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Types of solar flashing and mounting systems

Are you planning on installing a solar panel system at home or business premises? The solar flashing should follow after making holes on your roof for solar mounts; otherwise, your roof will be a leaky mess.

Different solar flashing systems range from aluminum flashing, galvanized flashing, micro flashing, elevated flashing, and rubber flashing.

After purchasing your solar panels, you have to choose the best solar mounting system to suit your energy needs, space, and budget. There are three different types of solar mounting systems; ground, roof, and pole mounting systems.

Mounting allows your solar panels to adjust based on seasons, time, and latitude for maximum exposure to solar light and energy production.

We will look at the different types of solar flashing and mounting systems and what you should consider before selecting a flashing and mounting system.

What is Solar flashing?

Flashing is an integral part of your roofing system whose primary purpose is to keep the roof waterproof and airtight by covering open spaces. The areas sealed include gaps, joints, or edges.

In solar panels, flashing is essential and done before installing the mounting system. When installing your solar panel, discuss with your supplier the best flashing material. Poor quality materials deteriorate early, causing leak damage.

With high-quality materials, your roof can contract and expand when temperatures change without interfering with the seal.

Proper flashing ensures that your roof maintains its appearance and lasts for an extended period while giving the best support to your solar panels.

Types of solar flashing systems

Aluminum flashing

Aluminum flashing has been in the market for ages, making it the most common flashing type. The installer will fix a piece of aluminum metal on the roofing to direct water away from the penetration on your roof. It is installed beneath the shingles and secured by nails or the weight of your roofing material.

If you are looking for an affordable solar flashing option, then pick aluminum flashing. It is also lightweight and malleable.

The only disadvantage of the aluminum flashing system is that shingle nails will create more holes on the roof when removed.

Using nails will create even more spaces. Although the material is lightweight, aluminum flashing components are heavy and stressful when shipping and handling.

Rubber flashing

Rubber flashing, also known as EPDM flashing, covers the opening of an aluminum flashing. It seals the roof penetration created when fixing the aluminum flashing. It is either nailed to your roof or installed under shingles.

Unlike other flashing methods, rubber flashing doesn’t redirect water runoff but provides a solid, watertight seal to prevent leakage. Unfortunately, it is an expensive option; it’s bulky and requires extra holes in the roofing during installation. However, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

Galvanized flashing

Galvanized flashing is more rigid and sturdy compared to aluminum flashing, all thanks to the galvanized steel. It redirects water away from the hole on your roof. Just like aluminum flashing, you should fix it under roof shingles.

Even in high wind areas, galvanized flashing doesn’t misshape or bed due to its rigid nature. This feature makes it stand out.

Galvanized flashing costs more than aluminum flashing. It’s also a bit bulky and creates more penetrations on the roof when installing.

Elevated flashing

Elevated flashing has a raised section that prevents water from flowing into the roof penetration. This flashing is often made of aluminum. Elevated flashing is also installed under shingles using nails. Due to the unique and improved modifications, elevated flashing is expensive. However, the price is worth the benefit.

Microflashing

Micro flashing features a diameter of 3 to 4 inches, smaller than the other types of flashing. Solar installers don’t remove or lift any shingles when installing micro flashing.

They place a compression washer on the shingle and install a bolt into the roof. The solar installer will connect the solar panels to the bolt.

Since micro flashing chemically bonds and compresses the roof, it offers maximum leakproof seal. It is the most reliable flashing method, and it’s not a bulky piece of metal. Microflashing is the latest type of flashing available in the market.

Solar Panel Mounting Systems

Solar mounting systems provide the support required to keep your solar panels at an optimal tilt. The tilt allows for maximum exposure to sunlight and energy production.

Mounting can also affect the temperature of your solar system. For instance, solar mounted on the ground have better air circulation than those mounted on the roof. Thus, they cool off fast.

Further, the solar mounting system you choose will significantly affect the cost of the overall project.

Installing solar panels on your roof, for instance, might create an additional charge if you have to alter the roof structure; however, the price is worth it if the solar offers maximum power output throughout the year.

It is essential to know the best solar mounting option that will suit your energy. So, what should you consider before choosing a solar mounting option?

