What Makes My Home a Good Candidate for Solar Panels?

solar installed on roof

Making the switch to solar power could save you a lot of money on your electric bills. Unfortunately, not every home is a good candidate for solar power. Keep reading to learn more about what makes your home a good fit for solar.

Could Switching to Solar Save You Money?

Everyone loves the thought of free energy, but switching to solar power does require a significant initial investment. You can choose to purchase the solar panels yourself instead of leasing or financing them from a solar provider, but you’ll also have to cover the cost of installation and maintenance. Plus, there is the question of exactly how many solar panels do you need? Whether or not you end up saving money is not a question that can be answered in the short-term – depending on the size of your solar panels, how much sun you get, and how much energy your family uses, the upfront cost of solar panels might not be worth it. In fact, it could take as long as twenty years for your solar panels to pay for themselves. A good rule of thumb to follow is that making the switch to solar is not recommended if your current electric bill is less than $100.

What Type of Roof is Best for Solar Panels?

In addition to considering whether your electric bills are high enough to benefit from solar energy, you also have to think about whether your roof is a good option for solar panels. Solar panels are compatible with most standard roofing materials, though some are better than others. Here is an overview of the best types of roofing for solar power:

  • Clay Tile – Standard clay and Spanish clay tile roofs are very compatible with solar panels and usually only require standard penetrating mounts.
  • Metal Standing Seam – This type of roofing material is very strong and durable. Plus, you won’t have to drill holes into the roof itself to install the panels – you might be able to use a clamping system. Metal roofs are also good insulators which make them more energy efficient.
  • Asphalt Shingle – It is pretty easy to install solar panels on asphalt shingle without doing damage to the roof itself. The best type of installation involves standard penetrating mounts.
  • EPDM Rubber – Ethylene propylene dienterpolymer (EPDM) rubber is most commonly used on flat roofs, especially for commercial buildings. Solar panel installation on EPDM roofs typically involves a weighted mounting system called a ballast system which doesn’t require you to make holes in the roof.
  • TPO/PVC – Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) roofs are typically flat and may use ballast systems to install solar panels – these installations are usually inexpensive.

If you have a roof made of slate tile or wood shake, it might be harder to have solar panels installed. Some solar panel providers will do it, but they might need different installation hardware which could cost you extra.

Other Factors to Consider for Your Roof

In addition to thinking about the type of roofing material your roof is made of, there are some other important factors to consider including the way your roof faces, the amount of shade, the shape and size of your roof, the age of your roof, and the slope. The most important of these factors is the way your roof faces – a south-facing roof will get the most sunlight, making it the best option for solar energy. If your roof doesn’t face true south, panels facing the southeast or the southwest are also good options. If there isn’t a lot of shading, east or west exposures might work as well. Shade is usually caused by trees, proximity to other buildings, even the chimney on your house. You can’t do anything about other buildings, but trimming the trees on your property might be an option.

Regarding the size and shape of your roof, the best roof for solar is one that is large and square-shaped. For every kilowatt of potential power, you’ll need 100 square feet of usable roof space. Keep in mind that things like skylights, turrets, and dormers will eat into your usable space. You also need to think about the angle of your roof. Solar panels work well on flat roofs and sloped roofs with an angle between 30 and 40 degrees. For your solar panels to be self-cleaning, they need to be set at an angle of at least 15 degrees – the maximum angle is 40 degrees. Finally, consider the age of your roof – solar panels can last for 25 to 40 years, so make sure you won’t have to replace your roof before your solar panels need to be replaced or it will be quite a hassle.

Not every home is going to be an ideal candidate for solar. If there are a few minor issues with your roof, you might be able to make some accommodations but keep in mind that it will change the cost of installation and maintenance. Even if your roof isn’t ideal for solar, you can think about alternative options as well such as a ground-mounted solar panel, a solar panel carport, or a shared solar garden.