What are the options for fitting solar panels to my roof?
There are basically 3 mounting types typically used when fitting solar panels in a domestic situation. They can be fitted:
- on to the roof, where they will stand proud of the roof tiles, mounted on to specially designed brackets.
- integrated into the structure of the roof, where the solar panel will directly replace a quantity of roof tiles
- mounted on to an A-frame where they can be located either on a flat roof, or in the garden. (This option is used frequently by people who haven't got a South-facing roof, in order to achieve a perfectly South-facing array)
Solar panels should always be South-facing for maximum efficiency. On a South-facing roof they will receive maximum exposure to sunlight.
Most solar panel manufacturers offer an in-roof solution, so that your solar panels will sit on the tile battens, be secured down, and then a flashing kit is fitted around the collectors to weather-proof the roof.
This method of fitting solar panels is popular with new-build projects, or when a roof is being re-tiled. One big advantage of fitting the panels in-roof is that the cost of the solar panels is offset slightly by the savings on roof tiles/slates.
On roof mounting
Typically in the UK, you will have one of 2 types of common roof upon which you will be mounting the collectors. A slate roof (or a flat tile), or a roof with concrete, profiled tiles.
When installing solar panels on to a profiled tile roof, it is important that the fixing brackets used have a sufficient upstand to clear the panel of the top of the profile of the tile. Some very deep tiles available in the UK can have a profile of as much as 80mm. See the diagram below to demonstrate the problem.
It is also important to remember that while manufacturer's may call their brackets 'slate brackets' or 'tile brackets,'some concrete tiles have very little or no profile, and are therefore flat (such as Rosemarys) and it may well be that a slate bracket is more suitable to achieve a more streamlined installation, and to minimise the 'sail effect' of wind getting between the roof and the panel.
Below are examples of solar panel fixing brackets for different types of roof tile.
Where a South facing roof is not available, or sufficient roof space is tight, there is always the option of mounting your panels on A-frames.
A-frames are also ideal for flat roofs. Many manufacturers supply A-frames as an option for fitting solar panels to, and typically they are screwed to the floor, or weighted down with gravel trays.
The added advantage of an A-frame, is that you can achieve a perfectly South-facing installation at the optimum pitch (around 50 degrees is optimum in the UK)
A-frames vary in complexity. Some, such as the new Glow-worm A-frame can be assembled in literatally minutes. Others are time consuming to erect and are more complex than the rest of the solar installation put together! Best advice - if you're looking to mount your solar panels onto A-frames, shop around. And research the product before buying.
The other important thing to address when considering an A-frame installation is planning permission. Whilst roof mounted panels (on and In roof) will not need planning permission (unless on a world heritage site or listed building etc), A-frames always need planning permission.
The good news on this front, however, is that in the giant push towards green energy, very few councils will reject the application, unless objections are raised from neighbouring properties that the installation may affect.