How and where you position your solar panels are key factors in efficiency and reducing payback time. In addition to this, the job of a mount or a rack is also to provide stability and safety. Depending on where you want to install your solar panels and what type of solar panels you have, there are different racking/mounting options available. What type of rack or mount should I choose for my solar system? Can I benefit from using solar tracking?
Stamp of Approval
If you are making and installing your own racking/mounting for your solar panels, you might need a stamp of approval from a civil engineer. This is because PV systems are fire hazards, and you might be in several policy violations without a proper permit. Getting a stamp of approval usually costs somewhere around $500.
For rigid crystalline silicon solar panels, the most typical options are mounting them on the roof or on the ground with a rack or a pole. You have more freedom when it comes to mounting thin-film, since these panels are highly flexible.
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Installing Solar Panels on the Roof
Mounting your panels on the roof is often a good choice as well as it is aesthetic, but there are certain things to consider before you install solar panels on your roof:
- Your roof has to be properly positioned towards the sun, which always is in the southern direction if you live above the equator. This means that if your roof if facing any other direction than south you are compromising efficiency.
- Make sure you have enough space on your roof to fit the solar panels.
- Shading can be a serious issue for some PV systems. By using micro-inverters instead of traditional central inverters, this becomes less of an issue. However, solar panels should not be installed at a place where shading is likely.
Flush mounting is when the solar array is installed at the same angle as your roof and is both inexpensive and simple. In other words, this positions the solar panels at a consistent elevation parallel to your roof. This is often the best choice, but depending on the angle of the roof, you might be loosing some efficiency.
This is why you should also consider mounting solar panels on your roof with a tilt. Ask a professional installer if adjusting the angle will increase energy efficiency in your situation, and if would be worth the extra hassle of adjusting it.
Installing Solar Panels on the Ground
This is a great way to install a solar panel if your roof is not suitable. Customizable mounts and racks allow you to place solar panels anywhere there is solid ground.
Ground-mounts can be summarized with the following bullet-points:
- Good if you have extra space
- Easy installation and maintenance
- Installation can be difficult on an uneven surface
There are a few different ways you can mount one or several solar panels on the ground. Here are the most common ones:
Pole mounts are rather simple installations that are driven directly into the ground or held in place by concrete. You can get pole mounts that are made for one or a series of solar modules. Pole mounts come in three different categories: Top of pole, side of pole, and pole tracking.
Pole mounts can quite easily be combined with solar trackers, which makes sure your solar panels follows the sun through the day and seasonal changes, ensuring highest efficiency. Pole mounts are also used for roofs (usually flat ones).
Fixed Racks or Frames
Installing solar panels on a rack or a framework is also a good solution when it comes to ground mounting. These structures are fixed and hold the solar panel in the same position with the same angle as the Sun changes position. This will not yield best performance when it comes to generating electricity from sunlight, but it is by far one of the cheaper options.
Foundation and Ballasted Footing Mounts
This refers to placing solar panels on top of concrete slabs or poured footings (foundation mounting) or using some form of ballast to hold the panels in place, without going deep into the ground (ballast footing). These types of mounts can also be used for roof installations, but are not as common as the other options listed above.
Also referred to as pivot mounts, solar tracking systems are mechanical devices attached to one or several solar panel, which senses the direction of the Sun and ensures that the modules are tilted for maximum exposure. A system like will obviously yield higher conversion rates, but this comes at the cost of the extra equipment and maintenance associated with it. Don’t forget that these systems also consume power.