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Can Solar Panels Damage Roofs?

So you want solar, but you’re wondering, Can Solar Panels Damage Roofs?
One of the most common reasons not to get solar is the possibility of the solar panels damaging your roof. It hng holes in them is just about the only thing that voids the warranty. Mostappens more than you would think.
Roofs are relatively delicate, and putti commonly called penetrations, any hole in the substrate or any part of the roofing material that has to be cut or has something going through the surface is a penetration. The manufacturer requires a very intricate and precise routine of overlapping materials and back-stopping underlayments to remain under warranty for each roofing product. The oldest rule in roofing is this. “Don’t put holes in a roof.” Any roofer who has put some time in will tell you that steeper is always better and don’t put holes in a roof. However, if you have to put holes in there, you better know what you are doing.

Blue Sky Solar and Roofing

Can solar panels damage roofs? These solar panels actually protected this roof.

Can Solar Panels Damage Roofs? Of course, they can. Anything that sits on your roof and must go through the membrane and into the home could damage the roofing system or, at minimum, zarly. You can always search for your specific roofing product online if you are unsure about your product line or its warranty. Every major manufacturer has all of that info online. Owens Corning is one of the biggest distributors of residential roofing materials in the U.S. They are the “Roofers Choice” due to the quality products, including Sure Nail Technology and their first-class warranties.

On the Owens Corning website, the warranty section is loaded with technical documents. The first document is labeled Standard Product Limited Warranty On the third page in the “WHAT IS NOT COVERED“, section, it states “Damage to the shingles caused by alterations made after completion of application, including structural changes, equipment or solar panel installation, power washing, painting, or the application of cleaning solutions, coatings, or other modifications.”

So, according to Owens Corning, you shouldn’t install solar panels on an Owens Corning roof, right? Or is that because since solar has become mainstream, Owens Corning has witnessed an alarming number of disputes between roofers and solar installers? Complete with finger-pointing all way around and lawyers lining up to get a piece of the pie? Or is it because Solar Panels Can Damage Roofs?

Unfortunately, things are a little more complex than that. In a previous article, “What warranty does your solar system have?” We learned about when labor is or isn’t included under a warranty. We also learned why following the manufacturer guidelines is imperative to be sure the warranty remains intact. Ownes Corning, understandably, is just saying that they will not cover damage to their shingles caused by the solar installation process. Can you blame them? That is like asking your mechanic to pay for replacing your tires because when he changed your oil, he used the wrong viscosity. That wouldn’t fly with many mechanics. It would be great to ask OC, Can solar panels damage roofs? I doubt they want anything to do with this dispute, at least not anytime soon.

To prevent issues later, you will want to find a solar installer that has worked with OC shingles and is well-versed in the OC roofing systems or whichever roofing system is currently installed at your house. You can identify which roofing material you have installed on your roof by snapping a few photos and then searching for “a solar/roofing contractor near me” or “a solar installer near me.” You could use identifying your roofing material as a sort of screening process. Whichever roofing system you have on your home, plenty of local contractors will be certified to work on it.

In a follow-up technical bulletin titled “WARRANTY COVERAGE OF OWENS CORNING® SHINGLES AND SOLAR PANEL SYSTEMS“, Owens Corning attempts to bring some clarity to this conundrum, “Full warranty coverage would apply per the terms of the warranty if Owens Corning determines that the shingle damage was caused exclusively by a manufacturing defect that is unrelated to the solar panel array.” So, the coverage applies as long as the installation of the panels doesn’t cause damage. That seems reasonable enough. Be careful who you hire, though—watching some so-called solar installers pounding away at the roof with a carpenter’s waffle hammer or, worse yet, he’s using a leftover rail from your neighbor’s job, trying to locate the rafter floating underneath is something right out of a roofer nightmare.

Can Solar Panels Damage Roofs? If the rails are supporting the installers body weight, you can rest assured they are installed correctly.

However, Solar installations are only increasing in the U.S. Therefore, the incentive to create and distribute better products is huge. Manufacturers of solar panel mounting hardware are constantly evolving to meet the need. Iron Ridge has been in the industry for over 20 years. With its roots in Northern California, Iron Ridge worked hard to shed the laid-back, hippy stigma that solar had back then. They quickly became a recognizable name in the industry, aligning their name with high-quality products and reminding us of their mission to “Make Solar Stronger.” After a merger in 2019, Iron Ridge is now part of EDSEC Solar Group and is a juggernaut in this solar industry that is still in its infancy.

Originally the roofing material manufacturers wrote the rules on how and when to penetrate their roofs. Now, with juggernauts like Iron Ridge in the market, the penetrations themselves are writing the rules. The Iron Ridge website contains resources for installers, including certification courses and training videos. Not surprisingly, many of their competitors have gone the same route. Looking at the Flash Foot 2 install guideline document, “ “FlashFoot2 Installation Manual”
You can see that these guys know about waterproofing. This system relies on three layers of protection. So if any one layer fails, you still have two more in line ready to prevent any moisture from getting in.

Looking over the Iron Ridge website, you will find very little information about voided roofing warranties. They don’t exactly attempt to answer the question- “Can solar panels damage roofs?” Optimistically, they stay focused on installer resources. You can find installation guides and a whole section on design tools. You can get on-demand training and then schedule hands-on training on their website. If you can’t do the hands-on, you can still complete the Iron Ridge certification courses online. The courses can be applied to your NABCEP accreditation, as well.

If your solar installer is certified by Iron Ridge to install the system, including the FlashFoot2 products, and the system is installed according to IR’s guidelines, your roof warranty will remain intact. That’s good news, considering that new solar system could easily outlast your roofing system. However, if your solar installer is really on their game, they could also carry roofing certifications. The Gaf Master Elite status, the Owens Corning Preferred Contractor, or the elusive OC Platinum Preferred Contractor statuses are highly sought after by the industry’s best roofing contractors. However, no one said you couldn’t find a contractor with certifications in both sectors.
If you are still wondering, Can Solar Panels Damage Roofs? Just search the web for a solar contractor near me, and check for certifications.

Go to Blue Sky Solar Calculator to see how much money you could be saving with solar.

Check out Battery Back-up to learn about battery storage to prevent power outages.