How to prepare your Roof for fitting Solar PV Panels

Most of us know the eco benefits of having solar PV panels installed, but there are certain things about your roof you have to check first.

solar pv panels

If you’re thinking of investing in some solar PV panels (the PV stands for photovoltaic), there’s a few very important things you should check before entering into any purchase.

Solar PV panels are magnificent cost and energy saving devices which will turn your electricity into a renewable resource. They comprise of photovoltaic cells which capture the sun’s energy even when it’s cloudy and turn it directly into electrical energy. And you may not know it, but you can get paid for the electricity that your solar PV panels generate. The government has a Feed-in Tariffs system which will pay you for your electricity even if you use it. If you want to, you can also sell electricity back to the grid if you’re generating more than you’re using.

But in order to save an average of a tonne of CO² per year with some solar PV panels, you need to make sure your roof has got what it takes to support them safely. As long as your roof fits the following criteria, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

For solar PV panels to work at their best, they should be on a south-facing roof

A south-facing roof is preferred by most companies as these will benefit from the most amount of sun in the UK. A north-facing roof is out of the question, but some companies might consider west or east. If you haven’t got a suitable place on your roof to get the panels fitted then unfortunately your home won’t benefit as much.

Your roof will need to be able to support the panels at a particular angle

Solar PV panels need to be positioned at the same degree as your location’s latitude. If your roof isn’t near this angle naturally, then you’ll need to buy panels which you can adjust the angle of. If you do purchase these, you need to compensate for the different seasons where the sun is at a different height. Here’s an article which explains how to calculate the ideal seasonal angles.

Your roof will have to be able to take the solar PV panels’ weight

This almost goes without saying. If your roof won’t be able to take the average 14kg weight of solar PV panels then you should definitely not buy them and seek out an alternative eco option. Most roofs should be able to take much more than this weight, but it’s better to check than to be in trouble with the insurance companies when your roof gets damaged! This isn’t to say that the panels could come crashing through your ceiling, but they could disturb the balance of your roof’s structure if it isn’t very secure. A surveyor should check for any risky-looking imperfections in your roof which signal that it might not be safe to fit solar panels to. This could include anything from loose tiles and poor quality or old flashings, to a surface which is too uneven.

Your roof may have to be able to withstand being taken apart to access the wires inside

To get your new solar PV panels fitted you will inevitably have to have a sturdy roof for many reasons. One such reason may be that in order to get the panels connected to your home you may have to gain access through the roof to feed in new networks of wires, and therefore take some if it apart. If you have an older roof which is in need of repair anyway, this could be a great excuse to finally get it fixed or replaced. Don’t forget to insulate your repaired/new roof properly, especially if you have an electric boiler, or your solar PV panels will be working more than they have to be!

Finally, make sure that you can gain access to your roof easily after the solar PV panels have been fitted

You have to regularly clean any type of solar panels in order for them to work at their full potential. When something is in such a precarious place as the roof of a house, all kinds of things can land on it. From bird faeces to muddy cat paw prints to leaves, you’ll have your work cut out. Some panels can wash themselves at preselected times, but as you can imagine these are much more expensive. Placing the panels far away from the edge of your roof isn’t recommended if walking across your roof is too dangerous for whatever reason. Make sure you can easily reach them from a ladder, because roof-related injuries are never anything but painful.

As you can see, your roof is the one of the only things that could possibly stop you from fitting solar PV panels and continuing your commitment to having a greener home. But it doesn’t have to be!

Image: JT

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