Can You Put Solar Panels On a Metal Roof & Is It Safe?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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So you have decided to add a reliable power backup plan to avoid the effect of emergency outages. However, you have a metal roof and keep asking, can you put solar panels on a metal roof? The answer is yes; you can put solar panels on a metal roof.

You can find a guide on how to install solar panels on a roof if you want to do it alone. This differs with the type of metal roof as they have different bracketing systems. Let's go through tey types of metal roofs to understand better.

Types of Metal Roofs

a) Standing Seam Metal Roof

This roof style comprises numerous flat, wide metal panels pinched together to create a continuous, hidden seam. Between each of them is a vertical leg; this is the elevated seam.

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When used with the best underlayment for a metal roof, it is not only lightweight and resilient, but it is also watertight. Metal standing seam roofs were created particularly with solar panels in mind.

High-strength aluminum clamps are fastened to the vertical legs by the installer using a single bolt. The mounting rail is secured without drilling any holes in the roof.

Asphalt shingle owners must inspect and repair theirs yearly to ensure there are no perforations in the metal, which keeps it watertight. To do this, you will need the best roof underlayment for asphalt shingles.

b) Metal Tile Roofs

There is another way to install solar panels that don't involve drilling holes or breaking through metal. Metal tiles are already fastened to the mounting rail.

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Aligning them with existing tiles and replacing them is a straightforward process. The panels are quickly joined using guiding metal rods, and the unit clicks into place.

Since the new tiles are identical in shape to the old ones, neither an eyesore nor unwelcome gaps for moisture to enter are produced.

They provide the roof with natural defense, keeping it in good shape.

c) Corrugated Metal Roofs

You cannot install solar panels on to corrugated metal roof before drilling holes; every precaution is taken to keep them watertight.

It needs a unique mounting setup that makes use of straddle block brackets. The lower crest, where the rain gathers, is left free of holes because they are tightly attached to the top ridge.

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The holes in high-quality brackets are sealed with thick rubber gaskets, which are more effective and less messy than applying sealant gum. In addition, any pitched metal roof or panel gaps of variable sizes can be fixed with straddle blocks.

To ensure secure installation, the blocks line up with the installation grommets on the back of solar panels.

d) Trapezoidal Roofs

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Unlike corrugated metal roofs, which have a curvy design, trapezoidal roofs are flat-ish. Nevertheless, they use a similar principle if you want to install a solar panel. The brackets sit on the crest of the roof while the troughs remain undrilled. Waterproofing the roof is critical to avoid leaks and other issues.

Solar Panels Most Suited for Metal Roofs

a) Thin-Film Laminates

For quick and simple installation, these are the best. They don't require drilling or penetration to be installed on metal roofs.

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Additionally, these are aesthetically pleasing due to their sleek and clutter-free design.

b) Crystalline Panels

These generate significant energy daily and offer a unique mounting mechanism for metal and shingle roofs.

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Even if these are larger than thin-film panels, you can be confident that they will serve you for up to 25 years before productivity declines progressively.

Can Metal Roofs Handle The Weight of Solar Panels

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Metal roofs can endure the weight of solar panels. However, each roof has been built differently, so it is best to evaluate the type of metal roof you use before installing solar panels.

You can pay a third-party engineer to visit your building and look at your roof type's structure to ensure it can withstand the additional weight of your solar panels. The engineer can sign off on the project if the roof can handle the added weight.

You will need additional support to install the solar system safely on the metal roofs that dont pass the inspection. The engineer will help make the required recommendations to reinforce the roof and the structure. If you are willing to start the project, you can consult your engineer to visit the site and sign the project.

How Long Can a Solar Panels Last On Metal Roofing?

Solar panels can be long-lasting, depending on the brand you purchase. Manufacturers guarantee 25 or even 30 years for different solar panel brands. These panels also continue producing solar energy after the warranty.

However, installing solar panels on metal roofing can last 40 to 70 years. Metal roofs boost longevity since they outlast solar panels. If you use other roofing materials, the solar panels may outlast the roofing itself, giving you the expense of uninstalling and re-installing the panels on a new roof.

Advantages of Installing Solar Panels On Metal Roofs

a) Durability

Solar PV panels have a 25–30 year lifespan. Therefore, the lifespan of the sort of roof you wish to use must be longer than that of the Photovoltaic panel you intend to use for you to produce solar energy at cost-effective levels.

Metal roofs provide the kind of sturdiness required to produce solar energy efficiently, as they have a 60-year lifespan. By choosing metal roofing, you may prevent the long-term expense of your pursuit of renewable energy from costing you an arm and a leg because you will eventually need to replace your roof material.

b) Sustainability

Another reason a metal roof is an excellent option for solar panels is sustainability. Metal roofs are 100% recyclable, making them one of the popular materials in green building certification programs.

Pairing a metal roof with solar panels is a great place to start if you want an environmentally sustainable home. You won't have to worry about causing harm to your surroundings because you can recycle the roofing material when it needs replacement.

Since solar panels provide renewable energy, combining them with your metal roof can help you create an eco-friendly home. Plus, you can regulate the amount of solar current running in your home using a solar charge controller.

c) Resilience to High Winds

In contrast to other roofing materials, metal roofs hold up well in strong winds. Ensure the brackets you use to fix your solar panels are installed appropriately and securely.

When mounting solar panels using brackets, it is best to do so through the metal roof's highest point while creating a seal between the brackets and the metal sheets. With such a setup, the solar panels are safely anchored to the metal roof and may take advantage of the metal roof's wind resistance.

d) Flexibility

Photovoltaic solar panels come in two different varieties: silicon and thin film. While thin-film photovoltaic panels are flexible, silicon panels are larger and more rigid.

