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Ground vs. Roof-Mounted Solar Installations

Upon deciding on making the switch to solar energy, another question arises: Is a ground-mounted or roof-mounted system more beneficial for you? Ultimately, there is no “best” option. Although roof-mounted arrays seem to be the most common, it is important for a system purchaser to educate themselves on all the possible elements involved during their consultation, so that they are provided with the highest production and return on investment as possible. Both ground and roof mounted systems come with their own benefits and drawbacks, all contingent on your location, consumption rate, and other subjective factors pertinent to your individualized project.  In North America, solar systems are most productive when facing south, which is the primary consideration to be made.  Depending on your roof or lawn availability for panels, a decision can be swayed heavily by the ability to face the array to the south.  After this, we can further discuss the pros and cons of committing to either type of solar system.

Ground-mounted solar systems are panels secured to racking that is connected to the ground. Sometimes, these systems can come at a higher cost due to additional parts and labor required.  They also could not be what a purchaser is looking for in terms of aesthetics, not to mention there needs to be adequate lawn available for both your personal lifestyle, as well as potential jurisdictional property set-back requirements.

However, ground-mounted solar arrays possess many positive opportunities as well.  Ground mounts have more flexibility in their location and direction of the panels.  Since their location is not determined by a roof’s dimensions and availability, we have more leeway to strategically place your system in a location, tilt and direct that will provide maximum energy.  Furthermore, the system can potentially be placed away from shading which might not be an option on a fixed roof. Adjustments are also more easily performed, as they are more convenient to manually adjust for the sun’s seasonal rotations, allow quicker access for maintenance and troubleshooting, and could provide less space limitations should you wish to add more panels in the future.

Another commonly overlooked benefit provided by a ground-mounted system is the ability of air to flow underneath the panels as there is more space underneath them. This air flow allows for a higher amount of cooling which, in turn, leads to higher panel productivity. In fact, “Most solar panels are tested at an average of 77° Fahrenheit – a normal sunny day, but nothing too extreme. But when it gets hotter than this, and the panels grow less efficient, producing 10-25% less electricity. The semiconductors suffer greater resistance to the flow of electricity,” (unboundsolar.com).  One might be quick to think “the hotter the better”, however this airflow and natural cooling is beneficial to your system’s performance.

Roof-mounted arrays, as stated prior, seem to be the most common installations performed. These are solar systems connected to racking that is secured directly to the roof. However, they too could possess traits that could make them a less enticing option.  Most obviously, roof-mounted systems are constricted to the roof in question. If your home or building does not offer a roof with any relatively southern-facing surface, a ground-mount might be a more attractive route.  Roof pitch is also to be considered, as a steep pitch may present a lower productivity (*subjective to location and direction, this is not always the case). Size is also an important factor to consider.  If your building’s energy consumption would require a certain number of panels to provide the maximum benefits of a solar system for you, we must assess if there is space to provide a system that can not only produce enough kilowatt hours to be advantageous to you, but also fit safely and strategically on your roof. Maintenance could also pose a challenge as roof access would be required.

Another important element to be factored into your decision is the quality of the roof.  A roof-mounted system may be your best option, however if the roof is in need of repairs in the near future, the removal and re-installation of the panels should be honestly assessed in your consultation.

Again, all of these are hinderances that our experienced team has faced and overcame, and that leads us to the numerous benefits of a roof-mounted solar installation.

Undeniably, roof-mounted solar systems come with their plethora of advantages.  Primarily, they are typically provided at a less upfront cost (*subjective to individual specifications).  This is usually due to less materials and labor required.  Typically, the permitting process through your local jurisdiction (which we handle for you!) can prove be swifter as any extra land-surveys, planning committees, etc. are generally not required as often as with ground-mounts (*subjective to jurisdiction). Less labor and materials are enabled most obviously, the structure is already provided: the building itself.  Although occasionally additional structural support may need to be constructed, this cost is usually offset by the pre-existing building providing the foundational structure for the system to be mounted on. A roof-mounted solar system also frees up more of your yard-space by being placed on the building. Furthermore, a roof-mounted array could allow a more aesthetic appeal to a purchaser, should a ground-mounted array being visible on their lawn be a deterrent.

Roof-mounted solar arrays also provide a shield to your roof.  Your roof is less exposed to weather elements and any natural debris. Furthermore, panels provide a moderate insulation. “According to this article from Earth Sky, students at UC San Diego found that solar panels kept the roof an average of 5° Fahrenheit cooler than an exposed rooftop, which saved the building an average of 5% on cooling costs. Those savings are on top of what you’ll save on your energy bill anyway by going solar,” (unboundsolar.com). Essentially your roof can help control the climate of your home, potentially lowering your energy consumption even more, naturally.

Both options provide their advantages and disadvantages.  During your free consultation with our experienced consultants, the options of each will be discussed in dept with you.  We listen to your desires, individual building, yard, location, and consumption rate, and design a unique system for you, offering an installation that operates at its full potential.  Ultimately, by analyzing all the components entailed, we can guarantee the best option for you, your family, and business to capitalize on all the beneficial opportunities that a solar system installed by Endries Solar & Electric can provide.



Image: ParadiseSolar.com