What is the Best Roof Material for Solar Panels?

solar panels flat roof

Let’s begin our discussion of roofing materials and solar panels with an evaluation of their overall importance. Realistically, there are no roofing systems with which solar panels are not compatible. In other words, making panels effective should not be your top priority when choosing a commercial roofing option.

Most commercial buildings use a flat roofing system. That means you cannot benefit from the natural slope found on most residential buildings. As such, you’ll need additional hardware to add panels to your roof. This extra hardware isn’t without its advantages, but you can install a solar tracking system so your panels will always be tilted toward the sun.

If you’re undecided between a couple of different flat roofing systems, solar panel efficiency could make for an excellent tiebreaker. Since the roof is often the ideal place for solar panels, you might want to continue reading to know which roofing materials are best for solar panels.

PVC Roofing

The primary advantage of PVC roofing is its durability. While it won’t direct solar energy towards your panels, it’s longer lasting than most other commercial roofing materials.

Solar panels can last a long time – 25 to 30 years at high efficiency, and even longer with lower efficiency. That means the biggest risk to your panels stems from deficiencies in your roofing system. PVC roofing is fire-resistant, wind-resistant, as well as chemical, puncture, and tear-resistant. It also has a lifespan of around 25-30 years, just about the same life span you’re expecting from your solar panels.

EPDM Roofing

EPDM roofing has some disadvantages compared to PVC. Expansion and contraction can lead to tears and gaps near the seams, which can then lead to leaks. In addition, water damage can affect panels, and roof collapse becomes even more catastrophic when your roof is housing solar panels.

So why is it on our list? For starters, it has a great lifespan – 20 to 30 years. And when you have a seasoned pro to install your EPDM roof, it will be less prone to tears and leaks.

But the biggest reason to install EPDM roofing is that it’s easy to put a white coating on it. This coating can reflect solar energy toward your panels, and that could increase their output.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing, even if it’s a retrofit, is often the most expensive roofing option. For many businesses, however, it’s absolutely worth the cost.

First, the lifespan of metal roofing will typically exceed that of any other roofing system. Metal roofs with a 50+ year lifespan are not unheard of. That means your metal roof is likely to last longer than your solar panels. They’re also incredibly durable – while sometimes susceptible to leaks near the seams, they are basically impervious to tears.

Metal roofing systems, like EPDM systems, can be coated white. That means you get all the advantages of light being reflected toward your panels, with a few of the weaknesses that come with EPDM systems.

For those in wintery climates, metal roofing comes with yet another advantage – they radiate heat, which melts the snow. The efficiency of solar panels can decrease when they’re covered in snow, but your metal roof will help negate that problem. Going up on the roof to clean panels is rarely a good idea, and metal roofing will reduce your risk of roof-related injuries.

Care for Your Roof, Care for Your Solar Panels

For the most part, solar panels are incredibly durable. The main risk to their efficiency comes from abrasion. That means you should be very careful if you decide to clean your panels – scratches can seriously impede their ability to generate electricity.

The other chief risk to panels is roofing problems. Divots on your roof can alter the angle of your panels, reducing their efficiency. The panels may also fall so you’ll need to take good care of your roof. This may alter when it’s time for a roof inspection – inspections should be more frequent to ensure the panels aren’t at risk.

We hope this article has helped in your decision-making process. While metal roofs tend to be the best for solar panels, a PVC or EPDM system can serve you well, too. We’re glad you’re taking the time to research commercial roofing materials thoroughly before making a decision.

conklin roofing contractor, commercial roofing contractorOur Conklin team is ready to help you with preparing your commercial roof for solar power! When you are ready to look at solar power for your commercial property, contact one of our Conklin Commercial Roof Coating Contractors in your area.

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