The solar panel mounting system is extremely important as this connects the system to your roof. Solar mounting systems have to hold the system to the roof for 25 years or more. The system has to be designed to withstand wind loads as well as withstand extreme heat or cold. The mounting system is attached to a central point in the roof structure so the solar panel weight can be transferred to the structure of the building and everything can be anchored down for safety.
The main issues for racking systems are whether attaching the panels to the roof will allow moisture to seep in through the roof penetration as well as if the racking will be strong enough to be able to handle the weight of the panels. This is especially important considering that extra weight stress is added to the panels during periods of high wind.
Solar customers, sales and marketing staff, and the general public spend the majority of their time focused on the solar panels. The solar installers spend the majority of their installation time on the mounting and racking systems. They must make sure they are measured appropriately and installed correctly.
When the solar industry first started to scale up, installers used galvanized steel struts that were directly screwed to the roof where the solar modules were then bolted. The best practices of today call for aluminum and stainless steel mounting systems lagged to the roof support structure. New systems of today use a flashing to better prevent water damage to the building. A flashing can be thought of as a metal plate that can be slid up underneath the roof shingle so water runs over the plate and off the roof. Systems of today also integrate wire and grounding safety features directly into the racking so wires are not hanging off the panels and are less likely to be damaged.
Parts of the Mounting Process
The first thing that solar installation professionals do is make marks on the roof, usually with chalk to line up where the panels are to be placed. The second step is to find where the rafters are, install the flashing under the shingle, and drill the lag bolt down through the roof and into the rafters. At this point, you attach the clamps to the lag bolt where the rails will go. Third, you place the rails into the clamps and line them up. Finally, you place the modules onto the racks. Using a mid- and end clamps, you secure the modules firmly in place to the rails
YellowLite Recommends IronRidge
The racking brand that YellowLite uses is IronRidge. They have a very sophisticated racking design that makes installation simple and easy. IronRidge is the preferred racking system of YellowLite primarily because of their superior design, but also because of their customer service, ease of installation, and their price.
IronRidge has a strong design tool program on their website that makes designing a PV system easy. All that is needed is to enter the zip code which will automatically populate the wind loading and structural information fields. Then you recreate the roof design of the racking which tells you exactly what type of components you need.
IronRidge is easy to use compared to other racking systems. Our installers swear by them. There are other good ones, sure, but this is YellowLite’s preferred brand. They improve their product every year, especially their clamps that hold the panels down. Their availability is top-notch. Getting their product shipped and delivered within a few days is easy. They are never out of stock. And we like the fact that we can use the same family of racking so if we have spares we can interchange the stock with other installations.
One of the common questions our permitting department receives is whether the mounting is waterproof. The IronRidge customer service is great at dealing with permitting authorities and we often direct product questions to them.
Finally, they are American-made. Our customers prefer a great price point, and IronRidge’s cost is such that we are able to pass on the savings to our clients. However, having an American-made product is a big draw and our customers like the fact they are supporting an American company.
Racking and mounting solar panels may not be the flashiest part of installing solar, but it is one of the most important considerations to protect your system as well as your roof.