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San Diego Roofing and Solar Panels: What Homeowners Need to Know

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In San Diego, the vast majority of solar panels are installed on rooftops. This makes sense, as roofs offer lots of surface area with unobstructed access to the sun. If you are considering investing in solar panels, the state of your roof will factor into your decision. If your roof requires repairs or is nearing the end of its life, you may first need to address these San Diego roofing issues before moving forward with solar panel installation. Here are some of the most common roofing questions we get from San Diego homeowners interested in solar panels.

Will I Have to Buy a New Roof in Order to Get Solar Panels?

Ideally, the life of your roof should match or exceed the life of your solar panels. Today’s top solar panels offer 25-year warranties, but some industry experts predict that solar panels can continue to operate (albeit with declining efficiency) for up to 40 years or more.

One of the most popular San Diego roofing types is Spanish tile, which has among the longest lifespans of any roofing system. You can expect your Spanish tile roof to last up to 50 years, which means that if your roof is less than 10 years old, it may be a great candidate for solar panels. Slate and other forms of tile roofs also boast a 50-year lifespan, while wood shake roofs will give you 30 years of life, and asphalt shingles will only last 20 years on average.

If your roof is nearing the end of its life, it makes sense to replace your roof before installing solar panels. New roofs are expensive, but it will cost you even more if you have to take down your solar panels after just a few years and then re-install them on your new roof. Additionally, older roofs may not be structurally sound enough to safely support a solar panel system.

Will It Be Possible to Repair My Roof Once I Get Solar Panels?

A roof is much more than the tiles or shingles that we see from the outside. A roof is actually a complex system that includes important components, such as the underlayment and flashing. All sorts of roofing issues can arise, such as cracked tiles, punctures in the underlayment, or warped flashing that causes water to collect on the roof.

In a best-case scenario, you want to address and repair any major roofing issues before you install solar panels. A quality solar installation company should perform a full roof assessment and let you know if any issues exist before they start working. If your roof is already damaged or weakened, installing solar panels can make the problem much worse.

What happens if you discover roofing damage after your solar panels have already been installed?

In most cases, it is possible to repair roofing problems after solar panels have been installed, but it isn’t always easy. The solar panels may need to be detached from the roof and then re-installed after the damage is repaired. This can end up costing thousands of extra dollars, and the more time workers spend on your roof, the more wear and tear they cause!

It is a good idea to get a full roof assessment from a roofing contractor in San Diego before moving forward with your solar panel installation, especially if your roof is more than 10 years old.

Are Some Roofs Better Than Others for Solar Panels?

Long row of houses and roofs

If your roof is too old, has damage, or is structurally unsound for another reason, it may not be possible (and definitely not recommendable) to install a solar system. Assuming that your roof is in good shape, there are certain factors that make some roofs better for solar panels than others. By “better,” we simply mean that the solar system will be more efficient, generating more energy per panel.

Orientation

South-facing roofs get the most sunlight in North America, which will increase the energy efficiency of your panels. At the same time, west-facing panels tend to generate energy when the demand from homeowners is highest. For this reason, most solar installers will try to install south- or southwest-facing panels. If you have a northeast-facing roof, not to worry. You can still benefit from solar panels, but they may be less efficient, which means you may have to purchase a bigger system.

Shade/Obstructions

Another factor to take into consideration is the amount of shade that hits your roof. If a large tree in your backyard casts shadows across your solar panels, that will affect the efficiency of your system. It would probably be a good idea to trim the tree. If your house is up against a hill, or your neighbor just added a second-story addition that throws shade on your single-story roof, those will be more difficult problems to address.

Pitch

The pitch of your roof also plays a role in how well your solar system operates. The pitch refers to the slope of your roof. Steep roofs make installation difficult, while flat roofs require more racking so that panels can be angled to catch as much sunlight as possible. The ideal pitch of a roof is 30 degrees.

Size

Bigger roofs give installers more options on where to place solar panels, so they can get as much sun and produce as much energy as possible. It’s also important for installers to avoid installing panels in a way that interferes with the flashing on the roof and to keep panels away from heat vents and roof ledges. Smaller roofs offer fewer options and may not have enough space for a full solar system. In these cases, homeowners may need to purchase more efficient solar panels, which will be smaller, but can also cost a premium price.

Don’t let these different factors scare you away from solar panels. The truth is that there is no perfect roof. If you have a north-facing, super steep, small roof, a solar panel system should still provide you with significant energy savings. Just be sure to speak with a solar installation expert to understand how your roof’s characteristics will affect the cost, efficiency, and size of your solar system.

Will Solar Panels Ruin My Roof?

Maybe you’ve heard a horror story from a family member or a friend who had solar panels installed only to discover that the installers left behind major (and expensive) roof damage. Unfortunately, this does happen, especially when homeowners don’t pick an experienced and well-regarded solar installation company. The truth is that many solar companies don’t have specific roofing experience or knowhow. They may crack or damage tiles, drag racks across your shingles, drop tools that puncture the underlayment, on install solar panels that block your roof’s flashing system, which can then cause water to puddle on the roof. In other cases, a solar company may not recognize pre-existing roof damage and then exacerbate that damage when they install your solar panels.

Experienced solar companies know how to install a solar panel system without damaging a roof. It is up to you as a homeowner to do your homework before choosing your installer. One of the best things you can do is read reviews from a company’s previous clients.

Solar and Roofing Services in the Same Place

Worker replacing clay roof tile

Your roof is the foundation of your solar panel system and plays an integral role in how well your solar panels operate. Often, roof repair or replacement go hand-in-hand with solar panel installation. That’s why you should consider hiring a solar installation company that also has expertise in roof repair and replacement.

At Semper Solaris, we are experienced and licensed roofing contractors in San Diego as well as solar installers. Many of our clients appreciate that we can provide a roof assessment, roof repair, and even roof replacement as part of our solar services. By using the same company for your San Diego roofing needs and solar installation, you can save time, money, and headaches on these important projects.

Want to learn more? Take a look at our roofing and solar discounts, and then contact us for a free roofing and solar consultation.  

One response to “San Diego Roofing and Solar Panels: What Homeowners Need to Know”

  1. […] your roofing structure is especially important if you need to replace your roof before installing solar panels. Some solar companies (including Semper Solaris) also offer roof […]

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