What is the Best Roof for Solar Panels?

The rise of solar panels has been staggering since the advancement in efficiency since the 1990s. 

All across the globe, more and more rooftops are being coated in these magical electricity generating panels.

Now you’re ready to join the party.

Of course, the first thing we all do when we start thinking about solar panels is lookup.

You wonder if your roof is suitable for installation. Is it the right material? Does it angle towards the sun?

Well, the answer is usually yes! Most rooftops will be able to handle solar panels in some way.

But there are factors to keep in mind before making your final plans.

Let’s take a look at the best roof for solar panels including material, pitch, size, and all your other burning questions.


Which Type of Roof is Best for Solar Panels?

Most roof materials can easily cope with solar panels. Although, when it comes to installation they all need different approaches. For example, you’ll need different mounting systems for shingles compared to tile. 

Mounting Solar Panels on a Shingle Roof

Shingle roofs are made from a composite material. This is usually fiberglass and cellulose finished with asphalt. This makes them easy to manufacture and creates a strong durable material.

Mounting solar panels on a shingle roof is a simple procedure as you can drill mounts straight into the roof. The studs drilled into the roof are finished off with waterproof sealing to stop any leaks. The solar panels can then be mounted without any roof modifications. 

Shingles roofs are very popular as they provide a good balance of value for money and durability. The fact that this roof type should last for 20 years or more makes them a reliable backing for solar panels.

solar panels mounted on shingle composite roofs
Solar Panels on Shingle Rooftops

Mounting Solar Panels on a Metal Roof

Lots of people ask if you can mount solar panels on a metal roof. You can absolutely do this and it is usually a straightforward task. You will notice standing seams down a metal roof which can be used to attach the mounts. This is useful as it eliminates the need for drilling which reduces complications. As a result, labor costs and required expertise are lower. 

You’ll notice more metal roofs in hot sunny areas of the world. This is because they reflect sunlight and help to keep buildings cool. Adding to this, they can last for decades, even 50 years or more. 

All of this makes metal roofs a great partner to solar panels. Mounting is easy and it will likely be in a sunny location.

The only real downside is that this type of roof tends to be more expensive and a little noisy during heavy rainfall…


Mounting Solar Panels on a Tile Roof

solar panels on a tile roof

Personally, I love the look of a tile roof, especially the deep orange color that reminds me of the Mediterranean.

Mounting solar panels on a slate tile roof can be a little more tricky though. This is because each individual tile needs to be treated with care. While they are efficient at rebuffing rainwater and making efficient insulation, they don’t take well to drill holes.

Quite often installers need to remove a tile to install your solar panel mount. Although, this area will still be made secure and waterproof during the process. In addition, you must be very careful when walking or moving around a tile roof. You can easily dislodge or damage a tile.

This doesn’t make them bad for solar panels but installation needs extra care.

So why are tile roofs so common? Well, they are very durable, waterproof, and last for decades. Plus you can easily replace individual tiles over the years.


Mounting Solar Panels on a Gravel and Tar Flat Roof

Generally, flat roofs are usually made of gravel and tar. This is because it is a quick and efficient way to finish the roof and can be walked upon.

As you might imagine, it’s very easy to install solar panels on a flat roof. But you will need tilt mounts to angle solar panels towards the sun. Solar panels placed flat on the ground are far less efficient compared to angles of 30 – 45 degrees towards the sun.

solar panel on flat roof

5 Tips Mounting Solar Panes on a Roof

The best roof for solar panels is also made up of a number of other factors. 

Angle or Pitch

Tilted solar panels on flat roof

The pitch of your roof is very important to the performance of your solar panels. It will decide whether you can mount them flat flush or with added tilt mounts. Generally, the best angle for a solar panel is at 30 degrees towards the sun. 

To put that into context, the average roof has a pitch of between 25 and 45 degrees. This is perfectly suitable for solar panels and should deliver great performance. While the optimal angle is 30 degrees, if you mount at 40 degrees you’ll only see an average power drop of 1%.

