Can you install solar panels on a metal roof?

Installing solar on a metal roof

As fires and extreme weather have wreaked havoc on insurance company profit margins over the last decade, more and more homeowners are trading asphalt shingles for metal roofs and lower premiums. That’s fantastic, but it leaves some wondering if they can still install rooftop solar on their metal shingles.

While metal roofs are becoming more popular, they’re still far less common than asphalt shingles, and many contractors aren’t that familiar with either the roofs or solar panels, let alone how to marry the two.

But the answer is a resounding “yes” – you can absolutely install solar panels on a metal roof. If a contractor tells you it can’t be done or that it can’t be done without risking the integrity of your roof, talk to a different contractor.

Not all solar installers are experts with metal roofs and some won’t even quote the job. But if you have a metal roof, it’s likely there is an installer in your community who understands metal roof solar installations or who works with a roofer who knows what to do.

There are several different types of metal roofs. And installation works differently with each style.

With a simple metal roof, the simplest and most elegant solution is thin film laminate that simply adheres to the surface of your roof and generates power. Of course, thin-film is generally less efficient than standard rack-mounted solar PV panels. Rack mounting also works on a straight metal roof, but it requires extra care and special flashing techniques. A qualified roofer and solar installer working together in tandem can successfully install solar on a metal roof without causing any damage.

Most residential metal roofs today use metal shingles. They’re sturdy and attractive.  These are the roofs that tend to perplex contractors most when they think of installing solar panels.

However, there are a few tried and true methods for installing solar on these roofs with metal shingles that prove to be even more secure and to look more sophisticated than a traditional solar installation on an asphalt roof.

QuickMount PV worked with Decra to develop an undermount system that installs a drainage pan under the mount while putting the metal roofing over the mount. That way, any water that penetrates the first layer of roofing will roll down to the shingles below and off of the roof.

For those metal roofs that don’t use underpans, the racking hardware can be installed in a “flashing sandwich” with shingles below and above.

One very popular method for installing solar on a metal roof is called “strip and go.” This requires removing some of the metal roof. Then a regular asphalt shingle is laid under the racking for the solar panels and the metal roof is reinstalled around it. It tends to look very high-end at the finish with solar panels having the appearance of being built into the roof.

As metal roofs and solar panels both become increasingly popular, installers and roofers will know more about marrying them together. Until the knowledge is universal, look for someone who can do it. It can be done and it can be better than you ever imagined.

Installing solar on a metal roof