I find it very strange that solar photovoltaic system proposals and contracts often leave out one of the most important things. How are you attaching them to the roof?
It seems like an obvious thing, but clients rarely ask and salespeople rarely bring it up. Yet this is a critical aspect of a solar energy system installation. There are many products available on the market. Some are really suspect. Most are good. But what you want is the best solution for your particular roof type in your particular location.
Consultations about solar energy systems usually take a lot of time going over panel brands and inverter types. These are important components, no doubt. Clients agonize over the right choice. But rarely does a client dig deep into the roof attachment method. And rarely is this used as a primary decision making factor. We think that is dangerous. Panels and inverters come down to preference and opinion. Solar attachments need to be positively secure and sealed for the life of your system, and there are distinct advantages to making the right decision.
We see contractors coming from up north that think they know everything. They use the same products they use back home but Florida has unique challenges with torrential rain and high wind. There is also extreme heat and UV exposure to consider. What works there does not necessarily work there.
It Gets Worse
Take, for example, this picture of a system installation that caused massive water intrusion into the attic and home of a house.
We don’t use this product here. It is a good product. But you have to install it correctly. The aluminum L-foot is designed to rest directly on the disc, known as a microflashing. The L-foot compresses the flashing, creating a watertight seal. This installer ignored the installation manual and decided to install an extra nut to raise the solar panel off the roof higher than this product was designed for.
Maybe they needed to get the rails high enough for the electrical junction box, which is also poorly installed. Who knows what was going through their mind. It should have been obvious that this is not the way the product was designed to be used.
Side note: This manufacturer has updated the design of this product and has an aluminum flashing to complement the microflashing. This looks like a promising technology, but we have not evaluated at the time of this writing.
What Solar Attachment Products Do We Use
Here at Florida Solar Design Group we use products from Quick Mount PV whenever possible. They are industry leaders and innovators in solar panel mounting hardware. They have an excellent line of products for shingle and tile roofs that are common here in Southwest Florida. For metal roofs, we use products from Eco Fasten or S-5 typically, depending on roof type. For flat roofs, we use a variety of products but typically stick to a combination of Quick Mount PV standoffs with high-tech curbs with pourable sealant.
Ultimately we select a product that is perfect for your roof. More importantly, we install it correctly!
Are there lower-cost alternatives on the market? Absolutely. We see competitors using them all the time. You might get away with a cheaper product. But usually the contractors using cheaper products are also using cheaper labor and cutting corners elsewhere.
What You Can Do
The solution is to ASK! Make sure the exact product being used is specified on your contract. At a minimum, ask the salesperson what they plan to use. If the salesperson doesn’t know, or can’t find out, run the other way.
The solar attachment product is one of the most important components of a solar energy system installation. Don’t leave this out of your discussion with your dealer.