The main concern is when you have a flat roof. In this case, you will need to create an angle for your solar panels using a tilt mount. 

If your roof is very steep it is still possible to install solar panels but it becomes a lot harder for installers to work due to safety concerns.


Orientation

Now you understand that solar panels need a 30-degree angle, you also need to make sure they are pointing in the right direction. This is known as the orientation, as you can imagine, this should be towards the sun!

In the Northern hemisphere, like the USA and UK, solar panels must be South facing. Contrastingly, in the Southern hemisphere, like Australia and New Zealand, solar panels should face North.

So if you are mounting on a roof in the USA, you should place them on the Southside. Orienting solar panels the wrong way can be a big waste of money as they get no direct sunlight and power output can be 70% (or more) lower!


Age

Solar panels are a long-term investment. It will take a few years to get your money back on the upfront cost via cheaper energy bills. The good news is that they can last 40 years or more! 

With that in mind, you should ensure your roof has plenty of life left in it. It will be a big job to reroof your house after installing solar panels. Before getting panels, have your roof surveyed for any faults or maintenance that needs carrying out. 

If you have a very old roof it might be wise to have it replaced first. On the other hand, a high-quality roof should last decades too, plus wear and tear will be reduced by the extra protection from your solar panels.


Shading

shaded solar panel

Does your roof get direct sunlight? Consider anything that might block sun hitting the solar panels on your roof. 

Remember, this can change throughout the year as the sun changes height in the sky. In addition, trees might create more shade during summer compared to bare winters. This often catches people out as the seasons change.

A shaded solar panel is very ineffective and can be only 10% – 25% as efficient. Make sure you’re not accidentally mounting solar panels in a shaded area.


Size and Space

limited space on roof for solar panels

Finally, you should consult your installer to calculate the roof space you have available to meet your power output. As you now know, not all roof areas are best for solar panels. 

Taking into account orientation and shading might cut down the optimal mounting space available.

Although you might have your eye on a big system to power your whole house, quite often there simply isn’t enough space for this. 


What Color Roof is Best for Solar Panels?

The color of your roof makes no difference to solar panels. Remember, the panels will cover over your roof and generate energy directly for the sunlight hitting its solar cells.

Although, the reflective color and conductive nature of metal roofs can help cooling.


Can Solar Panels Go on Any Roof?

The majority of roofs are suitable for solar panels. Installers should be able to mount equipment on most common materials including composite, metal, wood, and tiles.

Some roofs can’t have solar panels. This might be because it is too steep for installers to access or the orientation stops any direct sunlight hitting the roof. 


Will Solar Panels Damage a Roof?

No, correctly installed solar panels should not cause any damage to your roof. It is likely that drilling will be carried out but any holes should be waterproofed during installation. Before carrying out any work, you should check any roof warranties and home insurance. A warranty for a new roof installation might become invalid if solar panels are not professionally installed.


Should I Reroof My House Before Installing Solar Panels?

You should have your roof surveyed before installing solar panels. This will help you to identify any damage or required maintenance. If you have an old roof that needs replacing in the coming years, it is best to reroof your house before installing solar panels. Trying to reroof a house with solar panels will be complicated and expensive.


Can You Use Solar Panels as a Roof?

Most solar panels can not be used as a roof, they must be mounted on a roof instead. For example, you need a composite roof with solar panels installed onto this material. 

That being said, there have been major technological advancements recently such as Tesla solar roof tiles.


Final Words on the Best Roof for Solar Panels

You should now have a much better understanding of the best type of roof for solar panels.

To be honest, the majority of residential homes should be able to support a solar panel. Composite and metal roofs are easy to mount on while tile roofs take a little more care. 

The main issues to look at are the pitch, orientation, and any shading which can affect performance in the long run.

And remember, make sure your roof is in a good state of repair. You need it to last decades along with your solar panels.