At SolarKal we get asked a lot about what happens to the building’s roof after installing solar. The good news, for anyone wondering the same thing, is going solar should not void your roof warranty or lead to any long-term damage. As long as the installer is diligent and follows the roof manufacturer’s guidelines, the roof warranty typically remains intact. But if your installer is careless, there are certain things that could void your warranty, or even if the warranty is maintained, give you trouble down the road. This is why picking the right solar company is crucial when it comes to protecting your property.
How do SolarKal and its partners ensure the roof warranty is still valid post-installation?
We take the time to review your roof warranty and roof type ahead of making any decision to go solar. We also ensure the vendors bidding on your project understand what they’re installing on ahead of time. All major roofing manufacturers publish clear guidelines to facilitate the installation of solar without affecting the roof warranty. The solar contractor and roofing manufacturer will perform pre-solar and post-solar inspections and issue a warranty continuance letter. A roofer who is certified by the roof manufacturer will perform any required roof work, though typically there aren’t any roof penetrations as part of the solar project.
One of SolarKal’s roofing partners, Michael Boyer at Fortis, notes that “building owners’ roof warranties almost never cover the burden of solar panels, and may even void a warranty if you don’t inform the manufacturer of your rooftop modifications in advance.” However, this is not a concern when the right, dependable installer is chosen. Fortis recommends that “you work with companies, such as SolarKal and Fortis, that understand the relationship between roof warranties and solar installations, and who will ensure the installer goes through the proper steps to make sure your roof stays protected and under warranty.”
When does a ballasted system make sense? When does a mechanically attached installation happen?
Ballasted systems are by far the most common types of racking used to hold solar panels in place on a roof. They use the weight of concrete blocks to hold down the modules without attaching to the roof. They are great for flat commercial roofs, though not a great fit for pitched roofs.
This image displays a ballasted system on the roof of SEPAC, a SolarKal client with a solar system that now generates 500,000 kWh per year of clean energy.
Mechanically attached systems are used on pitched roofs which usually isn’t the case in commercial buildings. They may also be used if a roof cannot support the weight of a ballasted system. Attachments are waterproofed using the same industry standard flashing details that are used for other mechanical or electrical systems penetrating the roof. If your roof requires a mechanically attached system, it’s important to have your installer work with your roof manufacturer to ensure it will not void the warranty.
Regardless of the type of system you go with, everything will be verified by a licensed structural engineer and is all a part of the Engineer & Design phase of going solar. They’ll run detailed calculations based on local wind speeds, the building’s structure, etc.
How do I access RTUs etc?
You might be wondering how to access your Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system or other Rooftop Units (RTUs). Solar systems are designed with this in mind. Solar design software and satellite imagery are used to design around RTUs. The right design will ensure walkways are available and there’s ample space to access what you need on your roof.
If I need to do minor roof repair, how does that work? Who do I need to call to access the roof area under panels?
If you own your solar system, the vendor that installed your solar system will offer an Operations & Maintenance (O&M) contract. If minor roof repairs are needed, you can call the installer and they will remove panels to access the roof.
For third party owned projects, the owner of the system typically is the one removing panels to allow for small roof repairs. Because of this, we recommend doing any roof repairs right before installing solar panels. It’s also important to protect yourself in the contract, giving you rights to do small roof repairs each year.
In summary, choosing the right installer is key. Roof manufacturers provide clear guidance to avoid voiding warranties. So as long as the solar is installed correctly, roofs won’t be damaged and warranties won’t be impacted.