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Inspecting Roofs With Solar Panels

21 years ago, if I saw a solar panel on a roof, it was an event! Even though inspection of solar units was, and still is not part of a home inspection, it intrigued me. Many times the home owners conceded that it did not work very well. Things have changed! I probably have seen more solar panels in the last 2 years, than the previous 19 combined. As stated, inspection of solar systems are normally not part of a visual home inspection, however, we should be concerned with the roof covering, structural components, and adjacent areas. I am, and I am sure many of you are seeing deteriorated wood members on many solar installs. Some solar systems are installed by unqualified contractors, who drill directly through the shingles with uncoated, unprotected lag screws. Installations like these, cause almost immediate damage. Click on the “News From The Home Inspector World” link at the left to see one such case. So how should solar panels be installed to ensure there is no damage to the deck? And what should a home inspector look for to properly advise their clients? MORE

  • The solar panels should be properly matched to the life of the roof. Ensure that the covering is in very good condition. Most solar panels have a serviceable life of 20 years.
  • Ensuring the roof structure is strong enough for weight of the solar panels, and has not been compromised during the install process. Look for sagging or deflected areas near the panels.
  • Ensure the solar panels have not interrupted or caused water obstruction to the roof drainage.
  • Look for damage caused by thermal expansion of the panels. Some panels could expand up to .25% – which could equate up to 2 inches over 60 feet.
  • Check the area around the panels for installation damage caused by dragging panels, tool damage, etc.
  • Ensure that the mounting brackets are properly flashed.
  • Ensure the screws and brackets are properly sealed and not rusting.
  • Ensure any cables, tubes, or wires go through a properly flashed solar port (the photo next to the solar panels at the beginning of this article).
  • Refer to the brief video in the “New Products” link at the left of the email newsletter for proper installation methods.

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