How to Prevent Roof Leaks When Installing Solar

One of the most common problems caused by substandard installation of solar is a leaking roof, often due to improperly waterproofed penetrations. While this sounds like a mouthful, I’ve broken it down to five easy tips that every home owner should know before selecting your solar installation company.

1.) Solar sales people are not qualified roofers

To close a sale, some commission-based sales people will sell unsuspecting homeowners on just about anything. But, they most likely will not be qualified to evaluate your roof for solar. There are many variables a professional installer knows that a sales person does not. For example, our team at Blue Sky Energy always asks clients if their roof currently leaks and how old the roof is. If your roof is past it’s half-life you should replace it before installing solar. There are other variables to consider as well, such as the type of roof you have. Asphalt shingles are the easiest roofing material to work with, while cement, ceramic, and fired clay are the most difficult. Don’t just take your solar installer’s word for it—if you have questions or concerns, have your roof evaluated by a licensed roofer.

2.) Electricians are not roofers and roofers are not electricians

Our 30 years of general contracting experience has taught us a lot. We have learned the best results happen when electricians do electrical work and roofers repair the roofs. This seems obvious, but it’s not uncommon for companies to take shortcuts to keep a project within budget. At Blue Sky Energy, we prefer to work with the company that originally installed the roof in order to extend the warranty if possible. Why? Because the fine print of roofing contracts often state that any alterations will void your warranty. If your previous roofer is not available, we will use a California-licensed C39 roofer contractor to waterproof and seal the areas where we install our mounting hardware.

Bonus tip: Mounting hardware should be installed directly on top of the two layers of felt paper and not on top of the asphalt shingles or other roofing materials.

3.) Many roofing contractors will not warranty roof repairs

A little known fact is most roofing contractors will not warranty a repair on a roof if they are not the original installer. When a roof leaks, the evidence you see may be 10 feet from where the water is actually getting in. Water takes the path of least resistance and it sometimes requires a lot of detective work to figure out where the leak is coming from. Therefore, it is difficult for a roofer to warranty an older roof or someone else’s work.

4.) Blue Sky Energy always uses roof jacks or boots as a foolproof waterproofing method

A simple way to avoid roof leaks in the first place is to mount the structural supports directly on top of the felt paper. We then apply polyethylene caulking directly to the lag before we ratchet it into the structural member. We also apply a polyurethane sealant to the base of the stantion support. On asphalt shingled roofs, we use a type of roof jack that is basically a piece of sheet metal formed to slip over the mounting stantion. The base of the flashing rests directly between the roofing materials. This allows the water to flow down the roof without leaking into the house. We use a punched roof jack instead of a seamed jack because this provides another level of protection against leaks. We seal the area where the mounting post protrudes through the roof jack with polyethylene caulking.

If that was too technical for you, just know that Blue Sky Energy uses high-quality materials and pays attention to the small details during the installation to prevent future problems. We like happy clients, and we always do it the right way.

5.) Solar panels should be washed, so someone will be walking on your roof

Not only do I have solar panels on my own house, but I wash my panels four times a year. At minimum your panels should be washed annually. Smog and dirt particles in the air create a sticky grime that does not come off with rain. In addition, dirt and grime tend to collect in the ridge between the tempered glass on the top of a solar panel and its frame. This buildup degrades the power output from the panel. We find that washing panels can increase output by 2% to 5%.

Needless to say, your solar provider will have to get onto the roof for maintenance and any trouble-shooting. When Blue Sky Energy installs PV panels, we take into consideration the type of material your roof is made of. Ceramic and Spanish clay tiles are brittle and can break. To prevent damage when installing and maintaining your solar panels, we encourage homeowners to install a more durable type of material under and around the PV array. Asphalt shingles or a torch down type of roofing that matches the color of the roof both work well.

We’re here to help

Blue Sky Energy is here to guide you through the process of determining which type of solar panel is right for you and finding the most efficient solutions for your home. We have a passion for solar and are standing by to discuss your solar installation project with you. With the warmest year on record, global warming and rising energy costs are not buzzwords. They are realities. Take advantage of tax credits and easy financing while they are available and install solar right away. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, you will be doing your part to save the earth.

Hopefully my article cleared up some of you questions regarding solar installation for your home. If you are considering installing solar, please contact us at Blue Sky Energy.

Gary Rochlin

Blue Sky Energy, a local Pacific Palisades solar installation company, run by Gary Rochlin, a recognized and commended Energy Efficiency expert will guide you through finding out what type of solar system is right, and the most efficient solutions for your home and business. We have a passion for solar and are standing by to discuss your solar installation project with you. Remember that with the 2014 being the warmest year on record. Global Warming, and rising energy costs are not buzzwords anymore but a grim reality. Take advantage of tax credits and easy financing as long as they are available and install solar right away. Not just are you saving money but you are reducing your carbon footprint and are doing your part to save the earth.