Both solar panels can be installed on metal roofs, giving you various options. In addition to these, metal roofing can also benefit from solar laminates.

PV solar laminates are available as strips that stick to the metal roof surface, providing yet another method for capturing solar energy.

e) Energy Efficient

Your home will stay cool throughout the warmer months if your metal roof has reflecting paint on it. In addition, the energy required to control internal temperature is further reduced by adding solar panels to metal roofs that already have this paint covering.

As a result, using solar panels and metal roofs together can help you achieve better energy efficiency and the resulting cost savings.

f) Ease of Installation

Compared to solar arrays on conventional tiled roofs, all non-drill systems require significantly less installation time and work.

On a variety of roof types, specialized bracketing techniques enable non-intrusive installation. It shields the roof beneath each panel and stops leaks as well.

g) Low Maintenance Costs

Traditional roofs, particularly those made of asphalt shingles, must be inspected frequently to remain in optimal condition. However, metal roofs like steel or others require almost no maintenance.

You can benefit from living in a cooler, more energy-efficient house without worrying about your monthly maintenance expenditure.

Challenges of Installing Solar Panels on Metal Roofs

Installing a solar panel on a metal roof isn't always easy. If the solar installer doesn't handle the task perfectly, some problems can arise. So, let's discuss the challenges of installing solar panels on metal roofs.

1. Water Leaks

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The primary purpose of a roof is to protect a structure from the elements. If water enters your home, it could cause numerous problems to the integrity of the building. Additionally, water entering your home could damage appliances and electronics.

The process of installing solar panels on metal roofs can require drilling holes into the roof's surface. These holes allow you to install the mounting system for the solar panels. You should get a professional to handle the installation because sealing the holes is critical to the functionality of your home.

If you don't seal the holes properly, you'll have leaks whenever the weather gets wet. Some mounting products come with rubber seals for covering up the holes you drill. Waterproofing your roof with a sealant after solar panel installation is necessary if you don't have such products.

You can avoid the hassle of drilling holes and sealing them to mount solar panels by getting the ones that directly attach to the roof. This will ensure your roof remains in the best state as you get your solar panels.

2. Corrosion

The frame of your solar panels will probably feature some type of metal. When the metal frame touches the metal roof, a galvanizing reaction can eat into the panel frame. After all, when two different metals are in contact, a corrosive response can occur.

If you want your solar panels to last as long as possible, it's important to ensure the frame material is compatible with your roof's material. This will require some research, but it's worth it because it'll ensure your roof and panels stay in their best state for a long time.

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Something else to consider is the type of paint on your roof. You don't want the paint to react negatively with the solar panels, so you should find out if it's non-reactive with metals.

Some locations have environmental issues like acid rain, which can compromise your solar system. However, you can add a protective coating on the metal parts of your solar panel to protect it from chemical corrosion.

3. Roof Load

Some metal roofs are thicker than others. This thickness is called the roof gauge, which determines the roof's durability and performance. In places where it snows heavily, thicker roofs are ideal because they can hold up the weight of accumulating snow.

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The amount of weight your roof can withstand isn't unlimited. That's why you must ensure your roof can hold all the panels you need without becoming weak. You might need to consult a structural engineer to ensure you can install solar panels without any issues.

Factors to Consider When Installing Solar Panels On Metal Roofs

a) Metal Roof Color

The color of your new metal roof, if you're putting one before your solar system, can assist you in enhancing energy efficiency.

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Lighter colors will save the most energy. This is because lighter colors are better at reflecting the sun's heat, while darker hues, like black, absorb more heat.

Darker colors only reflect 5 to 20% of sunlight, whereas light colors can reflect anywhere between 55 and 90%.

b) Angle

You must position solar panels to receive the most sunshine to get the most out of them. Therefore, a fixed, roof-mounted solar energy system should ideally be built at an angle corresponding to the area's latitude.

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Frequently Asked Questions On Solar Panels on Metal Roof

1. Does installing solar panels on metal roofs damage the roof?

You won't harm your roof in the short or long term if your solar panels are placed per industry standards. In addition, solar panels can shield your roof from damage.

Solar panels are built and placed to resist a good deal of abuse from nature; however, they are not indestructible. Instead, they'll provide a cushion, protecting your roof from normal aging wear and tear.

You can be confident that installing solar panels on a metal roof will prevent leaks from entering your building. On standing seam roofs, solar panels may often be fitted without penetrations.

2. Are metal roofs and solar panels compatible?

Yes, metal roofs are the best roofing material for solar panel compatibility. They are popular among roofing companies and solar installers because of their strength, which can easily sustain the weight of the solar array, panels, mounting racks, and related hardware.

It's important to remember that not all solar contractors are experienced with mounting solar on metal roofs, especially in some regions where asphalt shingles are still widely used.

3. Can any potential leaks cause damage?

It is extremely unlikely that installing solar panels will cause any leaks. However, if any leaks occur, get in touch with your installer to see if the warranty covers the repair.

The easiest approach to stop any post-installation leakage is to have an installer conduct a thorough examination first.

4. Which roof type can solar not be installed on?

Solar panels are not suitable for slate and wood roofs. As an illustration, installing solar panels on cedar shingle roofs is dangerous. When mounting solar panels on slate roofs, it's crucial to use standoffs to prevent drilling into the slate.

5. What are the cons of using solar panels?

  • The initial cost is high
  • Efficiency is weather-dependent
  • More power production needs more solar panels hence more space
Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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