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Solar Mounting System

1. Leak protection

Properly installed solar panels do not cause any leaks on the roof. However, it’s advisable to be extra cautious when choosing a mounting system since some don’t damage the roof or cause leaks while others do.

Solar installers have to drill holes on your sloped roof to fix the mounting system. They then use flashings to help eliminate leaks by diverting water away from the penetration.

If your roof looks good and you work with a professional installer, the chances are that your solar panels won’t cause leaks.

Ensure that your service provider utilizes proper flashing to provide the utmost protection. As you search for the best mounting system, discuss the best flashing for your roof with your installer and ask whether they have adequate experience installing it.

2. Aesthetics

Solar panels cover the mounting system; however, some components might still be visible. Some designs feature visible clamps and tall rails that appear on the edges of the solar panels.

If you are worried about the look of your solar panel system, it’s good to ask your installer which components will be visible and how the solar array will look like in the long run.

Some may even show you videos or pictures of past installs. Deciding on which mounting system to use will be easier if you know how it appears in real life.

3. Installation

Although the basics of installing mounting systems are almost similar, some factors can make installing difficult and time-consuming.

Some mounting systems have heavy components and come in numerous individual parts. The effort and time needed to affix these systems are way too much compared to the less complicated mounting systems.

Similarly, complicated mounting systems will cost you more money to install. Your installer may already have a less complex and affordable mounting system in mind.

However, if you want a specific type of mounting system beyond what they usually offer, your installation may be more expensive.

4. Electrical setup

Fixing, securing, and protecting your solar panels’ electrical setup is very important during solar installation. Wire management is not only ideal for aesthetics reasons but also for maintenance and operational purposes.

If your solar wires are not correctly insulated, stretched, or exposed, they may fail or damage easily, thus compromising the function of your solar system.

Photovoltaic wire management determines the longevity and maintenance costs of your solar system. With an excellent mounting system and qualified installers, these wires are placed in a reliable, safe place and are not visible.

Unlike before, solar mounting manufacturers make wire clamps, conduit trays, and wire clips that keep the wires in place along with the solar panels or rails. Choose a mounting system that comes with these products to protect your electrical system from ultraviolet rays and other harsh elements.

5. Compatibility

Traditional solar mounting systems aren’t compatible with a rubber membrane, metal, Spanish tile, or clay roofs.

Luckily there are mounting systems available in the market for these types of rooftops. Further, some manufactures provide ground mounting systems and flat roofs since they have specific considerations.

Types of Solar Panel Mounting Systems

Roof Mounts

Roof mounts are the most common solar panel mounts among homeowners. You place the panels on the roof and don’t occupy the yard space. Additionally, the rooftop is a good spot for direct sunlight.

Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction“Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction” by Wayne National Forest is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

Some roof mounting systems are fixed below your roofing, making it easy to change your roofing without interfering with the panels. You should affix the roof mount system before adding a roof to your home.

The siding is then placed around the mount with solar flashing to prevent leakage. Some experts can install the mount systems on the siding with supports placed below the roofing.

Roof mounting systems are pretty affordable. Installation is also less expensive since most rooftops give the necessary angle to capture maximum sunlight.

Installing roof mounts may be a dangerous and delicate procedure. Your installer has to go up the roof and fix all the components without damaging the existing roofing. The entire process is time-consuming and might be more expensive than installing other types of mounting systems.

Ground Mounting System

Ground mounts are frames fixed into the ground in your compound. The system’s design supports a specified number of panels. More robust structures support more panels.

Most ground mounts hold solar panels at one angle forever. This rigidity means you won’t get the most from your panels since they don’t get maximum exposure throughout.

solar-panels-farm“solar-panels-farm” by davelauretti is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

However, some solar panels come with angle adjustment allowing you to tilt the panels to an optimal angle to capture more sunlight.

Ground mounting is the best and most economical option if you have enough space and minimal tree shade in your compound.

The significant advantage of this system is that your solar panels are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. Additionally, your roof will also remain intact, and no need to stress about water leakage and complicated installation process.

Unfortunately, ground mounts are not allowed in some cities and towns. It’s therefore essential to confirm with your local code enforcement agency before you install this system. Additionally, ground mounts are more susceptible to damage by animals or theft.

