With the recent wet weather we have experienced in Southern California, it can be very concerning for homeowners with solar rooftops to see water leaking into their home.  It’s easy to assume that it’s caused by the solar installation, but is it that what caused the leak? Here’s what to keep in mind if you happen to have such an issue.

Trust The Contractor

The good first step in understanding how a rooftop solar PV installation can affect your roof is to read the fine print. The installation contract that you sign with the solar contractor should include terms that specify how they will handle any potential roof leaks and what warranties are included in the agreement. Ideally, you’ll want to be protected from any leaks caused by the solar installation on your roof. If the contract doesn’t state a warranty program that protects your home, then consider your options before signing such an agreement.  The best thing you can do before signing a contract is to ask the right questions on what warranties come with the solar project, because trusting the pv contractor with your home is a huge added value while going solar.

Know Your Roof

Choosing to go solar makes sense, that’s just proven through utility bill savings. But before going solar, a homeowner should have a strong understanding of their home’s roof, especially the areas where a solar system will be mounted and installed on. Knowing the roof conditions means to know the type of roof and the age.

Home Buying Inspection Report

Ask yourself when you moved into the home and if you conducted and home inspection during the buying process. Part of the home buying process allows the homebuyer to conduct a full home inspection. As the homeowner, do you have that inspection report on record? Do you recall what the report detailed about the roof? Maybe you can contact the brokerage firm and request that information to determine the roof’s age and condition. Having the home inspection report will help you understand how old your roof is and when it may be time to even consider a new roof.

Inspection by Licensed Roofer

Going solar mean knowing the roof’s condition. Some roofers charge for an on-site visit while other’s offer it as a free service. Ultimately, what you’ll want to know about your roof from their visit is whether certain areas are prone to a roof leak and how many years or months or even days the roof has left before it’s time to get a new roof.  You also can use online tools like www.pickmyroof.com which will schedule a free roofing inspection at a day and time that you request.

Request the Solar Company to Provide a Roofing Assessment.

If you’ve already are talking to a solar company, then mostly likely they are going to visit your home to conduct their own assessment of the solar installation. Because roofing is such a big factor of the roofing installation, their evaluation will be very clear with the feasibility of solar being installed. This is important to the solar company since they will be responsible for the integrity of their installation and ensure that no problems are to arise from it. This means that if your roof is not in the right condition for solar, then they’re going to recommend that you reroof prior to installing the solar. In some circumstances, a homeowner’s roof may be adequate for solar now, but 5 or 7 years down, the existing roof will need to be updated.

If it’s been determined that existing roof has 5 years or less of life, then the best option is to get a new roof in while going solar at the same time.  With the 30% Federal Tax Credit, the cost of re-roofing the area(s) where solar will be installed is also be applied towards the credit!

If you have done a roofing job since living in the home, then you may know the condition of the roof and even better the name of the roofer that did the roofing work. All roofers warranty their work. Labor is 10 years and materials, based on the type of manufacture, can be up to 50 years. If you discovered a roof leak and your still under warranty, the roofer shall cover the cost of the repair and you don’t have to be responsible for it. But there are terms to the warranty. The roofer can void the warranty when modifications are made to the roof (unsupervised by the roofer) such as punctures made into to it.  To best avoid this, you’ll want to inquire with your roofer what your plans are, so that they may best advise how to maintain the warranty on the roof.

Know Your Solar System

Another important factor to determine if a solar installation caused roof leaks is to know how the system was installed and mounted on the roof. There various methods on how solar pv can be securely mounted, it usually will depend on the kind of it’s going to be attached to. Asphalt shingle, tile, and even flat roofs have mounting systems that are specifically designed to secure the panels for decades.

How are panels installed

There are two ways to secure solar on the roof, flashing and ballasted. For metal roofs, the panels are clipped on the seams of the roof. If metal tile then that areas under the panels will need to be converted to a asphalt shingle roof.

How to deal with a roof leak

If you happen to discover a water leak or damage in your home, the first step is to identify the source (some water damage can be due to a home’s plumbing system between the walls). Once you’re able to source a leak from the roof, then it’s time to contact your roofer.  The roofer will then come on site to access the problem. They do this by reviewing the conditions inside your home, measuring the location of the leak, then reviewing conditions on the roof. If the leak was due to their roofing job, then you’re not going to be responsible to the roofer’s repair job. If the leak is sourced from another area which the roofer is not responsible for, you’ll have to pay the repair cost. If this is the case, after the roofer investigates and confirms source, you’ll be asked to proceed with the repair for a certain cost.

Some roofing situation can be more than just a quick patch up. It’s tempting to band-aid the cause of the leak, however, the roofer will explain their recommendations. If there’s an deeper underlying issue that requires a re-roof you best option is to take it into consideration. 

Regardless of what roofing work needs to get done, it can be a challenge to find the right roofing contractor at the right price. Not every leak can be caused by the solar installation nor from another rooftop project. Sometimes, a roof just expired. Pick My Roof will make that process a whole lot easier, without the hassle of receiving multiple estimates.

Robert Sarai

Robert Sarai is a leading expert in energy efficiency and sustainability with L.A. Solar Group. He oversees development and marketing efforts to guide property owners toward smart energy solutions. He can be contacted directly at 818-946-2320 or robert@lasolargroup.com. LinkedIn Profile
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