Going Solar? First Consider Your Roofing Options

FB_Image18Being environmentally-conscious is a growing trend among homeowners and businesses alike. Finding ways to cut down on your carbon footprint, whether that's by making your home more efficient, carpooling to work, or reducing waste, will add up to greener, healthier, and more sustainable communities.

As environmental consciousness grows and energy prices continue to climb, more homeowners are looking into solar. Here in sunny Arizona, we have a unique opportunity to cash in on this abundant natural resource, making our state one of the fastest-growing places for solar deployment. 

Your roof is arguably the most critical link in the solar decision. From its general health to the considerations of different roofing materials and their suitability for solar, there's a lot to consider.

So whether you're building a home from scratch, are in need of a new roof, or just want to see how compatible your current roof is with solar, read on. We'll go over the pros and cons to different roof types and this form of renewable energy. 

Roof Health

Before discussing solar and different roof types, it's important to first discuss roof health.  A large part of the costs associated with going solar is the installation labor. If your roof isn't healthy before the panels go up and you find out five years later that a repair is needed, you could be on the hook for a sizable solar panel removal and reinstallation fee. A reputable solar team will be able to assess the health of your roof prior to sale. But for the most reliable assessment, a licensed roofer should be your first call before contacting a solar team. Roofing inspections are generally free

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Foam Roofs

Most flat roofs in Arizona utilize foam roofing for its durability, ease of installation, and overall efficiency. While most popular in commercial applications, this kind of roof is growing in the residential sector as well. The reflectivity of the white UV coating helps to keep heat from absorbing into the building, reducing electricity bills and the work load on HVAC systems. 

Solar panel installation is very simple on this kind of flat roof, but requires a tilted racking system to ensure maximum sun exposure. Because of this, the mounting hardware might cost more, but other than that the overall installation is still fairly simple.

Flat Rolled Roofs (BUR)

Flat rolled roofing, whether commercial or residential, is another type of roofing that is relatively simple to install solar on. This kind of roof does have a lower life expectancy, though: an average of 15 years due to sun exposure and heat. The main con to BUR roofs is the fact that it absorbs and holds heat, which usually translates to a high electric bill.

The good news is that there are options to help mitigate this heat absorption. Arguably the most popular option prior to installing solar is to foam over your existing one layer BUR roof or apply a coating. Coating options range from acrylic (recoat every 5 years) or silicone (recoat every 20-25 years). We recommend the silicone option since it requires less maintenance, which could help you save removal and reinstallation costs if part of your roof is covered in solar panels. 

As with flat foam roofs, the solar panels on a BUR roof will typically be installed with tilt racking to maximize sun exposure and energy production.

Tile Roofs

You see these roofs everywhere here in the Valley of the Sun for a variety of reasons. Tiles are resilient under the harsh Phoenix sun, their aesthetic aligns with local Southwestern preferences, and they are durable under stress from the elements. In addition, tile roofs generally absorb less heat, keeping your attic and home cooler, and they have a lifespan measured in decades, which helps to reduce the amount of worn roofing material from making its way into landfills. 

solar array on arizona tile roofFor properly trained solar installers, tiles are relatively easy to work with due to the fact that they can be easily isolated and removed to accommodate racking standoffs. But tiles offer a few challenges as well. They are significantly heavier than other materials, which can make for a slower and pricier solar installation.

They also require special mounting hardware with special replacement tiles designed to work with the racking standoffs to ensure a secure fit while preserving the general aesthetic. Finally, the tiles can break easily if the installer isn't carful where and how they step. For all of these reasons, make sure you do pick a reputable installer with plenty of experience on tile roofs, and a good penetration/workmanship warranty to boot. A good installer will even be able to install on clay or sandcast tiles. 
Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Shingles are one of the most popular kinds of roofs due to their competitive price and numerous color options. Asphalt shingles are also one of the easiest for solar installation. If you're looking to add an additional "green" element to your roofeven before you go solar—there are some roofing materials that are often manufactured from recycled or recyclable materials, which helps to reduce the environmental impact of replacing or repairing this kind of roof. 

But in our harsh Arizona heat, asphalt roofs come with a few drawbacks. When it comes to solar, they can trap heat beneath the panels, causing them to work less efficiently during our hottest seasons. A reputable solar installer will know how to set the appropriate airspace between the roof and the panel in order to provide ample ventilation for maximum generation. Heat absorption also impacts the overall temperature in your home, forcing your AC system to to work harder and driving up energy costs.

Asphalt roofs tend to have a shorter lifespan than other roofing materials. Knowing what roofing material lasts the longest is extremely important when considering solar since you'll likely have to pay a panel removal and reinstallation feel if a roof repair or replacement is needed down the road. And since modern solar panels are warranted for up to 30 years, with an operational lifespan well past that mark, picking a long-lasting roofing material is the best way to avoid unexpected costs down the road. 

Local Arizona Solar Installer

If you're looking for a reputable solar installation company, we've got you covered there as well. Our sister company, Sun Valley Solar Solutions, has been installing residential and commercial solar energy systems for over a decade. 


Ensuring your roof is ready for solar takes an experienced team of experts, like the ones here at Azul Roofing Solutions. If you need your roof looked at in preparation for solar, contact us today, and let's start your roofing project.

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