Similarly, ensure that the soil in your compound is compact enough to support the mount effectively. You have to compress the loose and sandy soil before mounting.

Pole Mounts

Pole mounts are rigid frames or racks that support a set of solar panels. One single pole supports several solar cells. A well-installed and robust pole mount can hold up to sixteen solar panels.

Pole-Mounted Photovoltaic Array“Pole-Mounted Photovoltaic Array” by Living Off Grid is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

Compared to ground mounts, pole mounts require less ground space. The pole is not as distractive as ground-mounted solar panels that may cover a large area of your compound.

It is wise that you use a tall support pole that can elevate the solar panels at least six feet or more above your ground space.

Unlike roof mounts that stress your rooftops, pole mounts will save you and your roof from avoidable stress. The panels will remain high enough and avoid shade from short trees and flowers and eliminate the risky process of climbing onto your roof.

In most cases, the design of the pole mounts allows you to tilt the panels to move from one side to another or adjust the pole’s height up and down. Your panels will perform more efficiently, all thanks to sun-tracking technology.

Which Is the Best Solar Mount Size?

Solar mounting systems come in different sizes. When deciding on the perfect size for your panels, consider your current and future solar energy needs.

Smaller mounting systems are less expensive compared to large ones. However, this doesn’t mean that choosing the smaller mounts that can hold all your panels is the best decision.

Large mounting systems are economical in the long run, particularly if you intend to add more solar panels in the future.

Come to think of it, one mount that can support up to eight panels is relatively affordable than purchasing two solar mounting systems that can only hold up to four panels each. As you make plans, think of the future as well.

Ground-Mounted Vs Roof-Mounted Solar Panels.

Solar Panel Mounting SystemProsCons
Ground-mounted solar panels

Easy access

Easy to clean

Troubleshoot quickly

You don’t need to remove the panels when replacing the roof

Strong racking

More labor required during installation

More components are needed

Permits are expensive

Takes up your compound space

Can be easily damaged by animals, knocked down by children when playing, or even stolen.

Roof-mounted solar panels

Fairly affordable

Fewer components needed to install

Low labor cost

It doesn’t occupy ground space

Permitted in most towns

Hard to troubleshoot

High panel temperatures equal low panel output

Stressful when replacing the roof

Adds holes on the top that can cause leakage

Difficult to access

Ground-Mounted Vs Roof-Mounted Solar Panels.

What Should You Consider Before Choosing a Ground Mounting System?

Your budget

A ground solar mounting system requires several pieces and labor to fix it. Chances are you can’t do it yourself and might need a contractor to handle the task. Getting permits will also be expensive and lengthier.

Once you install your panels on the ground mounts, the initial cost will be offset with time by an efficient solar energy output.

You will also eliminate the cost of re-roofing when replacing your panels. In a nutshell, you will spend more money initially, but you will enjoy the benefits over time.

Soil type

Hard soil and rocky ground make ground mount installation difficult and expensive. If you know your compound soil is hard to dig into, the best thing is to go with roof mounts.

Although it’s not impossible, you will have to hire heavy-duty machines to make holes on the ground.

Future expansion

If you don’t plan to expand your solar array in the future, a rooftop solar system will provide enough solar energy.

However, if you are thinking of installing more in the future, ground mounting is flexible enough to let you increase the number of solar panels to cover all your energy needs.

You will also benefit from a built-in tilt that directs the solar panels towards sunlight.

Where Can You Purchase Solar Panel Mounts?

DIY solar panel mounting projects can be complicated; It’s almost impossible to find an entirely constructed mounting system. You will have to purchase all the components needed separately.

If you plan to install solar panels yourself, buy an entire solar panel kit plus racking solutions from your local supplier.

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid future problems such as falling out of warranty cover.

To avoid all the hustle, hire the services of a qualified installer or technician. They know the best components and where to find them.

Conclusion

Solar panel mounting systems will support your solar panels either on the roof, pole, or ground.

They will account for approximately 10% or more of your solar installation cost. Ensure that you choose a mounting system that is both efficient, affordable, and practical.