While solar energy is going to save you money in the long run, there still in lies a debate on which is better, Rooftop Mounting or Ground Mounting? There are benefits and drawbacks to each and both have their respective merits depending on your project scope but the better question to ask here is which option is best aligned with your home or property?
Depending on where you live in relation to the equator, you need to make sure that your system is adjusted accordingly to maximize it’s efforts in collecting sunlight. Getting the perfect alignment could be quite tricky with a roof-mounted set up.
Ground-mounted set ups can face any direction you want so you can point it at the right angle so that it’s directly facing the sunlight. Ground-mounted systems are most efficient in this case as they maximize access to the sun.
Aside from always being able to achieve the perfect angle, being raised off the ground allows the unit to cool easier and better airflow in general, meaning your panels produce more energy.
When it gets hotter than 77° Fahrenheit, the panels grow to be less efficient, producing in the range of 10-25% less electricity. Proper airflow and cooling keep your panels running at optimal conditions, which is a clear benefit of ground-mount racking.
If you’re installing your new solar panel on your roof, chances are that you did so due to limited space. If your energy needs were to change in the future, it would be a bit more difficult to add more panels to your current system.
When going ground-mount, there is no such restriction – assuming you have space to expand in your yard. Many ground mounting racks allow you to bolt new additions on effortlessly after your initial installation.
Solar systems usually require a lot of trial and error in the installations phase especially. There are not too many people that want to get up on the roof every time there is an issue with the panels.
There are components under each solar panel that can be difficult to replace if you have a roof-mounted system. When you have a ground-mounted system, it’s much easier to troubleshoot, do maintenance, or clean your panels without having to risk your safety.
Generally speaking, ground-mounting is more complicated to install and is more costly than Roof-Mounting. The permitting process also takes longer as well as the fact that it will ultimately take up more space on your property.
When you place a solar system on the roof, half of the structure is already built for you, but when you place one on the ground, you have to build a structure to hold your panels in place. This process includes a soil surveying process and digging large holes to build a stable foundation for the panels to be housed. These are a lot costs that roofing systems skip assuming your roof is structured properly and strong enough to support the weight of the panels.
Depending on the city or county you live in, you will have to go to the authority having jurisdiction and obtain a building permit since they system is considered a new structure.
This will add extra challenges to the process:
The final drawback is that it takes up a significant amount of space on your property. Roof-Mounting is a lot more discreet and more space-effective. If you have a large property, that might not be too much of an issue for you, but if you own a smaller property, your roof may be the only place your solar array will fit. Ground mounting may not even be an option in some cases.
If you want to simplify maintenance/cleaning processes and maximize your energy output over time, Ground-Mounting is the way to go. There are three questions that you should ask yourself to be sure this is the right way to go for you:
You are going to spend more upfront due to the labor, parts to install, as the costs of partnering up with a contractor. The permitting process will also slow down your installation process.
However, once they are all installed, the upfront cost will be offset down the road by a more efficient energy output. There will also be less hassle in the maintenance process as well.
You might have to shell out a bit more cash at the beginning, but it will pay for itself over time.
If you have soil that is going to be difficult to dig into, a roof system might be the better route to go off principle. While it’s not impossible to dig into, it will make your installation costs skyrocket.
A rooftop system will be more than enough if you don’t plan on living off-grid. However, if you’re planning to go off-grid at some point, the ground mount will allow you to add more panels as your energy needs change over time. You also will get the benefit of a tilt that you can face towards the sun more easily than if they were on your roof.
Let’s make it clear that neither mounting system is “better” than the other – the choice is more so dependent on the mixture of your budget, energy needs, and lifestyle.
Roof-mounted systems usually are a better option for customers who:
An easy selling point for this type of system is that it requires less money and time upfront to install.
The most complicated part of the structure is already in place when installing on the roof. There is no process of digging holes, getting soil surveyed, worrying about your property line, or purchasing concrete or poles.
A roof mount is more often than not used in a residential setting because there isn’t a lot of room for a ground-mount system. Mounting panels on the roof allows you to use space that would otherwise be useless, all the while saving the rest of your property for other things.
Roof-Mounted systems are also more inconspicuous. It keeps the space on your property free for other things such as farm space and raising animals.
An unexpected benefit to a roof-mounted system is that it protects the roof from elements such as UV light, snow, wind, and rain while also keeping your structure more insulated. It will keep your house naturally warmer at night and cooler in the daytime if you’re living off-grid.
A roof-mounting system is perfect for customers looking for a simpler permitting process. You can submit your blueprints for your home to show whether or not your roof qualifies or not. You typically won’t find many issues unless you have an older home.
There are a few downsides to consider when looking for a Roof-Mounted System:
You may want to consider the accessibility of getting on your roof. Some roofs may be a risk trying to get up there to do maintenance and troubleshooting, especially if you have metal roofing.
Ground-mount systems are usually a lot more efficient than roof-mounted systems. It’s a lot harder to angle Rooftop panels on an existing structure. It won’t always be aimed at the sun so you have to make sure you optimize it for full power during peak hours of the day.
There’s not a lot of space to work with on an average-sized roof, especially when you’re dealing with chimneys, vents, and various other obstructions. It will likely be very difficult to add onto a system if you need to increase your energy production.
Before committing to a rooftop-mount, consider these questions:
A homeowners association does have the power to prevent you from installing solar panels depending on the state you live in. Make sure you check with your HOA beforehand and check to see their guidelines regarding solar.
A roof and a solar system usually have a similar lifespan, so it makes sense to install around the same time. If your roof is less than 5 years old, it would be a good fit for solar panels. Once you pass that window, you might want to reconsider waiting to install your panels when you repair the roof. You don’t want to install solar panels on an old roof because the roof will likely be susceptible to more damage over time, especially adding on the weight of the solar panels. It’s quite a pain to repair your roof after the panels are already installed.
While solar panels are a great investment, it requires a huge financial commitment upfront and can take time to see a return on that investment depending on your consumption of energy. If it’s small, then so will your savings. Factors such as state, or remote living will affect this too so while we support solar, it isn’t always an option for everyone. Just make sure it aligns with your goals.