Consumers today like having choices, and solar technology is obliging with newer, alternative mounting options that could be more ideal solutions depending on project requirements and design taste.
Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Spice Solar, said these integrated racking systems take one of two approaches. The first approach uses special solar panels designed with extra strong aluminum frames that attach directly to the roof and are interconnected together for extra rigidity. The second approach uses ordinary panels with special roof mounts that attach to the corners of the panels.
“Both of these new approaches are cheaper than ordinary racking because there is much less aluminum that has to be lugged to the roof and cut to size, and many fewer components needed to complete the installation,” Cinnamon said.
Cutting down on components starts with rail-less mounting, which creates a direct connection between the module and roof attachment, while removing long spans of aluminum from the installation process. Rail-less systems can also improve aesthetics.
“Look for mounting solutions with fewer parts. The part should be pre-assembled and doesn’t need to be assembled on roof,” said Jason Xie, VP of Magerack Corp. “The components can be easily placed at location on the roof and simply tightened without having to make adjustments. It is tough to work on a roof under the sun especially in the summer. The easier and simpler the components and installation, the better.”
Some mounting systems do not require a rail, but require a special groove on a module frame. Xie said these would require a module manufacturer’s cooperation.
Anne Wright, VP of sales for Quick Mount PV, said that some systems integrate the roof mount and the racking together to significantly reduce material handling, installation time and labor costs.
For the benefit of contractors, mounting solutions should work on all common roof types, including composition shingle, flat roofs, tile roofs and metal roofs.
“These mounting systems should use corrosion-proof materials, usually all aluminum and stainless steel, and should have integrated grounding capabilities so that separate grounding wires do not need to be connected to each panel,” Cinnamon said.
Cinnamon notes that in the future, solar installers will need to use roof mounting systems that are compliant with UL-2703 and are designed to be used with the selected solar module as per the module’s installation manual.
Of course, some consumers are not letting roof limitations stop them, regardless.
“We are seeing growing acceptance of ground-mounted systems for residential customers,” said Andrew Savage, chief strategy officer for AllEarth Renewables. “Many more homeowners who don’t have ideally sited or viable roofs are eager enough to get solar today due to growing faith in the technology that they are seeking out ground-mounted alternatives.”