Rooftop solar is booming in Arizona.
Millions of homes and businesses across Arizona will require a new roof or roof upgrade in the next decade. In sunny states like Arizona, it is becoming increasingly popular for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to be installed during a roofing project. Anyone in the solar energy industry can see the booming growth we have experienced in recent years. Arizona is a hotspot for this growth, rising from 13th to 5th in the nation for the number of solar panels installed between 2021 and 2022. There are 361 solar companies in the state, including 72 manufacturers and 174 installers and developers. We have more than 191,900 installs comprising a $14.6 billion investment in solar energy. The boom is nowhere near its end. Despite the current surge in renewable energy, solar power still made up only 9% of Arizona’s total electricity net generation last year, leaving plenty of room for continued development in the industry. Solar energy is projected to grow exponentially to reach the Arizona commission’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
There are cost benefits when replacing your roof and adding a new solar system simultaneously.
Aside from the ecological benefit, solar energy comes with a substantial financial incentive for the customer. The average cost for residential roof replacement is about $10,000, depending on the roof size and other factors, and these typically last anywhere from 20 to 50 years. The average cost of installing a residential rooftop solar array is $19,000. When the roof replacement and solar installation are done simultaneously, the average cost could be $25,000, which means the average homeowner could save $4,000 by doing the installs together. Many commercial and residential customers are also eligible for a federal tax credit for installing solar panels, and most customers can receive up to a 30% tax credit from the federal government.
Partnering with an experienced roofer with solar array experience will extend the life of your roof.
While many solar panel installers do not partner with a roofing company during the installation of solar arrays, it is in everyone’s best interest to do so. Storm Damage Specialists have repaired countless leaks due to failing solar array seals. Our intense Arizona UV rays and wide temperature swings worsen the problem here. The constant contractions from fluctuating temperatures and our extremely hot summers create numerous issues for solar mounting brackets and other components that need roof penetrations. These issues eventually mean water entering a home or business and damaging drywall, and any other item that gets in its way. Some water leaks cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
These problems are avoidable with proper installation. Most residential homes have either a tile or shingle roof, both of which use an extraordinary amount of nails. Unfortunately, both systems are not truly “watertight”, as they are meant to shed water and get it onto the ground as quickly as possible. As a result, it is not uncommon for the water to get underneath the tiles or shingles. This is usually acceptable because the underlayment is designed to keep the water from leaking into a home or business.
Flat roofing systems are even more likely to have solar installation roof damage.
Most commercial buildings have flat roofs. Arizona typically sees three types of flat roofs: single-ply, built-up, and polyeurethane foam. Flat roofs need to be entirely sealed due to the lack of slope, which makes water drain slowly off the roof. In the past, the most common issues were leaks from penetrations to either a plumbing vent or an attic vent. As these systems break down over time, you will sometimes see these systems leak from the seams of the membrane as they start to fail.
However, for the last few years and in the foreseeable future, solar panel installs can present the most significant challenge. This is especially true for inexperienced or unknowledgeable roofers or solar installers who do not partner with an experienced roofer with solar roofing experience. The solar panels must be bolted into the roof trusses or the wood/steel decking. This creates multiple new points of entry for water. The current pitch pocket system works for a time, but we have seen plenty fail. If you have an older roofing system that has been beaten down daily by the Arizona sun, there is a greater chance of a leak if the solar company doesn’t seal the new penetrations correctly.
These considerations are out of the realm of most solar companies’ expertise, and most roofing companies with what we have seen, so partnering with a strong, knowledgeable, and experienced roofing company is essential. Many solar companies don’t want to deal with the “hassle” of putting on a new roof. In the same way, not every roofing company has expertise working with solar panels. As a result, many solar companies have had bad experiences with roofers who don’t understand the ins and outs of roofing for solar installs. If the proper materials aren’t used and the installation isn’t done correctly, there is a significant risk that the roof will leak in the future, leading to callbacks and bad customer feedback. We know from experience what it takes to build a quality roof that won’t leak once solar panels have been installed.
Require an experienced team when you install solar panels.
At Storm Damage Specialists, we do things differently than other roofing companies when working with solar installation companies, or when installing a roof for a client that is planning to have solar panels installed. We understand that during solar panel installation roofs will be penetrated multiple times, creating many spots for a potential water leak. We have also seen that solar companies tend not to be as cautious as they should be during installation. Their primary goal is to get your system installed and online and move on to the next project. In their rush, they may drop equipment or tools that can create potential water leaks. Sometimes they will attempt to fix any damage they create, sometimes they will not. We have a running joke in our office, “no one destroys a roof quicker than a solar installer”.
