Should I Replace My Roof Before Installing Solar? 3 Smart Practices

July 28, 2022
Should I replace my roof before going solar?

If you are going to install a new roof on your property, then adding a solar power system at the same time makes sense since solar savings on your electric bill will help cover the cost of your new roof. Many homeowners (and business owners) are willing to install a new roof alongside a solar project because they have to or want to. Others are wondering, Should I Replace My Roof Before Going Solar?

Both products will last decades, so installing the two together "aligns life cycles" so that both solar and your roof will perform without concern in years to come. But installing both products together does not make sense for everyone. Let us walk you through different scenarios to help you decide. We even offer tips on how to assess the state of your roof.

They come to us for solar, and their home (and therefore roof) is under 15 years old; in most cases, they do not need new roofs. Roofs age differently, depending on the weather and the quality, so it is not an ironclad rule. The climate in Houston, Texas, is humid and hot, but in the north can be cooler and dryer. These different conditions age a roof in different ways.

They come to us looking to install solar panels on older homes; in about 35% of those cases, we found that they recommended a new roof be installed. However, most rooftops in older homes are perfectly good, with more than 15 years of life left. Interestingly, a substantial number of people who did not need new roofs decided to install them along with their solar at the same time.

Why install a new roof with solar?

In greater detail are the benefits of re-roofing and going solar simultaneously. The electrical savings from the solar helped pay for the new roof. It is as if you got your new roof, courtesy of the sun.

Consolidating the new roof and the solar energy system into a single home improvement project makes this a no-brainer. As solar owners know, the electrical savings from using your solar power rather than more expensive electricity from your utility company will compound over time. Eventually, these savings add up to more than what you spent on the solar, and--since savings keep coming in afterward--they may even make back the money you paid for the new roof.

damaged roof shingles and solar
They were fixing damaged roof shingles. A section was blown off after a storm with high winds causing a potential leak.

Both products will last you decades to come. Warranties cover today's longest-lasting roofing materials, typically ranging from 30 years to "lifetime." Many solar panels are backed by warranties of 25 years. So, although you do not have to match your home's system "lifecycle," it makes a lot of sense.

Think about it like your car: If your older car has perhaps 20,000 miles left on the clock and needs new tires, you will likely not purchase tires with warranties that cover 50,000 miles. Similarly, we would not advise you to put 25-year-old solar panels on your roof when you only have seven or eight years left.

You won't need to take the solar off and reinstall it. Homeowners who install solar systems on rooftops with less than 15 years of service typically call solar installers to take down the solar systems so they can re-install the roof.

Then, of course, the solar system has to be installed again. It can be done, but it takes time and money--your time and your money.

Financial Benefits of Installing Both

Generally, you can finance your solar power and a new roof with a solar loan, home improvements and equity loans, and other loans from banks. You can simplify financing by having one loan that covers both products. That means one application rather than two and one monthly payment rather than two.

There is no compelling reason to put up a new roof with no solar on it unless your roof does not lend itself to solar--maybe it is out in the woods, where there is simply no sunlight reaching it. Most people come to us ready to redo their roofs and install solar.

Others are wondering about additional costs. But when our experts explained that electricity bills saved by solar power ultimately covered the roof costs, most homeowners agreed that combining both projects made sense.

Consider this wildly oversimplified analogy: you could spend $10 and not see any return. Or, you can spend $20 and get $2.50 yearly. Eventually, not only are you paying back that extra $10 that you spent, but you are also paying back the initial $10 that you spent. That is how solar pays for itself and your new roof.

Roofer's Quality of Work

As long as your roof can hold up to the weight of the solar energy system and has significant years of life left, there is no reason you should be installing a new roof while installing your solar system. Things get complicated when unscrupulous installers fail to tell homeowners they need a new roof. Installing a shiny new solar system on an old or compromised roof typically results in the homeowner having to have solar panels and wires removed temporarily. In contrast, the new roof is installed and solar installed again.

installation of solar panels
Man installing alternative energy photovoltaic solar panels on the roof

Some Solar installers are interested in getting the solar installed and paid for. But you - the homeowner - are paying the price when solar needs to be taken down so that your roof can be repaired or replaced.

That is why homeowners who opt for installing solar, but not new roofing, typically live in newly built homes or homes with relatively new roofs. Those who have ceilings that are 15 years or less from being functional will either have a replacement roof done along with the solar project or wait to install solar until they are ready to replace the roof.

If you are unsure of the age of your roof, check out tips for assessing the state.

They are remodeling, repairing, or painting the home, and they want a different roof color or material as part of a new aesthetic for their house. They know their solar will work for decades and want a solar-supporting, durable roof.

Suppose you have the original documentation of your current rooftop installation. In that case, you can compare the expected lifespan with its actual age to see how much longer it needs to be. But remember, just as you would car tires, the wear on two identical roofs could be drastically different if they are located in various locations with different regional weather patterns.

For instance, one may have tree branches nearby that could rub against shingles and even land on top, or it may get a lot more sun, wind, rain, and snow, which beat up on your roof and could eventually break down its integrity.

Visual inspection is the final method of determining the condition of your roof. With this, you can probably detect some signs of damage or wear from a safer spot, such as on the ground or from your second-story windows, depending on your height and the roof's configuration. But, we donat advise climbing up on ladders for close-up examinations of roof materials. . Too many accidents have occurred with homeowners climbing onto their roofs. Please call a roofing contractor to do a checkup.

While most homeowners come to us ready to invest in both a new roof and solar panels at the same time, as they view this as the logical way to protect their largest single asset -- their home -- others do have questions, and understandably so. Contact us today to answer your questions about installing solar energy and a roof.

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