With the era of clean energy emerging, solar panels are becoming more and more popular. However, not everyone has infinite yard space to lay out miles and miles of solar panels. For those who are trying to figure out how to use solar energy with limited space, putting solar panels on your roof might be the best option. But will putting solar panels on your roof ruin the roof’s shingles?
As long as solar panels are installed properly, they shouldn’t ruin your roof shingles. The most common roof type, asphalt, will be perfectly fine during and after solar panel installation. A small hole will be drilled through shingles to install the bracket. Other roof types require different installation methods.
Keep reading if you’re unsure what type of shingles your roof has and what that means for solar panel installation. You will also learn about different types of solar panel installation options for your roof, and what to do if the solar panel installation has ruined your shingles.
Types of Shingles and Compatibility
Roof shingles are roof types composed of overlapping materials. It’s highly possible that your roof has asphalt shingles, since that is the most common type of roof shingles that are installed when new houses are built.
All asphalt roof types, whether that means architectural asphalt shingles (the ones that look like they’re making triangles across the roof), three-tab asphalt, or fiberglass asphalt, are all very compatible with solar panels. The installation process is fairly simple and requires drilling through the asphalt shingles, which isn’t difficult at all. It can even be done by you, provided you follow a thorough tutorial on YouTube:
The asphalt tiles won’t crack from the holes being drilled into them. And once the solar panels are fully-installed, the holes will be used to hold the metal brackets that are keeping the solar panels in place. If the installation team drills any extra holes, they will be covered by a sealant or by the small sections of flashing that are installed along with the solar panels.
Tile shingles are a mixed bag. In theory, these are almost as simple as the asphalt roof shingle installations. The installers can’t drill right through the shingle because the tiles will crack, but they can remove one shingle and then drill directly through your roof. The installation process should move smoothly from there.
But this extra step requires more materials and can be more expensive, and this process might end up ruining your shingles. Tile shingle materials (most commonly used are clay, slate, and concrete tiles) can be extremely hard, but they’re also extremely brittle. That means that when the installers go onto your roof to install the solar panels, there’s a high chance that them just stepping on the roof will crack or break off many of your roof shingles. In theory, installing solar panels should be relatively simple, but in practice, it can be more expensive and it can ruin your roof shingles.
Wood shingles also don’t mesh well with solar panel installation. Not only does it have the same problem as tile roofs (wooden shingles are easily breakable), but solar panels are huge heat magnets. Their one job is to pull energy directly from the rays of the sun, and that means that the wood underneath will be exposed to very hot temperatures all of the time.
Even if the solar panel installers manage to keep your wood shingles intact, overtime, the wood shingles have a higher chance of getting ruined because they might set on fire. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think solar panels would save me a lot of money if my entire house ended up turning into a pile of ash. At that point, it’s just a bad investment.
If you still want solar panels but have a roof made up of wood shingles, consider getting a new roof made of metal. Metal roofs are by far the most compatible with solar panels for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, they won’t crack during installation (Take that, tile!), and secondly, most metal roofs (whether metal tile or metal standing) can have solar panels installed without drilling holes into your roof at all.
This is because metal roofs have custom brackets designed by solar panel installers that fit specifically to metal roof seams. This way, your roof won’t have any holes drilled into it and the shingles will all remain perfectly intact. Not to mention, these roofs last from forty to seventy years, so they will remain durable and support your solar panels for a long time.
Just to recap: asphalt and metal shingles handle solar panel installation the best. But tile and wood shingles are more likely to be ruined, and they’re not the most durable of roof types, meaning they won’t last long with solar panels mounted on top of them.
Different Solar Panel Options
So, what to do if your roof is made of some of the least compatible shingles for solar panels, but your heart is set on getting solar panels anyway? Don’t worry, companies have realized this problem, and there are alternate forms of solar panels that you can install that are made to fit the more difficult types of shingles.
Solar roof shingles, (also called “Tesla solar tiles”) are basically mini-solar panels that are installed in your roof as if they were regular roofing shingles. They’ll still gather sunlight and produce power for your house, but the average onlooker might not be able to tell the difference between your roof of solar shingles or a black tile roof.
According to Tesla, they’re not only still a fully-functioning solar power system, but they also are three times stronger than the average roof tile, and the roof-integrated solar panels will “pay for itself over time.” If your roof is not compatible with solar panel installation (especially if you have a wood shingle roof), and you were planning on getting a new roof anyway, you might want to consider this option. You’ll be getting an entirely new roof anyway, you might as well pay for only one new roof AND a solar-panel system all in one instead of having two separate roof projects (and two enormous checks).
For more information about solar shingle integration and installation, check out Tesla’s website.
But what if you like your roof? Just because your roof isn’t compatible with solar panels doesn’t mean you’re ready to tear it off altogether. In that case, the solar slate plate might be a good option for you. This solar panel system was designed with problematic roofs in mind. According to the manufacturers, these solar panels are installed directly against the roof “without compromising the beauty and integrity of the slate roof.” Unsurprisingly, though, this option was made specifically for slate roofs, so it might not work on clay or wood shingles.
Yard Solar Panel Benefits
If worse comes to worst, you can always consider putting solar panels in your yard. It might not be the best option, especially if your yard is on the smaller side, but having a little less space in your yard might be better than having to deal with all the hassle of putting solar panels on a brittle roof.
Not to mention, solar panel installers aren’t always fully qualified. People who install solar panels don’t have to be licensed roofers. Even if your roof is compatible in theory, there can be unforeseen problems that arise if a group of strangers get up on your roof and start drilling holes. Solar panel installers probably know what they’re doing, but you’ll never know how experienced they are, and you never know what could happen.
Not to mention, the problems that can arise with solar panels that will be ten times harder to fix since they’re mounted on your roof. Problems on the roof become much easier to fix if they’re moved to ground level. It might not be an option to have solar panels in your yard, but it doesn’t hurt to do as much research as possible before you make a huge decision to get solar panels installed on your roof.
What if my shingles are ruined?
Let’s say you already paid for the solar panels and the guys installed them before you realized that having people step all over your clay roof was a bad idea. You might have a bunch of new solar panels, but you also might have a bunch of cracked and broken shingles. What do you do now?
Shingles usually have to be replaced entirely. There isn’t really a way to glue broken shingles together, at least, not a way that’s gonna work well. Hot glue can only do so much.
You can either pay for each broken shingle to be replaced, or you can try to sue the company that broke all your shingles, but suing is more of a headache than it’s worth. Honestly, the best solution, in this case, is prevention. Once the shingles are broken, it’s a nightmare to fix them.