However, when a property owner decides to install solar panels, it’s obvious they are planning for the future. If in the process of installing solar panels, your roofing system goes from an expected life of 30 years to 10, that is a major issue. A roof with limited remaining life will cost you in the long run. Naturally, roof repair or replacement will be more costly on a roof with solar panels installed. So, it is critical not to create unnecessary damage. We learned how to deal with these issues preemptively and how to build roofs that don’t leak, regardless of the solar installer’s methods.
Capturing both rain and sunshine requires new materials and techniques.
The main difference in our approach to repairing or replacing roofs with solar panels is the type of underlayment we use. There are self-sealing products made for each type of roof we install: shingles, tile, built-up, and foam roofs. These products are manufactured intentionally so that when a nail, screw, or other object penetrates the membrane, it will seal itself around the object penetrating it. Even though these systems are fairly simple, they offer some of the best protection available.
These products can be expensive, so many roofers avoid them in an effort to cut costs. Many options on the market claim equal protection at a lower price, but they rarely stand up over time. We have seen so many leaks over the years from “top-of-the-line” synthetics, we knew we had to do something different. We have a commitment to quality, so we only work with premium products. Because we also have a commitment to our customers, we charge the same price as our competitors, who continue to use cheaper, low-quality products.
Absolutely, however, your best option is to hire a roofer with solar panel experience. We will carefully remove your solar panels and preserve them from damage while your roof is repaired. Then we will work with the original installer or, with your approval, one we recommend and trust. They will then carefully re-install your solar panels with our guidance to ensure that your solar array and roof replacement "live long and prosper". We value any warranties you have through the solar company, so we go above and beyond while working with them.
Roof leaks can be an issue with solar panel installations, but they're not common if the installation is done correctly.
We have not seen a leak from any of our installations since we switched to self sealing underlayment. Many solar installers are trained in the basics of proper roofing techniques and try to be careful to ensure that the solar installation will not cause problems down the line. Unfortunately if the roof isn’t built for solar panel installs, there is a good chance you will see a leak down the road. Taking the time to hire the right roofing company will save many headaches down the road.
Investing in solar panels for your roof can be a smart decision for the environment and reduce your energy bills, but it isn't without challenges. Replacing the roof in question can be more complicated due to the solar panels. Additionally, it will add extra cost to remove and re-install the solar panels. As mentioned above, roofs typically require professional installation, specialized materials, and additional labor costs. The cost of removing and replacing panels for a roofing job is usually $3,000-$10,000, depending on the amount of panels.
When it comes to adding solar panels to your roof, most people want to know if they need to replace the roof first. While installing solar panels will not typically damage an existing roof, if the roof has significant wear or moisture issues, it can cause problems with the installation. In some cases, especially when dealing with older roofs in harsh climates, it is often recommended that you replace your roof before installing solar panels. This will not only ensure that the solar panel installation goes smoothly but also help extend the life of your new system. Furthermore, it can save money in the long run as replacing a damaged roof due to poor installation can be costly and time-consuming.
We have seen a few instances of newer roofs leaking after solar installs. Unfortunately if less than optimal materials are used for your roofing system, there is a greater potential for a water leak. We recommend everyone who has solar panels installed to have their roof replaced prior.
Currently, you’ll get a 30% Federal tax credit, but you will also have peace-of-mind when it comes to the thing that protects most of what you own.
No you cannot replace a roof with existing solar panels in tact. The solar panels are too big and too close to the roof, it becomes impossible to properly lay roofing membrane underneath the panels.
An option is to just remove the panels and not the mounting brackets, but we don’t recommend that. We will do it, but we end up having to work around and seal all of those brackets, creating new spots exposed to UV rays that will break down the Mastic (sealing agent) over time. In a case like this, we would still have to have the solar company come before and after the project to remove and then reinstall the panels, so it doesn’t really save any money going that route.
We have found its better to remove everything, install the proper materials for peace-of-mind, and then reinstall the panels.
Our company’s success and the success of the solar installation companies we partner with rely greatly on our reputation. We know that to build our business and reputation, we must take exceptional care of our clients. Our priority is to deliver a good-looking roof that remains leak-free. We know that callbacks for leaks can quickly ruin a reputation. The only way to guarantee our customers a leak-free roof with solar panels installed is by meticulously installing the roof using only the best available products.
At Storm Damage Specialists, we pride ourselves in our work. We are known amongst our commercial and home roofing customers and solar installation companies for quality roofs that are installed right the first time. We truly care about our clients and their properties. While many other roofing companies cut corners for speed and reduced costs, placing a roof and solar panels correctly from the beginning saves everyone time and money in the long run.