Expanding product lines is a hot topic among solar installers these days, and it’s usually in reference to adding battery storage and/or EV charging installs. But maybe you can expand your core rooftop solar installation business by covering more roof types.
Stone-coated steel roofs, in particular, are an untapped niche for solar installers, says Mike Wiener, marketing manager of QuickBOLT, on a recent episode of The Pitch, a YouTube series in Solar Builder’s Editor-in-Chief chats awkwardly with manufacturers about new products so you don’t have to. In this episode, Crowell and Wiener discuss QuickBOLT’s new Butyl Bottom Deck-Mounting Kit (and the general trend of deck-mounting), before chatting about the stone-coated steel roof opportunity.
If you’d like to learn more about stone-coated steel roofs, the challenges for solar installers (or lack thereof), and why solar goes so well with steel rooftops, hit the play button or read the transcript below.
Crowell: A product line that I feel QuickBOLT has pioneered, or at least you’re the only one that I’ve seen really promote it, is an attachment for stone-coated steel roofs. I admit I’d never even heard of this roof type prior to your promoting this product line. What should I know about this niche?
Wiener: This roof has followed a similar trend for us with top mounting, in terms of helping to push and grow this market, and part of that is working with the roof manufacturers themselves. We worked with Westlake Royal Roofing, they used to be Boral, and then Decra — so those are two the two largest manufacturers in the United States — and then we’ve worked with some of their other partners Tilcor, and Cal-Pac … so we’ve worked with almost every manufacturer, making sure that the solar mounts we make are designed to work with their roofs.
And it’s a great roof. It’s like 50-year roof, at least, and it’s steel, so it’s extremely durable. What makes it great is, you can think of it like a metal tile, and so they overlap. Part of what we’ve done with our tile line is try to come out with products that don’t have to be drilled through the roof material. We followed the same exact thought process with stone-coated steel where you don’t want to put a big hole in your roof, but if you can go between the roof panels, then that makes sense.
This is what the hooks look like, and this [rise in the middle] is what we call the batten bridge.
Most stone-coated steel roofs are installed with battens on the roof so that they can kind of overlap or rest in an organized, level way. We had to come up with this kind of funky design to come up over the batten and over the overlap of the panel, and then back out for it to work in a way that doesn’t damage the roofing material on top — because you have such an awesome, strong steel roof, why would you want to put screws through that or cut a hole through that? It didn’t make any sense, so we worked with manufacturers to really come up with this. This is our adjustable hook, but we have fixed hooks as well.
Crowell: Metal roofs go well with solar in a couple different ways because they’re lifetimes are better aligned, and they’re not an oil-based product, so they’re more environmentally friendly in that certain way.
Wiener: Yea, in an environmentally conscious way, these roofs are great, and one of the things they do with the way they’re designed with the air gap, they allow insulation and heat retention on the roof. It actually keeps the house cooler because their thin, but their metal, and then the stone coating on top will help reflect the heat away, but it’ll let the air flow under the roof.
Crowell: What are the different challenges on the roof itself? Why might an installer have a learning curve approaching this segment?
Wiener: The challenges to overcome with the stone-coated steel roof in our experience are counter-intuitive. Customers don’t know how to walk on the roof or they’re afraid they’re going to dent it or crumple it if they don’t walk on it correctly, and it’s a pain to work with and to open up. That’s sort of the mysteries that people talk about. They’re not interested in approaching or learning about overcoming those obstacles.
To us, it’s a little counterintuitive because the roofs are essentially tiles. So, if you’re someone who’s familiar with walking on a tile, whether it’s concrete or flat or curved, and especially clay, if you’re someone who’s skilled at walking on clay tiles — everyone talks about how you look at them wrong and they break– then you’ll have no problem walking on a stone-coated steel roof.
The method is simple. You just walk on the overlap like you would any other tile. Even if you have a clumsy installer who isn’t paying attention and they’re walking on the middle of a panel, then you’re not going to do any damage to these roofs that can’t be undone.
Crowell: So, overall less … scary than a tile roof in terms of potential for things breaking?
Wiener: Far less prone to damage.
For more information on stone-coated steel roofs and the QuickBOLT product line, head to their website. For more from this episode of The Pitch, watch the full 13-min episode below.
The Pitch video included footage from an installation video QuickBOLT shot with Westlake. Here is that full video too:
Listen to more in-depth conversations on Solar Builder's YouTube channel
Our most popular series include:
Power Forward! | A collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics.
The Buzz | Where we give our 2 cents per kWh on the residential solar market.
The Pitch | Discussions with solar manufacturers about their new technology and ideas.