How To Install Solar Panels on Roof (And if It’s Even Worth It for Your Home)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Man sitting on the roof of his home wonders how to install solar panels on roof and is there is a complete solar panel installation guide for installing solar panels residential homes.

If you are thinking of adopting a cleaner, cheaper energy source for your home and you have the DIY skills and materials, you may be curious to learn how to install solar panels on roof supports, since installing solar panels can lower your energy bills.

Although it may seem daunting at first, knowing how to install solar panels (and whether it would be worth it to do so) isn’t too difficult. The main thing is knowing whether you’ll be able to generate power regularly, based on the sunlight hours you get where you live.

Solar power has its drawbacks (like the eco-cost of manufacturing the panels and the end of life disposal process), but it’s much, much greener to install solar panels on your roof than it is to cover massive acres of land with them, essentially condemning large portions of ground to barrenness.

Since your home already has a literal footprint, placing the panels on your roof doesn’t destroy ecosystems.

And, with a few of the right tools, tips, and skills, solar panel installation can be done without too much difficulty.

This complete guide explains everything you need to know about how to install solar panels on roof like a pro.

How To Install Solar Panels on Roof: DIY Solar Panel Installation Guide

If you are working in construction or want to know how to install solar panels on roof yourself, know that it is not as complex as it seems.

Graphics of solar panel roof installation showing 7 steps which include assessing roof strength, determining energy needs, choosing the type of solar panels, hiring a professional, installing the mounting system and solar panels, and connecting to the grid.

Still, you will need the right tools and equipment and carefully follow the instructions since you are dealing with electrical wires.

The following are the nine steps in DIY solar panel installation (on shingles roof).

Step 1: Assemble Everything You Need

Preparing all the materials and tools you need is the first step to a successful project and helps save you a lot of time.

Since you will be up on the roof, you want to avoid climbing up and down to find missing items.

You will need the following:

  • Solar panel
  • Stanchions
  • PV wire
  • Mounting brackets
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Rails
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Screws
  • Ladder
  • Lags
  • Anything else in your solar package and a tool belt1

Related Reading: Types of Solar Panels

Step 2: Mark Locations

With your tools ready, the next step is to mark where the stanchions will be on the roof. These are vital to the installation because the sturdy metal structures carry the panels and must distribute their weight evenly across the rafters.

You should refer to your house’s blueprint to help connect them to the rafter on the roof.2

While at it, ensure that the stanchions are in line (using the chalk line) before drilling and place them four feet from each other.

Step 3: Fix Stanchions

You should properly fix your stanchions since they will hold the panels in place.

Two solar panel technicians along with their equipment and tools, installing solar panels on the roof of a residential house.

(Image: MariaGodfrida12)

First, pre drill holes in the rafters and secure them with steel bolts, checking that the distance between each stanchion is at least four feet.

Step 4: Install Flashing

Afterward, you should fix the flashing beneath the shingles and fasten it using a bolt on the rafters. This process keeps your roof safe from leaking after poking holes and keeps the roof waterproof.

Besides flashing, the bolts also have sealants to protect the roof from leakages.

Step 5: Affix the Rails

The rails are essential to installation because they securely hold the panels and attach to the stanchions.3

First, screw and fasten the holes, and using bolts, connect the top and lower rails, preferably using your impact driver.

A solar panel technician wearing protective gloves while fixing the rails of the solar panels during installation.

(Image: Los Muertos Crew13)

Remember to make them tight to secure them in place.

Step 6: Check That the Rails Are Parallel (Check for Square)

Any professional will tell you how crucial it is for the rails to be in line and parallel.

You can take the distance between them using your tape measure, checking that the diagonal distance is the same.

An engineer and a worker checking the rails of the solar panels are parallel.

(Image: Gustavo Fring14)

Using diagonals is the fastest way to check that they are square, and if not, you must adjust or, unfortunately, drill again.

Step 7: Fix the Inverters

All the steps above were merely preparations for installation; the steps from here involve how to wire solar panels, which need care and proper handling.

First, know which wires you need and how to attach the inverters beneath each panel.

Each micro-inverter should have six-gauge copper wires, and the connection goes into and out of the arrays.

Route the wires from the panels to a meter, then to a sub-panel. Next, run them to the inverters through the rails, and remember to turn off the powers before wiring.

It can be helpful to have a diagram of the wiring plan, as well as the placement of your panels before beginning.

Step 8: Panel Placement

When you are confident that the wiring is okay and the connections are working, the next step is to attach the panels to the stanchions you have already drilled.

First, hook the brackets to the panels, which you can do before climbing the roof; lift them and check that they align with the rails you set up.

Fasten each of the panels to the rails using bolts and clamps. Lastly, place the wires through the panels and the inverters to complete the circuit.

