I want solar but my roof needs work - should I wait to fix it first?

Should I wait until I fix my roof to consider a solar installation?

This is perhaps one of the most common questions homeowners have in their solar buying process. But , before I go any further, let me be clear... I am not a roofer or by any means imply to be an expert in roofing materials. If you are uncertain about the life expectancy of different roof materials click on the link.

What I do know is that when strictly referring to roof solar installations, a general rule of thumb is you want to have at least 15 years of life left on your roof — regardless of the material. Otherwise, there's a good chance you will incur in extra costs to have the solar panels removed and reinstalled as part of a future roof repair.

However, consider that life expectancy is relevant to weather conditions, quality and materials used.

However, consider that life expectancy is relevant to weather conditions, quality and materials used.

On the other hand, if your roof has 5 years left or less, a replacement is generally warranted based on the ROI of the solar system. In other words, if your roof life is about to expire, a rather early replacement should be your automatic route if you want to go solar.

What's the process? A first round inspection by a solar "site surveyor" will most certainly expose the current condition of your roof, enough to warrant adequate recommendations based on the physical analysis. That step is generally reached right after installation agreements have been signed and the project is approved to commence. After the solar project assessment is completed, you'll have all the necessary information to determine whether roof repair or a full roof replacement is needed to proceed.

But what if my roof's life falls within 5 and 15 years?

If your roof is still in fair shape and in foreseeable good condition beyond the threshold of 5 years, you must take in consideration other important factors that will help you make your decision. You don’t want to replace your roof too early and risk throwing away useful roof life; and by procrastinating a solar switch, you can also surrender hefty savings that come with generating your own electricity. So what's a smart choice?

First, consider that solar energy is an investment that will yield savings for many years in most markets. The best thing you can do is understand exactly your investment payback period to determine how much money you could save with solar. The payback period is calculated by how many years a solar panel system will take to pay back in savings your initial investment.

Every house is different, so this payback period will vary depending on your location, household energy consumption, sun exposure, your utility price per kilowatt hour (kWh) and applicable rebates and incentives. Thus, partnering with a trusted expert solar consultant will be the best way to determine if your roof is ripe for a profitable solar investment.

DIY roof assessment

Some roof problems can be easily spotted so you don't need to be an expert to determine whether your roof needs work or not.

  1. Gaps on roof material - Missing or damaged shingles or tiles are a common issue caused by harsh winds and rain, and can be easily spotted by a quick visual survey — sometimes right from the ground. If you notice shingles starting to curl; chips or cracks on tiles; or asphalt shingles starting to loose their granules as they dry out over time, it's time to call your roofer.

  2. Moisture or water marks - Cloudy, damp or even drippy spots in your attic or the underside of your roof is a clear sign your roof has leaks that need to be addressed. Do a thorough inspection of the underside of the roof sheathing to make sure there's no signs of wetness or dry stains. If so, you know what to do.

Don't have funds to fix your roof?

That happens a lot too! Replacing your roof at the same time you go solar could pay back handsomely, because you could use the low interest rate, long term solar loan to finance both projects simultaneously. This will allow you to:

  1. Eliminate the need to tap into your savings to replace the roof or do so temporarily just to cover the cost until you receive reimbursement from the lending institution, once the panels are installed on your roof and your system is commissioned to operate.

  2. Most importantly, include all or part of the cost of roof work in your solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) claim before it ends and thereby reduce any applicable investment up to 26%.

If you choose to go this route, be aware that some lenders will place limits of how much roof work can be included within a solar project — information that can be obtained through a solar lender or your solar consultant.

Prices have dropped for rooftop solar

Another important point to consider is timing. Market data suggests the time is ripe for solar. It's true that the price for hardware has dropped close to 80% since 2010 and will continue it's bear trend in the forthcoming years. However, higher soft costs not just remain, but continue to rise mainly due to increased demand putting pressure on the supply chain. Soft costs include labor; permitting processes including inspection and interconnection; transportation to remote rural areas; and customer acquisition costs among other overhead charges.


If you're in the market for solar but still unsure about the roof needing work after your initial visual assessment, I recommend to first find a trusted expert solar consultant and start the process of your solar project when you reach a pricing agreement. The following step is the site survey, which among other things, will determine the roof condition and provide suitable guidance on the subject.

If professional roof repair is needed, then the solar project will simply pause at that point, until a solution is found and you sign off on the change order. Your solar team will most likely be able to smoothly work out the details of that process with you along with your lender. In the unlikely case no solution is found, guess what happens? Nothing. You just pause your solar plans indefinitely until you find a way to fix your roof — it's that simple.

MANOLO BARDEGUEZ - Welcome to my Blog. I hope the articles on this site inspire you and I encourage you to discover the benefits of going solar for yourself by clicking Go Solar. By clicking Join you can also learn how you can join our movement to connect the world to sustainable technologies and get paid handsomely by the fastest growing solar company in America. If you have any questions, contact me directly at ManoloBard@SunbrightNet.com or call me by clicking the phone icon above.

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