panels over your roof creates a shaded airspace (we call it a “plenum”) beneath them. So what, right? Think about it. A shaded airspace translates to airflow through the plenums, and that cools your roof off. That, in turn, lowers your roof temperature. This also improves your panels efficiency because they are designed to operate better at cooler temperatures.


So, you’ll reduce your cooling load during summertime daylight hours. Thank the “shaded plenums,” for that.

Wintertime heating load is also reduced in nighttime hours because you’ve reduced the radiant heat loss. You’ve created a “radiant canopy” that reduces convection heat loss from building to roof.

And, like I said before, the panels will work better at lower temperatures.

So, if you’re building a house (or just a new roof), follow these rules;

Build your house, facing south…”

Run your roof ridges “east to west.”

And then… give this solar panel attachment system more than a few thoughts and then talk to your roofer. You’re gonna find out that you save time, money and efficiency, by using SSMR.

If you’ve paid attention, this much is clear;

Initial costs for Solar Panels and Photovoltaics for SSMR roofs are significantly lower than for other traditional roofing systems.

And, life-cycle cost analysis demonstrates that using SSMR metal roofing under the panels not only helps the environment, it conserves your cash as well.

Don’t thank me all at once. My ego is big enough already! LOL!

Stay Tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin


3 Responses to “Solar Panels killed my roof! E-I-E-I-Ouch!”

  1. wildkitty December 15, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    ‘cold’… pfft… what is it? 50 degrees there? Cry me a river, buddy – but don’t do it up here, or you’ll have icicles trailing from your eyes!

    I just have one question about your metal roofs. What about hail? Do they withstand it well, or do you end up with an ugly, lumpy roof that looks like the dark side of the moon? And the noise… gotta be loud?

    • renaissanceronin December 16, 2008 at 1:40 am #

      wildkitty: Actually, it was cold enough that we lost power for a few days, and that post got delayed being published. (I have a scheduler at this end, and when power came back on, it posted for me. I didn’t catch it in time to revise the opening to reflect the “lost days.” So, the post is actually a few days old.) The temp dropped into the low 20s and 30s… That’s pretty cold for coastal Mississippi, thin-blooded rednecks and this old Jew…

      We don’t see much hail here, and the coating they put on the SSMR is pretty durable. So, it’s not much of a problem. Your mileage may vary. As for noise, it’s still being applied to sheathing, over an insulated truss system, so it’s not like living in a beer can. Some people actually like “the sound of rain on a metal roof…” Me? I prefer Pink Floyd…

      I just heard from a pal in Minneapolis who is just about living in the ice age right now, so consider yourself lucky!

      ‘Sides, you have your sarcasm to keep you warm! Right? LOL!

      Nice hearing from you… How’s the novel coming along?

  2. wildkitty December 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    good enough then!

    sarcasm? moi? I know not of what you speak…

    the novel. eh. well. Himself babied me through the rewrite/rework of chapter one, and it is finished. It’s on to chapter two – most likely without his help – and as any good writer worth their salt would do at a time like this – I am procrastinating 🙂

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