Step 9: Connect the Inverter

The final step is to power up your panels by linking them to the solar inverter and electric meters.4 Shut off the power in your house before doing this and connect the inverter to the electric panel.

If your inverter is outside, keep it under shade and connect the battery and fuse board/ consumer unit. This setup is vital because the inverters transform DC from the sun to AC you use at home.

You can forgo the battery, but it is essential for boosting your power on cloudy days.

You can also call in an electrician to do the actual connection, to ensure that no fire hazards have been created.

In fact, many counties and cities require a professional electrician to perform this step, so check with your local building laws.

What Are the Benefits of Installing Solar Panels on Roof?

Solar panel installation is booming, and stakeholders are encouraging more homeowners to adopt it as a better option than fossil fuels for electricity generation.

The panels use light from the sun, which is free and clean, making it an environmentally-friendly power source.

Four Solar panel technicians installing solar panel system on a building roof.

(Image: Hoan Ngọc11)

Other than reducing household carbon footprint, solar panel has more benefits. The following are reasons why installing solar panels on your roof is worth it.

  1. Low or no energy bills: Solar power is the most efficient and economical energy source. Its power comes from the sun for free, and you can use batteries to store the surplus or make net metered connections to offset electricity bills.
  2. Environmentally friendly: Installing solar panels on your roof reduces your house’s GHG emissions, unlike using fossil fuels.
  3. Home value increase: Besides saving on energy costs, solar panels help increase your house’s value if you have plans to resell. Homeowners are usually attracted to energy-efficient homes, and panels will be a significant selling point.
  4. Easy installation: While you can hire experts to set up the system, you will appreciate how easy it is to DIY the installation. You only need the solar panel kit, tools, and a step-by-step guide.

What To Consider During Solar Panel Installation

Before learning how to install solar panels on roof, you should first weigh out if it is even worth it for your home.

Several factors will guide you to determine whether solar panel installation is the way to go.

House Location

Where do you live? Do tall buildings overshadow your house? Are there towering trees that will block the sun? These questions will help you gauge whether solar panels are worth investing in.

It would be a bad idea if tall buildings and trees all around cast shadows on the panels because the setup would need more sunlight, leading to low power output.

The side of the roof you choose for the installation should point directly to sunlight for the better part of the day (Mostly the southern slope)

Panel Elevation

Panels harness the sun’s energy; therefore, how you angle them makes a huge difference. You should install them, making them more exposed to the sun and effortlessly receive the rays.

While most angles are at 30-45 degrees, the best tilt depends on your location and latitude, and you can use a solar panel calculator to find the best angle based on where you live.

The general rule is that the panels should face south if you are in the northern hemisphere and true north if you are in the south.

Roof Condition

Before installation, it is crucial to check that your roof is perfect. The process requires a lot of drilling and hooking of equipment and will not work if you have an old roof.

Solar panels usually serve you for 25-30 years, meaning that your roof should be sturdy enough. It is best to fix damages, and if you have plans to change the roof, you want to do that before installing the panels.

Otherwise, you will have to take down the entire setup, change the roof, then reinstall it, which costs a lot of time and money.

Roof Strength

Another crucial question is, will your roof handle the extra weight for all those years? Panels weigh about 2.5-2.7 pounds for a square foot and, in most cases, are not a danger to your roof or people living inside the house.

However, it is safer to call an engineer or an installation expert to confirm whether your roof is in perfect shape and if everything meets the requirements.5,6

Related Reading: Size of Standard Solar Panel: Solar Sizing Calculator Finds How Many

Tips for Solar Panel Installation: Residential

Below are some tips for homeowners before installing solar panels.

  1. Considering your roof warranty against your solar panels’ lifespan is essential. You don’t want to make costly roof repairs by removing the panels and reinstalling them.
  2. In some cases, the panels are too massive for the roof, making it crucial to check your roof’s size and shape before purchasing a kit. You should also know how many solar panels do I need and check whether your roof will accommodate them.
  3. Your roof’s slope also matters because the goal is to find the best location that captures more sunlight, leading to higher output.
  4. When installing solar panels, you should also consider how the water drains from the roof. The panels can interfere with the water’s direction, leading to leaks, which helps address these concerns before setting up the panels.
  5. If you plan to set net metering, it is best to confirm whether your state and local providers allow it. Otherwise, it will be impossible to subsidize your electricity usage when there is low solar power output.
  6. The most important decision regarding solar power is who will perform the installation. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to call professionals.

Do I Need Permission Before Installing Solar Panels on Roof?

Solar panel installation can be a massive project that requires authorization and a permit based on your state. It is crucial to confirm that your local laws allow it and whether there are restrictions or rules before installation.

