( Top 13 ) Problems with solar panels on roofs

Generally speaking, most people set up their solar panels on the roof of their houses, as this is an ideal place for them. While on the roof they will be in direct sunlight for most of the day which will allow them to function at a higher efficiency. Most people will tell you that the ideal place for solar panels is on the roof, which is true, however not a lot of people talk about the drawbacks of setting up solar panels on the roof.

In certain cases the solar panels can damage the shingles during the installation process and in some cases, the solar panels can actually become a fire hazard. Most people who set up solar panels on their roofs find that having them on the roof tends to complicated things. Around 10-20 years ago when solar panels were considered a luxury a lot of people in arid climates had a lot of problems with solar panels.

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The first generations of solar panels were made out of low-quality materials, to cut costs, but even so, they were considered fairly expensive by the general public. In arid areas, sand would settle on the solar panels, and the protection on the panels was so bad that after a couple of months of having sand and wind blowing on them they would start to malfunction or reduce the efficiency of the solar panels.

Today however most mid and top of the line solar panels are made of high-quality materials, most of them do have a fairly thick protective layer on them which is also scratch proof. The problem with the solar panels on the rooftops is not due to the solar panels themselves, but on how they are actually set up. It is always a good idea to have a backup when it comes to generating power, especially if you live off the grid, for more information check out my recent article Best off grid propane generators ( Top 11 ).

Solar panels can cause roof damage

Almost everybody who sets up solar panels on their roof will have some kind of roof damage, this damage mainly occurs during the installation process. Shingles are simply not made to hold up solar panels and low-quality shingles will start cracking as soon as you start working on setting up the solar panels. Generally speaking, most of the damage will come from hairline cracks, which aren’t a big problem at first but with time this will weaken and even destroy the shingles.

Another massive problem is with the wind, if you live in an area where it is fairly windy than you should take this into consideration when you set up the solar panels. The support of the solar panels is usually made out of a material that tends to be flexible like aluminum, or in some cases even plastic. Once the wind picks up and blows with enough power it will start moving the solar panels, as they are basically sails, once they move the support which is holding up the solar panels will also move, and inevitably it will start doing some damage to the shingles. If you are wondering which states are good for off grid living then check out my recent article Best states for off grid living ( 1-50 Best to Worst ).

Solar panels can cause permanent roof damage for older roofs

Generally speaking the shingles on the roof are usually made to last at least 20-30 years, although this is not always the case. If you have an older roof then setting up the solar panels on top of it will be extremely risky, not only you could damage the roof but the solar system as well. My personal recommendation is to make a thorough inspection of the roof if you want to set up solar panels, and fix the eventual problematic areas.

Solar panels interrupt the flow of rainwater

I have seen a couple of houses with solar panels installed on them to such an extent that the roof was no longer visible. Generally speaking the more surface area the solar panels have the more electricity they can make, the problem is that this way most of the rainwater will not drop on the shingles but on the solar panels themselves. Sometimes the solar panels are placed in such a way that they hang over the gutters, and once it rains the water will just pour down on the walls of the house. If you want to take a look at the best places to live off the grid in the world then check out my recent article Best places to live off the grid in the world ( Top 25 ).

Solar panels on the roof will have internal corrosion

Some solar panels have an elevated edge, to reinforce the panels themselves. The problem with these elevated edges is that if the solar panels are not set up at the correct angle then rainwater could accumulate on these edges. Sooner or later this water will find its way into the solar panel and will slowly corrode it. This mostly happens during the wintertime, as the water freezes and expands, thus creating small cracks in the solar panels.

Solar panels on the roof are difficult to maintain

A lot of people think that they can set up the solar panels and forget about them, the truth is that they require at least some minimum amount of maintenance at least. Dust and other smaller particles tend to stick to the solar panels when the humidity is high, ignore it long enough and you will start noticing that your solar panels do not produce as much power as they used to when they were freshly installed.

