Ahhh. What a beautiful sight.
The sun is bouncing off those newly installed rooftop PV panels and filling us with the warm, fuzzy feeling of helping the world embrace green energy.
We dream of covering every roof with solar panels – of kick-starting the solar revolution and building a big, successful company along the way.
But alas, as solar installers, it’s our job to tread lightly and meticulously. A bad installation can turn into an expensive nightmare for homeowners, installation teams and the entire solar community, so here are a few common installation problems to keep in mind as the solar season begins.
A poorly assessed roof
As the most common spot for PV installations, the roof is the main culprit when things go wrong. And of course, by definition, the roof is usually connected to a building, which means one wrong move can have a serious impact on the entire structure.
That’s why a proper assessment of the roof needs to be our number one priority; not the closing of our sale. While we all want to scale and grow, it’s important to remember that some roofs simply aren’t well-designed for PV installations.
Trying to fight that is just asking for trouble.
Here are some of the elements to consider in your assessment.
- Age: Today’s solar panels boast a lifespan of about 20 years, but if a homeowner is going to need to structurally change their roof before then, you may be opening the door to a slew of issues and complications.
- Strength: Solar panels add considerable weight and stress to the roof, so make sure it’s sturdy and healthy enough to support the additional weight and strain. This holds especially true if you’re working on an older roof.
- Condition: Beyond the wear and tear of the initial installation, the roof needs to be in good enough condition to support regular system maintenance throughout its lifetime.
Careless, sloppy installation
While roofs may seem sturdy and impervious, they’re actually complex, interconnected structures that require careful consideration and care. Dragging panels or racks across the roof, being careless about our heavy tools or leaving junk behind can result in holes, leaks, clogged drainage systems, moisture buildup, ice dams and massive damage to the roof’s structural integrity.
Solar energy might be a big win for Mother Earth, but let’s be clear –that doesn’t always mean she’ll cooperate. Racks and panels can create attractive nesting spots for birds of all feather, which not only means excrement build-up, but can lead to damaged wires and hardware. Try using plastic owl decoys to scare them off. If that doesn’t work, bird spikes can also be used to keep them at bay.
Rodents, on the other hand, can cause serious damage to the internal elements of the system by chewing wires or making their way into components. Professional, proactive installers will think ahead by setting up squirrel guards, screens or wires alongside the panels in order to keep damage to a minimum.
As solar installers, it’s our job to help customers mitigate risk and get the most out of their solar experience, so we suggest you always communicate transparently about the different steps you’re taking to assess and prevent damage. This might mean installing a monitoring system that will quickly notify you if anything is interfering with production, but it might also mean telling a client their roof simply isn’t a good fit.
And yes, that means one less sale under your belt.
But trust us, that extra sale isn’t worth your reputation.