What is the Best Roofing Material for Solar Panels and Why?

The best roofing materials for residential solar panels are standing seam metal roofing and PVC membrane. Metal panels are the top choice for home solar panel installations on sloped roofs, while PVC membrane is preferred for low-slope and flat roofs.

A standing seam metal roof with integrated PV solar panels

However, asphalt shingles are, by far, the most common steep-sloped roofing system for home solar panel installations in the US, as approximately 80% of residential roofs are covered with composition shingles.

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For flat and low-slope residential roofs, EPDM rubber is one of the most prevalent roofing systems, while Tar-and-Gravel and BUR roofs are more commonly found on commercial roofs. That said, Tar-and-Gravel and BUR roofs can be a viable option for solar deployments on flat roofs, while the situation with an EPDM rubber membrane is a bit more nuanced.

Note: Although, a quality EPDM rubber roof can be a viable option for installing solar panels on a flat roof, it’s highly likely that a rubber roof will require some repairs or even a complete replacement some 10-15 years down the road, while most high-end PV solar panels are designed to continue generating electricity for 25 years. Therefore, going with an EPDM rubber roof for solar installations can be a risky bet, which is why we recommend a quality PVC membrane, instead, because it can last twice as long as EPDM rubber.

In the next section below, we explore top residential roofing materials and explain their suitability for home solar panel installations.

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Do I Have a Suitable Roof for Solar Panels?

Solar panels use racking systems with several mounting options, and they can be used on most residential roofs. However, even if you have an adequate roof, finding the optimal orientation and layout for your panels is also very important. Ideally, you will want to use the roof areas with the most sunshine, while avoiding shaded areas as much as possible – even a small shadow can greatly reduce the energy output of your solar array.

Residential rooftop solar panels on the south-facing side of the roof/house.

Installing solar panels is relatively easy if you have conventional asphalt shingles or a standing seam metal roof.

On the other hand, some roof tiles may be damaged if your roof uses a brittle material like slate or clay. However, if you work with professional solar installers, the number of broken tiles will be minimal or zero.

Asbestos is the only roofing material that may limit your ability to add solar panels as most providers will not work on these roofs. Harmful fibers are released when manipulating asbestos, especially when drilling. These fibers are not only dangerous for the installers, but also for anyone living under that roof. If this is your situation and you plan to go solar, a complete and well-planned roof replacement is strongly recommended.

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Residential Solar Costs: June 2023 Solar Market Insight Report

The Solar Market Insight (SMI) is a quarterly report published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie. The SMI provides detailed information about the US solar industry, which includes installed costs by market segment: residential, commercial, and utility scale.

via SilFab Solar

Here we will discuss key facts and figures from the June 2023 Solar Market Insight, focusing on the residential sector:

  • The US installed 1,641 megawatts (MW) of home solar capacity between January and March 2023.
  • The average cost of home solar systems was $3.28 per watt in Q1 2023.

Last year was an excellent year for residential solar power in the US. More than 700,000 homeowners installed photovoltaic (PV) systems, with a combined capacity of 5,860 MW.

In other words, the US installed around 1,465 MW of home solar power per quarter. 2023 could be an even better year for the solar industry if installations continue at the current pace.

The average price of home solar systems has increased by 7% between June 2022 and June 2023. One year ago, the SEIA reported an installed cost of $3.07 per watt. However, prices have decreased slightly with respect to Q4 2022, when the SEIA reported a cost of $3.30 per watt.

How Much Does a Home Solar System Cost in July 2023?

The following table provides the estimated cost of solar PV systems from 4 to 10 kilowatts (kW), which is a common size range for homes. Regardless of the installed capacity, you get a federal tax credit equivalent to 30% of project costs.

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