Solar roof mounts (a.k.a. solar panel systems mounted on the roof) are by far the most popular solar solution to high energy bills, and are backed by great rebates and 25 year warranties. However, your roof is pretty important, so you’ll want the full scoop on what a solar panel system means for you and your roof. Here are some common Q&As to get you started.

1. What are the most important factors in determining whether a roof is suitable for solar?

There are two really major requirements your roof needs to satisfy. One has to do with the direction it faces and its access to sunlight in the daytime. The other is the likelihood your roof will outlast your solar roof mount (30+ years). If your roof isn’t in great shape, now is the time to replace or repair. Before you install, a professional solar consultant will inspect your roof and determine whether your roof needs to be repaired or replaced and whether it will be able to support the additional weight of the racks and solar panels (at least 4lbs per square foot).

2. Which types of roof are best for installing a solar roof mount?

No roof type will disqualify you from going solar. Solar installation companies have successfully installed solar roof mounts on metal, asphalt, tile, slate, and gravel roofs. It’s difficult to generalize about which type of roof is best because it varies by individual situation, building type, building height, climate, and seismic factors.

3. What are my options for a roof mount?

There are two basic types: ballasted and penetrating. Ballasted panels, which are especially suitable for flat roofs, are held down by weights to your roof. In this way, they offer minimal disruption to the roof. Penetrating solar panel systems are attached your roof, making them more suitable for situations in which wind or seismic conditions require more stability. Penetrating solar roof mounts may affect your roof warranty; ballasted generally will not. A good solar consultant can lay out the pros and cons of each for your particular situation.

4. How much roof space will a solar panel system take?

The size of your system depends to a great degree on your energy usage, how much you intend to offset with solar energy, and how much space is available. An average residential system is generally between 400-700 square feet. However, smaller and more inconspicuous systems (e.g. for a solar patio or a garage) are also possible.

5. What qualifications should my solar installation company have?

As with all solar installations, your installer should be well-established, registered with the BBB, and have all the necessary licenses for both electrical and solar work. Experience is a must, especially in roofing: solar installers that have had experience as roofers can be counted on to treat your roof carefully during installation.