Solar Panels on a Metal Roof: Is it Possible?

Metal roofing is durable, lightweight, and capable of withstanding the worst of the elements.

Solar energy is a sustainable, reliable, clean form of renewable energy that's growing in popularity exponentially.

You might have concerns whether solar panels can be installed on a metal roof. Worry not - thanks to bracketing systems, solar panels can be installed on most types of metal roofing.

What are Solar Panels?

solar panel

A solar panel is a group of silicon, Photovoltaic cells grouped in a glass-topped case to generate environmentally friendly, sustainable, clean energy.

Each cell relies on photons in sunlight to trigger a reaction that generates an alternating current (AC)

A nearby solar inverter converts this into usable direct current (DC) for home and business use to power household appliances and equipment.

Generated electricity that is surplus to requirements is transported to the power grid.

A series of solar panels is called an array; the more panels in your system, the greater the amount of energy production.

Types of Metal Roof

Many residential properties, modern constructions, and businesses favor metal roofs, which means they are often non-standard in shape, with no uniform design.

There is a reliable installation method and bracketing system for every metal roof type.

Standing Seam Metal Roof

Solar Panels Installed on Standing Seam Metal Roof
Solar Panels Installed on Standing Seam Metal Roof

This roof type consists of a series of flat, broad metal panels that are crimped together to form a continuous, concealed join. There is a vertical leg between each one; this is the raised seam.

Not only is this type of roof lightweight and durable, when installed in sequence with the recommended underlayment, it is also watertight.

It's almost as if metal standing seam roofs are specifically designed with solar panels in mind.

The installer attaches a series of high-strength aluminum clamps to the vertical legs with a single bolt. The mounting rail secures into place with no need to drill any holes into the roof. With no perforations in the metal, it remains watertight – people with asphalt shingles have to check and maintain theirs annually.

Installing a solar array on a seamed roof is simpler and far-less labor-intensive, and therefore, more affordable.

The clamps and bolts are often covered by several-year warranties, although most owners claim they outlive their solar panels.

Metal Tile Roofs

Solar Panels Installed on Metal Tile Roof
Solar Panels Installed on Metal Tile Roof

Another solar panel installation method that doesn't require drilling any holes or penetrating the metal. A similar system is also available for regular asphalt tiled roofs.

The mounting rail has metal tiles pre-attached. It is a simple case of aligning them with existing tiles and swapping them out. The unit clicks into place, and the panels are easily attached using guiding metal rods.

The tiles are consistent in shape to the existing ones, so they don't create an eyesore or leave any unwanted gaps for moisture to creep in.

They offer natural protection for the roof, preserving its condition.

Corrugated Metal Roof

solar mounting system for corrugated metal roof
Solar Mounting System for Corrugated Metal Roof

There is no way of installing solar panels onto a corrugated metal roof without drilling holes; every care is taken to ensure they remain watertight.

It requires a specialized mounting system that uses brackets called straddle blocks. They attach securely to the top ridge, leaving the lower crest, where the rain collects, free from holes. Top-quality brackets have thick rubber gasket seals to plug the holes; they are more effective and less messy than using sealant gum.

Straddle blocks work with any uneven metal roof and where there are varying degrees or gaps between panels.

The blocks align with the installation grommets on the rear of solar panels to ensure secure placement.

Advantages of Solar Panels on Metal Roofs

Durability

After 25-years of use, solar panels become less productive, usually generating 15-20% less electricity.

The same can't be said of metal roofs; their life span is 70+ years, which is more than double, sometimes triple that of asphalt tiles.

Some homeowners choose to replace a traditional roof with a metal one before solar panel installation due to their suitability and longevity.

When the time comes to replace your array, feel safe knowing that the panels should be upgraded and not the roof or rails.

Cooling Benefits

Solar panels absorb sunlight from the atmosphere, thus preventing the metal roof from getting as hot, further extending its life.

Eco-Friendly

Solar panels and durable metal roofing panels are the perfect eco-friendly combination.

They have excellent green credentials as both are recyclable at the end of their long service life.

Green building certification programs such as LEED and ENERGY STAR offer the opportunity to earn additional points for owners of this combined system.

Ease of Installation

All non-drill systems are far less labor and time-intensive to install in comparison with solar arrays on traditional tiled roofs.

Specialized bracketing systems allow for non-intrusive installation on many roof types. It not only prevents any leaks but also protects the roof beneath each panel.

Types of Solar Panel Suited to Metal Roofs

Crystalline solar panels are the most common type in North America, however thin-film PV solar laminates are also worth consideration.

Although thin-film panels work in much the same way, the manufacturing processes differ.

Some other differences include:

Crystalline Solar Panels

  • They can generate twice as much energy as thin-film panels and are suited to metal and shingle roofs with specialized mounting systems.
  • In some instances, they require roof penetration for installation; leaking in later years is possible.
  • They are the bulkier option; they take longer and are more awkward to install.
  • They generate power for at least 25-years before production capacity slowly decreases.
  • Crystalline solar panels are more expensive and carry a longer payback time.

Thin-Film PV Solar Laminates

  • Perfectly suited to standard-seam metal roofing panels without the need for drills or penetration.
  • Fast installation; they are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and rely on simple yet revolutionary peel and stick technology.
  • Many owners believe they are far more aesthetically pleasing due to their slender profile. They are neat and mess-free.
  • The manufacturing process releases lower emissions.
  • They are less efficient than traditional panels; achieving similar production levels requires much larger roof space.
  • They have a life expectancy of between 10 and 20-years and the fastest payback time of all systems.
  • They are the most affordable style of solar energy system.

Final thoughts

Unlike asphalt shingle roofs, those made of metal last for several decades, long out-lasting the life-span of the solar power system it hosts.

It is the most environmentally-friendly method of renewable energy; metal roofs and solar are recyclable and don't end up in landfills, unlike their shingle counterparts.

Dillon Clayton
Dillon is an Energy enthusiast. The goal of his posts on Energy Follower are to help inform people of the energy options around them based on impartial research.

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