Factors to Consider When Installing Solar Power On Your Roof

In the first half of 2023, Florida added more solar power than any other state—because it’s The Sunshine State! And thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, you can get a 30% tax credit when you add a solar system to your home. For most people, that requires putting 15–20 solar panels on their roof, as it’s usually the best place for those panels to be. How much money can you save? That depends—on how much electricity you use, and how many solar panels you install. You could actually install enough panels to totally offset all your electricity usage and have a net-zero home if you want to. That means you have no electric bill ever again! Wouldn’t that be nice? Before you can put panels up on your roof and cut your electric bill, though, there are a few factors to consider when installing solar power. Let’s go over them.

What’s the Condition of Your Roof?

Solar panels are typically warranted for 25 years or so, and most will last even longer. Solar panels have no moving parts and just sit there producing electricity when the sun shines on them. Today’s solar panels will probably be producing about 90% of their rated power after 30 years, industry experts say.

How long is your current roof likely to last? Your best move is to align the lifespan of your solar panels with the lifespan of your roof, as best you can. If you have an asphalt shingle roof, that roof will have a lifespan of roughly 25 years in Florida for good-quality architectural shingles like those from GAF, CertainTeed, and Owens Corning. And if that roof is now brand new to about 10 years old, I’d keep it and put the solar panel system up. If it’s more than 10 years old, though, I would get a quote for the de-installation and re-installation of the solar panel system that will be required when you decide to have a new roof put on. Seeing the numbers is helpful for budgeting.

I would also have a roofing contractor take a look at the shingles. Does the contractor think it will last another 15 years or so? It’s a guess, for sure, but it’s another bit of information to help decide whether to reroof now or later. If you reroof too soon you are literally wasting money that your existing roof represents. It’s a balancing act, but it’s your choice.

Other Roof Types

If you have another type of roof, such as a clay tile roof or concrete tile roof, it’s another story. Those are 50+ year roofs and you won’t be pulling your solar panels off to replace those types of roofs within the normal lifespan of solar panels, unless something freaky and/or unfortunate happens. Those are really long-lasting and durable roofs, so good for you.

factors to consider solar power
Solar panels can go on any type of roof.

Same goes for metal roofs. Whether it’s screw-down steel, aluminum, Galvalume, zinc, or copper, metal roofs in Florida will last about as long as your solar panels, and often longer.

And what about flat roofs? Those are more comparable to asphalt shingle roofs in longevity, so when they are more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to look at real numbers. What does it cost to replace the roof now? Is this cost all out of your pocket or is there insurance money? How much will you pay to de-install the solar system in X years, and then re-install the system? TPO and PVC can last 20–40 years, so you definitely have some years of good usage there.

EPDM typically doesn’t last as long so if I had an EPDM roof of any age I’d almost certainly replace that with a TPO roof and then get as many solar panels as I can afford this year and take the tax credit. And next year I would get more solar panels and free electricity, because the tax credit keeps going through 2032.

Solar Shingles Are Another Option

One of the biggest roofing material manufacturers, GAF, is now making solar shingles. This is an amazing development! These solar shingles are completely integrated with the rest of the standard asphalt roof shingles from GAF. Instead of being mounted on top of your roof, these are actual shingles that get nailed in place and are small solar panels too.

So to be clear, with this type of roof, you will end up with some standard asphalt shingles for the starter strip, at the edges, and at the ridge. In the main area of the roof, you can have solar shingles producing electricity. Your roofing contractor will install these with nails as with standard asphalt shingles and then connect the wires together. It’s a very tidy look compared to standard solar panels, in my opinion. You will need an electrician to then connect all the wiring to your electric panel.

Other Factors to Consider

Does your home have good solar potential? One way to check is through Google’s Project Sunroof. You just enter your address and it gives you a solar analysis. Some factors will detract from your home’s solar potential, however. If you have abundant trees on your property, those trees may create too much shade for your solar panels to produce enough electricity to make the project worthwhile. In that case, maybe you have enough land to go with a ground-mounted solar system.

Your roof orientation to the sun matters, as well. If the only available roof surface faces to the north, your solar capacity will be severely diminished, but you might still be able to make it work. Project Sunroof can give you some clues about that, but talking with a solar professional will be necessary, as well.

You Have Several Factors to Consider for Solar Power

Solar power is challenging to figure out on your own. But we know roofing and are happy to help out in any way. Give us a call at 813-373-9088. Our team has more than 40 years of experience in roofing. You can also use this form and we will contact you.

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