Residential solar energy systems are designed to last for about 30 years, and most are installed on rooftops. Because of the long lifespan of systems, many solar homeowners wonder how to repair or replace their roofs after installing a solar system.
In fact, many homeowners have questions related to roof maintenance and solar panels because PV systems typically outlive the roofing material. Because proper roofing is essential for a durable, well-maintained home in Oregon, let’s explore this topic further.
What is the cost of solar panel removal for replacing my roof?
When performing extensive roof work, removing the solar PV panels from the home is essential. At Smart Solar Energy, we will remove your solar panels, safely store them, and then reinstall the array, free of charge. That means we cover the entire cost of solar panel removal if we installed the solar PV system. This service normally costs about $2,800, but can vary based on the size of the array and the home.
If you merely need to make minor roof repairs, it might be possible to keep the solar panels in place and to make the necessary repairs around them. Ask the roofer if the solar panels hinder the needed repairs.
Should I replace my roof before going solar?
In Western Oregon, a well-maintained roof is essential because our climate is rainy. In Portland, Salem, and Eugene, a well-maintained roof is critical for home durability because it prevents water from entering the house.
The lifespan of your roof depends on the material used, the climate, and the quality of the labor. In fact, rain, wind, and poor ventilation can decrease the longevity of your roof.
In general, the typical replacement schedule in Oregon is:
- 12 to 20 years for composite shingles
- 15 to 30 years for asphalt shingles
- 20 to 25 years for wood shingles
- 40 to 70 years for a metal roof
If you have an asphalt shingle roof and you are installing solar panels, consider the age of the roof. Is it older than 18 years? If so, we recommend having a roofer inspect it before going solar. If you are having issues with your roof, two common ways for homeowners to identify this are by water or moisture entering the home or seeing broken, damaged, or missing shingles. If your roof shows such signs of disrepair, we recommend taking action.
If the roof needs to be replaced in the next few years, it makes sense to replace it before installing a solar energy system. Likewise, if minor repairs are required, it is easier to do this before the solar panels cover the roof.
Should I install my solar panels as a ground mount or roof mount?
During our home solar audit, a solar energy expert can recommend the best place to mount your solar system. Typically, the most cost-effective site is on the roof because the structure already exists, and it is a wise use of space. Sometimes, a detached garage is a good spot, especially if the house roof is heavily shaded. In other cases, a minor tree trimming can dramatically increase solar energy production and is a good idea. Rooftop solar systems actually help protect the roof from the elements and provide some protection.
However, sometimes the roof is not the optimum place to install panels because the house roof is shaded or has the wrong orientation to the sun. If so, we can give recommendations on ground mounts and the optimum placement of one.
Typically, home lots in Portland, Eugene, and Salem are relatively small and may not have adequate space for a ground-mounted PV system. However, properties in rural Multnomah, Marion, Lane, Washington, or Clackamas Counties may have sufficient room. Unfortunately, ground-mounts and especially pole-mounted systems can have a higher installation cost because of the additional material, permitting, and labor requirements.
Are metal roofs and solar systems a good combination?
Yes, solar energy and metal roofs are a winning combination because metal roofs are the most durable conventional roofing material. Typically, the lifespan of a metal roof is at least 40 years, which is a bit longer than the lifespan of a solar system.
In fact, several solar mounting companies make products specifically designed for standing seam metal roofs. At Smart Solar Energy, we can install the solar system using a mounting system that clamps onto the roof’s seams without any roof penetrations.
Typically, metal roofs have a higher upfront cost than shingle roofs. However, when taking durability into account, metal roofs can have a lower life cycle cost and increase your property value. Metal roofs are also a cleaner material, making them a better fit for water catchment systems, such as rain barrels. Also, most metal roofs are 100% recyclable, and many contain recycled materials, so many homeowners appreciate how green they are.
Even though metal roofs and solar are a good combination, solar panels work well with almost all roof types. One of the most vital considerations is how much sun your roof receives. During our home energy audit, we can let you know the solar potential of your roof and recommend the optimum solar panel placement.
Should I wait to install solar panels until I replace my roof?
If you don’t plan to replace your roof very soon, it is better to install the solar panels sooner rather than later. Remember, your utility bill savings and the reduced reliance on fossil fuels start when the solar technician turns on the system. Therefore, waiting is usually counterproductive and result in higher bills from Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, or Idaho Power.
Smart Solar Energy will uninstall, store, and reinstall solar systems free of charge. We absorb the cost of doing this because we want to support Oregonians going solar as soon as possible.
Also, there is a solar tax credit for going solar, and this incentive is scheduled to taper down in future years. So if you wait a couple or few years to install your solar system, the tax credit might be smaller or gone altogether. The federal tax credit is currently at 26% of the total system cost, including labor and equipment. We recommend speaking with a tax expert to determine how you can best take advantage of the solar tax credit before the opportunity ends.
However, it is scheduled to decrease to 22% in 2023. For residential solar systems, the credit will go away for systems installed in 2024 and beyond. However, there will still be a 10% tax credit for commercial solar systems.
Although the cost of installed solar energy capacity plummeted in the 2000s and early 2010s, prices have nearly stabilized in recent years. Thus, at Smart Solar Energy, we don’t anticipate solar panel prices to continue to go down significantly.
Should I install solar shingles?
Solar shingles contain solar cells within a roofing material and are part of a family of products called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). When Tesla announced a solar roofing product, many homeowners became interested. Unfortunately, we don’t usually recommend solar shingles in Oregon for several reasons.
First, the efficiency of solar shingles is usually between 14 and 18 percent. By contrast, Smart Solar Energy installs solar panels that are more than 22 percent efficient! Many homeowners want to be net-zero, which means their solar system generates all the electricity their home uses. Unfortunately, this can be difficult with a less efficient product. Also, if the energy output from the system is less, your utility savings will be lower. Likewise, your ability to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels is also lower.
Another drawback to solar roof shingles is the upfront cost, which is higher than solar panels. Also, homes don’t need the roof replaced, so solar shingles don’t make sense financially.
It is also tough or impossible to expand the capacity of your solar system if you use solar shingles. By contrast, we can often add solar panels to an existing array if needed. For example, if you start driving an electric vehicle, switch to electric water heating, or install an energy-efficient heat pump to replace a gas heating system, your electricity use will likely go up. If there is room to expand, we can do so with solar panels but not shingles.