Keeping your solar panels in place

The number of different ways to connect panels to rooftops are almost as varied as rooftops themselves. There are a wide variety of racking and attachment solutions available on the market today. The best racking system for your home depends on how your roof is structured and what type of roofing materials you have. Your installer will recommend the type of racking system most appropriate for your property.

Below are examples of the most common roof types, and how installers will attach your panels. This list is not exhaustive as there are a wide variety of racking and attachment solutions available.

Pitched comp shingle roofs

Most homes in the United States feature roofs that are pitched or tilted (as opposed to low-slope/”flat”) and a large number of those roofs are covered with shingles of various styles and materials. Roofers lay down these shingles in courses (rows) that overlap across your roof to allow water to shed from them and not get underneath and leak into your home.

Racking for pitched comp shingle roofs

 

flashed stand off Flashed standoffs and rails – a sheet of aluminum called a flashing slides up under several courses of shingles on your roof and connects to the rafters to firmly attach them to your home. Aluminum rails are then connected to a “standoff” (a little metal bar or pole) that is connected to the flashing. These rails act as a support system for the modules that are laid on top of them and securely connected with clamps. Image credit: www.quickmountpv.com.
Flashed, rail-less – a sheet of aluminum called a flashing slides up under several courses of shingles on your roof and connects to the rafters to firmly attach them to your home. Modules are connected directly to “standoffs” (little metal bars or poles) that are connected to the flashing. The modules themselves act together as the support system for each other. Image credit: www.zillarac.com. Flashed rail less racking

Pitched tile roofs

In warmer parts of the country, tile roofing is common for pitched roof homes. Roofers lay down these tiles in courses (rows) that overlap across your roof. The tiles provide some protection from the elements for the thick, waterproof underlayment beneath them.

Racking for pitched tile roofs

flashed stand off Flashed standoffs and rails – a sheet of aluminum called a flashing slides up under several courses of shingles on your roof and connects to the rafters to firmly attach them to your home. Aluminum rails are then connected to a “standoff” (a little metal bar or pole) that is connected to the flashing. These rails act as a support system for the modules that are laid on top of them and securely connected with clamps. Image credit: www.quickmountpv.com.
Clay tile hooks and rails – flashings with a hook attachment that extends out from between tiles and provides an attachment point for rails that act as a support system for the modules. NOTE: Some older clay tile roofs and ceramic tile roofs are too brittle to work with and may require replacement before installation. Image credit: www.quickmountpv.com. Clay tile and hooks

Pitched slate roofs

Slate is a difficult material on which to installer solar. Many installers do not work on slate roofs for this reason. In areas where slate is more common, you will find installers who will work on slate roofs themselves or in partnership with a roofing company. Older slate in particular may be too brittle to support solar installation work and may require replacement before installation.

Racking for pitched slate roofs

flashed stand off Flashed standoffs and rails – a sheet of aluminum called a flashing slides up under several courses of shingles on your roof and connects to the rafters to firmly attach them to your home. Aluminum rails are then connected to a “standoff” (a little metal bar or pole) that is connected to the flashing. These rails act as a support system for the modules that are laid on top of them and securely connected with clamps. Image credit: www.quickmountpv.com.

Flat/low-slope roofs

Flat/low-slope roofs are usually less than five degrees in tilt. The materials used to cover them vary widely from metal, to modified bitumen to sheet-like covering materials like TPO (Thermoplastic polyolefin), and the synthetic rubber roofing material EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer), as well as others.

Racking for flat/low-slope roofs

Party wall and beam installation Party wall beams and rails – aluminum beams that span shared parapet walls and provide a structure for the modules or a sub-structure to which rails are attached and then the modules.
Ballasted racking – non-penetrating hardware that is kept on your roof by weighted blocks. Image credit: Solardock.com. Ballasted solar installation
Standing seam clamps & rails – hardware that attaches to the standing metal seam of the roof. Aluminum rails connect to the clamps and then the modules to the rails or in some cases the modules connect directly to the clamps. Standing seam clamps and rails – hardware that attaches to the standing metal seam of the roof. Aluminum rails connect to the clamps and then the modules to the rails or in some cases the modules connect directly to the clamps.
Standoffs and rails – metal standoffs attach directly to roof supports and are surrounded by flashing or other waterproofing material. Rails and modules or the modules directly connect to the standoffs. Image credit: www.quickmountpv.com. Low slope stand off

Ground-based systems

Ground-based solar systems are a good match for customers with ample land area around their property. Below are examples of the ways installers secure these systems.

Types of ground-based systems

ground mount Ground mount – metal structure sits at ground level and provides the base for modules. The system is held in place either by weighted blocks or set in concrete footers.
Pole mount – metal structure sits on top of a pole that is set in a concrete footer. pole mount
pergola Pergola – an existing structure or one built for this purpose provides the base onto which modules are attached. These structures are often built in garden areas to provide shade or otherwise integrate into an existing landscape.
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