You will only need special authorization for an electrical or building permit. However, there may be other requirements to consider, like obtaining permission from the homeowners association, utility providers, and municipality.

If you have plans, start early because sometimes scheduling inspections and waiting for permit approvals are the most daunting aspects of the entire process.7 Your region may also be strict, allowing only expert installers to handle the job.

How To Install Solar Panel on Roof Based on the Roof Type

The roof type also affects how you install solar panels on the roofs. They come in different materials and shapes that influence the process, and yours should be easy to use and energy-efficient.8

Metal Roof

This roof type is one of the best and easiest to deal with because its structure allows you to mount solar panels directly.

There is no need to make several calculations and alignments before installation.

A solar panel technician installing solar panels on metal roof.

(Image: Los Muertos Crew15)

You only have to secure the panels using a U-clamp, making drilling holes into the roof unnecessary.

Tile Roof

This roof is complex, and a few ways to hook the panels exist.

First, you can attach a unique rack to serve as a frame or remove some tiles and, in their place, insert metal shingles that are easier to drill.

A solar panel technician installing solar panels on tile roof.

(Image: Kindel Media16)

The trickiest are the Spanish roofs that must damage at some point during the installation, and you will have to replace the tiles afterward.

Flat Roof

Flat roofs are the most fun because you can make your preferred customization and adjustments. You can turn the panels to the best side and use mounts to angle them towards the sun.

It is different with sloping roofs because you must pick a side, and it is tasking to make adjustments.9

You don’t have to drill the panels to secure them because you can use cinder blocks or ballasted racking.

How To Get Solar Panels for Free

After learning how much do solar panels cost, you will realize that installation is quite an investment.

You need to buy the kits and pay for installation, which can be pricey. It pays off in the long run, however, when done correctly.

You often hear about free solar power or no-cost solar from door-to-door salespeople; as enticing as it seems, there are no zero-cost solar programs in the country.

These initiatives are deceitful ways to get more people to join solar leases, which are not free.

A solar provider agrees to install panels in your home at no charge, but you must pay a monthly fee. It is similar to renting the panels or having the solar company as your electricity provider.

In the long run, buying and installing solar panels at your own cost is cheaper. The promises are enticing initially, and many are attracted to the free installation and maintenance.

Reading the fine print reveals that these claims are misleading and you would rather get loan financing for the project.

Which Roof Type Is Best for Solar Panels?

South-facing roof types are ideal in the northern hemisphere because they enhance the absorption of sun rays.

On the other hand, metal roofs are the go-to for many because they allow easy panel installation.

You don’t need to drill holes, and it helps that they are durable.

What Do I Do if I Don’t Know How To Install Solar Panels on Roof?

Most residential buildings have a roof that is well-elevated for the installation of panels on the southern slope. However, some homes have very steep pitches, making the installation process a little daunting.

If you don’t know how to install solar panels on roof that is steep, it’s a good idea to call a professional installation company that specialized in solar panel installation.

However, you can also mount yours on the ground on a frame in a well-lit spot near your house.

Close up view of a pole mounted solar panel installed on the ground.

(Image: Hermann Luyken17)

On the downside, setups on the ground need regular maintenance, and the rules to follow may be stricter.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

To find out how many solar panels you need for your home, you can speak with a professional, or estimate them using a calculator.

Also, make sure that you know how many hours of sunlight your region gets, so you’ll know how many and the size required for your energy needs.

How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?

To those wondering, how much power does a solar panel produce? The current solar panels produce 250-400 watts an hour based on several factors.

A typical household setup has a 1kW or 4Kw. You can use the rated watts of your panel to calculate how much power it produces.10

You use the formula:

Power (Watts) x Average sunlight hours = Daily Watt-hours

For instance, if your solar panels are rated 300W and receive six sunlight hours daily, their total output is 300W x 6= 1800 Wh or 1.8 KwH.

You can avoid solar panel installation costs if you are skilled in electrical and construction work. All you need is the solar panel kit and a few tools, and you should have your panels ready for use in a few steps.

It should work if your roof is in perfect condition and there is no shading from trees and other buildings. Any roof type may work, but you have an advantage if you have a metallic roof since you can use clamps, and there is no need to drill holes.

The process takes only a few steps, and your solar panels will run. Knowing how to install solar panels on roof saves you the extra cost and helps you customize your setup according to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Install Solar Panels on Roof

When Doing a Solar Panel Installation, Is Mounting Solar Panels on Roof Without Drilling Possible?

If you don’t want to interfere with your roof or you want to avoid damage from drilling, you can go for corner brackets. They come in kits that you buy separately and are made of plastic that attach to each corner of the panels and stick to the roof with silicone glue.


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