Hard to replace the roof if you have solar panels on the roof

The roof and your solar panels go hand in hand, once you set up the solar panels on your roof and after a couple of years you want to replace the roof then you will have to take the solar panels also down. If you have to replace the roof due to the damage caused by the faulty installation of the solar panels then you can expect to have the same problem a couple of years later if the solar setup isn’t made correctly and the quality of the shingles are fairly low.

Birds will nest under the solar panels on the roof

Birds tend to love setting up their nest on the roof right below the solar panels. At first, you might think it is cute but sooner or later you will have to get rid of them. The more birds nest below the solar panels the more excrement you will find on your solar panels, and if you have ever tried to scrape them off then you know that it’s almost like glue. In addition to this, the bird’s nests will also interrupt the flow of the rainwater, and in some cases, they can be a fire hazard.

Solar panels on the roof tend to get micro-cracks 

Micro-cracks can often occur on solar panels, these are extremely hard to notice but they will eventually deteriorate the solar panels. The solar panels which are set up on top of the roof have the worst conditions as the weather is constantly showering them with rain and the wind is constantly blowing on them. In some areas where the is a fairly large difference in temperature between the day and the night, the solar panels tend to deteriorate a lot faster.

The problem with these micro-cracks is that you will not see them with the naked eye, and the micro-breaks can occur at any time, from manufacturing, shipping, installation, and even after you have set them up. The good news is that most solar panel manufacturers offer at least a couple of years of guarantee.

Solar panels with faulty wiring

It is not always the contractor’s fault if there are problems in the wiring, although he should have probably picked up on the problem. The wiring of solar panels is fairly simple although you will have to hire a licensed electrician to do it. Most of the problems with faulty wiring come after a couple of years, especially if the area where you live has fairly cold winters. The plastic cover on the wiring is not the best in most cases, and once the temperatures drop they can deteriorate extremely fast, they can even snap in two if the temperatures get cold enough.

Hot spots on solar panels on the roof

Hot spots can occur on every solar panel, no matter if you have a high or a low end one. Hot spots are, as you have guessed, spots which are hot on the solar panels, these areas tend to heat up significantly more than the rest of the solar panel, and in some cases, it can lead to faulty connections between the cells. These hot spots can occur either due to previous damage to the solar panel or because of bad maintenance.

If your solar panels are often covered with dust and bird excrements then you will have to clean them, otherwise, with time these can create hotspots on the solar panels. At first, you will notice that the solar panels do not generate as much power as they used to, and after some time they will simply stop functioning altogether. You can easily check for hotspots with a digital thermometer that you can operate from a distance.

Snail trails or internal corrosion could occur on solar panels placed on the roof

Snail trails on solar panels can occur after a couple of years, although these are not actually trails made by snails, they just look like that. Most solar panels will have a silver paste in them, and if this comes in contact with water it could oxidate and corrode the surrounding materials. This means that the solar panels will start rusting from the inside out and this is why it looks like brown trails growing down on the solar panels. So if you start seeing brown spots on the solar panels then you will most likely need to replace the damaged ones.

Solar panels can have potential induced degradation

This is also called the PID effect, and it is basically the difference in voltage between the earthing and the solar panels themselves. Although at first, it will not be problematic but if you level the solar panels to function like that then the life expectancy of the panels will be a lot lower, and sooner or later the PID effect will cause your solar panels to not work as efficiently.

Solar panels on the roof can cause inverter issues

If you are just about to set up your first set of solar panels then make sure that you place the inverter in an easily reachable place, this way you can change it. The role of these inverters is to change the direct current ( DC ) to alternating current ( AC ), and in theory, your solar panels should outlast the inverter.

In conclusion

As you can see setting up solar panels on the roof has its drawbacks, but in my opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by a mile. If you are about to set up a solar system for the first time then make sure that the people you hire for the installation are doing a good job. If I am having everything done by a contractor at my house I always stay right next to them to see what they are doing.